Travel Technology:

How Smartphones
Are Changing How You Travel

By Marianne Schwab | Best Travel Deals Tips Blog

Travel technology has been changing the way we travel in so many ways, but the most recent changes come with smartphones and mobile phone technology. Staying connected when you're on a cruise or any vacation is essential for most modern travelers in today's world. There's a lot you need to know before you hit the road with your cellphone, Blackberry, or iPhone, these days. For me, it has been an absolute Godsend to have my smartphone with me when I travel (especially internationally) and I have some quick tips for making your smartphone your "BFF" when you travel - it really is the swiss army knife of technology. Also, there are Five Things You Need to Know Before Using Your Cell Phone Overseas that you should check out at our Cell Phones Abroad section before you leave the country.

Travel Technology Travel Advice:

1. Call Your Mobile Phone Customer Service BEFORE you travel. You should always contact your wireless provider prior to leaving town for many reasons and especially if you're traveling outside of the continental United States. First, even if you're traveling to a U.S. state like Hawaii or Alaska, or a U.S. Territory like Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, you could be in for major shell shock if you use your phone while you're away, so check your plan and see what additional roaming or network charges may apply if you use your phone while you're away.

Second, ask customer service what plans they have that would benefit you while you're away (special texting plans, network connections, etc.) and temporarily switch to these plans for the duration of your trip. Make sure you call them when you return to verify they've reinstated your prior plan. I use Verizon and they've always been very accommodating and helpful in arranging this for my international trips.

Third, another way to stay connected is to simply purchase an unlocked phone or an inexpensive pre-paid cell phone. You can purchase your cell phone for overseas either before you leave or after you get to your international destination along with an international calling card. If you purchase these items before you go, which is what I recommend that you do, then Telestial - Wireless Solutions for Travelers is the best company to take care of your needs to stay connected overseas. Their website will walk you through everything you need to know about staying connected to the U.S. while you're abroad.

2. Update your software on your mobile phone or smartphone BEFORE you travel. This may vary from wireless provider to wireless provider but you need to update the software on your mobile phone BEFORE you travel or you could incur excess roaming charges while you're away. Cell tower technology is constantly being updated so you need to keep your mobile phone's software up to date. Instructions on how to do this are usually in your user's manual or easily obtainable online through a google search.

3. Research what Technology will be Available to You at Your Vacation or Business Destination BEFORE you travel. If you need to stay in touch with family or the office while you're away, make sure you contact the hotel where you'll be staying or cruise line to determine what travel technology including internet access will be available to you, do you need to bring your laptop or netbook, and what the costs you will incur for using their services (there are usually packages you can buy). If you're traveling throughout Europe, there are usually internet cafes you can pop into for very reasonable rates, but I prefer to know where I can get access prior to leaving as I need to stay in touch with my family, my production company and my clients while I'm away.

4. Always Carry a Hard Copy of ALL Travel Documents. Today, we can keep our e-tickets and all hotel and car rental e-mail confirmations, even a PDF or jpeg or our passport stored on our smartphone, but don't be stuck when travel technology fails you (and it will). Always keep at least one hard copy of your complete itinerary in a good old-fashioned paper print out.

5. Don't Forget Your Electrical Converter. If you're depending on your smartphone while you're away, you'll need to pack an electrical converter (not an adapter) to charge your phone for your trip. If you use an adapter instead of converter, you can fry the electronic circuitry in your smartphone so be smart. You can pick an electrical converter up at Brookstone or Magellan's, my favorite travel stores. If you're taking a cruise, many cruise lines have dual circuits but check this out BEFORE you travel.

A Word About Skype:

Skyping is one of the easiest ways of communicating from anywhere in the world. There is no charge for Skype if you have it downloaded on your own laptop or mobile smartphone and you can connect to the internet via a wireless connection. However, you may find it difficult to convince an Internet café to download the program if you're relying on Internet café's to connect to Skype. They will often have MSN or Yahoo though so you should set up accounts for each free email service before you leave home for your vacation. One really good thing about Skype is that you can load it onto your smartphone and set up a Skype number so that's very economical to stay connected with the U.S. when you're traveling outside of the country. The service is about $60.00 per year.

If you want to use a video cam with Skype, and there’s nothing nicer than having eye to eye contact with friends and loved ones while you're away, the easiest way to video cam is through your own computer or smartphone.

You can also use FaceTime with your iPhone but check with your provider about potential charges BEFORE you travel abroad.

Save Money on Your Vacation or Road Trip:

I'm all about saving money when I travel and I've stumbled upon a great travel technology called Yowza!! that has already saved its users over $725,000 in the one short year they've been in business. Yowza!! is an innovative mobile couponing application designed to save you money and it's perfect for your vacation or road trip. All you do is load the app to your PDA or smartphone and it goes to work finding you coupons and deals at stores and restaurants in your geographic area -- deals you can cash in on immediately! Choose one of the offers and visit the store or restaurant. When you walk up to the cashier, just show the Yowza!! deal on your smartphone or PDA device and let them scan the barcode. It's that easy and you just saved money.

There's no clipping or stashing coupons in your wallet or purse. Yowza!! is free and started as an iPhone app but works with PDAs and Blackberry's. Yowza!! Mobile Coupons help you out no matter where you are or what you need when you're on a road trip or vacation. I like that I can find a delicious dinner deal at a great restaurant when I'm on the road. Another feature I like is that they have handy maps to show you just how close money-saving deals are to where you are located.

Smartphones -The Great Travel Debate:

Here's an interview with CBS Early Show Travel Editor Peter Greenberg (I used to produce for Peter when we were both at ABC-TV in Los Angeles). In this interview, he debates the good, the bad, and the ugly about travel technology with CNET’s Natali Del Conte when using and relying on smartphones. Peter brings up some very good points and I agree with him. No matter how much travel technology can be a real life safer on your vacation, there's nothing that replaces person-to-person contact with airlines, hotels, car rental companies and more.

As much as I love the electronic age and the incredible conveniences of my iPhone, I always travel with hard copy back-ups on ALL of my travel documents. That's just good travel advice when it comes to travel technology.

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About Marianne Schwab
TV Travel Show Producer

For over twenty years, TV Travel Show Producer, Marianne Schwab, has been collecting money saving travel tips as a travel producer for high profile television programs. She has flown all over the world and produced live television productions on location from Caesar's Palace on the Vegas Strip to the beautiful island of Oahu. Read more