When we took our three month trip to Europe in 2007, the iPhone revolution was just brewing (I got my first one in January 2008, after we returned). For that trip, we had one cell phone between us, for emergencies, and a calling and data plan that was prohibitive of actual use.
Fast forward to 2015, and it’s transformed our travel. There’s the obvious: we can google where we’re going, and we’ve booked every place we’ve stayed through AirBnB.
This has been huge, because it meant we could stay in real people’s apartments, with kitchens, instead of inns and hotels, and that meant we could prepare our own food. That’s meant eating healthier and saving money (never mind simply making gluten-free travel possible in the first place).
We also switched our carrier to T-Mobile, which offers unlimited international data and text messaging, as well as affordable call time ($.20 / minute). That means we can split up and text each other throughout the day to stay in touch and coordinate, and not worry about making a quick call to iron out plans.
Beyond the obvious, though, here are three pieces of tech that we’ve found incredibly useful while traveling:
A privacy nuts nightmare, this iPhone app tells you where your friends are. Exactly where they are. Right now. On a map.
This comes in super handy when you split up for the day and need to figure out whether you should meet up “out” or head back. It also came in handy a few times when we were trying to find each other, but couldn’t describe to the other person where we were (“uhh…I’m by some old buildings…on a cobblestone street). I just pulled out my phone, and started directing Michelle: “keep walking, you should be coming up to a left hand turn, take it. Do you see a statue? I’m standing on the other side of it.”
Many Internet services we enjoy, such as Netflix and Pandora, won’t work in other countries due to differing copyright laws. Enter the bear!
Install TunnelBear on your laptop, iPhone or iPad and it will “tunnel” your Internet traffic through a server in another country, such as the United States, making it appear to the host as if you were accessing it from there rather than here. At $4.99 / month for unlimited use on up to three devices, it’s money well-spent.
Just ask Zevin, who will shout with delight: “The bear’s digging! The bear’s digging!”
Yes, we made a big deal about packing light: two pair shorts, two pair pants, four shirts to last three months. But electronic-wise, maybe not so much: two laptops, an iPad, two iPhones, a Kindle and a point-and-shoot camera. The battery beasts must be fed!
Paired with a 240 v to 220 v converter, and you can charge ’em all, and it’s super lightweight. The male plug even wraps around neatly and plugs into one of its own females. (Someone funnier than me can fill in the rest of this paragraph.)
Note: there’s also a 4 outlet version of this same powerstrip, but it doesn’t include a USB charger. I preferred this version.