Realistically, one of the main aspects of being a digital nomad, and most likely one of the reasons it probably appealed to you in the first place, is the fact that you would be doing a fair bit of traveling!
Whether it’s getting to your destination of choice, shorter jaunts to see the sights and sounds of the country or region you’ll be working in, or the inevitable trips back home to see friends and family, chances are you’ll find yourself lugging your tech with you at some point.
This can be a pain in the neck (sometimes literally), but it doesn’t necessarily have to be!
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The situations you’ll encounter when traveling with your technology are evolving all the time —from Wi-Fi now being offered in-flight on many airlines, to newer, more convenient methods of accessing the internet wherever your travels happen to take you.
Whatever you might be bringing along with you, be it phone, laptop, or tablet, here are 7 hacks to take full advantage of your tech during your travels, and also a few bonus tips for a hassle-free journey.
7 Genius Tech Hacks for Expats or Digital Nomads on the Move
Plan this one well in advance. Don’t make the mistake of packing your laptop in your suitcase, or worse, in a bag that’s doesn’t conform to the measurements of what’s allowed as a carry on. There are plenty of great laptop bags available that are multi-purpose and have room for your other essentials, which will easily fit in an overhead bin or under your seat on a plane.
If you’re paranoid like me, and there’s any chance of your bag getting wet at any point, if for example you’re expecting to travel by boat at any point on your journey, you may want to consider the extra security of a waterproof bag to for your laptop such as this, and then put it in a water resistant carry-on to double up on protection!
Here are some great examples of water resistant travel bags that you can carry your laptop and other gear in as well. Having wheels may save your back and your sanity, so I’d definitely consider a wheeled option first.
If you’re traveling by air, US TSA regulations (and many other countries) ask you to power up anything with a battery. Although it doesn’t happen all that often, it’s a good idea to have your device charged just in case. And for the most part, if you are asked to do this, there’s a good chance they’ll have an outlet available nearby on the off chance that your device isn’t charged.
When you do go through security, remember that any laptop will need to be taken out of its bag and placed in the plastic bin, unless it is in a TSA approved case.
Personal devices, such as phones or tablets can usually remain in your bag, but they should be packed on top just in case you are asked to take them out.
Be cautious when connecting
Always be careful when connecting to any Wi-Fi networks while you’re traveling, like those available in airports, train stations, etc. Don’t connect to any network that is not officially part of wherever it you’re located, i.e. airport, train station, airline, travel agency or hotel network.
If at all possible, avoid doing anything on sites where you’ll need to enter banking information or sensitive passwords, or better yet, invest in a hotspot shield so that when you are connected to a public network everything you do is hidden from prying eyes!
Essential Travel Apps
Transportation apps – first up, get the apps for all the airlines, trains, buses, and ferry companies you might be traveling with. These allow faster check-ins, virtual boarding passes, coupons, and will also alert you about any delays.
Flight tracking apps – keep track of departure and arrival times, connecting flights, airport gate changes, and even how long you might be sitting on the runway. FlightAware, FlightStats, and GateGuru are good options.
Currency exchange apps – essential for understanding whatever currencies you happen to be using in your travels in relation to your home currency. The last thing you want is to screw up and overpay because you made a mistake, or for someone to take advantage of your naivete!
Getting around – Uber, taxi, and public transports apps for the cities you are visiting will make getting from A to Z a breeze
Time zone converter apps – we like World Clock and Time Buddy.
Seat Guru – provides reviews of seats on each airplane, including tips on legroom, proximity to exits, lighting, etc.!
Booking apps – get all the best deals for accommodation, travel, food and entertainment at your fingertips with apps like Kayak, Skyscanner, Booking.com, Expedia, and Hotwire.
Tech to make it all run smoothly
- Access Google maps – Before you visit an area, just in case you can’t access your cellular service for some reason, download a map from Google Maps of the area you’ll be visiting to use offline. While you’re somewhere that you still have data connectivity, open the app, enter the region you’d like a map of, click the three horizontal lines on the top left of the screen and choose “offline maps.” You’ll be prompted to download a “local” (where you currently actually are) or “custom map” (the area you entered before that you’re planning to visit which you can now download a map of.) Easy peasy!
- Take pics of all your important documents, including your passport (main pages and most recent visa stamps,) your driver’s license, any visa or residency papers, credit cards, and boarding passes, and then email them to yourself. If the worst-case scenario goes down and you end up having your bag stolen, at least you’ve got all your info and proof of identity right there in your phone, and a backup in your email as well!
Don’t run out of juice
My first tip – anytime you stop anywhere – check, double check, and triple check that you have all of your power cords and adapters when you’re leaving, so that you don’t end up at your next stop SOL and unable to charge your devices!! Having a separate bag like this to keep cords, mouse, mouse pad, and power cubes in can be a lifesaver for keeping track of them all
Next, if there’s any possibility that you might find yourself in a situation where you won’t be able to charge your devices, a portable, rechargeable power source can be an absolute god-send! There are a ton of options available, and some are more specialized than others, i.e. specifically to charge a laptop, or specifically for a phone/tablet, so it’s worth researching options.
Important things to consider when choosing a portable charger are:
- How long the battery itself takes to fully charge
- How long it stays charged
- How long it charges your device for
- How much it weighs (you’ll be hating it if it’s clunky and heavy!!)
Be sure to charge up your portable chargers whenever you have a chance so that they will be ready to go when you really need them!!
Here’s the one I currently have that’s worked well for me for the last couple of years for my phone and/or tablet.
And here are a few more possibilities:
The good news is that most airports and many other travel thoroughfares like bus, ferry and trains stations have greatly increased the number of outlets and charging stations to meet the demands of the average modern traveler, so it’s never been easier to travel with all your gear fully charged.
*Bonus tip: switch your phone/tablet over to airplane mode and it will charge much faster!
**Bonus bonus tip: if you happen to forget your power cube(s), you can plug your phone or other devices that charge via USB into your laptop or the USB ports on almost all newer model TVs to charge.
Of course, since you always want to aim to be a cool and courteous traveler, instead of taking up multiple outlets for all your gear and chargers, a great idea is to pack a small surge protected power strip like this so that you can charge all your gear from just one outlet!
Surf when it’s bone-dry…
Chances are pretty good that you’re going to find yourself in a situation at some point where there is no Wi-Fi available, and you need a data connection to use one of your devices.
This is where a mobile hotspot comes in verrrry handy! There are a few types of hotspots available, but the two main types are:
1. The kind that is a simple device that comes with its own data plan that you connect to as necessary. Skyroam and TEPWireless are two companies that sell their units for about $140-$150 each, and then have super reasonable monthly access plans available. They also have rental options if you need it for a short period of time.
2. …Or the kind where you simply use your own cellular plan and link your devices to your smartphone. This is relatively easy to do, and here’s how (keep in mind, it uses up data and phone power very quickly): https://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/iphone/iphone-wi-fi-hotspot-3513223/
No matter where your travels take you – whether in the air, on the water, on the rails, or on the road – you can stay sane, safe, and securely connected with these hacks and tips.
Do you have any more suggestions to add to this? Let me know in the comments below!