Getting the tech balance right on the road

Koh Samui, Thailand. Picture: Laura Phillips
Photo of Nick Sas

Technology is supposed to make our lives easier but travelling can sometimes complicate the matter. There are some dos and don'ts to remember when balancing tech and travel. 

It all came together in Koh Samui, Thailand. Staying in a remote part of the holiday island for a couple of days, I found myself in my villa deciding to watch a movie.

With an in-house selection dominated by the words Van Damme and Seagal I turned to the iPad. 

Despite a patchy internet connection (though it was just as reliable as my home internet connection in Subiaco) I went into my Netflix account, picked a film and sank into my king-sized bed.

A beach villa, Singha beer on the bedside table, watching Pulp Fiction on a screen — between breaks for a dip in the pool — it doesn’t get much better.

These days, we can do that. And in these instances technology is beautiful. But it can also get real ugly. 

Keeping it simple 

Too much of anything is never a good thing. It’s the same with tech. When you’re packing, choose your devices with simplicity and practicality in mind.

Is it necessary to bring a tablet, laptop, smart phone and camera? Short answer, no.

These days, most things can be done on a smart phone. I don’t even bring a laptop when working any more — I write everything on my phone. And I only bring a tablet, sometimes, when I know I’ll be somewhere where I can sit down and watch a movie. 

Keep everything compact and ask: do I really need this? 

Mobile plans

A few years ago, checking Facebook on your phone while in another country resulted in a ridiculous fee. Thankfully the telco companies have stopped the exorbitant charges and now offer competitive overseas plans. 

Depending on which telco you’re with, most allow you to keep your mobile phone number and use it overseas. 

Vodafone is probably the best value for money with its $5-a- day roaming in Europe, the US, most of Asia and Brazil (it’s also free in New Zealand). 

Telstra’s are not exactly value for money but they are better than what it had in the past. It has three “zones”, with data limits but unlimited calls and texts to standard numbers, which are local or international fixed-line and mobile numbers. 

Optus has an “easy-to-use roaming rate finder” which you can access on its website. 

Many other companies offer alternatives but practicality is an issue.

If you want value, be smart about it. Buy a SIM card in the country you’re travelling in and post the number on Facebook if people need to contact you.

Also, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and Facetime; these guys are your friends. If you have a wi-fi connection, you have a phone line (and you also have free data). 

Must-have apps

Apps have a role to play. Where would we be these days without Google Maps? The problem with apps is practicality.

Personally, I tend to consult with the oracle that is Google for all my questions but, if you want to get all organised, the following are the basics: