Tech is not just a consideration or an afterthought, as you plan your travel journey. It is an imperative. Technology has made tasks previously deemed impossible or impractical, possible and routine. As such, it is no surprise that technology has permeated the travel world and has made becoming a part-time or full-time traveler easier than ever. Today we are going to share our favorite travel tech tips with all of you future WorldTowners.
Through our travels, we have had tech successes and failures that have made us feel both invincible and has driven us to tears at the same time. From our experiences, the following are the keys to effectively take care of your tech issues properly, before you plan your next journey. Warning – We are a bit of a tech family and like to be over prepared.
8 Travel Tech Tips
Power plug adaptors
If you have ever traveled to a foreign country, have tried to plug-in your device and discovered that your device’s power plug is not shaped the same as the local outlets, you have come to the realization that electricity does not look and act the same from country to country.
From a pure power outlet compatibility standpoint, plugs in the U.S. are different from Europe, and the plugs in Europe are different than that in the UK. My favorite is the outlet configuration in Australia, as it looks like a sinister person emoji.
If you have a standard U.S. plug, and want to plug into an outlet in Europe and you are OK with the voltage issues (see the Power Voltage section below before you plug anything in), an adaptor can be purchased to alleviate your compatibility issue.
Not all tech is created equal, and not all locations play nice with your devices and adaptors. If you live in North America where 110 voltage reigns supreme, you will be in for a shock (figuratively and literally) when you plug your rechargeable toothbrush to an outlet in Spain (a 220 voltage location) and find your charging base permanently inoperable after five minutes.
There are devices that will help convert 110 to 220, and vice versa, but they are not cheap, and will most likely cause you to exceed your checked baggage-weight limit, as they are bulky and heavy.
Luckily, a lot of electronics nowadays are designed to accept both 110 and 220. Your laptop and Smartphone are classic examples, but always check first before trusting, as a five-minute search could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, hours of time and unbelievable heartache in losing all your data and your lifeline to the connected world.
Check the voltage of your intended location before you get there.
Just be careful, in this case terminology is important. If you have a power adaptor, it is generally not a power converter. An adaptor can fit in your pocket, and a converter can double as a dumbbell.
Check your phone
If you plan on traveling and taking your phone with you, check with your provider to see whether it is cost-effective. Although carriers now are realizing that more and more people are traveling internationally; and, they are endeavoring to make it more reasonable to take your local phone plan with you, there is probably an add-on plan needed.
If your local plan is cost-prohibitive, getting a SIM card from a local provider is quite easy. It does require a little bit of know-how, though, and the right phone. In the U.S., there are mobile phone service providers (AT&T and T-Mobile) that operate with GSM technology—the global standard—but there are other providers in the U.S. (Sprint, Verizon and U.S Cellular) that operate on CDMA technology. This is an issue, as phones purchased in the U.S. are generally built to suit the related provider. As such, a phone purchased for T-Mobile is built for GSM, and a phone purchased for U.S. Cellular is built for CDMA. When looking to get a local SIM card when traveling, a CDMA phone will generally not work with GSM providers.
Similar to power voltage, there are phones now being introduced with the capability to work with both CDMA and GSM technology.
Dedicated hotspots and phones with hotspot capabilities are great ways to have an online connection for your laptop or tablet when you absolutely cannot be disconnected. Hotspots use a local mobile phone network to provide data to allow you to stay connected. In most cases, you can get a local SIM card to provide the needed data. Hotspots can be purchased before you leave your country of origin, and prepaid SIM cards can be purchased online in advance, or you can pick one up form a local provider when you arrive.
Free WiFi at dining establishments is almost a global commonality, as it gives customers a reason to stay seated and spend more money. It’s a win-win. You have to eat, and the periodic use of free WiFi can easily get you through the day.
Do a speed test on the internet
If your life requires a specific online speed for a variety of needs, (e.g., video-conferencing, internet dialing), then you are keenly aware that latency can be the difference between a successful meeting and the need to postpone the call. If you need to be sure you have the bandwidth speed needed, do a speed test prior to your online call/appointment.
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
If you have ever had your online information hacked or know someone who has, then you definitely know that on-line security is no joke. Although not an ultimate solution, a VPN will help you mask your IP address, making it that much more difficult to become a victim. Plus, it will help you keep up with your home Netflix library when out of the country.
Bring your own router
If you have ever rented an apartment and did not have the locks changed from the previous tenant, there is a risk that the old tenant can key in and take your valuables. The same is true with online security. A resourceful hacker on the same WiFi network as you, has the capability see your keystrokes. Traveling with your own WiFi router can help alleviate this concern. Although this may be overkill, this is for your own good.
The bottom line is this. Most people are concerned about the tech challenges they may face, as they move abroad. The truth, however, is that meeting your tech needs are completely doable. It just takes an understanding of what you need, and what your targeted country offers. It is something that is so vital, and it is completely within the realm of your understanding and reach.