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Essential Tech Tips For Staying Connected While Traveling Abroad

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

Couple traveling in Africa taking vacation photos with their cell phones

Have a connectivity plan before you depart.

Remaining connected to family and work while traveling can be challenging, especially if you're visiting multiple countries. Making a plan for staying connected before you go can prevent problems when you arrive, so you don't have to spend your vacation troubleshooting tech issues.

  • Check with your cellular provider to see what options may already be included with your existing cellular service plan.

  • If your cellular provider can't provide coverage in the destination you are visiting, or it's cost prohibitive, consider purchasing a mobile hotspot or a local SIM card instead.

  • Make sure you'll be able to keep your devices charged while traveling. Organize all of the necessary charging cords, outlet adapters, power converters, and portable chargers in a tech organizer and keep it easily accessible.

  • Back up all of your important data and photos before you depart. Turn on cloud syncing for your photos so your vacation memories are backed up as you take them.

  • Secure your devices with passcodes and FindMy features turned on so you can remotely disable or remove sensitive data from your phone if lost or stolen.

Check with your cellular provider.

Your existing cellular phone plan may already include international roaming for the countries you will be visiting. Check with your mobile carrier to confirm if you can use your phone while traveling abroad and what additional costs may apply for calls, texts, and data usage.

If your cellular plan doesn't include coverage for your destination, ask your provider what options they may have for temporarily adding service so you can make and receive calls, texts, and emails while traveling. Each provider has their own plans with varying costs.

Alternatively, if your phone has a physical SIM slot and is unlocked, you may be able to purchase a prepaid local SIM card when you arrive. Confirm with your cellular provider that your phone is unlocked before you depart.

Another popular option is to use a pocket wifi device such as the GlocalMe G4 Pro or Solis Lite 4G.

Download offline maps

Download maps of the area you are traveling to so that you can access them even if you don't have a data plan or are in an area with poor connectivity.

Keep your devices charged.

Pack your device's charging cables and ensure you have the appropriate adapters for the countries you'll be visiting so you can charge your devices while traveling.

Bring a portable charger with you when you're out and about to keep your phone fully charged. Using navigation apps and taking videos can quickly drain phone batteries.

Portable chargers come in two varieties: MagSafe (for wireless charging) and USB portable power banks that require a cord connection between the charger and your device. Each variety has pros and cons, varying capacity, size and weight, and charging speeds.

Keep your phone and other devices charged on the go with Anker Power Core Slim pocket charger
Anker PowerCore Slim

Pack an outlet adapter with USB ports for charging your phone/tablet and other devices while traveling. Some have multiple USB ports to charge multiple devices simultaneously.

Many hotel rooms, trains, and planes are now equipped with USB outlets for charging that only require the cord that connects your phone to a USB port.

How to determine what type of adapters you will need?

Power plugs and corresponding outlet styles vary around the world. They are identified as type A through N, pictured below. There are two options for ensuring you have the correct outlet adapters for your trip. The first is to buy the individual adapters for the countries on your itinerary. The second is to buy a universal adapter that will work in nearly all destinations.

The universal options can be heavier, bulkier, and more expensive but provide an all-in-one solution. If you are only visiting a single country or a region that uses the same type of adapter, it may be better to bring 2 or 3 of the individual adapters so you can use multiple outlets or choose one with multiple outlets so you can charge multiple devices at once.

Outlet plug types A through N used around the world
Standard plug types in use around the world

Map showing the various power outlet types used around the world
Outlet types around the world

When to use a voltage converter

Outlet adapters allow U.S. standard plugs to be plugged into international outlets but do not convert the voltage of the current flowing to the device. To convert voltage, you need a power converter. To safely operate your devices while traveling, you must determine if you need an outlet adapter, a power converter, or possibly both.

First, make sure the power supply for your device is rated with the voltage available in the country you are visiting. If your device is not rated for the voltage in your destination, using only a plug adapter and not a voltage converter could cause damage to your device. Voltage Standards by Country

Most cell phones, tablets, and laptop computers are rated for use with 100 - 240AV power sources and will not need a power converter in many destinations.

To determine if you need a voltage converter, check your device's power specifications or consult the manufacturer. The power specifications of the device can typically be found on a label or sticker on the device itself or in the user manual. The label should indicate the required voltage and frequency for proper operation.

If your device's voltage and frequency requirements match those of the country you are traveling to, you should not need a power converter. However, if your device's requirements differ, you will likely need a power converter to ensure your device operates safely and effectively. Another option is to buy a dual-voltage model for travel.

Note: Hairdryers, flat irons, and devices that generate heat should not be used with voltage converters. Instead, purchase a dual-voltage model for use while traveling.

Protecting your data and personal information

Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi. Ensure you only use secure networks and a virtual private network (VPN) when accessing the internet. Avoid accessing sensitive information on public Wi-Fi, such as online banking or credit card accounts.

Turn off cellular connectivity for any apps on your phone that you won't need while traveling.

Be mindful of local laws regarding technology and the internet. Some countries have strict laws regarding internet usage, and it's important to be aware of these before you travel.

Back up important data, such as photos and documents, before you leave. Sync your contacts and photos to cloud storage so you don't lose your information and travel photos if your phone is lost or stolen.

Create a Google Drive or other cloud storage location with copies of your travel documents, travel insurance, passport, photo ID, vaccination records, prescriptions, etc. Share the folder with a family member or close friend who is not traveling with you so they can help if you lose your documents while traveling.

Protect your devices from damage and theft.

Keep your electronic devices safe by carrying them with you or using the hotel safe to store them when you're not using them.

Consider a phone lanyard to attach your phone and your purse, wrist, or belt. Pickpockets are pros at spotting phones and stealing them without you ever noticing.

Turn on your phone's Find My Phone feature. Should your phone be lost or stolen, you can log in from another device to locate, erase or lock down your device to protect your information. Apple Find My Instructions

Pack your devices carefully to ensure they are protected and safe during transit. Here are some tips for packing electronic devices:

  • Use protective cases to protect your electronic devices from scratches, dings, and other damage. Many different types of cases are available, including hard-shell cases, padded sleeves, and waterproof cases.

  • Whenever possible, pack your electronic devices in your carry-on luggage. This will ensure they are always with you and less likely to be lost or damaged. Electronic devices with rechargeable batteries are prohibited in checked baggage. Before packing any electronics in your checked baggage, confirm the rules with your airline and the TSA.

  • Use cable organizers to keep cords and chargers organized and tangle-free. This will make it easier to pack and unpack your electronic devices.

  • Label your electronic devices with your name, address, and phone number. Add a message to the home screen with your email address.

Useful smartphone apps for travel

WhatsApp allows you to call, video chat, and text for free when connected to wifi. The app is free but requires the people you're calling or texting to have WhatsApp installed on their phones.

UBER can be easier than finding a Taxi in some destinations. Be aware UBER has surge pricing that can make rides during peak hours pricey. You can see the price in the app before your order the ride, and there's no need to carry cash or worry about miscommunications about the address. You can use the same UBER app and payment method as in the US.

Public Transport Apps such as Moovit and others are all very useful for planning public transportation routes. The apps will notify you about station closures and line delays.

Download the smartphone apps for your airline, cellular provider, bank, and credit card issuers. Turn on notifications so you can monitor flight schedule changes and upload pre-travel documents through your phone, monitor transactions on your credit cards, or quickly and easily report cards lost or stolen if needed.

Google Translate Offline Version so you can snap a photo of a menu or sign and quickly translate it to English.

The Fork is great for making restaurant reservations on the go. You can see what restaurants are near you, see prices and reviews, and make reservations through the app.

If your US Arrival airport participates in Mobile Passport Control, download the app to save time at border control when re-entering the US at the end of your trip.


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