International data plans can cost up to $40 a month, which makes free texting apps more appealing. // © 2016 iStock
Feature image (above): Clients may want to tailor the app they download to the country they’re heading to. // © 2016 iStock
Text messaging is having a big moment in the travel industry. New text-based travel applications have been springing up seemingly overnight, such as the upcoming Hyper Travel app, which will provide both text- and email-based booking services.
Established companies are also joining in by offering text-based travel services to augment their websites. Kayak’s co-founder Paul English, for example, is working on Lola Travel, which will have clients and travel agents interacting via app to reserve flights and hotels, in addition to arranging rentals.
However, texting doesn’t stop at trip planning. When clients finally land in their destination, they’re going to want to stay in touch with friends and family back home. Springing for an international plan can be costly. Verizon, for instance, charges $40 a month per device, while AT&T charges $30 a month and still charges if you choose to talk instead of text. No wonder that these free text-messaging apps are the travel accessory du jour among the jet set. (But be careful: Using these apps will take up cellular data unless you’re connected to Wi-Fi — which can be costly. Additionally, be sure to turn data roaming off.)
Before your next trip, consider downloading one of these apps.
Facebook Messenger is ideal for many North Americans thanks to Facebook’s ubiquity. Since the contacts are all based on your Facebook friends, it’s much easier to find a majority of the people you know through the app.
The Facebook Messenger system works just like a regular text messages. Once you drop your friends a note, they’ll get a push notification on their phone even if they’re not actively using Facebook. The text message app can also be used for both iPhone and Android.
Launched in 2010, KakaoTalk is the most popular text-messaging app in South Korea; in fact, 93 percent of smartphone users in Korea have downloaded Kakao, according to a 2012 report by Nielsen. The app has 170 million users worldwide and can be found in 15 different languages.
It’s easy to understand why: Kakao lets you share videos and photos, create group texts and send an SMS to anyone in the world who also has the app for free. Once downloaded, the app will synchronize with your phone’s existing contacts to locate other users of the app. If you want to send a message to someone whose phone number you don’t have, you can also search for it through the app.
In addition to allowing users to text and chat for free, Kakao also has fun features such as voice filters, emojis, games and even a shopping platform.
Line was first launched in Japan and has more than 480 million users worldwide in 280 countries. In fact, it’s the No. 1 ranked app in the free app category in 39 different countries, including Japan, Macau, Singapore and Switzerland. Like KakaoTalk, Line is especially popular in Asia.
Line allows users to send free text messages and make international voice and video calls. Similar to KakaoTalk, the person you’re messaging must also be a Line user, though there’s also a feature that will let you message someone without the app for a small fee.
Popular in Asian and Middle Eastern countries, Viber is another great option for clients looking to text and chat for free. Unlike other apps, Viber doesn’t require you to create an account. Instead, it uses your phone number as a way to identify you and will automatically identify people in your contacts list that are also Viber users.
It works for both iPhone and Android users and can make calls and send messages to users of both.
The most popular messaging app in China, WeChat boasts 570 million daily active users and more than 1.1 billion accounts at last published count. WeChat functions more like a Web browser than a messaging app: The app connects its users to 10 million other apps that provide services such as calling a taxi or managing finances. These third-party “apps” resemble websites and independently offer direct payment and customer service. WeChat is essentially an all-in-one app that includes a free messaging platform.
WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging apps worldwide and is supported by most mobile systems, including iPhone, Android and Windows. Since Jan. 18, 2016, WhatsApp no longer charges any subscription fees for messaging other WhatsApp users.
Like the other apps mentioned, it offers group messaging as well as audio and video messaging.