I’ll admit it. I have a severe case of #wanderlust. When I’m not traveling, I’m looking for flight deals, dreaming of where I want to go next, or scrolling through those jealousy-inducing Instagram accounts of full-time travelers (but really, I want to spend weeks at a time in the south of France eating fresh baguettes too).
For many, myself included, our phone has become our favorite travel companion because it makes life a little easier. It can help with planning, give directions, recommend the best spot for dinner, and capture memories. It can even – with the right app – be used to pay for those souvenirs you convince yourself you have to have, whether there’s room in your suitcase or not. However, in this day and age of constant connectivity, our phone can also be a distraction from the ultimate goal of vacation: rest and relaxation.
Here are some simple travel tech do’s and don’ts to help you get the most out of your device so you’ll have more time to focus on getting a little R&R.
DO: Use apps for travel bargain hunts
According to Forbes, Americans spend on average 10% of their annual income on vacations. Get the biggest bang for your travel buck by using apps that save you time and money by searching for travel deals for you. If you already have a destination in mind, Hopper monitors flight and hotel prices and predicts with 95% accuracy the best time to purchase. If you need a little inspiration to decide where to go on your next holiday, Skyscanner has an Everywhere search that looks at various destinations from your chosen departure point to find you cheap prices.
DON’T: Forget to set up an international phone plan
Going abroad? If you don’t have the ability to disconnect – whether because of work, or needing to frequently check in with family, or because you need to post pics of your awesome trip to social media – ask your wireless carrier what types of international phone plans they offer. You may be surprised to find that some offer affordable options that allow you to take your talk, text and data allowances overseas for just a couple of extra dollars a day. Having a plan in place can help lessen the risk of running up outrageous usage fees if you have to turn your data on when Wi-Fi is unavailable (I learned this lesson the hard way when I turned on my GPS to try to locate a train station in France without having an international plan in place. $40 dollars for a few minutes of usage… ouch!). It’s also great to have data so you can easily access Google Translate – that app can be a total lifesaver if you’re, for example, in Spain and only mildly paid attention during your high school Spanish classes.
DO: Keep all your travel plans in one handy (offline) place
One of my favorite digital travel tools is Google Trips. If you’re a Gmail user, this easy-to-use app gathers all of your travel information, like reservations and confirmation numbers, straight from your inbox and makes it available all in one spot. Added bonus: it makes it available offline so you can access it wherever you are. It also shows you places of interest, food recommendations, and helpful tips for getting around the city. I usually bookmark my must-see attractions, restaurants, a market for any last minute needs, the all-important nearby coffee shop, and any necessary transportation spots like a rental car agency. Once you’ve marked up your plans for the city, you can then download an offline version of your itinerary. I love this because a.) it allows me to use less data while on the go and b.) it’s gotten me out of a jam more than once when I found myself in a spot where I needed directions but had zero network connection.
DON’T: Get stuck in the Customs line – use the Mobile Passport app
My recent flight from Barcelona to Chicago was delayed by nearly 4 hours, leaving me with 45 minutes to catch my connecting flight home to Nashville – that’s 45 minutes to make it through Customs, change terminals, go through security and make it to my gate. The airline staff gave me no hope, saying I’d never make it in time. Well, little did they know that I had the Mobile Passport app on my phone. This app, officially authorized by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, works at most major U.S. airports and allows you to scan your passport information in and submit your forms digitally. It then gives you a QR code to show to Border Patrol instead of having to stand in line to use their automated systems. This allowed me to breeze through Customs in record time. I made it to my gate and onto my plane right before takeoff – sweaty and out of breath from running, mind you, but I made it.
DO: Live in the moment – but capture those Insta-worthy pics too
Ahh, the age-old question: if your vacation is not posted on social media, did it ever really happen? Vacation is all about taking a break and unplugging from your daily life, but of course it’s understandable that you would want to share your adventures. In fact, in Asurion’s recent study, 68% of Americans admitted that they still check in on social media while on holiday and 46% said they like to share their vacation experiences with family and friends.
Ultimately, it’s all about balance. Get those shots for Instagram, but don’t spend all day uploading them, or wasting your data trying to share them when Wi-Fi is unavailable. Instead, take a couple of shots highlighting your activities, and then put your camera away and soak everything in.
I like to set aside a couple of minutes each evening while unwinding to pick out and edit about 5-10 of my favorite shots from the day and then post them online. My family likes to see the pics, and an added bonus is that doing so creates a great depository of memories that appear in Timehop years later, when I’m back in the daily grind, that transfer me back to that moment in time and feeling of vacation bliss.
DON’T: Lose your precious memories – or precious information
Devices can be replaced, quickly and hassle-free if they’re insured, but preserved memories of your travels lost are much harder to recover. In case you were to find yourself in the unfortunate situation of losing or damaging your device – or, even worse, having it stolen – be sure to back up all the photos you’ve been taking of your trip to the cloud. For iPhone users, iCloud has a great built-in option that allows automatic backup via Wi-Fi (Settings > iCloud > Backup). For apps that work on multiple platforms, Google Photos, Dropbox and Amazon Photos are all options that offer plenty of free space and the ability to upgrade to unlimited for a small yearly fee.
Another helpful tip is to take screenshots or photos of your itinerary and other important travel documents so if you were to face having your items damaged or stolen, you could panic just a little bit less knowing you’d still be able to access the information in your cloud. This also seems like a great time to remind you the importance of turning on the “Find My iPhone” or “Find My Device” feature on your phone to assist with device recovery. Asurion tech expert Brandon Bogle recently shared this and additional phone protection tips for travelers with The New York Times.
DO: Have an amazing trip
The best thing about our tech is how it transforms what we can do – and simplifies how we do it. So take that extra time you now have, thanks to the help from your tech, to plan your travels and do more amazing things. Discover more. Experience more. Enjoy more.
By Jaleena Ball