A Travel Geek’s Guide to Being Prepared

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Everyone has their own style of traveling which is what makes everyone’s travel experience unique. I consider myself to be a travel geek.  As a travel geek, I never leave home without my favourite gadgets, and I always have a backup plan.  This means being resourceful and using technology to improve my travel experience.  You never know if you are going to be robbed by a ladyboy in Bangkok, or if your laptop is going to go for a swim in the Caribbean.

This is what makes a travel geek ready for any situation.

pick-pocket

 

Planning Starts at Home

The first thing I do before I go anywhere is research my upcoming destination.  My favourite place to start is online travel forums, as I can ask questions to people who have been to, or currently reside at my destination.  Thorn Tree on Lonely Planet is a great forum, but as with anything, it’s always best to cross-reference what you read.  For instance, TripAdvisor has extensive forums, but they may not be from the type of travelers you are looking to hear from.  Read up on your destination in as many places as you can — information is the most valuable tool a traveler can have in a foreign city.

 

Getting Organized

Organization starts in the bedroom.  Packing only the clothes that you will need is key to comfortable traveling.  Start by making a packing list and base it off the number of days for the trip, weather, and types of activities you enjoy.

Now, you may be headed to some place hot like Southeast Asia, but that does not mean you should just leave the pants and jacket at home.  Is it the rainy season?  Does it get cool at night?  Is it appropriate with the local culture?  Be sure to research the current season at your destination and pack the appropriate gear to be on the safe side.

 

Download Essential Apps

Before you head to the airport there are a few travel apps that will make your trip a little easier.  The number one for reducing clutter is TripIt.  It will keep all of your reservations and flight itinerary in one handy spot right on your phone.

While I do recommend this handy app, I still recommend carrying your printed itinerary just to be safe.  If you were to lose your phone abroad you may need a hard copy of the reservations or find a local internet cafe to reprint it all.  Together they create a backup of your travel information.

 

No Wi-Fi? No Problem!

Check for available offline apps.  These types of apps are great because they do not need Wi-Fi or a data plan to operate when you arrive at your destination.  Download the app at home, and when your plane touches down, the app will still work without connecting to the network, avoiding potentially expensive roaming data charges.

Often there are great guides, maps, and resources travelers might need all in offline apps.  One of my favourites is Word Lens which will translates a foreign language through your smartphone’s camera. I found offline apps to be especially handy for me when I was in Cuba this year.  I had no mobile phone service, but fortunately I did have a great offline app about Havana to use on my iPhone.

Word-Lens-for-iPhone

 

Backups

Backups are essential to being prepared for travel. I backup everything from travel photos to currency.  Always carry more than one credit card and keep them separated so one can act as your emergency credit card.  Carry cash because cash is always king in an emergency.  If a credit card is stolen, lost, or simply does not work, cash can get you out of any situation.

cash

Carry at least one backup external hard drive for photos, documents, and emergency contacts.  Keep this in a safe place in your backpack and even in a separate bag then your laptop in case of theft.  Cloud storage (like Dropbox or Mozy) can act as another great backup tool if you have reliable internet service and a laptop.

An awesome alternative to an external hard drive is this 32 GB mini SanDisk flash drive.  Perfect for photo backup, emergency contacts, and digital copies of your passport.

Be sure to backup your passport.  Since you can’t get an additional passport, simply carry a digital copy and a physical copy.  Just scan or photograph your passport and email it to yourself.  Of course you can’t fly home with a passport copy, but you can bring it to the nearest consulate and get an emergency one.

passport

 

Gear

I carry more gear than I probably should when I travel, which means I need to charge a lot of gadgets.  My favourite travel accessory is the Mini Surge Protector from Belkin.  It has three outlets and two USB charging ports.  This means you will only need one travel adapter at the airport, your hostel, or hotel to charge multiple gadgets at once.  Be sure to pick up an all-in-one travel adapter if you are traveling through various regions of the world on one trip.

Belkin-surge-protector2

 

Communication

When I say communication I do not mean you need to learn the local language.  I simply recommend learning a few basics.  Not only is it helpful for you but it will go a long way with the locals.  Learn some key phrases and words such as “hello,” “please,” and “thank you.”  A smile and a thank you can go a very long way and I always find these little phrases to be the most powerful.

 

Overall

Often people confuse being prepared with over-planning, but that is simply not the case.  It simply means you have done your research and are ready for anything travel can bring you.  Backing up your finances, travel documents, and digital photos is a great place to start.

Remember, no matter how prepared you are for a trip, there is no match for being flexible.   Adapting and making adjustments will allow for the best possible travel experience, and is the number one thing any traveler can do.

 

Creative Commons Photos: Passport, Pick pocket, Thai Cash

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15 Responses

  1. clint

    I agree, Andrew. In foreign cites where you don’t have a local data plan for your phone they are really handy.

    Reply
  2. Ben

    Losing my passport is my biggest fear! I check my pockets every five minutes when I travel; I feel crazy. Why did I never think to bring a flash drive with a digital copy? That’s great advice!

    Reply
    • clint

      Agreed, Ben. Flash drives are great for emergency contacts, digital backups, and even encrypted credit card information for emergencies.

      Reply
  3. Jeff

    Apparently, it is Word Lens not World Lens and I have a question about it. It sounds good in theory but the reviews are pretty lousy, yet you seem to like it. Since you have to buy language packs for it to actually work, I would give it a pass based on current reviews. Could you talk more about your experiences with it?

    Reply
    • clint

      Good pickup, Jeff it is “Word” Lens. The reviews aren’t great but I find it handy and worth the $5 for one language pack. I would not recommend it for heavy reading by any means but for short phrases or paragraphs it works well and is pretty cool to watch the translation happening.

      For example, I once used the Spanish->English version to read directions on the back of some medication when I was in a Mexican pharmacy in order to find out the recommended dosage. It is not perfect but it worth trying out and can come in handy.

      Reply
    • clint

      It is a fun app for sure but don’t limit yourself to just one travel app. Download some language apps and even currency apps so you have everything covered. If they work offline that is even better!

      Reply
  4. Sylvain

    I totally agree about redundancy on the road. That lead me to research possibilities to back-up my SD cards in the event I lose or break my laptop. I think I found the way to do it… using a Seagate Satellite drive I would plug in the wall… and put the microSD card in my phone to transfer the files over to the drive. What do you think? Any other idea?

    Reply
    • clint

      That is a great question and I am not sure what the best solution is since I have always used a laptop. The Seagate drive looks interesting but I have never used it so I can’t say for sure how well it works. If my laptop died I think my best option would be to back up my SD cards using a computer at a hotel or internet cafe. There are a lot of portable SD readers out there but its hard to say which is best. I would check out some photography forums for a solution or more Seagate Satellite reviews.

      Reply
  5. David

    Great article. Just a heads up, the Mini Surge Protector from Belkin and the all-in-one travel adapter linked in the article cannot work together. The Belkin is great except it is a grounded US plug and the linked all-in-one travel adapter doesn’t accept that type of plug. Kind of ironic as it accepts nearly all other plug types but that is one of the shortcomings of most universal/all-in-one travel adapter. Embarrassed to say I found out the hard way having purchased these two items for a year long trip through Asia. The travel adapter went the distance, the Belkin stayed in a hostel along the way as grounded US plugs were no where to be found and the travel adapter couldn’t help out there.

    Reply

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