It’s always best to disconnect in a new place. However, a phone is no longer just a phone; it’s your camera, your map and general go-to utility for anything and everything.
Here are some tips to get the most (and spend the least) with a smartphone abroad.
Before you go…
1. Find an adapter that will properly fit the outlet in your destination. Remember, different countries require different plugs, so you may need a versatile adapter if your trip involves a variety of destinations.
2. Check if your phone is locked. If your phone is locked, any data plans must come from your carrier. If unlocked, find a SIM card in your destination for much cheaper.
3. Talk with your carrier to find out what sort of international plans they offer. Typically, you can score a decent deal on a few gigs of data, but beware—these plans run out faster than you can say “Hey, Siri” if you aren’t careful about usage.
NOTE: You do not need a data plan to stay in touch! Use the ever-growing Wi-Fi network at your hotel, cafes and other hubs without purchasing a package.
When you arrive…
- Turn off data by switching your phone to “Airplane Mode”. If you leave data on, your phone will roam foreign networks, who will then bill your carrier, who will then bill you. And it won’t be cheap.
- Turn on Wi-Fi when you arrive to your accommodation, (if available). You can still use Wi-Fi with “Airplane Mode” active.
What to download…
1. Whatsapp & Viber. These allow you to talk to anyone with the app via Wi-Fi, regardless of their brand or carrier. Your Tour Director will also use these to communicate with the group, so download both and delete whichever they don’t select.
2. CityMaps2Go. Did you know you don’t need data or Wi-Fi to use GPS on your phone? This app allows you to download city maps and track your location without turning on data. You’ll also find suggestions for shops, restaurants, clubs and more.
3. Google Translate. Learn simple phrases to break down language barriers through photo translation, phonetics and lessons to help you become more cultured.
4. XE Currency. Want to know exactly what something costs in US Dollars? This app can be taken offline to calculate exchange rates based on your last time of Wi-Fi connection.
5. Games. Scrolling through Instagram can cost an arm and a leg if your data is roaming, so download a few games to keep you entertained while you wait.
6. Offline playlists. Apps like Spotify let you download playlists to your phone so you can jam out any time. Not sure what to listen to on tour? Check out our customized tour playlists, selected by our staff!
1. Snapchat abroad. You can still send Snaps, even in airplane mode! Snap pictures and videos as you normally would; post them to your story and send them to friends. At first, they will “Fail to post/send”, but you can simply “Tap to Retry” when you’re back to your Wi-Fi connection.
2. Save the trees with mobile boarding passes. Depending on your airline, you may have the option to save a mobile version of your boarding pass that can be scanned straight from your phone. It saves you hassle while saving trees from their untimely deaths.
3. Clear your photos before you leave—you’ll need all the space you can get.
4. Disconnect. This is important enough to be mentioned twice. You have the rest of the year to keep up on social media and other distractions of everyday life. Use this time to leave behind woes of work, the Facebook politics and Myspace top friend drama.
Live in the moment before it’s gone; you can brag about it later.