If you aren’t innately tech-savvy—don’t worry, you’re not alone—incorporating additional devices or apps into your travel routine can be frustrating. Get up to date on traveling with electronics with these tips, which will help you make your travels even better.
Smart packing for more than smartphones
Your electronic devices are probably some of the most valuable items in your bag. When traveling with electronics, keep them safe by packing them in your carry-on bag. Of course, which devices make the carry-on cut will largely depend on your needs.
Smartphones—a camera, a phone and a connection to the internet all in one—are perfect for travelers looking for a casual way to stay in touch and document their trip. But if you’re traveling with electronics such as photography or videography equipment, don’t be tempted to cut down on bulk and weight in your carry-on by checking your equipment. The same rule applies to electronic accessories—chargers and spare batteries, especially. These items are just as important as the electronics themselves. After all, a dead camera isn’t very useful for documenting your trip.
In addition to the accessories you use with your electronics every day, consider investing in battery packs that can charge devices when you don’t have access to a power outlet. (Like when you’re on a plane, for example.) And if you’re traveling abroad with electronics, an adapter is essential for staying charged on the road, as electrical outlets are different all over the world.
Helpful Tip: If you do forget something, check with the front desk of your hotel before spending money to replace it. Guests leave things behind all the time, and many hotels keep a stash of unclaimed chargers and adaptors to help future guests.
Apps for every type of traveler
Smartphone and tablet apps can be lifesavers while traveling. You can break down language barriers with translation apps like Google Translate, which lets you type what you want to say in English and then says the translation aloud for you.
When traveling with electronics that use data, save on roaming charges by using apps like Skype, Viber and WhatsApp to text, call and video-chat via Wi-Fi. Never make a mistake when tipping in a foreign country by using the Global Tip Calulator App. Or find a nearby Wi-Fi hot spot using Boingo’s Wi-Fi finder app. The Dropbox app is great for uploading photos to free up memory on your phone or camera. You can even share access to the folders where photos are stored so family and friends see them before you even return home.
Whatever your needs, there’s likely an app available to help make your travels run smoothly. Just be sure to use Wi-Fi to operate apps on your phone if you’re traveling internationally and your phone or tablet has a limited international data plan (more on that in a bit).
Helpful Tip: Make sure any Wi-Fi connection you use is secure. In general, if you can connect to a network without a password, it’s probably not secure.
SIM cards, data plans and staying connected
When traveling with electronics the apps typically need data or a Wi-Fi connection to use all of their available features. Save yourself the stress of coming home to an enormous cell phone bill by checking with your provider about international capabilities and data plans before you travel. If your device isn’t compatible with international data, some carriers can provide you with a device you can use on your trip.
Helpful Tip: Even traveling with data-dependent electronics and using them onboard a cruise between San Francisco and Alaska can cause a spike in your phone bill. Set your phone to airplane mode but leave Wi-Fi on to use all the other functions when you’re on board the ship.
If you’re traveling for an extended period of time (say, more than one month), buying a local SIM card—the chip that connects your phone to a carrier—could be more cost-effective. To do this, you’ll need an unlocked phone, which means the phone is not tied to any particular phone carrier, so you can use it with your carrier at home and then swap the SIM card to use it with a local carrier in the country you’re traveling in.