8 apps to download before your mission trip (2015 edition)
3 things you should know before we get started:
1) Only bring a cell phone (or iPad or whatever) on your mission trip if you're not going to get distracted by it. While you're on your trip, it's important to be focused on your mission, not Angry Birds and email.
2) Traveling with electronics anywhere in the world puts you at risk for theft. If you're going to bring your smartphone or iPad, make sure you keep watch over it.
3) Put your device in airplane mode for the entire trip (if you don't have an international plan) to avoid an insanely high data bill when you get home.
Now, about those apps...
1) XE Currency (Free)
As you travel on a mission trip you typically run into several situations in which you'll need to use the local currency. Purchasing food in the airport and purchasing souvenirs from locals are a couple of examples.
This currency exchange app can really come in handy in these situations. You can store up to 10 currencies on the free version of the app, which is plenty for a mission trip. XE Currency uses wifi to update exchange rates, but if you "refresh" the app before you leave, you'll have pretty up-to-date rates during the week you're gone. The rest of the app works without a data or wifi connection.
XE Currency is especially useful for quick price conversions back into US dollars. So, if the price of a souvenir is 2000 Kenyan Shillings, you can quickly convert that, which would be about $23.
2) Google Translate (Free)
On the plane, on bus rides to and from your hotel/hostel, and even during downtime throughout the day, you can use Google Translate to learn the local language! In my personal experience, locals love it when you make an effort to learn their language. It's a great way to connect with locals, and it shows them that you're genuinely interested in their culture. It's especially fun when you get past the basic, "Hello, Goodbye, Please, Thank You," phrases.
Google Translate is free and you can download offline languages, so you don't need to be on wifi to use the app.
3) Planets (Free)
There's no doubt that you'll see some incredible scenery while you're on your mission trip. If you're traveling to a developing nation where there aren't many city lights nearby, that scenery may be above you in the night sky.
Planets is an app that will guide you through the night sky. When your day in the field is over, take a few minutes and experience God's incredible creation using this app. This app is similar to the popular Night Sky app (right here), but Planets is a free version. As you point your device around the night sky, Planets shows you different constellations and where planets are.
The app usually draws off your GPS coordinates to determine what the night sky looks like from your position. However, you can use the app offline as long as you know the coordinates of the place your staying (you can manually enter your coordinates). If you know the address (or even just the city) of the place you're staying during your mission trip, enter it into Google Maps to get the corresponding coordinates. It takes a little legwork before you go, but it's definitely worth it.
4) City Maps 2Go (Free)
This app is great for learning about the town you're staying in. This app downloads maps for towns and cities for offline use. You can download up to 5 maps for free, which is plenty for a mission trip. From there you can get turn-by-turn directions, or just scroll around and explore what's in your area.
In addition to the 5 free offline maps, you can download 1 "Wiki Plus" overlay to a map. Basically, this fuses one of your maps with Wikipedia (all offline), so you can really dive in and get to know the city. For instance, if you see an interesting landmark on the map, chances are it'll have a Wikipedia button next to it for you to click on and read about.
Even if you're not driving around or going out to "explore" while you're on your mission trip, this app is still great for learning about the culture you're serving.
5) YouVersion Bible (Free)
Everyone is probably familiar with this Bible app. We're mainly including it in our list to remind you to use it! You can download offline versions of the Bible, so there's no need for wifi. The app makes a great pocket Bible; you never know when you'll have the opportunity to whip out Romans 10:9.
You also never know when you'll have some down time (on the plane, on the bus, etc.) to read and refresh yourself.
6) First Aid by American Red Cross (Free)
Ok, this isn't the coolest app name you'll ever run across, but it's still a great app. When you're on a mission trip, sometimes things happen. If you're doing manual labor outside, at some point someone's going to hit their hand with a hammer or trip over a two-by-four.
This first aid app opens up to a great list of common first aid situations (bleeding, burns, ankle sprains, etc.). Clicking on a situation brings up step by step instructions and a video on how to address the problem. All of the instructions and videos work offline and are simple to follow!
7) Skype (Free)
This is another app you undoubtedly already know about. However, many people don't use the app to it's full potential. If you're going on a short term trip (a week or two) you'll probably be fine without cell service abroad. However, if you're a longer term missionary, this app is for you! Instead of an all out international cell phone plan, use the Skype app to call and text for free (Skype to Skype) or nearly free (Skype to someone's actual phone number).
Skype beats the pants off of most international calling plans.
8) Travel List ($1.99)
Travel List is way more than just a travel list. Yes, there's a customizable list of items (you can use preset items or add your own) for you to "check off" as you pack. But it also has a built in alert system to help you remember all of those little things the day-of that are easily forgotten.
For instance, packing your phone charger or miscellaneous toiletries can be hard because you're usually still using them up until you leave. These are the items we tend to forget, too. If you tell the app what time you plan to leave for your trip, it'll alert you just before you leave to pack any items that still haven't been checked off. Brilliant!
Additionally, during your trip you can program the app to alert you to pack certain things before you head out for a day in the field. For example, if you have to charge your battery overnight during your trip, you can have the app alert you to put your charged battery back in your camera before you leave, that way you don't end up with battery-less camera for the day.
Putting it all together
Use apps to enhance your mission trip, not take away from the experience. It's easy to get sucked into our devices and neglect the world around us, so be careful. Used in moderation and with wisdom, apps can be great tools to utilize during a mission trip.
Written by CJ