Before going on a trip, don’t forget this tech checklist
I recently got back from a nice (and much too short) vacation in Puerto Rico, and the only gadgets I brought with me were my HTC EVO 4G LTE phone and my ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity tablet. I thought I would see how well I would do without access to my laptop or any other desktop computing environment, getting by only with Android.
Everything went surprisingly well, but that was because I made sure to prepare for the trip beforehand. Similarly to Paul’s custom ROM checklist, I made a checklist of my own to make sure that I’d have everything I needed at my fingertips – the difference is that my checklist applies to anyone, not just rooted users.
- Don’t rely on free WiFi at the airport or in your hotel – surprisingly enough, this is becoming rarer and rarer. If you want to have access to the internet on your tablet or laptop, and your phone is rooted, make sure you have a tethering app installed, like WiFi Tether, and test it out before leaving. If you’re not rooted, make sure to add a tethering plan to your phone before you leave; you can always cancel it as soon as you get back, and some carriers will only charge you a pro-rated amount based on how long it was active on your account, instead of billing you for the entire month.
- If you are trying to become as paperless as possible (like me), make sure your itinerary, including hotel reservations and flights, is accessible offline. Don’t rely on your phone always having a fast internet connection. For me, that meant making sure my entire Gmail inbox was synced to my phone before leaving. For others, it might mean making PDF copies and syncing via a cloud service Dropbox or SugarSync.
- If traveling outside the US, make sure that Google Navigation works where you’re going. For some asinine reason, Google hasn’t yet enabled turn-by-turn navigation in Puerto Rico, so I quickly became acquainted with free alternatives like TeleNav and Waze.
- Make sure you’re prepared for long flights without internet access. Even if you tethered your tablet to your phone while waiting to board at the airport, not all airplanes have in-flight WiFi, and those that do charge an arm and a leg for a network connection that’s too slow to stream Netflix. Therefore:
- Before leaving home, take advantage of Google Play Magazines free trial subscriptions – subscribe to as many magazines as you want for free for a limited time, and simply cancel within the trial period to avoid being charged if you don’t want to continue the subscription (usually 14 or 30 days after you first subscribed). Then, make sure to download all the issues you subscribed to so you can read them later with no network access.
- Make sure any ebooks you may want to read are also available offline. Personally, I sync my .epub files to my tablet via SugarSync, but if you use a service like Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook, you’ll have to download the titles you want to take with you beforehand.
- If you use cloud services for music, make sure you’ve downloaded what you’ll want to take with you: in Google Play Music, simply hit the menu button, and select Choose on-device music. In Spotify, you can easily create playlists and make them available offline. TuneIn Radio Pro lets you prerecord live radio. You get the idea.
- If you use an app like Pocket Casts to keep up with your podcast subscriptions, make sure you’ve downloaded all the latest podcast episodes.
- Since you can’t really rely on having a fast, dependable connection when you travel, it’s a good idea to purchase and download a few movies or TV shows to take with you from a service like Google Play Movies & TV.
- Finally, ensure you’ve got a healthy selection of games downloaded – and make sure you’ve downloaded any necessary additional files before you leave. There’s nothing worse than opening up a newly-downloaded game 30,000 feet above the ground and realizing that you need to download an additional 500MB of data before you can play.
- Check your carrier’s coverage where ever you’re going. If it’s an international destination, make sure you’ve disabled voice and data roaming in your phone’s settings, unless you’re prepared to deal with some nasty surprises on your bill when you get back. (Apps like GrooVe IP Lite and Google Voice can still keep you in touch with the outside world via WiFi, and you can’t beat free.) Keeping your phone in airplane mode in an area without good coverage will also help preserve your battery life during those long days outside of your hotel room and away from a charger – and it will also prevent you from hopping on Facebook all the time and missing what’s actually going on around you.
- Speaking of battery life, carry a replacement battery around with you. Or if your phone doesn’t have a removable battery, then buy a cheap external battery pack for a little bit of extra juice on the go. Believe me, it will come in handy.
- Paul has mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: precache a Google Map of your destination, so you can always figure out where you are, even without an internet connection.
- Install and test a security app of your choosing, like SeekDroid or Lookout. Moreso than anti-virus, what you want here is the ability to find and remotely lock and wipe your phone in case it gets stolen. Of course, functionality will be limited if you keep your phone in airplane mode like I mentioned above, but if the thief connects to WiFi or a mobile network, you’ll be able to alert police as to the location of your device while simultaneously protecting your personal information from prying eyes.
Lots of people like to make lists to ensure that they don’t forget their toothbrush, but making sure you’ve prepared your Android gadgets for a long trip away from home can also save you some massive headaches and help you enjoy your travels even more.
What would you add to the list above?