8:15 pm. Just climbed a gazillion steps to the perfect restaurant overlooking the city and the waitstaff asks, “Do you have a reservation?” Very hungry 7 and 11 year olds moan and groan. The three adults grab their phones and zoom in on their favorite app—Trip Advisor, Around Me, and Yelp—searching for a nearby restaurant that doesn’t require reservations. One is found and a call made to make sure seating is available. Clamber down all of those stairs using Maps to find the way, past a town square where new military inductees are standing at attention lusting for the bottles of beer lined up with precision on long tables in front of them, and finally success! A lovely table in the open air.
I’m just back from a three week exploration of northern Italy and Switzerland with my nephew’s family. We had a grand time, and I learned some valuable lessons about traveling out of the country with my iPhone:
1. Before going, think long and hard about how you will be using your phone on your trip. You need to make arrangements with your service provider in advance so as not to accrue unwanted charges. Each company has slightly different plans. The service rep at ATT was extremely helpful, however I had not thought through all of the ways I might use my phone. Thinking 1 GB of data would be enough, I signed up for unlimited texting and very limited data. As you can see from the image below, I exceeded my limit by quite a lot.
I didn’t think I was using the data very often, but obviously I was! Keep in mind, I always connected to WiFi in our accommodations. Questions I should have asked included:
- When should I turn my Cellular Data off?
- When should I turn Roaming off?
- Does Airplane mode stop the Data count?
- What apps suck up the most data? I suspect posting to Facebook was my biggest crime against my 1 GB of data. Pictures consume a lot of data.
I’m not upset about the charges; I wouldn’t have changed my phone use. However, in the future I need to remember to add the cost of using my phone to my travel budget! The functions of the phone are just too helpful when traveling to leave it at home.
2. The newer smart phones have really good cameras, and unless you are a photography hobbyist who already owns a camera with multiple lens, your phone camera will capture spectacular shots of your trip. Here are a few of my favorites:
Panorama of Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro in Lucca, Italy
In the clouds in the Swiss Alps
Landscape of Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
Night photo of Manarola
Take interior pictures without a flash
Tintoretto’s Last Supper (one of several he painted)
900 meters up into St. Beatus Caves, Switzerland
Sunset near Florence, Italy
Obviously, you can use your phone’s camera in a variety of settings. That said, I do have to admit I would not have been satisfied with just my iPhone when I was on safari in Zimbabwe. I did have a camera with a fairly good sized zoom and that made all of the difference for capturing fantastic shots of the animals.
3. An app with maps (Maps or Google Maps) is indispensable! We had rented a vehicle and my nephew used his iPhone Maps app to navigate all over northern Italy and into Switzerland. If you are not driving, you might try the Rome2Rio app; it includes public transportation possibilities.
We also used Maps when we were walking: Florence, Siena, Lucca, Parma, Manarola, and so on. When you have children traveling with you or if your time is limited, it’s important to be efficient when getting to your bucket list of sights or to find a restaurant to refuel for the next part of your journey!
Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
A last words of advice—Maps apps are great, but you need to be adventurous and go down some byways not shown. Otherwise you will miss out on many intriguing sights and views of how folks actually live day-to day in the wonderful place of your visit!
Byways not on the map in Manarola!
Happy Travels–don’t forget your phone!