Apple Watch travel tips

I bought my Apple Watch for heath and GPS exercise tracking. I regarded its travel uses with skepticism. After all, I have a phone, which already accompanies me on trips, and saw no need to carry two devices for the same purpose. However, after using the Apple Watch for a few months, I’ve found it to be an extremely useful travel tool. It’s not great for everything, but it’s helpful enough that I no longer travel without it. Ready for some Apple Watch travel tips?

How, when, and why to use your Apple Watch while traveling

Apple Watch travel tips:

For me, the prime benefit of traveling with my Apple Watch Series 2 is the ability to keep my hands free and my phone stashed away. Using the apps on my watch means I can keep my backpack or tote bag closed, my eyes up, and my distractions to a minimum. Here are the uses I’ve found for my watch on travel days:

Boarding passes in Passbook:

When I check into my flight online, I use the appropriate airline app on my phone. Then I save my mobile boarding pass to Passbook. When I open Passbook on my watch, my boarding pass is right there. I can scan it at the gate and at security and never have to dig my phone out of my bag. I also keep the airline apps I use on my watch, because they will alert me of any changes to my flight right on my wrist.

Note: the TripIt app is now available for Apple Watch too, and I find it very helpful to get their alerts.

Directions on my wrist:

I have no sense of direction, so when I travel, I rely heavily on my Maps app. When I use Maps with my phone, I’m distracted, looking down at my screen while I walk unfamiliar streets, or worse, glancing too often at my phone while driving in unfamiliar cities. When I set up mapping directions on my phone before I depart, they sync to my watch, which gives me point-by-point directions as I go. I wasn’t sure if I’d like haptic touch (where the watch buzzes and vibrates to indicate which way to go), but I find I love it. I can drive and be confident about when to turn without taking my eyes off the road.

News bites in real time:

I have the CNN and New York Times apps on my watch, and appreciate how I can stay up-to-date on news as I travel. Yes, I could see updates on my phone, but how often, on a busy day, do I actually take the time to open a news app and read? With CNN and NYT on my wrist, short, one-line news bites are delivered to me, helping me be more aware as I travel.

Note: there are many other great news sources; for my watch, I chose CNN and NYT because their app headlines are particularly succinct and digestible…good for the small screen of my watch.

Apple pay on the go:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve approached the register at an airport newsstand store or dining venue and had to dig around in my bag for my wallet or phone to pay. It’s time consuming, and can be unsafe to open everything up…important things could easily fall out of my bag. I use Apple Pay on my watch, and I’d say it works easily 70% of the time. The other 30%, it’s a big pain in the butt because it doesn’t work for some reason and I have to dig my wallet out after all. So there are negatives to using Apple Pay, but still worth trying.

GPS tracking for safety:

Some people don’t like to track their GPS, and I get that, but when I’m in a new city, I still like to run outdoors when it’s possible. I appreciate the fact that with just my watch, I can track my route, so I can easily find my hotel again. Also, in the case of anything going wrong, my route is tracked on my phone (which is back at the hotel room), so my family can more easily find me. It’s just a precaution, but one I appreciate.

A few of my favorite Apple Watch apps (not mentioned above):

  • TripIt: great to plan travel and get live updates on your travel plans
  • Timer: fun to time waits in line (so you can prove to kids that they haven’t been ‘waiting forever!’)
  • Breathe: a nice relaxation tool on travel days
  • Uber: I’ve found it to be pretty seamless as long as your account is up-to-date on your phone
  • 1Password: for when I’ve forgotten a password that I need to enter on my phone and my computer isn’t handy
  • Music: I pair with bluetooth headphones and listen to music on the go

What I never use Apple Watch for:

  • Email: heck no! Way too small a screen
  • Photos/video: though I know people who like the remote camera app
  • Banking/Paypal: no real reason other than the small screen
  • Social media: I like to see Instagram, Facebook and more on a bigger screen

Do you have an Apple Watch? Do you use it for travel?

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.




  1. I have been contemplating a Apple Watch for quite some time and reading this I am pretty much convinced to go for it as soon as the next edition comes out in the next few months. I like the idea of having directions handy and GPS tracking, and at times it’s difficult to take out the phone so having all the information handy on the wrist really can be a benefit. Thanks.

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