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When is a web browser not a web browser? When it’s anything else you want it to be.
Google Chrome has been the most popular desktop browser for several years, and part of the reason is the wide range of extensions that make it more useful. Travelers haven’t been left out, with all kinds of tools and services aimed at those on the move.
Whether it’s checking your Wi-fi speed, getting cheaper flights and hotels, improving your online security, or just reducing the boredom of another overnight airport layover, these are nine of the best Chrome extensions out there for travelers. Nearly all are free to download and use, although some have a premium version as well.
Note that some of these extensions are also available on Firefox and various Chromium-based browsers.
Flight Fare Compare
Looking for a cheap airfare and can’t be bothered trawling through a bunch of different websites to find it? Flight Fare Compare lets you search for flights using Google Flights (one of our favorites), and then uses Skyscanner, Kayak, and other meta-search tools to find the cheapest available fare for your chosen route.
Since Google Flights doesn’t show fares from online travel agents, this approach can sometimes yield significant savings on the same ticket. Sure, it’s nothing you couldn’t manually do yourself, but it saves a bunch of time and doesn’t cost anything extra.
Save to Pocket
There’s a lot of action-packed excitement when you’re traveling, but there’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait as well. Lengthy lines, bus rides, flights, and layovers all leave you searching for entertainment after a while — there’s only so much people-watching you can do.
Pocket lets you save the contents of any web page in a simplified, easy-to-read form that works across devices. Installing the Chrome extension adds a small button to the toolbar, and clicking it dumps the current page into a queue that automatically syncs with the Pocket app on your phone or tablet.
You can read the articles offline in the app, or on the Pocket website, meaning you’re never short of a way to pass the time no matter which device you’ve got with you.
Getting online while you’re traveling is riskier than at home. Open Wi-fi points, hotel networks that half the world knows the password to, shared computers with all kinds of viruses and key loggers — whatever the reason, your accounts and personal data are more exposed than usual.
Using secure versions of sites (see below) and a VPN helps a lot, but only if you’re using strong, unique passwords to access anything online.
Given how hard it is to create and remember dozens of strong passwords, most people don’t do it. For years I didn’t either, until I installed Lastpass. This extension creates, stores, and fills in random, strong passwords for each site you use, so you only need to remember one password: the one for LastPass itself.
The extension encrypts its password store in such a way that the company itself can’t access it without your master password, never mind anybody else. It also has a mobile app, which syncs your password “vault” between devices.
I now don’t even know my password for most of the sites I use, and I don’t need to. LastPass deals with it all, along with notes, card details, and any other information I need to access securely on the move.
Want to know more? Check out our article on LastPass and other password managers.
That little padlock in the corner of Chrome’s address bar means you’re accessing a secure version of a website, and communication between you and it are safe from prying eyes.
That’s great, but it doesn’t help you if you forget to type https at the start of the address. If the site doesn’t redirect you by itself, you’ll be browsing insecurely on that wide-open airport network you’ve just connected to.
Rather than trying to work out which sites support secure browsing and then putting the right version of the address in, let the HTTPS Everywhere extension do it for you. It maintains a list of thousands of popular sites, and sends you to the secure version automatically. You can even block insecure HTTP connections entirely if you want to.
Whether you’re visiting from a link, bookmark or typing the address in yourself, you’ll end up using HTTPS (almost) everywhere, without thinking about it. Handy.
Travel can hold many frustrations, and overpaying for accommodation is right near the top of the list. Trying to strike a balance between missing out on discounts and missing out entirely is far from easy.
As the company’s tagline suggests, Pruvo’s aim is to save you money after you’ve booked. The extension itself is quite simple: just visit your booking confirmation page and click the “start saving” button.
From there, Pruvo starts monitoring the price for your chosen room and dates. When it spots a drop, you’ll get an email letting you know about it, and how to cancel and rebook your room at the lower price.
Obviously this approach relies on your original booking having a free or low-cost cancellation policy, but Booking.com often offers cancelable bookings like this at minimal or no extra cost. If you’re a flexible traveler who makes these kinds of reservations anyway, Pruvo could end up saving you a bunch of cash.
Chrome has Google’s translation function built right into the browser, but you’re limited to translating either the entire page or nothing at all. If you only need to know what a few words or sentences mean, install the partner extension, select the text you’re interested in, and click the translation icon that appears above it.
It will usually guess which language the text is in, and offer both the original and translated versions in a pop-up box. If the guess is wrong, other languages are available in a drop-down. Many translations also include an audio version that you can hear by clicking the speaker icon.
Speedtest by Ookla
We’ve long recommended the app and web-based versions of Speedtest as a quick and easy way of measuring how good (or bad) your Internet connection is, so it’s no surprise the browser extension makes it to this list as well.
While it’s not exactly difficult to go to the website to run a test, it’s even easier to just click an icon in your browser. It’ll connect to the nearest server, run the upload and download tests, and report the results, all without leaving the page you’re currently on.
The extension also (optionally) measures how long it takes for web pages to load, which can be useful for figuring out whether it’s the website or the Wi-fi that’s at fault.
If you’re a fan of the hotel booking site Booking.com, it’s worth installing the company’s Chrome extension. It lets you search for accommodation right from the icon, and opens up access to so-called ‘hidden’ deals and other discounts when you do.
Once you’ve made a booking, you can manage it, get alerted to last-minute upgrade offers, and more.
If you want to stay secure online or appear as if you’re browsing from a different location, we always recommend using a proper VPN rather than a purely browser-based extension (here’s why).
Once you have your VPN installed, however, that browser version can be useful. If you just want to occasionally change your apparent browsing location, for instance, it’s faster and easier to do it in Chrome than the VPN app.
ExpressVPN, one of our top travel VPN picks, offers a Chrome extension that helps bypass censorship or view geo-blocked content with a single click. It also stops sites from using HTML 5 geolocation or WebRTC to find your true location.
Because it’s using the full ExpressVPN app behind the scenes, you get much better security than with browser-only “VPN” services. There’s no free version, but prices start at a little over eight bucks a month.
Just install the extension, click the new ExpressVPN icon in your browser, and connect. You can change your apparent location from the same screen if needed, with access to servers in nearly 100 countries. The extension includes a built-in version of HTTPS Anywhere (mentioned above) for extra security.
Do you have any other favourite Chrome extensions for travel? Let us know about them in the comments!
All screenshots via respective extension developers.