When you travel these days, your phone is an integral part of your journey. Just a few years ago, contacting someone back home was practically unheard of. Now, with the spread of wifi, the art of getting lost has dwindled and now that little cafe on the side of a dirt road in a foreign country will probably even offer free internet. If you have a phone when traveling, you’re always connected.
There are good and bad elements to this constant state of connection. It’s great to keep in touch and post pictures, but the downfall is that you’re also always going to be checking emails and social media and therefore you hinder the lost art of getting, well, lost.
It’s time to accept it though. It’s 2017 and our phones will probably never leave our sides, so without further ado, here are some helpful hacks to keep you (and your phone) in tip-top shape when traveling.
The First and Most Obvious: Be Careful
We know we sound like your mother as you’re heading out the door, but we mean it. There are so many career criminals out there and they thrive in tourist areas. Phones have only gone up in price, meaning their resale value has also gone up, so don’t make yourself an easy target when you’re abroad. That means putting your phone away and keeping your wits about you.
Thieves have gotten pretty tricky when it comes to stealing phones, and you almost have to be impressed at the lengths they go through to grab a mobile device or two from the hands of unsuspecting tourists. Therefore we must reiterate this warning: keep your phone in your front pocket when traveling and don’t ever leave it out in the open.
Figure Out How to Stay Connected
Whether you’re looking for an off-the-beaten path vacation or you’re the type to ‘gram every cool sight you see, you need to figure out how to stay connected.
True, you can always use old school paper maps and the phone in your hotel room, but if you don’t live like that at home, it’ll be a tough transition abroad. After making sure you’ve got the safety rules down pat, you need to focus on staying connected.
Option 1: SIM Cards
Check your cell phone company to see if they’ll allow you to unlock your phone. Some do, some don’t, but it’s definitely becoming more common. If your company does allow it, you’re in luck: You can purchase a SIM card from the country in which you’re traveling in order to stay more connected.
By utilizing a SIM card from a local carrier, you can save up to 80 percent when making calls instead of using your home carrier’s roaming plan. If a trip is in your future, it’s worth looking into.
Option 2: International Plan
If you’re only going to be out of the country for a few days (or even a couple weeks), you might find it cost-effective to purchase an international data plan. These plans allow you a certain limit of cell phone data, which is usually very small. However, you can get unlimited text messages, which is a great benefit since that’s 90 percent of how we communicate anyways.
What this generally means is you’ll have to use your phone on wifi most of the time; if you are ever off wifi and try to check your social media or email, your phone will then use local data. If you go over your limit, then there is a big fine, but otherwise, it’s reasonably priced. Since wifi is so common in most places, it’s a great option for a shorter trip, particularly when you’re most concerned with texting family at home and new friends you make abroad.
If you’re going abroad and want to see what plan works best for you, Stephen Layton over at NerdWallet put together a great article that breaks down each service provider’s international plans, including their terms and pricing.
Back It Up
You never know when your phone might get lost, stolen, or just plain stop working. Back it up, baby. If the data plan you choose won’t allow access to the cloud, consider bringing your computer to do a manual backups of your photos, videos, and documents. But if you can connect to wifi, hitting up the cloud is your best bet.
Utilize Google Photos
Since iCloud can be pricey and not everyone uses it, a great alternative is Google Photos, an app that lets you back up hundreds of pictures for free all through the cloud in case anything happens to your phone.
If you have anything super important on your phone, like pictures of your ID, passport, or itinerary, go ahead and email them to yourself and a friend. That way if your phone ever goes missing, you can pull the documents up via email or have your friend email them to the closest American embassy or police department.
That way if your phone ever goes missing, you can pull the documents up via email or have your friend email them to the closest American embassy or police department.
Cheat the Data System
We know that a bunch of fast data isn’t cheap. Assuming you’ve stayed safe, you’ve gotten a decent plan, and you’ve backed up all your info, you still might need some help making the most of your limited data or access to wifi.
While iPhone users can always utilize iMessages and FaceTime, Android users need some different options. A great way to cheat the system is to download Skype or WhatsApp on your phone and then use that to talk internationally. Their messaging services are free if you have a decent data plan; if you are on wifi, you can do face-to-face video calls. They also offer incredibly cheap phone rates so you can dial numbers through the app for dirt cheap, especially if you are calling a landline. Calling a cell phone is a little more expensive but nothing compared the fees your normal cell phone would cost.
This is a great cost saver so you don’t have to use data or wifi if you’re out and about. You can cache your own offline maps in Google Maps so you can have a general idea of where you’re going, no matter where you are.
Then your phone can be turned on airplane mode but the maps will still work. You won’t be able to see where you are or search anything new, but you’ll be able to zoom in and out. Enjoy that mashup of the old school paper maps and 2017 technology.
Use Google Translate
This will come in handy when you don’t speak a certain language but want to communicate: download the Google Translate app on your phone and add the language of your destination to your “Offline languages” section. When you arrive, you’ll be able to translate anything from English to that language (and vice versa) without using any data, because the language’s dictionary will already be downloaded to your phone. Brilliant.
When you arrive, you’ll be able to translate anything from English to that language (and vice versa) without using any data, because the language’s dictionary will already be downloaded to your phone. Brilliant.
So You Lost Your Phone…
Change Your Backdrop
This is actually something that should be done before you lose the phone. If your phone is truly lost, not stolen, this may come in handy. Change your backdrop from Beyoncé to a screenshot of your basic information, like your name, email, and where you’re staying. That way if you lose it and someone picks it up, your phone will still be password-protected but they’ll be able to see your basic info and hopefully (karma pending) will reach out to you.
That way if you lose it and someone picks it up, your phone will still be password-protected but they’ll be able to see your basic info and hopefully (karma pending) will reach out to you.
If your phone is suddenly missing and you’re pretty sure it was stolen, put the device in Lost Mode. This will lock it with a passcode and display a custom message on the screen. After a certain amount of attempts at unlocking the phone, the thief should be locked out. Maybe they’ll even feel compelled to return it after their humiliating failure. Hopefully, if you do the step above (and keep a close eye on your phone in the first place), you won’t have to do this, but it’s a good last resort.
Maybe they’ll even feel compelled to return it after their humiliating failure. Hopefully, if you do the step above (and keep a close eye on your phone in the first place), you won’t have to do this, but it’s a good last resort.