Top Travel Tech Tips
Travelling with tech was once the reserve of a handful of professionals. Today, it’s almost inescapable for everyone. From booking trips online to making sure your hotel room has free wifi, tech has become a fundamental part of travelling.
So, what should today’s tech-equipped traveller be taking with them on their journey, and how can travelling with tech make your adventures even better?
Travel Tech Basics
The tech traveller’s bag should have a good set of headphones, a travel adapter and – of course – a smartphone.
The humble travel adapter has come a long way since the clunky folding designs of old and you’ll find plenty of new designs with USB sockets for convenient tech charging.
Unless you’re planning to do a lot of writing or work, leave the laptop at home. If your trip involves a lot of travel or waiting, you might want a bigger screen for entertainment, so a tablet might be a good call. Just be prepared to take more with you: chargers, cases and of course a more discreet way of taking photos!
Backup power is the only treatment for tech’s worst disease: poor battery performance. The cure is better batteries, but they may be years away. So for now, the drain that long-haul travel entertainment, mapping apps and day-long sightseeing can put on your tech can be patched up with a portable battery. They’re not too bulky or expensive and they’re a real lifesaver when you’re away from an outlet socket.
The modern-day mobile phone may just be the greatest tool ever invented. When it comes to travel, there’s not much it can’t do. Researching and booking, photography, currency and even translating the local language into your own are just a few of its uses. Smartphones are the tech-savvy traveller’s best friend.
We’ll cover the best apps later on.
Check Your Travel Insurance Schedule of Cover
Many travel insurance policies exclude mobile phones and some other portable digital devices, so watch out. Check your home contents insurance for cover away from home, or seek alternative gadget insurance for trips abroad.
Cameras – To Take or Not to Take?
Sometimes, a phone just can’t cut the mustard; avid photographers might find themselves limited even with today’s best smartphone cameras.
It’s a question of what your trip involves and how you want to document it. For a lot of people, carrying a (usually bulky) camera is an unwanted burden when a smartphone camera will do a satisfactory job and be easily accessible. A smartphone can go from your pocket to ready to shoot in seconds; a camera stowed in a case or bag can take much longer.
But the difference in image quality is unmistakeable: if you want the best pictures of your trip, you’ll have to make the weight and convenience compromise with a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
Avoiding Roaming Charges
This one’s tricky but manageable. Many people prefer to ditch their devices’ roaming capabilities altogether to avoid the now notorious fees of using data abroad. There are many ways around getting stung with a huge bill; let’s take a closer look.
Use wifi in common places
Always on the move? No hotel wifi? No problem. The humble coffee shop is your knight in shining armour when you’re on the move and need a data fix fast. And let’s face it, coffee is welcome at any time of day.
Download Google Maps Data
You can download local data to Google Maps to avoid churning through your data. It’s extremely handy when you’re travelling – hit the menu in the Google Maps app and manage offline areas to add a new place. You can now navigate while saving data.
Take a Photo of Metro and City Maps on Your Phone for Quick Reference.
Alternatively, snap a local area map on your phone camera. For larger maps, use an app like AutoStitch to combine multiple high-resolution photos into one.
Turn Off Roaming on Your Phone
The sledgehammer approach, but it guarantees zero costs associated with data.
Buy a local PAYG SIM
If you’re staying in one place for a while and need consistent data coverage, consider buying a local pay-as-you-go SIM card. You’ll get top-notch service and always know what you’re paying.
Apps to Download
It’s easier than learning a new language and the fastest way out of communication breakdown. It might not be perfectly elegant, but it’ll certainly be better than pointing, smiling and shrugging your way through an awkward conversation. You’ll start learning phrases as you go, but if you’re not confident, just let the app speak for you!
Google Maps is indispensable as ever, negating the need for local train, bus and metro/subway/underground apps altogether. It might just be the only mapping app you need.
Uber and Lyft operate in a huge number of locations around the world; find out if your next destination offers ride-hailing:
Uber even integrates with Google Maps in some locations.
Apple Pay, Google Pay and other contactless payment apps are secure and widespread, making secure payment a breeze.
You can use Google Search for currency conversion, but it might be quicker, easier and more accurate to try an app like XE.
For sheer simplicity and peace of mind, try Revolut, one of the bright rising stars of prepaid travel cards. Check out this in-depth review of Revolut, which has an accompanying app that makes money abroad effortless. No more complicated conversions or leftover coins!
There are times when travelling is simply waiting. With nothing else to do, why not indulge in some light digital entertainment?
Download Content First
Yes, you should be out exploring and taking it all in – but it’s your holiday, and nobody’s going to argue with a little binge-watching or musical therapy to break it up.
Netflix now offers users the choice of pre-downloading shows and movies, so you can beat the buffering curse and save roaming data. Spotify also allows offline listening with pre-downloaded playlists and tracks.
BBC iPlayer, amongst other TV catch-up services, also lets users save content for watching without an internet connection. So plan your viewing schedule in advance and save your favourite shows for the less exciting instalments of your adventures.
If you’re staying in a hotel or lodgings with a TV, the pocket-sized Google Chromecast can take your phone’s content and blow it up on a big screen. Plug it in to any modern TV with an HDMI port and cast your phone screen over wifi. Brilliant for those rainy days, or downtime for explorers with sore feet.
If you’re travelling alone, headphones are a must, but even travelling companions can grow tired of your chit-chat after a while. Sometimes, you’ll just want to experience the sights with your own soundtrack.
There’s a strong case for noise-cancelling headphones, but the bulk and battery life are a turn-off for some. They can be weighty and fatiguing after prolonged wear (not to mention a bit sweaty in the heat).
A good set of in-ear headphones can block out almost all external noise, however, and they’re usually far more convenient in all applications.
Unless audiophile-level sound quality is a must, we’d recommend packing a simple set of earbuds for the ride.