6 apps and games to make your trip more fun

Experience a city before you even arrive or add an extra dimension once you’re there with virtual reality tech that's taking travel to the next level.

New Zealand's VR tour app Welltown is one of many new games redefining travel.​
  • Rachel Gray
  • May 2019

When VR, AR, gaming and travel intersect, amazing things can happen. From bringing the destination to life when you’re there, to helping you dream about or plan that perfect trip, here are the apps and games that are making travel techier – and better.

Virtual reality tours

New Zealand’s capital has become the world’s first “gamified virtual city” with the launch of a new VR experience called WellTown opens in new window. The free-to-play app (although you’ll need a VR headset) allows users to explore Wellington, including diving into the harbour and busking on Cuba Street, before setting foot there in real life. Craving a more natural experience? Get a feel for swimming with whale sharks off the coast of WA with the Australia in 360° opens in new window virtual reality app by Tourism Australia. Pop your smartphone in a Google Cardboard opens in new window VR headset, hit play and you’ll be on your way.

Geocaching

Calling all treasure hunters. Geocaching opens in new window is the 21st century’s answer to orienteering. Just download the free Geocaching smartphone app to start searching your neighbourhood (and others) for boxes – called caches – hidden in unusual spots, like behind a rock or up a tree. Return the cache once you’ve found it, then tell the seven-million strong online geocaching community what small trinkets are inside the box before you head off on your next escapade. It’s a fun, free way to get outdoors and uncover secret sides to destinations around the world – from within Australia to Asia, New Zealand and Hawaii.

Uncover hidden treasures by Geocaching around the world
Uncover hidden treasures by Geocaching around the world.

Augmented reality experiences

Kids will get a kick out of seeing characters from popular story book The Gruffalo come to life in 3D at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast. Simply download The Gruffalo Spotter app opens in new window (available free for iOS and Android) and point your smartphone at markers along the leafy Gruffalo Trail, where animations of Mouse, Fox, Snake, Owl and Gruffalo will pop up. Kids can even get their photos taken alongside the characters.

On a more urban end, Sydney dining precinct Tramsheds opens in new window has recently launched an AR app which lets you scan a QR code to bring to life the murals and street art that once adorned this historic tram depot. Designed to add another layer to the customer experience, the app also showcases stories and menu highlights from the various restaurants and outlets at Tramsheds.

The kids will enjoy playing with the augmented reality app Gruffalo Spotter
The kids will enjoy playing with the augmented reality app Gruffalo Spotter.

Hi-tech gaming

Reimagine childhood pursuits the new-age way or get your kids passionate about travel with the Google Earth adaptation of hit PC game Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego opens in new window? Head to the website to play the game that tests players’ knowledge of geography, history and foreign cultures as they traverse different destinations following clues left by the international jewel thief. Originally from the late 1980s, the new version of the educational game can be played anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi connection and will keep the kids entertained during those in-between times on holiday.

Want to learn through travel? Trivia-style board game When in Rome opens in new window syncs with an Alexa-enabled smart speaker (such as Amazon Echo – purchased separately) to help players navigate different cities. As you play, you’ll compete to collect souvenirs, make friends and earn upgrades. The game involves answering pre-recorded questions from real locals about slang, food, drink, language and random facts, making for a great way to learn about a city over a few bellyaching travel trivia laughs with family and friends. The game covers 20 cities, including Sydney, Auckland and Bangkok.

This interactive board game makes learning about different cultures fun
This interactive board game makes learning about different cultures fun.

AR magic

The creators of Pokémon Go have made a Harry Potter version opens in new window of the augmented reality mobile game that became a viral sensation. That’s right, Potter fans will be able to enter the wizarding world from anywhere around the globe and join a Ministry of Magic task force to stop magic from causing chaos and threatening to reveal the wizarding world.