We travel outside of the country a lot. This is, of course, huge fun, but presents its own set of unique challenges. In this post, I’ll share with you some of the indispensable tools we use to ease our way abroad.
Useful Travel Apps
Ahh, Google. What would we do without you? Read a map? Um, yeah, that’s not really gonna work. I’m the most directionally-challenged person I know.
In this information age, it’s hard to suddenly be disconnected, and without the benefit of navigation to tell us how to get places, a vacation can easily turn into a nightmare of wasted time and frayed tempers. However, even without a data feed into your phone, you can use Google Maps for directions! Save the map for offline viewing. How? Easy-peasy:
- On your phone, open Google Maps and enter the area that you want to save. For example, Amsterdam.
- Once the map loads, go to the search bar and type “Ok maps”.
- Google will ask if you want to save the map offline. Click Save.
And that’s it!
Bonus tip: on certain Android phones (not sure about Apple or Windows as David and I both have Androids), GPS will still work without a data connection. So, you can still find your location, and if you’ve cached your map, you should be able to figure out where you are and find where you need to go. Some map reading is still required, since you can’t just type to search for a place and actually have to locate it on the map yourself.
Before your travels, I’m sure you do a bunch of research. You might bookmark some pages online. How can you get to them when you’re out traveling? Easy! Download an offline browser, open the web pages on your phone, and save them all. That way, you maintain easy access to them as long as you have your phone on you (and we all know you’re not leaving that behind).
As an alternative, you can take screenshots of the pages you want to revisit later, but if you also use your phone as a camera, trying to find the screenshots can be a pain when you’ve taken a ton of photos.
Your local library is your friend! Most libraries will allow you to borrow books and download them into a Kindle or other device, including your phone. King County lets you borrow books for three weeks as long as you have a library card.
Not only is reading an awesome habit with countless benefits, you’ll also have entertainment during those intercontinental flights. And finally, you can download a guide book or two to take on your trip.
Stuff You Shouldn’t Leave Home Without
Save yourself a trip to the airport convenience store by checking off the items on this list before you zip up your bags!
- Travel charger. Most modern electronics can handle voltage from 100-240, so you likely no longer need a transformer no matter what country you end up in. Check your device’s specifications.
- Power converter. While you may not need to worry about the voltage to your electronics, you still need to be able to plug in to the outlets, which come in all different shapes and sizes. Get one of those smart converters that are usable worldwide.
- Power strip or charging hub. Just a small one will do, for when your hotel room only has one accessible outlet. Also, you can make friends at the airport by letting other people plug in too! Thinkgeek has lots of cool stuff like this powercube.
- Battery pack. Keep juiced up with portable battery packs. They’re pretty affordable now and come in various capacities so you can carry a smaller, lighter one for top-ups and a bigger-capacity one for your tablet or laptop. Obviously this works for all travel, not just international.
- Headphones. Again, not just for international travel. Headphones have saved my sanity on many a flight. You can also use them for museum tours and such.
- International credit card. Having a card you can use all over the world and won’t charge you foreign transaction fees can save you a little money and a world of headache.
- Water bottle. Check the water quality of the place you’re visiting. If you can drink straight from the tap, then a reusable water bottle is definitely more earth-friendly than buying a bunch of distilled water. If tap water isn’t potable, you can still just buy a bigger container of drinking water and then pour some into your own container. You can get BPA-free collapsible ones from a bunch of places, even Groupon. We use the hydration pack that came with David’s CamelBak.
How about you, what do you find absolutely necessary when you travel abroad? Share your tips below!