Technology Tips: 2009
European tourism now comes with a digital divide: those with high tech gadgets and those without. Which fancy new tools are worth the trouble and actually enhance your travels?
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Adapters and power converters redux
As Jordan hinted below, just a little research will tell you whether you must bring both a physical plug adapter and a power converter... or can get away with just the plug adapter. The key is to look at the power cords for all electrical items you are bringing. The little rectangular "transformer" boxes on their cords will usually tell you the types of power they can handle. If any of them handle only U.S. 110-volt/60Hz power, then you'll need to bring both the wall-plug adapter and an additional unit for converting Euro power for your device. But if your electric devices' own transformers can handle both 110-240 volts and 50-60 cycles, then you only need the physical adapter to go between your device's power plugs and the wall outlet.
Winchester, MA USA Mon 11/16/2009
Reset your watch and camera when you arrive!
This falls under the category of "do as I say, not as I do," because I've failed to follow this advice on my last two trips... and regretted it. Ask my wife... I take a LOT of digital photos on our trips. And most digital cameras retain information about when each image was taken. This makes it very easy to organize and process your photos by day when you return... especially if images from many different days are scattered among several memory cards. Or rather, it WOULD make it easy if you bothered to reset your camera's own internal clock to the local day and time on arrival. But I keep forgetting to do that, and end up having some of the photos taken during day 1 listed as being taken on day 2... etc. So I too will try to remember that when you reset your watch, you should also reset your camera(s).
Winchester, MA USA Mon 11/16/2009
I also use HotSpot Shield on my laptops when traveling and connecting to WiFi. Works great.
CA USA Wed 11/11/2009
Cell Phone Calls Overseas
The best advice I can give is to purchase an international SIM card from a U.S. company before you leave. On a recent trip to Europe spanning seven different countries, my calls were all around 50c/min. I found a company called OneSimCard - www.OneSimCard.com - that had the lowest rates and they cover 175 countries.
Shop around for yourself though and good luck everyone!
New York, NY USA Tue 11/10/2009
Shield Your Info At Hotspots
Use Hotspot Shield when using public wi-fi, even it's security enabled, to add another layer of protection.
USA Tue 11/10/2009
Trip Planning by Cellphone
Do you have any experience with trip planners and guided tours by cellphone. I was thinking that by entering the desination phone number and a few key strokes the fastest or cheapest way to get from where you stood to a destination either in a city or in another city could be transmitted to the screen on any cellphone. I experienced something like this in Romania. There all phones display the location of the cell tower that the phone is listening to. This uses no minutes so a Romanian pay per use card for $7 is all you need to have your cellphone work on their system. The phone must be GSM. The most useful part of this is there are no keystrokes and no data plan needed the phone doesn't need to be a smart phone either.
Kirkland, WA USA Mon 11/09/2009
Using Electrical Appliances in Italy
When traveling in Italy, you may well find that your trusty, two-round-pronged European plug adaptor doesn't fit into Italian electrical outlets! That's because the older outlets require a plug with narrower prongs than in other parts of Europe. I wasted precious time looking for a store that sold an adaptor with these narrower prongs (I located one in an electical parts store). I noticed that most newer hotels have outlets that accommodate both the old and new prongs...just a heads-up, as you probably won't be able to find the older Italian adaptor in the US before you leave.
Oakland, CA USA Sat 10/31/2009
Having a cellphone while travelling is pretty convenient. Having a cellphone with a local, cheap provider on a prepaid card is priceless ! I use my old Nokia GSM TriBand (US-model, unlocked) with various European prepaid cards, in the respective countries.
Many banks have partnership agreements which will let you withdraw cash at the ATM free of any fees. Example: BoA, Barclays UK, Deutsche Bank (just the ones I know of…) Hence I prefer to withdraw smaller amounts each time to reduce impact in case of theft / loss.
Most American issued credit cards charge 3% for foreign purchases (don't know about cash withdrawals). It only happened once … 2 week trip with wife and 2 aunts, run up $8,000 on the CC, come home and see $240 charges on the bill. A rather unpleasant surprise. There are a few CCs that do not charge foreign transaction fees.
As for the practical application, above tips may require some prep work before the trip…. One may have an AT&T or T-Mobile phone and could simply purchase a prepaid sim-card on a european e-bay website (nowadays with very easy online registration). Load credit before leaving the US and write down the phone number where you can recharge while travelling, if necessary.
As for the fee-free ATMs: If you know where you're going, research partnering banks (with your house-bank), then find ATMs along your travel route, ie. on Barclays.co.uk website. Most of these big banks have ATMs at the central spots, ie. airports, train stations, city centers, etc.
It does take some prep work, but for me it's well worth it !
have a good trip!
Huntersville, NC USA Tue 10/20/2009
Converters vs. Plug Adaptors
While in the UK I could have left the heavy converter at home and just brought the plug adaptor with me. My iPod charger camera battery charger (DSLR Nikon battery) etc. All converted the power themselves. I brought one of those extension cords that terminates in a head with three plugs I always bring one when I travel and it works well every time.
The UK plugs almost all have switches that turn power on to the plug, don't forget to turn it on! I kept forgetting and getting frustrated that it wasn't working until I realized I was being an idiot.
FL USA Sat 10/17/2009
Moscow Domodedovo voltage okay
If you spend time in Moscow's Domodedovo airport, and have anything to plug in, the 220 volt electricity will work just fine. You just need an adapter plug, if your electrical appliance is rated for it. Take for example my laptop and mp3 player, both of which can automatically convert 220 volts to 110 volts without any problem. Otherwise you may need to carry a voltage converter.
Plano, TX USA Fri 10/09/2009
Im taking my iPhone overseas.
I guess the best way to protect your wallet from roaming charges is to be INFORMED. So that is what Ive been doing, informing myself.
While at it, I discovered a pretty good way to make good use my of Iphone overseas without making calls or browsing the internet.
Instead of getting a plan from ATT for travelers, I downloaded an APP called iSaveWeb which allows you to save webpages with images and all.
I researched all the possible websites that I might need overseas, I also downloaded map images from various cities. You can even 'PrintSreen' a google map image and save it in your documents and then upload it to your iphone.
Lets see how the Idea delivers when I leave for europe in 2 weeks. Of course, you cant use your cell phone to make calls but i figured you dont have to. Just set your iPhone to 'plane mode' and find a WiFi somewhere and instead of making phonecalls send EMails with pics attached to send your loved ones and update them of your trip.
Hope this idea works for anyone.
New York, New Yo USA Mon 10/05/2009
Prepare your iPhone for travel abroad
Prepare your iPhone for travel abroad
ABC News has a great article for saving $$$ when taking your iPhone overseas.
Pacific Palisades, CA USA Fri 10/02/2009
GPS makes maps obsolete
We have just returned from a 3-month motorhome tour of basically all of Western Europe. Our TomTom One ("Steve") was priceless. We could not have done it without him. Thanks Steve!
St. Paul, AB USA Fri 09/11/2009
Prepaid mobile broadband in Ireland
For those traveling in Ireland with a laptop, it's possible to get a prepaid (no need to sign up for a plan) mobile USB modem for broadband Internet access anywhere there's a mobile signal. The USB plug-in costs about 80 Euro, but then a week of Internet is only 10 Euro. The company is O2.
Westport, CT USA Sat 09/05/2009
For travel planning, try using Microsoft's One Note. It is included with Office 2007--you may already have it. Or you can download the trial addition to check it out free. I plan to have it on my bitty netbook and will eliminate the need for most guidebooks on my 2 1/2 month trip
Seattle, wa USA Fri 08/21/2009
Using a GPS in France, and why Netbooks rock
My Garmin 255W GPS (Samantha) and I had lots of fun travelling through France. I had purchased it just before my trip with an added SD card preloaded with Europe maps. It was a life saver, but there were a few "miscommunications" between Samantha and I. For example, did you know there is a Sarlat AND a Sarlat-la-Canéda? That was an hour's worth detour, lovely scenery, but... Be sure to have the full name of the place you want to go, go through the whole list of places suggested and, for France, know the "département" number of the town you are going to.
I also brought my netbook with me and it was fantastic. You can easily get wifi just about anywhere and it's a great way to back up your photos. Most netbooks have an SD card slot, so at the end of every day, I'd slip it in, copy the photos to my laptop and to my iPod, and voilà!
Ottawa, ON Canada Fri 08/14/2009
Backing up pictures
The Iomega 31308 FotoShow Digital Image Center are very inexpensive and made to backup your pictures. Just google it.
USA Sun 08/02/2009
backing up photos on CDs
I just read RIcks's article "Techie Tips for Travelers" regarding getting your photos backup on CDs. THIS IS A BAD IDEA, here's why:
1. CDs only hold about 0.7 G of information. Most travelers (like you, for example) are using 2, 4, 6, and 8G memory on their camera. If you try to get CDs burned to save your photos, you will have to buy up to 5 or 6 CDs. Or, you can ask for DVDs that can hold 4 (or more) Gs - DVDs cost more (if available at all). If you have to buy multiple CDs you spend more $$ than simply buying more memory for you camera. 2. In the "old days" with small memory cards it was easy to get CDs made because the memory card was smaller that the CD. This made for a very simple process by the shop keeper - no decisions to make. When the memory card is bigger that CDs they seem to get confused AND the kiosks that are available only copy part of the card needed to fill the CD. 3. Camera memory is very cheap. For example, you can buy 4 of the 2G SD cards (total of 8G of memory) from Costco for less than $30. It is easier to travel with extra camera memory than to travel with CDs. 4. TIME! We were on the France (Best of?) trip in 2005. I was using my camera for photos and small digital video clips - which took lots of memory. On two occasions while the trip I spent most of an afternoon searching for a shop keeper that would/could copy my files to multiple CDs (this was before DVDs were popular for this process). Then, it took a very long time for them to do it as I was asking for 2-3G of information to be backed up to CD. Altogether I spent 7-8 hours on the trip backing up digital media when I should have been SEEING FRANCE!!
Next time? I will buy more memory cards and forget backing up on SDs.
Sequim, WA USA Sat 08/01/2009
Batteries on airplanes
Some airlines are concerned with lithium batteries overheating and catching fire. Batteries should be installed in devices; back up batteries should be individually wrapped to keep the contacts from shorting. Croatian airlines had us remove ALL batteries from our checked luggage. This included unremovable batteries (in a GPS, and a iPod-like device). Apparently the bag scanner rejects all batteries regardless. Alitalia didn't have any such requirements.
Madison, WI USA Fri 07/10/2009
Facebook text to cell phone
You can set up your facebook page to forward facebook messages by text to your cell phone. You can even specify whose messages or posts you want to receive. My daughters are traveling through Europe without phones or a laptop. Internet access has been easily accessable. Their facebook messages and posts go directly to my cell phone so I get them immediately and don't have to check facebook. I can even reply (text) back to their facebook page from my phone. It has worked great! certainly a very economical way to keep in touch
Marietta, GA USA Mon 06/29/2009
My laptop adapter broke during a trip to Paris. Across from rue Cler, on the av. Motte Picquet, is an "Electric" shop that sells all types of adapters, converters, etc for most countries in Europe. The proprietor speaks English, which is helpful. The adapter I purchased cost about 3 euros, and saved my trip.
Ithaca, NY USA Fri 06/19/2009
iPhone - Great Travel Tool
Loved having my iPhone in europe for my last 2 month vacay. I plan on bringing it again for my next 2 month vacay at the end of the year. I used skype most of the time for calls which was a life saver. For only $20 to $50 you can get a international data roaming plan. great for using google maps when lost, updating currency converters, finding quick metro maps, and using wikitravel for quick changes in plans. Make sure you turn OFF data push options and international roaming when you arent using it.
Word to the wise on cell service providers.... I'm with AT&T and planned in advance for my 3 month trip. all international service including data for my iPhone and checked for service in all my locations. I had the most problems ever. I was told I would have coverage in every country on my itenerary. I didnt. I had a random 201MB charge that wasnt mine. I have spent a total of 7 hours in the last 3 months on the phone with customer service regarding tech and billing problems. Basic advice... plan plan plan and as always... when you run into trouble and have to call tech support make sure you document every call, time, date, and service agent when changing or setting up new plans and options.
lake charles, la USA Tue 06/16/2009
Getting the Laptop through TSA
Usually TSA makes you boot your laptop PC to confirm it is a PC and not something else. If you have a chance on the ride to the airport boot your PC and put it into sleep mode to save time in the line. That way you only take 30 seconds instead of a couple of minutes in the line. The other recommendation I would have is to put your laptop in the side pocket of your bag for quick access. Then once you get through TSA transfer the laptop in to your day bag for protection during the flight. Then put the day bag back in to your carry-on and cinch everything down tight and don't bother to use your PC until you get to Europe.
Littleton, CO USA Tue 06/09/2009
Fring - All in one communication apps for your mobile PDA phone
Fring - install Fring in your Iphone's, Windows Mobile phones and get connected with Skype, Yahoo Messenger, MSN, etc plus you can also sign in to your SIP VoIP account. All you need is a Free WiFi hotspot and off you go to a free or cheap calls back to the US.
Download Fring free at http://fring.com
My Onesuite VoIP works perfectly with Fring and I've read in Fring forum that most phones are supported except for the Blackberries.
Palo Alto, CA USA Mon 06/08/2009
the ipod touch is great with all of its apps. There is a skype application and a bunch of travel ones that are wonderful. I also have put movies on and of course rick steve's podcasts!
princeton, nj USA Sun 06/07/2009
I use a Nokia N810 and an iGo Bluetooth Keyboard. This functions for GPS, Email and Media Player. Easier to pack than a notebook fewer devices than I would carry otherwise.
O. N. Ely
Milano, - Italy Thu 05/28/2009
Skype on i-touch
A co-worker just got the i-touch and he has the Skype application for it. Not sure how he got it (I'm a real rookie here), but as soon as we work together again I'll know, as I'm buying my i-touch Thursday.
USA Mon 05/18/2009
There is free wifi everywhere. McDonalds and many coffee shops offer it as well as a few cafes and bars. A lot of the time they won't advertise it, but i have gotten in the habit of bringing my iPod most places and trying it out.
Canada Sun 05/17/2009
Ditto Ed's comments about the Garmin Nuvi 275. A very useful device that was generally spot on with directions, as we discovered on an Italy trip this past month.
Some general GPS comments particular to Italy and similar countries.
1) Have a map in hand, use the GPS to navigate but expect errors. Typical are the occasional new traffic circle that the GPS mapset doesn't know about. Others are one way streets in those ancient hills towns in Tuscany and Umbria that the GPS doesn't know about. Be aware that the actual data the GPS relies on was generated by humans field checking the roads. Ditto the actual route the GPS chooses - also generated by a human and entered into the Navtech data base sold to Garmin.
2) The Garmin and any GPS using Navtech maps, give turn instructions in street names. That may or may not work in cities - IF you can find the street sign labeled "Via del Torrero" or some such. In the country and with turns on country roads, Italy does not label the streets, except for a turn arrow sign (white on blue) with a town destination and sometimes a "SS275" or "E45" indication. This is not how the GPS calls out directions so the map is essential as backup.
3) In those hill towns and narrow streets of Rome, the GPS may not get a decent signal from the requisite 4 satellites, to allow navigation. So pay attention and don't become a slave to the GPS. Follow common sense and sometimes follow the actual street signs.
Freeport, NY USA Mon 05/11/2009
In regard to carrying copies of documents to Europe. I have scanned copies of my passport, license, credit cards, etc. and have downloaded them to a thumb drive. It will become a permanent part of my money belt during the trip. If I need anything out of it, I plan to hit a cyber cafe or computer in the hotel.
MO USA Wed 05/06/2009
GPS in Italy
We just returned from a 4-week driving tour of Italy using our Garmin 470. We call her "Sally". Sally was confused much of the time in Italy. Our first night's hotel in Fiumicino was carefully typed in. Sally kept saying "Arriving at destination on left". On the left was a deserted building, roof gone, windows out, weeds and garbage in the yard. My wife said, "I know you booked us in budget hotels, but this is too much." We followed street signs and easily found our hotel a block or two away. Later, on the Almafi drive, Sally kept repeating, "Turn sharply left". To the left was a thousand foot drop-off. In navigating to our little hotel in Sorrento, Sally apparently confused a street hundreds of years old and used for pedestrians and motorscooters for a regular street. The street kept getting more and more narrow so that finally it was impossible to back out. We pulled in the side mirrors of our Smart Car and squeezed through with about one inch clearance on either side. We laugh about these incidents now, but I would recommend using a good road map with a GPS in Italy, and if a road sign points to your destination and the GPS is insistently telling you to drive in the opposite direction, just turn it off and use common sense.
Kyle & Jan Dameron
Tulsa, OK USA Mon 05/04/2009
Just returned from driving from Barcelona to France where I used a Garmin nuvi 275t to navigate. I also had maps for general info. but the nuvi did the talking and showed the way. While in France I drove hither and yon across the Southern part of France. I stopped at Figueres and Montserral on the way back to Barcelona. The nuvi never missed a beat. I bought it because it had European maps preloaded. It was right on every time. What a teriffic piece of equipment. It was also good for walking around in an unfamiliar city or town.
Pittsburgh, PA USA Sat 05/02/2009
tripit.com for iphone
tripit.com now has an iphone/ipod touch app. you can create your itinerary online and then view it on your phone. you don't have to be connected to the internet. i plan on storing my rome itinery on it for my trip next week.
norwalk, ct USA Tue 04/14/2009
IPOD/IPHONE and Skype
to use Skype on an Ipod touch or Iphone, download "truphone" a free application then you can add your skype account and yahoo, aol, msn instant messenger names also. You do need the headset with built in mic from apple, it costs around $30. It works really well.
USA Tue 04/07/2009
Disposable lithium camera batteries
I heartily recommend Energizer Advanced Lithium disposable batteries for digital cameras.
On our '06 IT, SP, FR trip I used standard alkaline disposables in my camera--it takes four AA. Seems like I was always shopping for and changing batteries.
Our '08 FR, GER trip I used the lithium ones. I shot close to 1000 digital photos and only had to change once! Amazing longevity.
However, when they die it is suddenly and totally. The alkalines would recover a bit between uses and you could coax a little more out of them, but not the lithiums. When they die, they die! Until they come out with something better these will always be my battery of choice.
Gillette, WY USA Sat 04/04/2009
Skype on iphone
I just wanted to let the iphone users know that there is now a skype application for iphone. I'm not sure about ipod touch. But I don't see why it wouldn't. hope this helps you guys out.
Atlanta, USA Mon 03/30/2009
I am not really sure where to post this, so this might be the place. I have read over and over about photocopies of passports, etc. I will take a copy, but I'm also going to scan and email them to myself. This makes me feel like I have a nice backup.
Texas USA Sat 03/28/2009
VOIP calls with Ipod Touch
I just learned that the second Generation Ipod touch will accept the Iphone microphone equipped headset, available from apple for $29. That headseat and a free app, Truphone, allows you to make phone calls when you have a wifi connection. We don't need a lot of telephone contact when in Europe, but with this we can make calls to land lines for about 6 cents per minute, whether they are in Europe or back home in the states. With all the other capabilities of the touch, I truly have no need to haul my lap top along on our travels.
Orlando, FL USA Fri 01/30/2009
I found this great idea for travel in airports, on airplanes or any place that can be really loud or where you need an alarm that won't wake others around you. I found information about it in the following article about travel tips: http://www.budgettravel.com/bt-dyn/content/article/2009/01/03/AR2009010301461.html Instead of an audible alarm it vibrates to notify you of the time so you would not bother anyone on overseas flights if you need to take medicine or waken for any reason.
Dallas, TX USA Tue 01/27/2009