We seem to be relying on our smartphones more and more every day -- and that is never as apparent to me as when I travel. My phone helps me navigate new locales; seek out good restaurants; take photos and videos; and keep friends and family posted on my adventures. I really can't imagine travelling without one anymore.
Initially, with my Blackberry Curve, all I did was make sure that I tucked my charging cable into my suitcase. As my use of my phone evolved -- and especially once I started relying on my phone for photos and video -- I also started packing a portable charger. But, I now use my phone so often and for so many different reasons when I'm on the road, that I have a checklist that I work through before leaving.
Back it up
If your phone or SIM card gets lost, stolen, or damaged, you will lose a cherished piece of your soul. Trust me. I am the Queen of Damaged Cell Phones, and can spin several sad tales, including the time I dropped my phone while I was crossing the street -- and before I could retrieve it, a car drove over it. No, really. Goodbye photos. Goodbye perfect playlists. Goodbye amazingly sweet texts that I wanted to save forever. I learned early on that I, for one, definitely need to back up my cell phone regularly. But, when I am travelling, out of my routine and element, I am more apt to forget about the small details - like the fact that I put my phone down on the seat of the taxi cab and left it there. Back it up, peeps. Back it all up.
Pack your peripherals
Packing your charging cable is a no-brainer. An excellent piece of advice is to always carry your charging cable with you, to take advantage of those random charging docks you stumble on in airports, airplanes, malls, etc. If you carry a small portable charger like I do, you will also need to carry your cable for that. My current portable charger is about the size of a tube of lipstick and definitely earns its pocket space.
If you are travelling overseas, you'll need to take along a plug adapter to fit international sockets. Another nifty piece of advice is to take along an extension cord. That way, you can plug multiple devices (and even your hairdryer) into the extension cord, only requiring the one plug adapter to keep everything functioning.
If you are travelling with multiple connected devices (phone, tablet, laptop) or if you are sharing your hotel room with a fellow traveller, you may want to take along a portable router as well. A portable router will help you share Wi-Fi without worrying about mobile data and bandwidth limits.
Save your photos to the cloud
I am one of those sad people who will take 246 selfies before being satisfied with one to use for my HuffPo profile photo. For this reason, I don't always have my phone camera linked to the cloud. Who wants to delete all those bad selfies in two separate places? However, before leaving on a trip, I will turn that feature/app on, so that if my phone is lost, I will still have access to the plethora of selfies I took in front of the iceberg at Cape Spear, Newfoundland.
Subscribe to a VPN
To avoid roaming charges, it's best to stick to Wi-Fi whenever possible. However, there is an increased chance of data theft when we use public Wi-Fi, especially if we are using it to perform financial transactions, such as accessing our bank accounts or using a credit card at a merchant's site. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) routs your online activities through a server, which encrypts and protects your data. VPNs are fee-based, and are usually accessed through an app on your smartphone.
Avoid roaming charges
We've all heard stories of incredibly high roaming charges, like the dad who received a $10,000 bill after letting his kids stream Netflix on a road trip. There are a few ways around this. First, make sure to research your carrier's service area. Once you are outside of the service area (and these areas aren't necessarily defined by borders), roaming charges kick in. If you will be travelling outside of your carrier's service area, a basic fix is to put your phone on airplane mode. You might also want to remove your SIM card altogether.
Or, you can buy a local SIM card once you reach your destination. This will allow you to access local data services at a reasonable rate. If this is something you want to do, first make sure that your own phone operates on the same wireless standard as the carrier you purchase the local SIM card from. Then you need to make sure your phone is unlocked. Most carriers lock their phones to their own networks. If your phone is locked, it can use only your carrier's own SIM cards. It's fairly simple to unlock an Iphone though. My own carrier (Sasktel) will unlock their phones for a $50 fee. If your carrier is not as reasonable as mine, you may want to research other options for unlocking your iPhone or Android device.
Sometimes (like when I am working through this checklist and rushing to pack) it's tempting to think that is was easier in the old days - when all we had to pack were maps, travel guide books, a camera, film, a video camera, extra batteries, and plenty of local coins for the pay phones. Oh. Wait.
For tips on apps and sites that your smartphone can access to keep your travels worry-free, check out my other piece on this topic. Happy travels!
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