Got the basic technology for travel down?
Decided you really want and need to stay connected on this vacation?
Then here’re some more advanced tips to keep yourself organized and your information safe as you go along….
Special thanks to the Hodges family who have refined these ideas as they’ve traveled the world these last 8 months!
Download a VPN
A VPN (or virtual private network) is a “tunnel” that connects your phone to a distant server and makes you invisible on the local wifi to someone sitting in the same coffee shop in hopes of grabbing your emails as they fly by. There are many VPN providers, check the app store for reviews, some are free (here are the Top 10)and others offer 30 day free trials. You may have heard about VPNs as that is how people in Australia, Europe, and elsewhere were watching US based Netflix shows. While Netflix is fighting against that use, a VPN does allow you to do all kinds of things on line, as if you were signing on from “home.”
You might have also read about VPNs as they are the tool that travelers, and locals, in China and other “firewalled” countries use to access blocked sites. China, like Netflix, is fighting VPNs so on any given day a specific VPN might or might not work. Some travelers download a paid VPN and a couple of free ones so they have options.
For encryption security AND compression (making those videos small enough to send), check out OperaMax! Install it on your smartphone and as long as it is open and running, your other apps will automatically compress their data making your uploads faster, your free wifi spots safer, and make it more efficient for more people to share the same free wifi centers without overload. OperaMax is on the cutting edge, and is improving all the time, but currently its encryption does NOT protect email and bank apps. So Rare Finds recommends that you continue to judiciously use your free wifi. Here’s the app.
If your bank has a smartphone app, install it before you depart and use it and a VPN to move money or check expenses from wherever you might be. This can also be very handy if you get a fraud alert – it’s no fun when a bank freezes your card in mid-trip so their app could be a quick and handy way to resolve fraud alerts and get back on the road ASAP.
If you go the route of getting a local simcard, you won’t be able to receive texts to your US phone number (because your phone number will now be local). However if you download your cellphone providers app you receive and send texts regardless of your sim card. For example, Message+ is Verizon’s app and I have a client that has been on the road for a year and has used 12 different sim cards but I can reach him anytime by text to his US number. Keep in mind, you need to set up these apps while you are in the US as they will “text” you a confirmation code to your US number.
WhatsApp (for advanced users)
For those of you going the local SIM card route, when you first open WhatsApp after installing a new SIM card it will ask you if you want to switch from your US number to the new SIM Card number. Say no, and you will still be able to use WhatsApp as your US based number without any problem. If you switch to the new number, you have to reconnect with all your friends.
Don’t forget that many cities, and countries, have great local apps that can be amazingly useful. Metros around the world (Bangkok, Paris, London, Lisbon, etc) have apps that include station maps. Most national train services also have apps through which you can buy and most importantly store tickets. Instead of scrambling for a printer the night before a train trip, you just hit the hotel wifi and download the ticket to your phone. The same is true of nearly every airline, including small regional carriers.
This is a fun app, and can be a great way to adjust and modify trips when things arise. You simply plug in two points (Madrid and Barcelona or St. Louis and Helsinki) and it gives you routing options and times between those two points, by plane, train, automobile and even ferry.
Want to impress friends back home with your far afield travels? Get yourself on Garmin GPS and you can send a location and even photo of your escapades back home! For example, fresh off the satellite: the Hodges family reports from camel-back from the mountain behind Petra (the secret back entrance used by <1% of travelers):
Local taxis can be a fun and exciting part of an international trip, but in some cases Uber might be a better option. Uber’s success extends well beyond the United States.
Rare Finds Travel hopes you have found these posts helpful.
Got a comment?
Another resource to add?