What to Know About Traveling with Mobile Devices

From Internet access to charging, there's a lot to think about...

traveling with mobile devices

If you have planned a vacation this year, you’re probably going to travel with a phone, tablet or a laptop.  Have you thought about device security? Or data and roaming charges? Here are some tips to save you money, and possible misery, when traveling with mobile devices.

Tips for Traveling with Mobile Devices

Phone Service

Before you set off, be it across the world or across the country, take a moment to consider whether you are going to need a phone plan.

  • Look into travel bundles from your phone carrier.  Many carriers have packages for a flat rate, plus a per-minute charge.  Consider how long you will be gone, and how much you will use your phone to actually call people while you’re away. A travel bundle can be a better deal than roaming charges.  Make sure you also check the list of countries that this covers.
  • Rent a phone or get a foreign SIM card.  Many companies, like OneSimCard and CellularAbroad offer unlocked cell phones to rent while traveling.  If your phone is already unlocked, you can rent an International SIM card.  These companies offer talk, text, and data plans that may be a better deal than the one from your carrier.
  • Install a calling app. If you are certain you are going to have reliable Internet access, you could install an app for making phone calls. Many of these apps are free, and using them to make calls is free, as long as you aren’t using your data plan for Internet access.

Internet Access

Whether you are traveling with family, or heading out solo, you will probably still want to post on social media and check your emails.

  • Set your mobile devices to Wi-Fi only or put them in airplane mode.  In airplane mode, voice and data service is turned off, so you don’t have to worry about charges from unexpected calls.  You can also manually enable Wi-Fi to connect to secure wireless spots with your tablet or phone.  Setting devices to ‘Wi-Fi only’ ensures that you don’t accidently incur data-related roaming charges.
  • Check with your carrier for foreign data options.  Even if you plan to rely on Wi-Fi, it isn’t always possible.  You might end up at a campsite, or in Cairo, without Wi-Fi.  Say it ain’t so, but this still happens.  If you are going to be away for a while, you may want to get a data plan for your mobile device, just in case.  As with phone plans, carriers offer a variety of travel data plans.
  • Use tethering, or a secure, personal hotspot. iPhones and many Android devices can be used for tethering, or as portable Wi-Fi hotspots.  Tethering allows you to share a data connection with another device through Bluetooth or USB cable.  A hotspot means you can share your Internet connection wirelessly with up to 5 other mobile devices.  These still require a data plan, but if you travel with a group or the whole family, it may be a good option.  You can also buy, or even rent a hotspot mobile device.

Related Read: 10 Tech Accessories to Bring On a Cruise


When traveling with mobile devices, you no longer need to carry travel guides, maps and phrase books.  You can put an app for just about anything on your phone.

  • Adjust the app settings.  Check to see if your apps require data, and turn that setting off.  Be sure to check all of your apps.  If you can’t turn the setting off, and you won’t need it while traveling, uninstall the app.  You can always reinstall it when you get home.
  • Pick another app.  If an app you want to use requires data and you can’t turn it off, just download another one.  There are plenty of apps out there, and you don’t have to keep it when you come home.  For example, you can turn off your phone GPS and get an app that doesn’t require data.
  • Test it before you go.  You may want to test out apps before you leave, to make sure that you like them and they are easy to use.  I’m thinking specifically of translation and currency conversion apps.  You don’t want to waste data and time downloading another app on the road.

Google Trips makes it easier than ever to plan a trip and keep all of your travel information, like your boarding pass or reservation confirmations, in one place. And the best part is, you can save all of it and access the app offline.

Physical Security

The greatest concern about traveling with mobile devices that you might damage or lose them.  I hate to be a downer, but it is a possibility.

  • Password-protect your devices.  Make sure you have a strong password on your laptop, phone, and tablet.  You may also want to use a password manager to add another layer of protection to accounts, like online banking.
  • Lock up your laptop or take it with you.  Best to not leave your laptop, or any other expensive devices, unattended in a hostel or a tent.
  • Keep your mobile devices close to your body so they are harder to pick-pocket.
  • Invest in water-proofing, even if you aren’t cruising down the Nile.  A water-proof case or, even though it’s dorky, a re-sealable zipper storage bag could save your phone.
  • Look into travel insurance for mobile devices.  More importantly, be sure to read the fine print of when you won’t be covered.
  • Get the right adapter for your destination.  Europe, South America, and Asia use different plugs and sockets than North America.  If you want to charge your mobile devices while on holiday, do your research.
  • Keep your emergency contact info somewhere other than in your phone.  With the advent of saved contacts, we all suffer from the inability to remember important phone numbers.  Keep this information in your wallet, and on your luggage tags, and anywhere else that makes sense to you.  If your phone is stolen, you’ll still be okay.

Related Read: 10 Tech Accessories to Bring On a Cruise

Happy trails, and safe traveling with your mobile devices. Doomsday prepping aside, enjoy your vacation and take lots and lots of photos. Just make sure they aren’t backing up to the cloud on your data plan!