Travel increasingly incorporates a whole raft of electronic devices. Professional travel writer Brett Atkinson explains how to maximise the use of your smartphone, tablet and laptop while on the road.
Buy a local SIM card
While it is gradually becoming more cost effective to add roaming functionality to your New Zealand mobile phone service while overseas, it's still always cheaper to buy a local SIM card when you arrive at your destination. Competition keeps prices low – especially in developing countries – and various companies' services are on offer in most airports' arrival halls. On a recent trip to Turkey, one month's 4G mobile service with 2GB of data was around $18.
Take screenshots of important emails and maps
When I decide not to invest in a local SIM card and am only using local Wi-Fi services, I use the screen capture function on my smartphone to have access to documents like hotel booking confirmations or neighbourhood maps. Having a screenshot of the airport bus service in Seoul was also really helpful in negotiating such a large and sprawling city when I first arrived there recently.
Scan important documents as backup
To make it easier to retrieve information in the case of losing my passport, I have scanned key pages from it and emailed the scan to myself as a backup. It's an approach I also use for other documents like my international drivers licence and credit cards.
Take a photo of your luggage (and your hotel)
If you're unfortunate enough to have an airline misplace your luggage, the process of retrieving it can be streamlined by having a photograph of the actual bag or suitcase on your phone. Similarly, once you arrive at a hotel, grab a quick photo of the exterior of the building before you go exploring. Particularly in big Asian cities like Bangkok or Tokyo, hotels can be hidden down a labyrinth of lanes, and can easily blend into surrounding structures. It can also help Uber drivers or taxis understand where you need to go.
Pack a power bank
While modern smartphones do feature increasingly efficient batteries, if you're a heavy user of your device and harnessing it for Google Maps, photographs and social media, it's a good idea to also include a lightweight power bank in your day-pack. They're getting smaller, cheaper and more powerful every year, and can really come in handy to keep you functioning at the end of a day exploring a city.
Pack a power board
If you're travelling with a laptop, camera and a smartphone, using a humble power board is a good way to limit the number of travel adapters needed to just one. It's also worth thinking about buying a travel adapter with multiple USB ports if you're a real electronic device junkie or include a Kindle in your travelling arsenal. I've heard rumours you can charge a smartphone or tablet through the USB port on a television, but I've yet to find a TV that can actually do that. File under wishful thinking.
Upload photos to a cloud-based service
Many travellers are now using smartphones as their main cameras while overseas, but it can be easy to max out a device's storage while snapping images throughout the day. When you're back connected on a hotel or cafe's wifi network, upload photos to a cloud-based service like Dropbox, Google Drive or Apple's iCloud. Install the relevant app before you leave home to make it as seamless a process as possible.
Buy a second camera battery
If you've packed a camera that runs on rechargeable lithium batteries, it's a good idea to invest in a second battery as back up. There's nothing worse than seeing a camera's battery icon start flashing in the middle of the afternoon, knowing there's still a few more hours of exploring to be done later in the day.