Tech for Travel: Connectivity
Traveling with your smartphone is expensive because data is expensive. I have heard this sob story too many times: a friend comes home from vacation to find they have racked up nearly $1000 in cell phone fees. Don’t let this happen to you.
This summer you may find yourself traveling past the borders of the US of A without a company phone, or perhaps you are your company, in which case, the bill unfortunately comes to you. If you want to save some money for souvenirs, you can mitigate those international calling fees with just a few simple steps before you leave the country. It is not difficult to operate on airplane mode when you are abroad if you take the necessary precautions. (See below.) But, if you must turn on your cell phone when in another country, first, make sure your mail is not polling automatically, and second, be sure to call ahead to your cell phone provider to get a small international plan for data, texting or calling.
Whether heeding to those precautions or winging it on airplane mode, if you don’t want to come home to find a massive cell phone bill waiting for you from your trip abroad, I have some apps to help you.
This is the most inexpensive way to communicate with your loved ones back home. Rather than using your comparatively expensive international cell phone plan, you can talk to anyone (even non-Skype citizens) with a few credits in your Skype account. As long as you have access to WiFi, you can call any phone. I have used this to field business calls in Thailand from an internet cafe and to call friends from Cancun using the WiFi in my hotel room. The rates are not too shabby; I have rarely needed more than $10 to carry me through a vacation.
Since Google Maps and your built-in map app rely on a data connection and GPS to function, you will need something that will allow you to navigate a city untethered from your cell phone provider while abroad. Download your city map when you’re on WiFi, then take it with you even if you’re offline. Just like paper maps (remember those? anyone?), that you could fold up and put in your pocket, this is the digital equivalent, allowing you to navigate your chosen city without a data connection. Naturally, it will not be able to pinpoint your location when you’re off Wifi or give you traffic information, but the digital cartography will afford you a full map of Paris or your downloaded locale that you can zoom into and search by address, which is a vast improvement to the paper variety. You can even look up restaurants, gas stations, cultural attractions and do many of the things that you have been accustomed to as a digital map user. A note to the Garmin™ generation: you will also need to actually know how to read a map.
YouMail is your voicemail on steroids. It has a number of useful functions including custom outgoing messages, the ability to save your voicemails indefinitely, or even email your voicemails to colleagues. However, YouMail’s most useful function when traveling abroad is the fact that it will send you an email when you have a voicemail in your inbox or alert you on your smartphone app. When your data plan is turned off, (or you are on airplane mode), you will not be able to retrieve your voicemail because it’s tied to your phone plan. This app circumvents that so you will always know when someone calls. The only downside to being untethered from your phone provider is that this does not apply to text messaging. You will not be able to receive your text messages until you reconnect to your service provider. The only exception is iPhone to iPhone messaging when it is using internet messaging over WiFi in lieu of SMS.
This app is especially useful for organizing all your travel documentation: plane ticket confirmations, hotel check-ins, rental cars, train passes, etc., especially if you’ll be hopping from city to city on your trip. It will give you gate information, the duration of your flight, phone numbers to airlines and rental companies, connecting flight information, maps of your destination, and more. Trip it synchronizes with a number of known travel apps, and a pro account will track your points, find you alternate flights, and alert you to changes in your plans due to cancellations, delays or gate changes. It is also very handy when planning group trips, whether the trip is with work colleagues, friends or family. Trip It makes it easy to share your itinerary and pertinent travel information with people you know, so you can all be on the same page.
I love this app for sending postcards when I’m abroad. I love correspondence and getting postcards in the mail, but I find the act of finding postage coupled with trying to find a way to physically mail a postcard while I’m in another country slightly tedious. Now the tedium is over. With Postagram, I can send a picture of myself in front of the Taj Mahal to my best friend or my grandma. The digital age makes it possible to send a postcard with a picture from your travels instead of the picture that everyone else is sending because it just happened to be the only good postcard at the gift shop.
On a side note, I also love Mosaic to make a quick album of my travels. I’ll have more about that in July when Move LifeStyle celebrates Summer.
I hope this helps you in all your travels near and far. If you have any apps that you think I should know about, be sure to let me know in the comments below.
As summer begins, we’re sharing adventures near and far. We invite you to experience the transformative power of travel with us.