Travelling with a smartphone can make everything easier. From Google Translate and Maps, to apps like TripAdvisor, to being able to check in with friends and loved ones, it’s awesome.
Along with the potential positives, there are some things to keep in mind, like keeping your data private.
So here are ten tips for travelling with your smartphone.
This is probably the single most important thing you can do while travelling (really, in general). You should have a lock screen of some sort on your phone, so that if someone does steal it, they don’t have access to everything on your phone.
There are a lot of different ways to lock the screen, from simple passwords, to the latest Apple iPhone’s fingerprint scanner. I advise against the swipe kind, where you draw a pattern. Far too often I’ve seen the screens of people who use this, and you can easily tell what the pattern is. Perhaps not the order, but the rough pattern. That could make cracking it a lot easier.
Get a local SIM card! Nothing has made my travel life better (and I travel a lot), than buying local SIM cards. They basically turn your phone into a local phone, allowing access to inexpensive data and calling rates.
Of course, you need to have an unlocked phone, which depending on your provider, is either an easy thing, or hard. The above SIM card article has more details.
Being able to check bank balances is a wonderful thing, as is checking email, Facebook, and so on. Generally you’re probably OK using whatever WiFi you find, but be wary. Personally I only do banking over 3G, not trusting that a hostel or hotel’s WiFi isn’t being monitored by ne’er-do-wells.
Also, whenever you can, use 2-step verification with your accounts. It’s that little bit of additional security.
Google Translate (and Maps)
I looooove Google Translate. I hope you’ve tried it. Not only can you type in a word or phrase and have it translated (to or from dozens of languages), but you can also speak into it, like some sort of Universal Translator, and it will then speak back in the other language. It’s not real time, but certainly close enough. You can even take a picture of a sign or menu, and it will pick out the text and translate it for you. This feature doesn’t work quite as well as the other methods, but it’s still cool.
You generally need a data connection for it to work, though you can download specific languages to your phone as well.
I’m sure you’ve all used Maps, but there’s a great feature you might not know about. If you don’t get a local SIM, but still want to access Maps while you walk around, you can save an area’s map to your phone while you’re on WiFi, so you have access to it while you’re out. I’m not an Apple guy, but I believe Apple maps has similar functionality.
Turn off Auto Sync (maybe)
If you buy a local SIM that charges you per megabyte, turn off Auto Sync. This setting lets your various apps check for new info, updates, and so on. Left on, it can slowly bleed your data ration away. Turning it off has the added bonus that you won’t get constant notifications of new emails, only when you go into the app and refresh manually.
If you get a SIM with unlimited data, don’t worry about it.
Airplane mode to charge faster
If you have a limited amount of time to charge your phone, put it in airplane mode and it will charge a LOT faster.
Shorter cables/retractable cables
Ditch the cable that came with your phone, and get either short cables, or retractable cables. I talk about how awesome these are over at the Wirecutter Travel article. It makes for a more manageable bag, to say the least.
USB charger (not all chargers are the same)
Also consider ditching your charger. Not all chargers are the same. Some will charge faster than others. I found what I think is the Best USB Travel Charger, but I have some advice there on how to find something good if that specific model isn’t what you need.
Depending on your overall clumsiness, and what phone you have, it might be worth getting a case. I’m pretty sure you don’t like to have a smartphone cracked screen. Getting a Gorilla Glass is best. It will surely survive in some pretty serious falls. A good case might not make your phone indestructible, but it probably can’t hurt.
I love these. They charge all your devices that get power via USB. I wrote up some Great USB Battery Packs, though there are a few new models out. Wirecutter likes this one.
It’s definitely worth travelling with your smartphone. Not just Maps and Translate, but also for Facebook Messenger (or WhatsApp or Viber) to communicate for free with friends new and old. Like anything, be conscious of your surroundings (like not leaving it on a table or poking out of your pocket), and you’ll probably be fine.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share for travelling with a smartphone?