Summer vacation technology tips

Summer is upon us and some of you may have overseas summer vacation plans. Although we usually do not have to be concerned about being assessed additional fees for using wireless phone, messaging or data services while traveling within the United States, you can still get a sticker shock in your monthly wireless service bill following your overseas trip. To avoid that, do your homework before hopping on that flight with your digital-world sidekicks such as smartphones and certain types of tablets with capabilities to connect to the wireless data services.

The digital world has a lot to offer when it comes to your communication needs abroad. Preparation and a little compromise can enable you to stay in touch with family back home. Earlier this year we talked about smartphones, tablets and how “apps,” short for applications, are what we use to get things accomplished when using these devices; apps are the hallmarks of what makes a smartphone “smart” – i.e. other than just yapping on the phone.

So while preparing for your trip abroad, install one of the many communication apps such as Vonage Mobile, Viber, Hangouts, LINE and others from your device’s official app store like Apple's "App Store", Google's "Play Store" or Amazon's "appstore." Using a communication app in conjunction with Wi-Fi, aka wireless, Internet services at your hotel and other establishments at your destination should enable you to keep in touch back home.

  • Tip 1: Most, if not all, of the communication apps work off of your contacts app (i.e. address book application) so make sure to fill in the email and phone fields for people you need to connect to.

  • Tip 2: After installing a communication app, invite the people you might want/need to call to install the same app on their smartphones. Usually these apps have facilities built in to make the invitation easy by tapping into your aforementioned contact app.
  • Tip 3: Apple iPhone or iPad users already have built-in communication app called “FaceTime” to communicate with other iPhone and iPad users; FaceTime is also optionally available on Mac computers. If you need to contact a non-Apple device user while traveling, Tip #2 still applies.

  • Tip 4: Turn on what is commonly known as the “airplane mode” before the plane takes off. When you reach your destination turn on only the Wi-Fi capability.

  • Tip 5: Don’t wait until the 11th hour before your trip to test your communication app. You can turn on the “airplane mode” and turn on only the Wi-Fi anytime so you can make adjustments and work out the kinks. 

These tips may not apply to some destinations in the world due to differences in regulations, business climate, infrastructure, government and other conditions outside your control. I recommend Googling about your destination’s technology climate!

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QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DIGITAL WORLD

We’re leaving for a monthlong vacation abroad. We’re planning to do our online bill paying via the hotel’s Wi-Fi. Is hotel Wi-Fi safe?

No, open (aka free) Wi-Fi is not safe for sensitive transactions, it doesn’t matter where in the world you are. Even without traveling to somewhere exotic, I subscribe to a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service. Think of VPN as something that creates a safe passage, like a tunnel, through the internet so your activities are encrypted and shielded from prying eyes. Of course you can always schedule advance payments within the online bill pay system before leaving for your vacation! 

Have a question for Tak about computers, software or other technology? Send it to editor@wbvobserver.com.

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 20+ years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart consulting, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

Read More on The Digital World
Volume 6, Issue 12, Posted 9:12 AM, 06.10.2014