There’s a lot to be said for taking a digital detox and traveling unplugged, but there are just as many ways keeping connected on the road can serve you well. Pull up a map to find your way around town. Browse reviews of nearby restaurants while looking for a place to eat. Share your photos as you go on social media. Solo travelers can text friends and family back home to let them know you’ve arrived safely. And that’s just on day one. For most travelers, staying connected while traveling is non-negotiable, and fortunately, there are plenty of ways to meet the requirement.
For making calls and texting on the road, you can often pick up a local SIM card in the airport upon arrival. You’ll need your phone to be unlocked first, so contact your service provider a week or two before your departure. If you travel frequently, consider switching to T-Mobile. The Simple Choice plan is super affordable, and while coverage within the United States isn’t the best, your data plan will follow you to 140 countries, no SIM card necessary. Another option is the KnowRoaming sticker, which attaches to the SIM card in your current phone, provided the device is unlocked. Only active during travel, the KnowRoaming sticker works in over 200 countries.
There is seemingly no end to the array of free communication apps keeping people connected around the world. Skype is the best known offering in the United States, but different apps are more popular in different countries. Europeans often rely on WhatsApp, while in Asia the app Viber is in fashion. While Skype only needs users to sign up for an account, WhatsApp and Viber are tied to your mobile phone number. All three are worth downloading to your phone, so you can stay in touch with all the interesting people you meet in your travels.
If you like traveling off the beaten path, you may find the availability of Internet to be spotty at best. Your own personal, portable hotspot can bring the grid to you. Skyroam reaches over 100 countries for an automatic connection to local networks. The device uses a day pass system, so you never have to worry about how much data you’re using. For a one-time fee, you get 24 hours of unlimited access. Between the device and a day pass for each day of your trip, it’s not the least expensive option on the market, but it provides you highly reliable internet. Other hotspot options include devices from Hippocket, Keepgo, and TEP.
No connection? No problem. There are plenty of apps that can keep your smartphone from being an expensive doorstop in those moments your data plan isn’t cutting it. Use City Maps or the OK Maps function in Google Maps to download areas to your phone in advance for stress-free navigation. Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor also let you download guides and reviews for offline reference. Download the local language on Google Translate so you can communicate with vendors at the local market, and keep track of exactly how much you’re spending on the XE Currency Converter.