Traveling Technology – Using your phone abroad.

Traveling and Technology – TIPS for using your phone abroad.

Woman using iPhone for camera, using your phone abroad,

Phones…they are now an extension of our arm. We need them for phone communication – texts, calls, emails, FaceTime. We need them to record our experiences. We make notes, we take photos, we record voices. We need them for information. We use them for maps and looking up information. We don’t go anywhere without them.

Some people even have more than one!  In the US, there are more cell phones than people! According to the Washington Post, there are 315 million people living in the US and 327.6 million phones.

So when you travel you need your phone to work. Sometimes you need your phone FOR work.

Once, while on a Disney cruise, my husband had to work. There were lots of phone calls and lots of meetings and lots of downloading material. We were in the middle of the ocean for some of the meetings and in more than one country while in port. Not to worry though because technology is amazing! We made that happen and so can you!

Using your phone abroad – Get the right plan

Preparation is never more key than when you are deciding how to use your technology during your travels. Making a mistake in preparation can be costly. Get the information BEFORE you go!

Think about your needs. Will you be downloading information? Will you need to text? Will you need to text only the people in your traveling party or will you be texting people at home? Will you need to talk on the phone or will you only use the phone in case of emergency? Will you be calling people back home or will you just need to call within your traveling destination? Will you want to use the phone for things like FaceTime? Need to check on a pet at home? Thinking about how you’ll use your technology will help you prepare.

At the very least, you’ll want to be able to call/text your family in case you want to see separate sights or someone gets lost. Added bonus: the kiddos know the number!

We use AT&T so before a trip I head to the AT&T store for a visit. I explain where we are going and what sort of data and phone use we need. Then, together, we walk through my options. When it came to cruising, we needed service while on the ship, but when we entered a port, we needed service for that country.

Using your phone abroad – Charging converter

Every wonderful phone in the world becomes an expensive paper weight if it isn’t charged! You have to think ahead about charging possibilities for travel.

Firstly, most electrical devices in the United States use 110 volts. This is really important to know because other countries in the world often use 220 volts. Some electronics will need a converter – a small device that plugs into the wall BEFORE you plug in your device. This changes the current coming out of the wall into current your device can accept. Some electronics don’t need this at all, but find out before you go! No one wants a fried device!!

Using the phone abroad  – Charging adapter

When you need to charge your device you need to make sure the current can be accepted by your phone but  you also need to be able to plug the whole thing in the wall! Electrical outlets have different holes in different parts of the world. Since you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole…you need the right adapter.

plug adapter for travel, using your phone abroad,

An adapter plugs into the wall first. It has the right shaped and configuration of pegs that plug into the wall. Buy a whole kit!

Using your phone abroad – The right order

Don’t feel embarrassed about being unsure about how to use your phone, the charger, the adapter…there are a lot of moving parts. Here is your cheat sheet!

First – plug in adapter. (with the right shaped prongs to fit in the wall)

Second – plug in converter (to change the electrical current)

Third – plug in your device (to charge)

***** Always have MORE THAN ONE converter. Once while at a very nice Western style hotel near the airport in Spain, our converter almost melted in the wall! We plugged it in and tripped the electricity on the entire hotel floor. They aren’t perfect devices. Thankfully, we had another converter so we were all charged up and ready the next day.

Using your phone abroad – How many do you need?

Chargers and adapters and converters are small and easy to pack. Be sure to have enough!

Think about all the devices you’ll have with you – iPads? iPhones? Computers? Will the kids have their own? Count up all the devices used by your traveling group and plan accordingly. Have enough adapters and converters for several things to be charged up at once. You might be out all day sight seeing and need to charge all devices over night.

***** We always take MORE THAN ONE converter. Once while at a very nice Western style hotel near the airport in Spain, our converter almost melted in the wall! We plugged it in and tripped the electricity on the entire hotel floor. They aren’t perfect devices. Thankfully, we had another converter to use so we were all charged up and ready the next day.

Using your phone abroad – Why not just leave at home?

There is a part of me that wants to unplug. I love the idea of being out of touch, out of range, and leaving all the stress behind. Without the phone we can’t read the news and no one can need us for anything. It is really tempting to just leave the darn thing at home!

So, why don’t I leave it at home?

There are a lot of cool things you can do with technology to enhance a trip! There are apps for maps and language and even travel guides you can access on your phone. The key for me is to tell everyone at home I’m unavailable. Then, I just don’t read emails or news. I just choose not to. I feel like the people with me and the wonderful destination need my full attention.

Whatever your technology needs are when you travel, plan ahead for the best trip ever!

The Educational Tourist at mother Mary's house in Ephesus, Using your Phone Abroad,

Happy travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The Educational Tourist logo, Using your phone abroad,

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8 Responses

  1. onlybyland says:

    As a European we have a completely different system to you guys. I do admit on my Alaska cruise I bought an AT&T SIM which gave me random access to the internet in the middle of the sea sometimes. One thing I do take which you didn’t mention is a portable phone charger so I can charge even when I don’t have access to an electrical outlet. You are right though, we should have time away from the phone when on vacation!

  2. Stacey says:

    I made the mistake of using data roaming through Colombia last week…. 200US later and I’ve learned my lesson, always invest in a sim card now matter how long you’re away for! I always take a power pack to charge on the go but I definitely try and get off of it while travelling to make the most of it

  3. Thanks for some amazing tips that many of us often miss out on because they might seem simple. When planning to use phones abroad one has to take in account all the different voltages and plugs and of course the entire data roaming vs buying local debate. With free wifi becoming more popular I hope that can be avoided in the future.

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Now phone use has become such a necessity that we have to figure out a way to continue that coverage wherever we are! It is especially important for parents who need to keep up with kids. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Hendrik says:

    Absolutely essential tips, completely agree! There is nothing worse to be forced to find an electronic shop, totally stressed just to buy some overprices equipment to stay “digitally alive”. I would maybe also mention a power bank, at least since I am using iPhone 6 with maaany energy consuming apps, the phone would not last even half a day on its own battery. But as said, otherwise all great tips here, thank you for sharing this!

  5. Interesting! Half the time I don’t think about bringing a converter and just using my plug adapter – often forget about different voltages in different countries. I’m not on a phone plan (just use WIFI when it’s available) so maybe I might think about looking at phone plans!

    So many useful tips here. I’ll be sure to keep this in mind for my next trip!

  6. Some really great tips! I’m about to head to Cuba and this reminded me I needed to do research on the adapters. I also appreciate your tip about bringing more than one. I went abroad with just one and definitely had to track down more just to keep up with everything I needed to charge.

  7. Janine Good says:

    I use my phone while abroad, though not too much with minutes as it costs a fortune. I was quite annoyed the last trip I did that the cost of use in the USA for me was upward $900! I had to phone them to get it sorted as they didn’t inform me of plans (my provider in Canada.) I wish I had read your article before I left for these pointers! 🙂

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