Here are some of our top picks for the up­com­ing fes­tive sea­son.

Finweek English Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Jes­sica Hub­bard

thfose or of us who are not plan­ning on us­ing De­cem­ber as an op­por­tu­nity for a full dig­i­tal detox, mo­bile apps can cer­tainly smooth out some of the pre­dictable bumps in the road as we ne­go­ti­ate lo­cal and global travel:

Airbnb’s Trips – ‘ex­pe­ri­ence the real deal’

The much loved home­s­tay net­work Airbnb, which spe­cialises in list­ing short-term lodg­ing in res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties, has just re­leased its Trips of­fer­ing. Call­ing it the most sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment in its eight-year his­tory, Trips aims to per­son­alise travel by of­fer­ing users ac­cess to ex­pe­ri­ences that are de­signed and led by lo­cal ex­perts. The goal is to im­merse trav­ellers into lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and give them real, au­then­tic in­sights and ex­pe­ri­ences – in­stead of re­main­ing the ex­cluded out­sider with lit­tle to no un­der­stand­ing of the lo­cal cul­ture and en­vi­ron­ment. The app has just launched with around 500 so-called Ex­pe­ri­ences in 12 cities world­wide. For trav­ellers with a thirst for the un­ex­pected, Trips will cer­tainly be worth a try. In a lo­cal first, ex­ec­u­tive mayor of Cape Town, Pa­tri­cia de Lille, was hosted by Airbnb Ex­pe­ri­ence host Dele­cia Forbes as one of the first Trips ex­pe­ri­ences. Forbes’s of­fer­ing in­tro­duces trav­ellers to the dy­namic art com­mu­nity of Cape Town, and en­ables them to in­ter­act with the artists and their work.

Penzu – keep a daily di­ary of your (mis)ad­ven­tures

Many trav­ellers still take ad­van­tage of their down­time to write down their thoughts, feel­ings and ob­ser­va­tions as they feed their wan­der­lust. But in the chaos of mov­ing around, it can be­come near im­pos­si­ble to keep track of your note­books, post­cards and per­sonal di­aries. Un­sur­pris­ingly, there is now an on­line so­lu­tion in the form of Penzu, a web-based jour­nal tool that al­lows users to cre­ate a per­sonal on­line di­ary. There are three ac­count op­tions avail­able: Clas­sic, Pro and Pro Plus. Prices range from free for the Clas­sic ac­count to $49.99 for Pro Plus. Most re­view­ers agree that the Clas­sic ver­sion pro­vides all that most daily jour­nal writ­ers would re­quire.

Duolingo – learn the lan­guage

For global trav­ellers, noth­ing is more frus­trat­ing (and lim­it­ing) than not be­ing able to speak the lo­cal lan­guage, or at least have a grasp of the basics. As a mo­bile app, Duolingo is one of the best free lan­guage-learn­ing pro­grammes. It cur­rently of­fers more than 20 lan­guages in easy and ac­ces­si­ble bite-sized for­mats. You can de­cide how much time you want to spend learn­ing on a daily ba­sis (15 min­utes for the lazy, an hour for the ded­i­cated), and the app tai­lors the lessons ac­cord­ing to your pref­er­ences. Although there is no real-time e-tu­tor­ing, it is cer­tainly one of the best ways to quickly – and pain­lessly – learn your way around a new lan­guage. In Oc­to­ber, Duolingo launched a talk­ing bot that al­lows users to prac­tise their con­ver­sa­tional skills by talk­ing to the bot. The chat bot is cur­rently only avail­able on iPhones, and only for users learn­ing French, Span­ish or Ger­man.

XE Cur­rency – for easy on­line con­ver­sions

When trav­el­ling abroad, it can be ex­haust­ing (and anxiety-pro­vok­ing) to keep track of spend­ing when you’re deal­ing with for­eign cur­ren­cies. To make life eas­ier and let you know ex­actly where you – and your South African bank bal­ance – stand, this free app keeps you up to date with cur­rent rates. It is one of the most pop­u­lar and fre­quently used dig­i­tal tools for con­vert­ing cur­rency, and it will store the last up­dated rates (so even when you don’t have an in­ter­net con­nec­tion, you’ll still be able to do your con­ver­sions). Users can im­me­di­ately check on the val­ues for ev­ery world cur­rency, and for the geeks and traders among us it lists pre­cious met­als and over 30 000 cur­rency charts for his­toric rates. You can also per­son­alise your set­tings, so that the most rel­e­vant num­bers and charts are im­me­di­ately dis­played on your mo­bile de­vice. The app is avail­able in sev­eral lan­guages, and has be­come a must-have for both the busi­ness and leisure trav­eller.

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