Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cell-phone tips & apps when you're traveling with kids (or without!)

These days, almost all of us have a cell-phone that we use on a daily basis. And of course we don't just use them for phone calls anymore: we text, we use apps, play games, look at maps, watch TV and movies, and a lot more.

When you travel anywhere, with or without your kids, and especially if you travel abroad, it is very important to think about how you will use your phone on your trip. Don't just bring your phone along and think that you can use it like you would at home. First of all, depending on your carrier and the plan and phone you have, it might not work abroad. Secondly, using it in another country might end up being very, very expensive. 

Using your cellphone abroad
Here are some tips and resources for how to use your cell-phone on your trip without paying too much:
  • Talk to your carrier before you leave home - Ask about rates for calls and texts on your trip. Also get an international calling and/or texting package: these usually offer reduced rates for a certain number of calls or text messages, and can really reduce how much you'll be paying. I usually get an international texting package and calling package for our trips, but I try to use the texting more since it's cheaper and easier.
  • Consider not using data roaming at all - This might seem harsh to some, but the rates for data usage when you're in another country can be very high, and add astronomical amounts to your bill. Instead, use WiFi when you can. You can disable data roaming directly on your phone, or by calling your carrier before you leave home.
  • Think about what phone to bring - iPhones and other smartphones are a prime target for thieves in many places around the world. I know several travellers who use an older, "dumber" phone for traveling, just to reduce the risk of theft. Travel writer Rick Steves has some tips on this subject too: he has a phone he bought in Europe and then purchases SIM cards in the European countries he visits to reduce phone costs.
For some great, in-depth tips about how to use your phone without paying a lot when you're traveling, read Tom Parsons article at The Dallas Morning News: How to travel smart with your cellphone. 

Cellphone travel-apps
There are a lot of cellphone travel-apps on the market, and the problem is really finding the ones best suited to your needs. Two that I've read about recently are:
  • Kidzout - To quote the website, this is "a map-based mobile application for families on the go. It helps moms and dads find everything from diaper deck locations, to family-friendly restaurants, to places to play to the nearest urgent care, emergency room or pharmacy."
  • Tales2Go - This app streams audio-books on cellphones and other mobile devices. There's a large library to choose from.
More tips and suggestions can be found here:


  1. Oh wow I love this blog! My wife and I have two daughters, four and six. We both love to travel and were determined not to let having kids slow us down (too much) or stop us from doing the thing we both love to do the most. The last coupe of years, since we’ve both had iPhones (and now I have an iPad) it’s gotten easier, and the main reason is all the apps out there. They love some of the games, like Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds, but the thing that seems to catch their attention most effectively is an app I picked up through my job at Dish. It’s this remote access app that pulls live and recorded TV off the box at home and will let you watch it on your phone or tablet. It’s perfect for long trips in the car or waiting at the gate in the airport, where my kids can watch their favorite shows off NatGeo and Animal Planet, or maybe some old episodes of LoonyToons I have saved on the DVR. For being a free app, it’s priceless.

  2. Thanks so much for the kind words! And yes, there are some amazing apps out there that really seems to grab kids' attention. I figure it's actually easier to fly with kids these days than, say, 15 years ago: individual movie screens on board AND smartphones, tablets and apps help out a lot.

    Thanks for posting your tips!

  3. Awesome! Thanks for sharing my post and thanks for providing me with some great resources to check out :)

    1. Thank you! And thank you for providing resources for me to share! This is such an important area when traveling as well... It can help out a lot if you do it right. :)


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