In the 2009 film, “Up in the Air,” Ryan Bingham (George Clooney)is a road warrior.
His main purpose in life is to fly ten million miles, and he often schools his newbie co-worker and fellow traveler Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) in the ways of travel.
Curiously, Bingham barely mentions all the ways mobile technology can lighten the suitcase— especially when it comes to international travel.
Thanks to a virtual plethora of applications available on smart phones such as the iPhone, we can all be as travel-savvy as Ryan Bingham.
Check with your cell phone company before you travel
AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM networks, which are commonly used in Europe. Unfortunately roaming isn’t cheap. AT&T’s international roaming plan costs 1.29 per minute.
To avoid paying unnecessary charges on the iPhone, for example, turn off international roaming (Settings – General – Network).
Next, make sure the phone is set to airplane mode (Settings – Airplane Mode). Taking these measures will ensure your phone isn’t inadvertently racking up charges while you wolf down your Crocque Madame in the Marais.
Don’t worry, you can still use your WiFi connection, and there are an increasing number of hotspots in hotels, cafes and restaurants.
Purchase an international data-roaming plan
While WiFi is becoming more widely available and will still be your least expensive mobile browsing option, hotspots are still far from ubiquitous. So if you have an iPhone and rely on it to send/receive e-mail, browse the web or use Internet applications, consider buying an international data plan from your wireless provider.
Plans vary from provider to provider, but AT&T offers 100 Mbps for $119.99 or 200 Mb for $199.99. Consider it an insurance plan. If you can’t find your hotel or WiFi spot where you can consult Google Maps, this plan will enable you to access a local wireless provider’s data network.
Make free calls using the Internet
The Apple App store now offers Skype and Line2 for download to the iPhone and even the iPod Touch. Both applications use WiFi signals to make free phone calls over the Internet.
For a nominal fee of $18 every three months, Skype will also allow you to choose a phone number, so your friends and family in the U.S. can call you using a local telephone number. They pay the price of a local telephone call and you pay nothing. What could be better? Skype to Skype offers free calling, so get your friends to sign up as well.
Download news, currency exchange information and translation apps before you leave
International travel doesn’t require fluency in another language, but you’ll have better luck if you know a few words. Or just download one of the many translation applications.
24/7 Tutor gives information about local restaurants and common phrases. If that’s too much work, download one of TalkPad’s many language applications.
Each version includes a directory of common phrases, so if the language barrier’s insurmountable and you really need to use the restroom, simply hit the button that says “Where is the bathroom,” and your device will say the phrase in the native language.
Most application stores also offer currency translation apps and country-specific guides with detailed sightseeing information.
Familiarize yourself with the many travel applications available not only to improve your travel experience, but also reduce the number of books, guides and maps you pack, significantly lightening the load. No doubt Ryan Bingham would approve.