Honestly. I’m no good at the Search Engine Optimisation business. I’m writing this during the last few days of August. It’s when most of you guys are returning from holiday but here, here I am writing an article on how to prepare for a holiday. That’s a bit of a fail isn’t it? I should’ve written this sooner, then this article would’ve got lots of clicks and I could’ve bought that Ferrari.
Anyhoo – the reason it’s delayed is because I myself have just returned from holiday. During my time I found that a few apps were pretty essential, and so was my preparation before I headed out. So, here’s some top tips if you’re going on a trip soon!
1 – Need a connection? Get roaming!
Firstly, I checked with my network to see what the charges would be. They told me that, for £5 a day, I could get a roaming package that’ll let me use my phone “as if I was at home”. This effectively meant that I could browse the net, text, call and it would come out of my normal package just as if I was back at home. It sounded good, but if you do that over 14 days it’s going to cost £70, so I went with the Three Feel at Home offering.
Although many people are aware of it, perhaps what isn’t known is the fact that you can get this service very easily even if you’re not a customer right now. What you’ll need is an unlocked phone and a Three Pay As You Go SIM. Unlocking my phone was fairly easy – I went on eBay and basically paid for a code. It was done in minutes. Have a look for your particular handset and then check that the seller in question has a good rating. Often these eBay sellers are cheaper than the websites and back-street markets that unlock your phones. Also, if you’re out of your contract then you can actually call your current network and have them unlock it for free. Some networks also supply totally unlocked phones anyway, so it’s worth checking that before you splash out.
Next you’ll need to get a Three Pay As You Go SIM. I left this a bit late. You can go on their site and get a SIM but I ended up popping to the local “pound shop” (like Dollar Tree in the US) and getting a SIM card there. After a quick chat with a helpful Three rep online I found out that you need to spend at least £10 on a top-up, then you need to convert that £10 to an “Add-on“. These are basically like mini-packages which give you a set amount of data / text / calls for 30 days. If you don’t do this, Three just charge you 3p a minute, 2p a text and 1p a MB of data but – more importantly – you don’t get the “Feel at Home” service. So, get yourself an add-on after topping up.
Once you’re done, this £10 will last 30 days, which effectively means you get up to 30 days of roaming for £10. This compares to £70 for 14 days for my normal provider, so a significant saving – even if you only use it for a week (£35 compared to £10) and you won’t need to faff about buying the daily package thing. Plus, when you get back, you can carry on using the Three SIM if you want. We tested the Three roaming speeds in our earlier article and sure, you’re not going to get super-fast speeds on every protocol. You’re not going to get streaming media and it doesn’t feel exactly like home but it’ll do your maps, your social media and your websites fine.
2 – Google Maps
Navigating around a foreign country is always a challenging task, so I made sure that Google Maps was ready for the task. Now, as you know, anything Google related needs an internet connection, so getting that Three card or having roaming on your phone is helpful and it’ll mean that Google Maps can get additional information about your destination (traffic details, opening times, photos etc). However, you don’t necessarily need this and you can download the maps for the area you’re going to visit ahead of time.
Don’t do this too early though, as Google Offline Maps expire after 30 days. I did this as part of a “holiday checklist” just a few days before. It’s simple enough. Just go into Google Maps, jump into the menu and click “Offline areas”. You can then click the “+” button, zoom out and slide across to the area you’re heading to. Make the square appear over the area you’re visiting plus an appropriate distance around it. Google Maps can’t download everything, but you can get a decently sized area.
Once you’ve done that at home on your WiFi, you’re set. Even in flight mode you’ll be able to navigate around those roads.
3 – Google Translate
Like Google Maps, Google Translate lets you download languages too, so even if you don’t want to have your phone roaming you can understand what’s going on. It’s a similar setup – go into the app, click the menu and head to “Offline translation”. You then just download the language in question.
When you’re out in the location you can then either type or speak into the app and it’ll translate both ways. Ideal if you’re struggling to find the Spanish for “can I pay by card” for a taxi or you’re lost. You can also use the camera – great for menus in swish restaurants where there’s no translation..
4 – Currency Conversion
Everything might either seem really cheap or really expensive when you go abroad. Somehow you’ll be making wild guesses based on some rough arithmetic. Again, whether you’ve got a connection or not, XE Currency (Android or iPhone) can tell you exactly how much things cost. Run it before you go out, do a quick check on the currency you’re after and it’ll store the exchange rates for when you’re out there. Whether you’re online or not, it’ll help you out when you’re looking at something to buy abroad.
4 – Heads Up!
Curve ball. On our recent holiday we had some downtime, which is a good thing. However, you’ll be wanting to fill that time with a book or a magazine. However, if you want a bit more and you also find yourself with some downtime in a queue at an airport or at a theme park – give this a try. It’s a game that we saw some people playing in a queue and we quickly downloaded it.
You may have played the low-tech version with Post-It notes in the past. This time, by holding the phone on your head, the other person or the other people in front of you have to either act out or tell you the celebrity, phrase or place that appears on the screen. You have to guess it. Before you know it, your friends in the car or your mate in the queue is doing a silly accent or singing. There’s lots of themed decks including movies, animals, accents, characters and more in-between (some are in-app purchases).
Heads Up! is by Warner Bros and is available for Android and iPhone. It’s even better after a few beers ;)
If you have any further suggestions that should perhaps go here, do let me know!