So you want to travel with your tech like a pro? Here are five things you need to remember:
1. Will my phone work over there? I won't confuse you with techno-babble, but here's how it boils down. Two things might stop your phone from working at your destination: the policies of your cellphone service provider and the hardware on your phone. You'll need to check with your cellphone provider before you go that your service plan allows you to "roam". Just as importantly, make sure you know what it will cost you to use your phone to make calls or use data overseas; once you find out you'll want to use your phone VERY sparingly. When it comes to hardware, a recent smartphone like a Samsung Galaxy S3 or an iPhone should work, but there are a few things to watch out for. In the United States, some providers (ahem, Verizon) use a unique technology that most of the rest of world does not use. Google your phone's model number on your provider's website. What you want to see is if "Quad-band GSM" is listed as one of the features. If not, chances are it won't even know how to talk to cellphone towers overseas. Furthermore, both Korea and Japan use GSM technology (like the rest of the world) but a unique band that some older phones won't be able to "hear". For short trips, you may want to consider a phone rental service available at many airports. For the real travel pros on longer trips, standard operating procedure is to buy a cheap unlocked GSM phone while overseas (about $20 in Kenya or India) and then buy a local pre-paid SIM card on arrival that will give you plenty of local talk time for under $10.
2. Get the right adapters. A typical North American phone or laptop charger will usually accept a variety of voltages (110-220V AC) so you can skip the voltage transformers that many airport travel shops try to sell you. But you will need adapters to ensure the flat blades or a North American charger will fit the rounded receptacles of Europe, or the slanted receptacles of Australia. Google your destination country's receptacles and you'll see diagrams that let you know whether you'll run into square-peg-round-hole syndrome. You can buy an all-in-one adapter or a pouch with a pile of different adapters - whichever you're least likely to lose.
3. Put cords, cables, and adapters in your carry-on. If you are bringing your own phone, make sure you bring all the chargers and cables in your carry-on. If you're going from Jacksonville to Johannesburg, your phone won't make it one charge. Keeping your chargers and cables in your checked luggage is an excellent way to ensure that you arrive at your destination without any juice in your battery to make that all-important "Are you picking me up?" call. Most airports have charging stations, though US airports vary enormously in making these available to travellers. More and more airlines are offering in-seat charging in economy, sometimes through a familiar wall-style receptacle, but often with just a USB port next to your seat-back screen. So a USB charging cable is a smart option.
4. Secure your stuff. All those gadgets and gizmos are pickpocket-bait, so be aware of your surroundings when wielding your tech. En route, make sure your cables and charges have their own little bag (mesh is good), and they stay within your carry-on. That makes it harder to lose the dongles and dangly bits, and easier to put all the gizmos in your hotel room safe in one baggie. If your hotel room doesn't have a safe, you can wrap a laptop cable lock around an immovable object in your room (no, not the table leg) and then lock the end of the cable into a lockable bag or suitcase.
5. Don't forget to disconnect. Part of the charm of travel is that the tech lets us keep in touch with folks back home. But don't forget to stop and smell the roses. Be present. Just because the airport shuttle bus has WiFi doesn't mean you need to be glued to Facebook on your iPad all the way into the city. Look out the window! Put your phone on airplane mode and you can still use the camera for recording what you see, but you'll lose the umbilical cord and immerse yourself in your destination.
Your tech world traveller...