Preparing for an international trip with your mobile phone requires research and planning. Get off the plane and just start using it, and you’ll be hit with a variety of fees and roaming charges, easily racking up several hundred dollars in a single week.
Whether you need the ability to call or just the ability to access data and text, the following tips will help you utilize your device to its fullest while keeping overall costs down.
Know your phone and your plan
All phones use either GSM (Global System for Mobiles) or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) as their radio systems to communicate with cell towers. GSM phones are unlocked and can be used with any carrier, while CDMA phones are locked to a specific carrier.
Read through your plan to make sure you know what the charges will be for international use, or if you’ll even be able to use your phone while abroad. If you have a GSM phone, you can switch out your SIM card with one in the country you’re visiting (more on that later). Otherwise, you may be able to purchase a temporary plan through your carrier.
If you have a CDMA phone, you may want to buy a pay-as-you-go phone once you arrive in your destination country.
File this under the category “Now We’ve Heard Everything.” According to an article in Smarter Travel, the latest scam to target travelers involves what’s called “juice-jacking.” Travelers desperate for a charge plug into a public charging station that, unbeknownst to them, is masquerading as a data port to steal their phone’s private and personal data.
Once a phone is connected to the station, everything on the device is downloadable: passwords, photos, emails, messages, bank account information. Worse yet, additional malware might also be infecting the device. How can you protect yourself against this new hacking method?
For one thing, be wary of public USB-friendly charging stations. There’s a chance that it’s a bogus charging station, and instead of just charging your batteries, you could give hackers access to your mobile device.
Instead, always travel with your own power pack. Some of our new Crew™ 11 Carry-on models feature a built-in battery pocket and external USB port. No more digging for your accessories or relying on potentially unsafe charging stations. Just plug your battery into the internal charging USB cord, and then plug your normal charging cord into the port on the back of your luggage.
It’s a road warrior’s constant battle, managing battery life. We all rely on our phones and tablets to provide information and entertainment while we’re on the go. Following these simple tips will help you enjoy your travel instead of worrying about when the red battery icon will appear.
- Investigate the different online storage platforms available and choose one place to access your documents and pictures. Apple supports iCloud, Google has Google Drive, and Dropbox is a third party provider that works on all platforms. Evernote is another cross-device, cross-platform option.
- Before you leave, download any new apps you might need, like a currency converter if you’re going overseas, or a maps app or guidebook that will help you navigate a new city. You’ll not only save battery life, you’ll conserve data by planning ahead. Read more
If you’re an avid cell phone user, preserving battery life can be an all-consuming obsession. You limit your data usage, you only operate certain mobile apps on wifi, and you may even avoid some of the data hogs your colleagues all swear by.
One thing we’ve always thought about battery extension was that we should close our dormant apps instead of leaving them open.
Turns out, that’s just not true.
According to an Apple support page, “apps that are in a suspended state aren’t actively in use, open, or taking up system resources.”
Android users can also rejoice. According to an ABC News story, David Burke, the vice president of engineering at Android, agrees. “It’s simply not true.”
He says just the opposite occurs when you go to close those apps to conserve power. Closing them actually activates them momentarily which may drain more power than just leaving them in their suspended state.
So, if closing apps is unhelpful, what can you do?
Travel and all that it entails makes for an environment ripe with opportunity for theft and scamming. Why? There’s lots of money involved and lots of personal information offered in the purchasing process.
There are some simple ways to protect yourself, and, according to a CIO.com article, you can and should do everything you can to make sure you’re secure before you ever book your first ticket. That security starts with the travel site you choose to use.
Don’t believe those cyber vacation deals that seem too good to be true. Most of the time they are, and, worse yet, instead of a deal you might be getting a nightmare if you find out later what you thought was reputable turns out to be a scam. Stick with the big players with known reputations, read all the fine print, and watch your credit card statement like a hawk.
Don’t fool yourself by believing your mobile device is less susceptible. Charlie Abrahams, senior vice president of MarkMonitor, says the company spends a good deal of time scanning online app stores because, “there are a lot of apps there that are completely fake.”
We’re so connected to our phones that it almost seems we need a tiny suitcase dedicated to their accessories. If you want your favorite handheld device to be fully juiced before your cross-country flight, you need to be sure to pack the phone’s charger and charging cord, and then you will need an open outlet near the gate where you’re waiting to board your flight.
Not if you’re flying Emirates Airline in Dubai.
According to a Future Travel Experience article, Emirates recently installed inductive, wireless charging trays in its first and business class waiting lounges. While these trays aren’t new to the market, this is one of the first instances where they have been deployed in a consumer environment.
This is one time when Android users triumph over Apple users because Android phones are equipped to sync with wireless charging stations, while Apple is still working on their proprietary wireless charging technology.
Mohammed Mattar, divisional senior vice president of Emirates Airport Services explained the decision. “Our aspiration is to provide greater comfort for our customers and a hassle-free, seamless travel experience. Mobile devices are an intrinsic part of our lives, and at Emirates we see free wifi and wireless charging on the go as becoming the norm in the future travel experience.”
We agree. Perhaps some day, airplane tray tables will incorporate this feature, increasing their value from a crumb catcher, drink holder, and armrest to something truly functional.
Do you use wireless charging on your phone? Is it something you would consider? Would you even upgrade to a new phone if you knew you could charge it wirelessly? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Wikipedia, Creative Commons)
Should you use the free wifi at your hotel? That depends on how sensitive the information is that you’re accessing online or you have on your computer. Even if you feel comfortable and safe and have good security measures in place, you still want to exercise caution when using it; avoid extremely sensitive tasks such as online banking or accessing sensitive business information.
Another solution Norton discusses is using a VPN or virtual private network, if you’re traveling for work. If your company has a VPN, logging onto it will give you the same security you enjoy while working from your office behind the security firewall.
Next, change your passwords frequently. You’ve probably heard this a million times; we all have. But it keeps being repeated because it’s great advice. Set up a system to remind yourself to change passwords every three months. Don’t use single words or names of family members or pets. Use a password management system like 1Password to generate long passwords with random letters, numbers, and special characters.
Also, avoid network sharing. Norton says to avoid situations where other computers are communicating directly with yours while you’re in a fairly unsecure location, such as a hotel.
These are also good tips for working in the local coffee shop, your hotel room, or anytime you’re on a public network. What are some other computer security tips you follow on the road? Share them with us in the comments.
A recent article on the Future Travel Experience website discusses a new initiative at the Brussels Airport: tracking customers via their personal electronic devices in order to create estimates of how long it will take passengers to travel through the airport. They’re hoping this will help reduce queues at the airport: If officials know when to expect passengers at the gate, they can effectively staff for the influx.
According to the article, “the sensors, which are supplied by BLIP Systems, track passengers via their personal electronic devices. They collect the unique Media Access Control (MAC) addresses of phones, tablets and other devices searching for a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.”
The sensors will record as passengers pass by them to help predict the length of the passengers’ travel time through the airport. This can also provide accurate times to airport and airline personnel about how quickly travelers will get through security and so on.
But many folks may not have their phone searching for a Wi-Fi connection or their Bluetooth activated, especially when traveling internationally. So this type of tracking may not work for everyone. (Of course, most Europeans traveling through Europe will already have their phones activated, so it will track with intra-continental travelers.)
We think this kind of tracking will continue to be on the rise. In the airport of the future, there may be a way to do this easily, and it will be more common as time goes on. Recording and predicting traffic patterns of travelers is something we think will become more widespread as time goes on.
However, it’s not clear whether this is a voluntary tracking system from the viewpoint of the traveler, although the system will only aggregate non-personally identifiable information. Is this something that travelers should be worried about? Let us know what you think in the comments.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
When packing for vacations, should you add in your camera or just rely on your phone to take your travel photos? Smartphone cameras have gotten sophisticated and professional enough, that many of us have no idea where our “real cameras” are now, or when we last charged them.
However, knowing our vacation is coming up can have us digging through our junk drawers, looking not just for the camera, but also for the charging cord and the instructions.
We think that, unless you’re a decent photographer with a good SLR camera, you should skip the little point-and-shoots and just use your phone. The resolution is the same as the compact cameras, it’s one less thing to recharge, and you can upload your photos to your favorite storage site without worrying about downloading.
If you have a high-end camera, or are a skilled, serious photographer, take it along. Taking high quality photos may be part of the vacation experience for you.
Otherwise why bother lugging a compact camera around and adding it to the ever-growing pile of gadgets that need to be recharged? If you just want to take some photos to remember the trip and to upload to social media, the phone will serve you better in any case.
You have a lot of options for storing and sharing photos from a phone that are probably not available on your camera. And with the latest generation of phones, you can even edit photos and videos. You can’t do that on the point-and-shoots.
And if you’re in a pinch, don’t forget that your tablet can also take photos.
What do you think? Do you take your small cameras along, or do you leave them at home and just use your phones? Leave a comment below or over on our Facebook page.
- Go-anywhere compact camera streams video live to YouTube (pcworld.com)
A recent article on About Travel, a student travel website, brings up the issue of what items you should leave behind when traveling. We think the advice could apply to anyone, although the advice for hostels may indeed be more of a student/cheap traveler thing. (We’ll leave the youth hostels to our younger compatriots!)
A lot of the advice boils down to the simple recommendation that you act like you do at home instead of gearing up and buying a lot of specialty items. For instance, the author said she paid $100 for a silk sleeping bag liner that she had never used.
And don’t buy dedicated travel clothes. Just wear what you normally wear instead of buying special clothes. People do tend to over pack in general. You can’t really pack for every possible situation unless you want to deal with a massive suitcase. Just plan in advance, and figure out how to do laundry while you’re on your trip.
You can also assume that wherever you’re going, they have stores and you can purchase something if you have an emergency.
Another thing to think about: Do you need to take a laptop on a non-business trip? Especially if you have a tablet or even a smartphone. You can give up that luxury of the bigger screen for efficiency. You’d be surprised at what you can accomplish with a smartphone, and a pen and notebook.
The advice in the article and from TravelPro boils down to keeping common sense in mind when packing. Be realistic about what you will really need while you’re traveling and try to think back to other trips where certain items have sat in your luggage for the entire time. Leave that stuff behind.
What are some travel items you’ve learned to live without? Visit our Facebook page and leave a comment, or just leave one below. Let us hear some of your travel secrets.
- 10 essential non-tech items for the road (roadwarriorvoices.com)