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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Mini charging device
We just got back from a trip to France with this travel club and the organizer had this nifty battery back up that can charge anything that takes USB. It was best for charging cell phones in a pinch! This one was called an UNU energy pack[INVALID]no bigger than small candy bar. Not sure how much they cost but I think its pretty cheap! You can also join the travel group we belong to for free here: http://www.photoflytravel.com/
Sacramento, CA USA 10/03/2013
smart phone use in italy
The closer I got to my Italy trip, the more I worried about using my smart phone. Could I live without it for 2 weeks? Well all I did was go to my phone company, signed up for the extra data usage so I could facebook pics, etc., signed up for international texting and I was set. I used it there and only turned on roaming while sending pics to family and facebook. It worked like a charm. Came home and returned my service to normal plan. I did not have problem with large bill when I got home. Stay connected!
or USA 09/28/2013
smart phone italy
With my smart phone in Italy did not have to use country code first, just our guide's phone number!
or USA 09/28/2013
new Swiss plugs don't take European standard
Switzerland has instituted a new electrical plug standard. We were in a newly renovated room in Zurich this month and our European standard plugs wouldn't fit. Fortunately the hotel had adaptors
Houston, TX USA 09/11/2013
Scan all your important documents to a PDF file before leaving home. Open a cloud drive with Google, Apple or Dropbox and upload the documents there. If you lose the originals you can use any computer to log onto the cloud drive and download or email a copy of your documents.
Ridgeland, MS USA 08/01/2013
Putting your phone service on hold while you are gone
I wanted to share a tip with everyone. We are traveling to various countries in Europe for three weeks in August. My son is 11, and we both have iPhones. We were planning to leave the iPhones at home, so as not to incur accidental charges. I am also a frugal person, so I didn't want to pay for three weeks for phone service while I wasn't here. Sprint has a service where you can suspend your phone service for while you are gone. It's called Seasonal Standby. Here is the informational link: http://community.sprint.com/baw/community/buzzaboutwireless/customer-service/blog/2012/01/26/what-is-the-seasonal-standby-or-temporary-suspension-plan
I will be paying $8.99/ month (prorated for the three weeks we will be gone) per phone. We can bring our iPhones with us, use them at WiFi hotspots, use Skype, etc., not rack up charges and not pay for phone service we are not using! It basically makes the phone a glorified iPod touch.
I called today to schedule it in advance, and they will even call me after my flight home arrives to reinstate my previous plan with no penalties or change in costs.
Just thought it might be useful information to someone out there!
Bainbridge Island, WA USA 07/23/2013
All four members of our group had iPhones. There were no charges to send texts when we had Wifi (easier from room to room in a hotel or B&B than using the phone).
Bellingham, WA USA 06/24/2013
City Guides - Trip advisor
We recently took our first trip to Italy. We planned the trip ourselves and used RS site extensively to help with the planning. I downloaded TripAdvisor City Guides for Rome, Florence and Venice to my Galaxy SIII phone. It was a life saver. We had sites and restaurants saved on the various city maps that we wanted to visit. As we wondered the maze like streets, we would use the city maps to point us in the direction we needed to go. It was fun to wander the back streets of Venice looking for a hidden gem of a restaurant. It uses GPS so no data charges are incurred. Another great app is Tripit. You can downloand you entire itineray on your phone complete with copies of your confirmation e-mails from your hotels, train reservations and ground transportation. I also downloaded the kindle app so I could use my phone for reading. With Rick's convertible backback, I was truly traveling light.
Huntington, WV USA 06/24/2013
Great Map App
Pocket Earth Offline Maps and Travel Guides! We just returned from Ireland and the UK and we all had this app on our iPhone and also on our iPad. Download maps and favorites before you leave home. Lost in London? Pull out your phone and GPS will show you where you are (you may have to turn off airplane mode.)
Bellingham, WA USA 06/14/2013
Kindle for translation needs
I put Spanish and French dictionaries and phrase books on my kindle and my guide book. It is so slim it fits nicely in my small purse. Just be sure your purse is tall enough to handle the height of the kindle paperwhite.
Lafayette, co USA 06/06/2013
Razr Max as GPS Unit
I use my Android (Verizon RazrMax) Phone as a GPS unit in Europe.
I bought the CoPilot App which works well, likely others are available.
I have a simple German phone so I turn off all the phone functions.
Be sure not to forget and leave Airplane Mode on, that blocks GPS. Also have a car charger on from the get go and have something like the little Mophie Charger Pack in your pocket if you are out and about. GPS does eat the battery within about 3-4 hours.
And that nice big screen is great when wifi is available.
Salem, OR USA 02/22/2013
Nokia Here Map for smartphones
The new Nokia Maps app called HERE for your iPhone or Android phones lets you download maps onto your phone for offline use. This is great for traveling because now you can download the maps you need for a given country and access them overseas when your phone is on airplane mode. We are going to Peru tonight with our travel club and can't wait to try it out! For a review of this app once we use it and just to check out the free travel club go here: http://photoflytravel.com/
San Francisco, CA USA 12/03/2012
Just before my two-week trip to France, I purchased a power strip from europeanbestbuy.com. I could plug the strip into a European socket and plug up to six American items into the power strip. This was better than having several adapters. It also alleviates the problem of lack of sockets. Cost about $25. Please note that this is only an adapter and does no electronic conversion. Your items must be dual voltage.
Frisco, TX USA 11/13/2012
iPad museum reservations
Reserve museum tickets on your IPad and printing is not necessary. The museum just scans the IPad and you're in!
Mikel Anne Morrison
Seattle, WA USA 10/14/2012
Useful Map App
Just spent 3 days in Venice and, just as RS recommended, you have to get lost to see the real Venice. But, at the same time, anyone who has been there will tell you that it's so easy to get lost in Venice since the streets are confusing and there are a lot of back alleys with no names. And to make matters even worse, the maps available are not super helpful either. I highly recommend downloading an app, "City Maps and Walks". It has many downloadable city maps while allow you to view offline and a GPS locating function that doesn't use data. There are other functions too but the attractions list is not comprehensive while the walking tour are very weak compare to those offered by the RS app. But the map & GPS function is super handy.
Seattle, WA USA 09/29/2012
Since it became available last year, I've been buying Rick's e-books now instead of the physical books. Less baggage weight. About $10-13 in Kindle store. Make sure you download your favorite travel apps, subway map, erase old games that you seldom play to make room for movies to pass the time with and photos you take during your trip. Scan all your documents, IDs, e-tickets, passport and save it in .pdf file and copy it to GoodReader under a password-protected folder. Also, set a passcode for your iPad and tick off the erase data (after 10 tries), in case your iPad is stolen (knock on wood).
I used to haul around my 13-inch MacBook, but the iPad made it unnecessary. Tried travelling without a laptop when I was 18 backpacking through North & South America, but using the hotel's computer and searching for internet cafes have become a hassle, not to mention increased my expenses as I always check my email. At that time, the only way my parents would let me travel on my own is if I promise to reply to their email daily. Or send one saying, "Hey, I'm still alive!" Phone cards can also get expensive calling my mom wherever she was assigned at that time (I think it was Singapore then Melbourne.) I ended up buying a laptop after my second week in US.
New York, NY USA 09/23/2012
I use this more than the iPad while I'm on the street to navigate the subway, double-check addresses, maps, check my itinerary and consult my travel guides. It looks a lot less conspicuous than an iPad and not too much of a thief magnet. All my travel documents are in GoodReader, there's a folder for each country I visit.
Kindle app also contains all my travel guides.
Also a good backup when your iPad runs out of batteries.
Don't forget to input the location and phone number of the US Embassy in the city you are going to visit.
Useful apps: Offline Maps, Subway maps, mTrip, Packing Pro, Vocre, TripIt, Skype, XE Currency, Flyers Rights, Pocket First Aid & CPR, Help Call (for iPhone).
New York, NY USA 09/23/2012
Bring your Kindle.
Being somewhat of an insomniac (I sleep an average of 3-4 hours a night) and a bookworm, I needed a huge dose of e-books so I would have something to do.
You can also put pdf files of your e-vouchers, confirmation emails, e-tickets, etc.
With the new Kindle Paperwhite with built-in light, you wouldn't even need to bring your Mighty Bright light.
There's also the impressive battery life. The Kindle outlasts the iPad and iPod Touch. When your iPad's battery were drained from watching movies while waiting for your boarding announcement or at a layover, you can read a book or review your Rick Steves guide on your Kindle.
If you are like me whose flights are always 16 hours or more, not including layovers and wait times, Kindle can keep your sanity intact. I wish there was a Kindle or iPad to occupy me when I was a minor traveling alone, being shuffled from boarding school to parents on two different continents. I entertained myself by staring at people coming in and out of the lounge, before I realized that it's rude to stare. I can only fit two books in my small wheeled luggage then and can finish a book in an hour or two. So there wasn't much to do but pester the flight attendant for snacks and soda.
New York, NY USA 09/23/2012
8 Crucial Things You Should Know Before Travelling Abroad With Your Phone, Tablet, Or Laptop
I saw this post that I thought someone may find useful. 8 Crucial Things You Should Know Before Travelling Abroad With Your Phone, Tablet, Or Laptop: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/8-crucial-travelling-phone-tablet-laptop/
East Orange, NJ USA 09/02/2012
"google play" abroad
As warning - once you are outside the US, google employs a "local country redirect", which means you get google.it or google.cz or whatever. This can be a problem for a couple of reasons - it can be hard to get to content from your home country, but worse, prices from "google play" are now in the local currency, which is a problem if you have to pay foreign currency conversion fees. For browsers (e.g., chrome), adding "/ncr" after the google.com keeps you at the regular google.com. Unfortunately, google play does not have a workaround like that. When I called the helpline for google play, I was basically told "that's the way it is". So, be sure to make any purchases before you leave, or risk currency conversion fees (and possibly difficulty finding home country content).
Arlington, MA USA 08/28/2012
In lieu of multiple converters, I always carry a six-foot extension cord. Not only does that give me two or three available outlets with a single converter, it helps when the only outlet is down by the floor.
Alexandria, VA USA 08/13/2012
iPad and Travel
Last year, I travelled to London and Paris and my iPad was with me every step of the way. At JFK (and again Heathrow), it did not have to be taken out of my carry-on bag as it is not considered a computer so there is no scramble to get it back into the bag. By going on Amazon and purchasing a small adapter, I was able to transfer the day's photos to my iPad at night. With hotel WiFi, I was posting them on Facebook, Twitter and e-mailing them (sure beats postcards!). On a long bus ride (to Oxford, and then to see Stonehenge), I had my iPad charged and past the hours reading (you can download Rick's travel guides if you want to be prepared). Also, with headphones, my iPad did double duty as a iPod (for a little musical interlude). And there was a nifty currency converter I found as well.
This year I am going on RS' Best of Europe tour and from France, through Germany, Switzerland and Italy, my iPad will be with me again.
New York, NY USA 08/09/2012
Many more European hotel rooms have a door key that you insert in a slot inside the room that turns on the electricity. This is to insure that the lights are off when you leave. But be sure that when you leave you don't have something recharging because it won't be recharged when you return. Sometimes just a business card put in the slot will keep the power on, just be sure to turn all the lights off, too.
Louisville, KY USA 07/26/2012
Annoying Lights in Hotel Rooms
Every new technology in hotel rooms seems to come with glaring pilot lights that can annoyingly light up a room. Carry a remnant of a roll of black electrician's tape; cut little pieces to cover the lights. The tape can be removed easily with no damage when you depart, or leave it for the next person.
Pasadena, CA USA 07/25/2012
Bring two of each adaptor plug you need for your electronics.
Concur with your experience needing to charge more than one device. My wife and I have multiple devices to charge. We found that two converters and two short, multi outlet (3 outlets) extension cords are very helpful in staying charged up and ready for the next day (particularly on cruises - limited outlets). These are available at the airport, travel or electronics stores.
Make sure what you plug into the extension will handle the voltage and hertz of your current (no pun intended) country.
Jacksonville, FL USA 07/08/2012
Bring 2 of each adaptor plug you need for your electronics
I just came back from Rick Steves' Best of Paris in 7 days last month (which was AMAZING, by the way) and a week after that on my own in London. While I brought 1 adaptor plug I needed for each country I visited, I wish I had brought 2 of each.
On some of the evenings, I wanted/needed to charge both the battery for my digital camera, and my cell phone (which I set up for overseas calls) overnight. Unfortunately, I had to make a choice of which device I would charge, and then had to remember to allow time charge the other the following morning. I would not have needed to make the choice by bringing extra adaptors.
If you are planning to bring multiple electronic devices on an international trip, I recommend bringing at least 2 of each adaptor plug you will need. They take up very little space in your luggage; they usually cost much less than buying the additional specialized batteries you probably need; and you won't have to worry about a device dying on you in the middle of the day because you couldn't allow all of them to fully charge overnight, dampening a part of your vacation.
Washington, DC USA 07/06/2012
Best Offline Maps
I did use "Best Offline Maps" on our last trip. It worked pretty well throughout our trip through Italy, Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Sometimes it gets a little quirky and won't locate you or isn't accurate. Just go back and relaunch the city map or just zoom in or out. Overall, it's a great app.
Plano, TX USA 06/19/2012
Guide Books on E reader
On our recent trip to Italy, I took Rick's latest guidebooks on my Nook color. I found that it was not only somewhat heavy but difficult and clumsy to use, especially when trying to follow the maps on the walking tours. In the future I will revert to my old ways and take a hard copy of the guidebook, tearing out the pages and maps as I need them for each day so that I don't have to lug the whole thing around.
Franklin, TN USA 05/13/2012
Cameras, memory and back-ups.
For a 2 week trip to Paris and environs, I brought two Nikon point and shoot cameras that use the same battery and SD cards. Therefore, I was prepared if one camera got lost, stolen or damaged. I also brought 4 batteries and 4 16GB SD cards, plus a few smaller SD cards "just in case. " I found that the batteries did not hold a charge for as long as they do in the U.S., so I typically went through 2-3 batteries during one day of sight-seeing. With the extra camera, plus extra adapter plugs, I was able to recharge 2 batteries each night and a third one during the day.
I almost filled 2 of the 4 large SD cards, lost the other 2 (thankfully) unused cards, so I was glad to have the "just in case" ones. After downloading the photos and movies to my laptop every night, I kept the labeled SD cards in a safe place and carried them in my carry-on luggage heading home.
I also brought two 1TB external back-up hard drives. It was well worth the peace of mind! As a savvy Techy once told me, it's not a question of "if" your hard drive will fail, it's a question of "when!"
Los Angeles, CA USA 05/05/2012
CDMA Smartphone with Google Voice
We recently returned from a trip to London, the Cotswolds and Paris. I just wanted to share my experience using my Sprint Android smart phone in Europe. Verizon is also CDMA so it should work the same. I used a combination of google voice and a program called GrooveIP to make free calls back to the US and to make local (UK) calls over wifi. We used free wifi in our hotel, St. Pancras Station and Starbucks. I had to set everything up before we left. I already have a google voice number. If you don't then anyone with a gmail email account can get a separate number. It's free. The GrooveIP app can be downloaded from the Android market. It costs $4.99 I believe. It is pretty easy to set up. You just enter the login credentials for your Google voice number. Once it's set up you can put your phone in Airplane mode turn on WIFI and proceed to make calls. The app has a regular dialer pad as well as being able to call or text any of your contacts. Of course, you would only be able to receive calls while connected to WIFI, therefor it's best to think of this as a one way phone, outgoing calls only. The rate to call a landline in the UK using Google Voice is $.02 per minute. I made several calls to the UK and France from the US using this system while planning our trip. I was able to successfully call home to the US while in Europe and I also called several landlines in the UK by dialing the full international code. The GrooveIP and google voice combo continued to act as if I was in the States. The advantage I see with this over Skype etc. is the ability to call any landline or mobile phone in the US or Europe. My call quality was surprisingly good also.
Greensboro, NC USA 04/25/2012
Google Calendar on Smartphone
While traveling in Japan, I would research my trip and put all my activities and locations into a Google calendar. I would make an event for my hotel, with all it's contact information and how to get there, for the time I planned to check in. I would make events for my various activities, with the location, website, and various tips about the place/activity. I would make events for my various transports, whether between cities or around a city.
As long as I kept my phone charged, it was a very portable way to get through the day. For my daily activities, I didn't stick to it religiously. But it gave me a good reference throughout the day, extracted with just the information I wanted without needing Internet.
The calendar has a timezone feature, so you can tell it where you'll be and don't have to figure out yourself. This also allowed me to schedule out activities while planning, so I could figure out what I had time for, based on how long I thought an activity would take and how long it would take between the activities.
For my upcoming trip to Spain, I've created a Google calendar specifically for the trip. This way I can share it with my companions coming on the trip with me, so we can all load onto our smartphones.
FL USA 04/15/2012
Just bought LingoPal Voyage for $5 for my iPhone. It looks and sounds like it will be very useful. There are lots of translators, but this one doesn't need an Internet connection and hearing the words spoken is going to be very helpful
Lake Lure, NC USA 04/10/2012
Best Travel Offline Map
David may have given one of the best tips so far. The "Best Travel Offline Map http://bit.ly/AqhyOa" appears to do just as he claims. The app was about $3 but I've loaded every city we expect to visit in May and testing for my city, it did locate me right where my home should be. If it doesn't work in Europe, I'll certainly let everyone know.
Plano, TX USA 03/02/2012
Save time and money with Best Travel Offline Map App
Using paper maps in many parts of Europe presents a lot of challenges. Not all locations have proper signage for road names - especially true in Italy. Foreign names are slightly harder to read - especially true in countries where there are additional symbols. Plus, you need to locate yourself on a map, which is a big hassle.
Using iPhone maps would be ideal, except that it consumes copious amounts of data and you pay through your nose ($20 for 20MB !!).
Tip: Use the Best Travel Offline Map http://bit.ly/AqhyOa
The app for iPhone lets you download unlimited number of maps for free for most European destinations and use it without data connections. It contains points of interest which you can locate on the map as well as locate yourself.
Fremont, CA USA 02/27/2012
There's a great service called Boingo that you can subscribe to on a month-to-month basis for WiFi around the world. I paid $7.99 for a month of Boingo Mobile after discovering that my hotel in London (IBIS London City) was a Boingo hotspot. The hotel was charging 10 GBP per day for internet and you get the same internet through Boingo! We saved a fortune by using Boingo. You can check hotspots on their website by city, address or name.
I believe they offer Boingo Mobile and Boingo Wireless depending upon the device type. The Boingo Wireless might be a bit more expensive, but it's still worth it!
Boise, ID USA 02/14/2012
Telestial Cell phones
@Linda did you get the entire phone from Telestial OR JUST a sim card for your unlocked phone? Wanted to use them on my next trip.
Hope you get this question.
NYC, NY USA 01/16/2012
iPad in Europe - a good choice
A friend asked about an iPad in Europe, and yes, we took ours to Scandanavia this summer. I pre-loaded family pics and pics of home to show new acquaintances. Could have loaded images of our travel docs too but didn't. I copied off photos from my Canon DSLR each night, which allowed us to have a good look at the day's pictures and delete poor images, saving FlashCard space. And instead of paper and pencil, I wrote my journal on the iPad, which was easy to offload when we got home. And when we had waiting time, or at night, Angry Birds had some significant playtime. Worth the extra bit of weight
Lawrence, KS USA 01/04/2012