Sharing photos while on the move

Some business trips last just a little too long and you want to send photos home of the awesome places you’ve been or perhaps access photos of something great you missed back at the house. There are many ways to share photos online, through email or your cell phone while on the road.

My husband likes to send me photos by the poolside or at the beach when he travels on business to California. He simply snaps a photo with his camera-enabled BlackBerry and emails it directly to me. I have mixed feelings when I open the email to see an ocean vista – on one hand I’m a little bitter as I sit in snowy Toronto but on the other hand, he wanted me to see the view. There is something amazing about sharing a moment instantly. Camera phones have enabled us to do that no matter where we travel.

Another way to share a series of digital photos from your trip is to create an online photo album. There are hundreds of options on the web:

Flickr: Well known, easy to use and once you have an account set up, you can easily upload new photos and send an email to all your friends and family to come see your latest album. This tool is great for the 2.0 enthused who like to add comments and find related photos.

Shutterbug: This service is geared towards the family looking to share photos on holiday or for the less computer literate. It’s easy to use and prompts you through the process of uploading photos and sending the link to your loved ones.

Wherever they hang out: Seriously, if your kids are always on Facebook then upload the photos to a Facebook account. If your friends use MySpace, then upload the photos to your MySpace page. And if your family prefer to check their email and not go onto social networking sites to share family photos, then upload the photos to your laptop, resize them to a smaller size and email them directly to their inbox. No sense uploading photos somewhere nobody is going to see them.

How to unlock your GSM phone

In order to take advantage of great savings by switching your SIM card when you travel overseas, you will need to have an unlocked GSM phone. This means your phone is GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) compatible and is “unlocked” meaning it doesn’t have any service provider, carrier or operator customization. This enables you to switch the SIM card without any worries of losing service or data. There are a couple of great resources online that take you through the process of unlocking your phone. See the links below.

What is a SIM card?

There is an easy way to save money on exuberant phone charges while traveling overseas – it’s a tiny memory chip that sits in your cell phone that can eat away at your savings or save you’re a bundle – it’s called a SIM card.

You may know that your SIM card is a life saver when you purchase a new phone because you can simply take out the card and put it in your new phone without losing any of your data. However, there are other ways your SIM card can be useful.

When you travel overseas the roaming charges and international phone rates that you pay on your phone bill will ultimately cost more than your flight (especially if you talk as much as me). If you have an unlocked GSM phone, you can take out your SIM card before traveling and replace it with a temporary card that uses the local roaming of the country you are traveling to.

Let’s say you are taking a two week trip to India. Simply contact an International Cell Phone service company like Brightroam and order an India-based SIM card. Replace your SIM card with the one provided before your trip and you will have local rates and local phone service. This means you can call everyone back home as you stand in awe at the Taj Mahal without paying a fortune.

Stay tuned for my next posting on unlocking your GSM phone.

Internet is changing the way we fly

The internet is changing the way that we fly from planning trips to purchasing tickets and even tracking flights in mid air. Chances are you have been searching for deals and buying tickets online for years but there are more ways to take advantage of what the internet has to offer after prior to, the day of and in flight.

Ticketless travel

Many airlines offer ticketless travel where you can book online and print off your reservation right from home. No waiting for tickets in the mail or picking them up at a local travel agent. While some airlines simply ask for your confirmation number, having the print out is always a good plan in case there are any questions or errors at the airport. Plus, if you are traveling internationally having a print out of your return ticket may be required at immigration to prove length of stay.

The fine print

Ticketless travel and online purchases without any actual contact with a travel agent or airline representative means reading the fine print is extremely important. For example, some chartered airlines have stipulations that require you to be at the airport several hours ahead of time or you are denied boarding. Other airlines offer lower rates if you are willing to have no seat assignment and the possibility of being the first person bumped off the flight. Many online ticket purchases are non refundable or can incur substantial charges for changes to your reservation. No matter how easy it has become to book flights, at the end of the day, travel is still unpredictable and you need to be able to protect yourself. Read the fine print.

At home check-in and seat selection

One of my favourite features that many airlines are taking advantage of is the online check-in and seat selection. For example, on Westjet airlines in Canada, you can check-in 24 hours up to 60 minutes before you fly. You can also select your seat at that time. So when you arrive at the airport, if you are traveling light you can head straight to the gate with your print out and skip the queue. This online check-in feature is wonderful for the frequent traveler who isn’t loaded down with bags and special requests. You can also check-in from your mobile device from 24 hours up to 30 minutes before you fly and print your boarding pass at one of the self serve kiosks – this means you can check in while heading to the airport.

Check flights in real time

Last but certainly not least, is another awesome tool for not the traveler but the unsung hero – the relative or friend who is always there to pick you up. Give them a break by referring them one of the many real-time flight trackers so they know exactly where you are mid flight and can arrange a pick up accordingly. Some great ones include Flight Aware and Flight Arrivals.

Accessing internet while traveling

Finding an internet connection while traveling used to be such a hassle. Typically, your hotel was the only place you could find a connection. You needed an existing dial up account which you could use in various locations plus the proper dial code for the city you were in, and then you would crawl around looking for the phone jack and pray that it worked. And that was if you were in North America! If you were traveling overseas forget about it.

Wireless connections have made it possible for internet connectivity pretty much anywhere you travel. Most hotels offer wired or wireless internet services, usually for an additional fee but there are more ways to get internet access outside of your hotel room.

Hotspots: Almost all major cities are now equipped with hotspots – public spaces that are equipped with wireless internet access. Simply bring your laptop with Wi-Fi and log onto the hotspot’s wireless service. Some places may charge a small fee, others will be free. Hotspots are typically in locations like coffee shops; trains stations, libraries, airports etc.

Click here to learn how to connect to a hotspot

Internet Cafes: If you don’t travel with a laptop but still need to check your email or get online, you can visit an internet café. Not just for backpackers anymore, internet cafes have popped up all over the globe and offer a simple way to log on to a computer and pay by the minute or hour.

Find an internet café here.

BlackBerry: And for those who need to check their email at least fifty times a day and don’t want to be in a café, a hotel room or desperately seeking a hotspot there is yet another solution. You and now rent a Blackberry for international travel.

What tech gadgets are in your suitcase?

There are some pretty amazing things that you can pack in your suitcase when you travel. My husband swears by his inflatable neck rest, it might be nothing more than a moon-shaped balloon that he puts under his neck while sleeping on a plane but for someone who does a lot of red eyes €“it’s indispensable. My father swears by his electric shaver, it’€™s fast, it’s simple and you can get a quick shave anywhere you happen to wake up. Each of us have something that makes travel more comfortable and convenient but in the world of gadgets and computer dependencies, there are certain tech tools we simply cannot travel without.

When I think about tech gadgets, I think about types of travel. There are three types that come to mind:

Friends / Family Visits: When I planned a weekend in North Carolina to visit some old high school friends, my gadget packing was focused on entertainment and sharing. I packed my iPod and my iTrip FM transmitter from Griffen so I could play music through the stereo. I uploaded all my favorite photos to a USB memory key so I could share them on the hosts PC. Also remember to pack your digital camera plus the charger!

Adventure: When I traveled to Central America, my entire gadget planning was focused on indestructible, waterproof devices. I looked into tough cell phone cases like the ones made by Pelican to ensure my phone would stay dry. I purchased a mesh suitcase cover by Pacsafe so that my knapsack could be left in the room or tied to a tree and not be stolen. I even spent time considering all of the crazy cooling gadgets to battle the humid weather like cooling hats, wrist fans, sweat proof socks -€“ you name it.

Business: Business travel may not be the most important travel you will do but it does require a lot of gadgets and devices. Items I never leave at home include a good pair of noise canceling headphones, they are good for planes, trains and even loud hotel rooms. Plug adapters that cover the globe are always in my bag along with a USB key that has copies of all of my important travel information, passport, credit card numbers etc so that if disaster occurs I have everything I need in my pocket. For business travelers who are heading overseas, try an International Cell phone like the ones offered by Brightroam so you don€’t pay a fortune in roaming charges.

The important thing to remember is whatever is important to you at home will still be important to you on the road. Be it a good shave, relaxing music, classic movies or instant access to family photos – if it’s a priority at home, it will be on the road.