High Tech International Travel Tips
I'm about to take my first vacation trip to Europe and could use any tech travel tips you have.
This question was answered on June 17, 2011. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.Traveling to foreign countries has gotten a lot more complicated with the bevy of electronics that we have become accustomed to in our daily lives.
Traveling can be enhanced or degraded by your choices, so think things through before deciding what to bring.
Tip #1 - Leave anything behind that you don't absolutely need! The most common mistake new travelers make is taking too much with them (clothing, electronics, etc.) which turns into a constant hassle of lugging around excess Hair dryers, portable DVD & gaming devices & even a laptop (especially if you have a tablet computer) may seem like essential items, but often they can easily be left behind.
Tip #2 - Check the voltage Most of today's electronics are worldly and indicated by the 110-240v 50 - 60 Hz range printed on the power adapters or on the backs of the units themselves The U.S uses 120v while Europe's standard is 220v which means anything you plug in that isn't designed for the higher voltage will become an instant pile of melted goo!
Tip #3 - Learn the plugs Each country can have it's own plug configuration, making the simple act of plugging in impossible if you don't do your homework A comprehensive list of plug types are listed with pictures at http://electricaloutlet.org.
Tip #4 - Buy a transformer and pack a power strip The single biggest electronic challenge you will encounter any place you stay is lack of power outlets (not uncommon when traveling in the U.S either) You will end up with three devices with three fancy adapters that need charging overnight but only one available outlet!
If you include a transformer that steps the voltage down from 220v to 110v (available at any Radio Shack or electronics supply store) and plug any garden variety power strip into it, you'll have 6 standard U.S Outlets to plug into from a single outlet.
WARNING: if you forget the transformer, your power strip will disintegrate, the circuit breaker will kick and the hotel will have to reset your power!
The other option is to buy a cheap power strip once you get to your destination, but you will need to make sure you have an adapter for each of your devices you want to charge simultaneously
Tip #5 - Install the Skype app on your smartphone & buy Skype credits Wifi is readily available throughout Europe (most require you to pay) so you can use Skype to call any cell phone or land line back in the U.S for a fraction of the cost of using a temporary international plan from your cellular provider or for free if the person you are calling has a Skype account.
Tip #6 - Install Jwire's Wifi Finder app on your smartphone and download the the offline database before you leave Finding wifi hotspots as you travel may become a necessity depending upon where you stay and this is the largest database of public (pay and free) hotspots available.
Tip #7 - Use https:// when logging into your accounts Sidejacking your sessions isn't exclusive to the U.S., so use the same protection I've written about in previous columns on using public wifi ( http://www.datadoctors.com/help/question/21795 ).
Tip #8 - Assume you won't have Internet access when you need it Print your hotel confirmations, notes, special instructions, etc before you leave Don't assume you can 'look it up' from your smartphone.
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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on June 17, 2011