Top tips for travelling with your tech
Missing something? Many people are lost without their digital devices. From e-readers to computers and smart phones to digital cameras, there’s no shortage of tech toys travelling the world with vacationers. It isn’t just booking tickets or finding restaurants that’s the draw. With downloadable freebies like audio walking tours, apps for your mobile devices, interactive maps and digital guidebooks, there are many ways to add value and enjoyment to your trip.
However, travelling with tech can often lead to headaches. Here some tips to make your journey a little easier:
Consider your needs. Devices are nice to have, but how much do you want to transport and care for while you’re on the road? Remember, it’s not just the devices you have to lug around — there are spare batteries, adaptors, chargers and other accessories too. It’s easy for devices to get damaged or lost in transit or to go missing from hotel rooms. Consider: what do you need to use it for and how often will it get used? Where will you store it and carry it? Is it a must-have or a want?
A good rule of thumb to follow: If you don’t need it and you can’t bear to lose it, leave it at home.
Consider the costs. True, there’s a lot of free stuff out there — but there are also costs to added to the travel budget. For instance, wireless internet access isn’t always free in airports and hotels, and trips to the hotel business centre or internet cafes can really add up, not to mention all the accessories you’ll need on your trip. Luckily, you can find out in advance what’s free and what isn’t — and budget accordingly.
Check the limitations. Will your cell phone or smart phone work in a foreign country, or can you purchase e-books for your e-reader while abroad? What extras like an international SIM card or long distance calling card will you need? Roaming charges on your cell phone and data plans on your cell phone can rack up big bills thanks to roaming charges. Make sure you understand the limitations and extra costs before you pack it.
Look for all-in-one. The more a device can do, the better — and the same goes for chargers. A universal charger or charging mat can come in handy if you’ve got multiple devices among your party, and you’ll only need one adaptor and converter.
Another handy device: a mini surge protector can protect your devices while they charge and provide extra outlets.
Downsize your digital baggage. What does your device say about you? When a device goes AWOL, so too does all the information on it — and that could put you, your clients and your contacts at risk. Take a few minutes to pare down the personal information. Ask yourself: if this device was lost or stolen, what information does it reveal? This step is especially important if you use your device for work as well as play.
Pack smart. One big mistake travellers often make is forgetting a cable or charger for one of their devices, making it useless when the battery runs out. When you’re packing, pair each device with its required accessories so you won’t miss something.
And where to stash them? Experts warn to avoid putting them in stowed luggage and keep them with you at all times. Even if loss and theft weren’t a risk, changes in pressure and temperature can damage sensitive parts. The best place to keep them in transit: under the seat so items won’t get banged around or fall out of a compartment.
Set limits. It’s easy to waste precious vacation time on email, blogs and social media. Try giving yourself a few days off where you disconnect completely, and set aside an appropriate block of time in your itinerary for updates and email.
It’s okay to take a “digital sabbatical” too. Just make sure your friends and family know what to expect — like when and how you’ll check in.
Avoid buying on the fly. According to Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips, one costly mistake travellers make is buying items at the airport or shops where travellers congregate. Not only are prices at a premium, you won’t have the opportunity to return items if there’s a problem later on. Try to make your important purchases ahead of your travels.
Same goes for purchasing apps and digital content while you’re on the move. While the price will be the same, those small purchases will add up.
Beware of bans. Rules and norms are different around the world so it’s important to beware of how your usage could offend others, or even land you in jail. For example, texting or talking on a cell phone while driving is banned in many countries, and many airlines still limit or prohibit the use of wireless devices on board.
And be careful with that camera! Some sites are sacred (like Uluru in Australia) and shouldn’t be photographed out of respect. Documenting protests and demonstrations could put you in danger, and in many places you could be treated with suspicion if seen snapping shots of anything related to the military (like bases, equipment, personnel and training exercises) or transportation hubs (like shipping ports and train stations). When in doubt, check with a local and consult your guidebook or government travel advice.
Be creative. You’ve got your devices — why not make the most of them? For instance, enter any important phone numbers directly into your cell phone — like your hotel, family back home, local embassy, emergency services. Use your camera to take a picture of your hotel, the street sign and street number. Photograph business cards, menus and other documents you might need a record of.
Be discrete. In many countries, travellers are targets for crime because they’re perceived as wealthy. Like sporting fancy jewellery and designer labels, flashing the latest camera or smart phone could draw unwanted attention. Crooks know travellers tend to let their guards down and can be easily distracted by unfamiliar surroundings. While you shouldn’t be paranoid, you should exercise caution.
Keep private details private. Here’s another reason to skimp on the tweets and status updates: there have been cases where this information has been used against travellers. Not only are you letting people know you’re not at home, you could be revealing information that an unfriendly stranger could use to earn your trust. Before you post, make sure your settings are visible only to people you trust. Don’t worry — they’ll be lots of time to share your travels when you get back.
While for some a vacation means unplugging altogether, many people find their technology to be a way of life — and a way to enhance their trips. A little pre-trip prep can save some hassle along the way.
Sources: AllSafeTravels, Lonely Planet’s Best Ever Travel Tips
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/Wolfgang Amri