Traveling lightly is important to frequent travelers, and the easiest way to economize your luggage is to utilize the mobile tech you already own.
Think for a second. Your smartphone can replace a calendar, airline ticket, watch, music player, camera, video recorder, notebook, GPS/map, flashlight, book, and even a payment method (in some cases). Oh, and I suppose it works as a phone as well. Add apps and you’ll hold the world in the palm of your hand. Use Uber to get a ride to your hotel or Foursquare to find the greatest restaurants nearby. Top it off with Tripit to keep track of your itinerary.
So with all of these capabilities, what are the downsides? Chiefly, battery life. A device’s life away from the outlet is the Achilles’ heel of almost every electronic gadget. That’s why I suggest you invest in a portable battery to aid your device’s charger(s).
Many of you probably already own a smartphone. Whether it’s an Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, or Blackberry device, you’ll have all of the capabilities expected in a portable phone, as well as a plethora of apps to make your travel experience better.
Here are the apps I use while traveling:
- Tripit If there’s one thing you do after reading this: sign up for Tripit. With the email address you used to register for Tripit, forward the emails you get from airline flight confirmations, hotel reservations, and car rental pickups to firstname.lastname@example.org, and your itinerary is built for you! Afterwards, add more details that may have been missed (precise check-in times, type of car to rent, etc.). Download: iOS | Android | Windows
- Packing List This app lets you keep track of your belongings so you don’t forget to pack them – or repack them. Now I never have to worry about leaving my electric shaver charger in the hotel room again… Note: this app is limited to Android devices, but similar apps are available on other platforms. Download: iOS | Android | Windows
- Outlook Mail app Microsoft’s email application is amazing for reading, composing, and managing your web mail. You can add Gmail, Outlook.com, iCloud, Yahoo, Exchange, or any IMAP/POP3 business or personal email. You can even add multiple email accounts. Works on iOS, Android, and Windows devices. Download: iOS | Android | Windows [built-in]
- Pocket Casts Any podcast application will work, but I love Pocket Casts. Not only is it available on iOS, Android, and Windows devices, but you can sync your podcast subscriptions between devices. If you don’t want to pay the $3.99 amount, the default podcasts app on your phone should be adequate. Download: iOS | Android | Windows
- Groove Any music playing device (whether it’s on your phone, an MP3, or heck even a CD player) is good company while traveling in lots of situations. I use Groove because it’s cross-platform (iOS, Android, Windows, Web), but there are a plethora of other good choices out there (Spotify, Google Music, etc.). Download: iOS | Android | Windows
- Uber Basically a cheaper, better, faster taxi service. Open the Uber app, get picked up from a friendly driver minutes away and catch a ride to almost anywhere. Simply put, I’ll never use traditional taxi services again. Download: iOS | Android | Windows
- National Car Rental app An easy way to reserve a car rental on the fly. Download: iOS | Android | Windows
- Foursquare With restaurant/venue/activity recommendations from
users, you’ll know all the tips from the locals. Imagine Yelp, but better. Download: iOS | Android | Windows
- Alarms Self-explanatory. Every device has an alarm-setting app that I trust more than a hotel lobby receptionist phone call. Download: [ built-in]
I often have to use my physical wallet to make several payments along the way, but for the most part, I can do everything online and from my phone. With services like Google Pay and Apple Pay, soon most payments can be done via phone as well.
If you do bring a second device…
With Windows 10 Mobile, a feature called Continuum will soon allow people to use their phones as PCs, so you won’t even need a second device.
But for now, a Surface works great as a portable work device. It’s incredibly light and boasts a touch screen and keyboard for convenience. You can write emails, use Excel, or jot notes for yourself with the Pen. A MacBook Pro or Air is a great alternative for a traveling PC; however, you don’t have the flexibility of a touch screen or a detachable keyboard. The Chromebook is in the same boat, and it requires an Internet connection to be most effective, which isn’t always available while traveling. If you opt for an Android tablet or an iPad, consider purchasing a Bluetooth keyboard to go along with your tablet. Physical keyboards helps boost productivity!
I always pack an HDMI video cable adapter, so I can bring my own entertainment to the hotel. I pre-load movies and TV shows or just browse the web and view it in the hotel room’s large display. Who watches actual TV anymore, anyway–especially when the hotel makes you pay for some of the content!
A smartwatch like Android Wear, Microsoft Band, or Apple Watch is helpful when your arms are tied with travel bags and you need key info like the time or who is calling you. Wearables and smart bands aren’t necessities while traveling, but they’re certainly convenient, especially if you don’t have the patience to wrestle your phone from the depths of your pocket or bag. Many wearables will also track all your fitness data while you travel!
I barely scratched the surface of how useful mobile technology can be while traveling. Don’t be afraid to explore technology as you explore the world.
David’s Packing List
- Smartphone: Lumia 1520, charger, Nokia earbuds, and Nokia portable battery charger.
- Portable Laptop: Surface Pro 3 tablet, keyboard type cover, charger, and HDMI adapter video cable.
- Smartwatch/wearable: Microsoft Band and charger.
- Non-tech items: Wallet and passport (if needed). Small suitcase with clothes, toiletries, etc. Small carry-on bag for my tech and personal items.
David is an IT Marketer and Presenter from Seattle, WA. He’s recently published a book Beyond Tweeting as well as launched a podcast of the same name. You can learn more about David at davidvkimball.com or by following @davidvkimball on Twitter.