Before flying abroad

I was blessed to be given an opportunity to visit my family in Japan after a four-year hiatus. With my jetlag finally jettisoned, I want to share a "Top 5" list of observations I made while traveling that show the continued convergence of the real and digital worlds.

No. 5: Use the internet to check destination country entry requirements that can be fluid.

I spent two hours submitting my passport and vaccination information to Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs before my trip. Upon approval, a QR code was issued which made entry into Japan one of the swiftest I remember.

No. 4: Install the airline's app for on-demand access to your trip information.

Not only will the airline's app give you on-demand access to your itinerary, many airlines let you track your baggage.

No. 3: Invest in a battery pack to juice your smartphone on the go.

Although there are rules as to the size of rechargeable battery packs you can have in your carry on (not checked-in baggage), having the capability to charge your smartphone while traveling is comforting as your smartphone does have a lot of information you may need at your fingertips.   

No. 2: Know how to turn on the "Airplane" mode on your smartphone.

Airplane mode will turn off cellular and Wi-Fi communications per current FAA regulations. When your plane reaches a certain altitude, though, you should be notified that you can turn on Wi-Fi while remaining in airplane mode so cellular remains off. This enables you to connect your smartphone to the in-flight entertainment system and/or if you have paid extra to connect to the internet through Wi-Fi.

No. 1: Test the messaging apps you want to use to call home.

One way I know to avoid a surprise cellular bill after returning from a trip abroad is to: turn on airplane mode when you reach your destination, turn on Wi-Fi, connect to a Wi-Fi signal (for example at your hotel or the ubiquitous cafe that rhymes with "Satobucks") and use messaging apps over Wi-Fi to communicate with people back home.

That said, it could be worth your while to find out from your cellular provider the different options you may have. For example, your plan may include international roaming of your mobile data plan (mine does) or your provider may offer a reasonable add-on for international roaming of your mobile data or calling that fits your budget (mine doesn't as it wants $2 per minute to call home from abroad).

Remember, the requirement for using any messaging app is that both parties must be using the same messaging app so test them with the people you want/need to communicate with before you fly abroad.

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation. Please visit EmpowerSeniors.Org for more information!

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Volume 15, Issue 2, Posted 10:04 AM, 02.07.2023