Few things are as exciting or as stressful as planning a holiday.
Once you’ve booked your flights and hotel, and checked that your passport is still valid, it’s time to go shopping for swimwear and start on your packing checklist.
But whether you travel light or you take everything bar the kitchen sink, you’ll almost certainly want to bring your smartphone. After all, it’s essential if you want to share that beautiful sunset with your envious followers, check the reviews for the best eateries or find your way back to the hotel at the end of the night.
However, with horror stories of huge post-holiday phone bills still hitting headlines, it’s no wonder most people are wary of using their smartphones while they’re away.
Luckily, we’ve put together an essential checklist to make your phone as useful and reliable on holiday as it is when at home, without costing you a fortune.
1) Check if you are likely to incur roaming charges
International roaming occurs whenever your phone uses an overseas network.
If you’re travel to another EU country, this shouldn’t cost you any extra. As of June 2017, EU roaming charges have been abolished. So you can use your regular monthly allowance of calls, texts and data without being charged any extra.
If you’re travelling outside the EU, however, it’s essential that you check which destinations are covered by your network.
Thanks to a lot of competition in the market, more and more networks now offer roaming with no additional charges to popular destination around the world.
And if your network doesn’t offer inclusive roaming in the area you’re travelling to, it’ll likely give you the chance to buy a bolt-on so you can use your calls, texts and data without running up a huge bill.
Want to know more before you head off? Check out our in-depth roaming guide to find out everything you need to know about avoiding unexpected charges with you’re away.
2) Download offline maps of the area you are visiting
Maps can be a lifesaver when you need to find your way around unfamiliar places. But it can be a massive drain on both your data and your battery.
Besides, you can never predict how good the signal will be, so it’s all too easy to get caught out. Thankfully, Google Maps has an excellent offline feature that lets you download maps and look at them without using up any data.
To find out how to do this, take a look at our handy guide to Offline Google Maps.
3) Make sure you can charge your phone quickly and easily
Don’t assume that all you need to bring with you is your USB cable. Not everywhere will have a USB outlet, and those that do may not support fast charging.
To avoid being caught out, it’s best is to pack the original adaptor and USB cable coupled with a travel adaptor for the country you’re visiting. It’ll take up very little space and save you a lot of hassle.
If you’re going to spend time on the road or hiking, it’s a good idea to invest in a small power-bank as well. There are plenty of options available but if you’re travelling light, there are lots of compact power-packs to choose from.
I use the Anker Powercore 10000. It’s affordable, light and offers enough power for at least two full charges.
4) Protect your phone and its contents
When you’re travelling, there’s always a risk that your phone might be lost or stolen. So make sure you add some security to lock your device. Most phones have a fingerprint scanner and some of the high-end ones will also come with facial recognition. Alternatively, you can protect your phone with a PIN code or pattern.
Next, check your data is backed up with a cloud service. If you’ve got an iPhone, you’ll be able to store everything on the Apple iCloud. Or if you have an Android device, you can upload everything onto your Google account.
Some individual apps like WhatsApp can also be setup to backup and sync your messages and media.
It’s also good practice to write down essential contacts and your network helpline to lock the phone in case of theft or loss.
And iPhone users can activate Find my iPhone, which can help you locate your device if it’s gone missing.
5) Load up on travel apps
There was a time when a Lonely Planet pocket guide was pretty much the only option for finding your way around unknown climes. Nowadays, the sheer volume of travel apps available makes difficult to pick the actually useful ones.
We’d definitely recommend downloading TripAdvisor, the trusted travel-aid brand which is powered by honest, user-generated reviews. You can get TripAdvisor on Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store.
And, if you’re going to a country where there’s likely to be a language barrier, be sure to get Google Translate. It’s our favourite translating app, supporting 57 languages that can help you a great deal if you want a local experience without talking very loudly and slowly in the hope someone understands what you’re trying to say. You can download Google Translate on the Play Store or Apple’s App Store.
And of course if you plan to so some sightseeing and need some inspiration, CultureTrip is definitely worth a try. Developed in London, this free app offers a curated selection of guides written by local experts around the world. You’ll find CultureTrip on the App Store or on Google Play Store.