Messaging 101 for Travelers

These chat apps can help you stay connected.

By Tom Samiljan

Messaging apps are nothing new, but they are more popular than ever. More than 2.1 billion people use them every day, according to Portio Research’s 2015 study SMS: The Language of 6 Billion People. Thanks to improved smartphones and networks, these apps can do more than before and also use less data than a mobile browser, which can cut down on charges. Here are a few tried-and-true ways travelers can make the most of today’s chat apps.

Plan Your Trip

Instead of wading through a stream of seemingly endless online search results, consider sending a text message to Hyper to quickly receive flight, hotel and rental-car itineraries from the service’s staff of human travel agents. You can even book right from the app with one click. Some chat apps can be used to receive notifications from airlines. For example, if you’re flying on Dutch airline KLM, you can sign up to receive notifications on everything from your confirmation and boarding pass to flight updates via Facebook Messenger or WeChat. Plus you’ll have the ability to change your seat, if you wish.

Make Calls

Because it’s available on various platforms—from mobile and desktop to smart TV and console—Skype remains one of the most popular chat apps for making audio or video calls. Skype-to-Skype calls are free, and the service is reasonably priced when you’re calling landline or mobile numbers. What’s more, you can sign up to have a local number in whichever country or countries you’re visiting, making it easier for locals (be it your host, a restaurant or tour guide) to call you back.

Get Weather Updates

Weather apps may offer beautiful graphics, detailed forecasts and multimedia radar and satellite maps, but accessing this information can use up a lot of your precious roaming data if you’re traveling overseas. It’s much more economical—and faster—to simply type @weather or @yahooweather in Kik. A simple bandwidth-light graphic with the latest local weather from the Weather Channel or Yahoo! Weather will be messaged right back to you.

Stay in Touch With Your Group

Traveling with friends or the whole family? Gone are the days of mass emails with confusing threads about, say, where to meet up for lunch in Rome. Just open a chat room in the messaging app of your choice—for example, Kik lets you create one with up to 50 people—and use it to share plans, pictures of where you are and audio messages.

Find Great Coffee Shops, Restaurants or Museums

Sensay connects you to locals who can answer your specific questions. Just type Need followed by whatever you’re looking for (e.g., Need a good brunch place nearby), and you’ll be connected to a real person on the messaging app of your choice, including Facebook Messenger, Slack, Kik, Telegram or WeChat. When you’re done, you’ll be disconnected (phone numbers remain undisclosed).

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: June 2016