Gone are the days when you had to take maps, a translation dictionary, and a bulky camera on international trips; instead, we now have all of that in one handy device: a smartphone. While they are (probably) the most useful piece of technology you own, there are a few considerations to make before taking your smartphone abroad.
- Be Honest With Yourself. Do you really need a smartphone where you are travelling? Some trips, like backpacking or exploring a new city, necessitate it. Others, like a guided safari or group camping, really don’t. While it is always a good idea for one person to have an emergency phone, don’t waste your money on an international plan if you are going on a guided trip. You most likely won’t be sitting on your phone anyway on this sort of trip, and (believe it or not) cell service is pretty scarce in the middle of the Sahara.
- Sign Up for an International Phone Plan. When I was in college, I went to South Africa for four months. It was amazing, but the accidental overages on my Verizon bill certainly were not. Though my parents were able to negotiate the charges down, international data and roaming can add THOUSANDS to your bill, which is probably pretty close to how much you paid for a plane ticket. Be smarter than I was and make sure your provider covers the area that you are going to; we were told I had an international plan that “wasn’t valid for South Africa” after I accrued overages.
- Monitor Your Data. You just took the best picture of the Eiffel Tower and want to show all of your friends back home. You know you bought some international data, but how much does one photo upload actually use? Almost every phone will have the data meter under the “Settings” menu, and if you cannot find it, an app like NetCounter can save you immensely.
- WiFi, especially free WiFi, is Your Best Friend. There are subscription services for international WiFi access (like Boingo), but I would reason that the average tourist has no need for these. Starbucks, McDonald’s, and even some bars and hostels have free WiFi, so keep an eye out.
- Turn On Airplane Mode, Turn off Push Notifications. Airplane Mode keeps you from roaming, sending and receiving messages and data, and saves battery life. If you are using your phone predominantly as an alarm and camera while travelling, keep it on Airplane Mode. Most apps have an option for push notifications, or those things that alert you when someone likes your photo or when your Candy Crush energy is full. Those notifications use data, constantly. Go into your apps and turn off all alerts while travelling abroad to save your data.
- Beef Up Your Security. These fall under the “things you should already be doing” label – set up a PIN or password for your phone, disable Bluetooth when not in use, and lock up your tech in the hotel’s safe if you leave without it. We all want to wish the best of people, but data gets stolen every day. Make sure it isn’t yours.
We at O’Connor Insurance hope your summer is full of exciting travel opportunities and memories.