Travel As A Local

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When we travel sometimes it’s as if we never left home, what with the buildings being different but the corporate logos being the same. Crave a hamburger and you need only find the golden arches of McDonald’s. Need caffeine and Starbucks can fulfill your wish. Forgot to pack your favorite top and you can buy the same shirt at the Gap. This familiarity makes it easy to avoid the local scene. Yet why spend your hard-earned money traveling to another state or country just to buy what you could at home. By using the Internet and talking to people you meet along the way you can escape globalization and travel as a local.

Local Lodging

Hotel Monaco - Portland, Oregon

Hotel Monaco is a boutique hotel in Portland, Oregon

The easiest route in booking a hotel is to stay with a brand you’re familiar with, such as Hilton or Sheraton. The downside to this approach is that these well-known hotels carry a hefty price tag. Unless you’re willing to stay in out-of-the-way locations such as near the airport. The name brand hotels often lack charm and regardless which part of the world you have traveled to each location is the same.

There are other alternatives and sites such as Hotels.com can help you discover local hotels or boutique hotels, such as Hotel Monaco in Portland. Other websites such as VRBO and Airbnb have listings for vacation rentals such as bed & breakfasts or apartments. By staying at these places you can imitate a local’s way of life. Be sure to cross-reference any lodgings you are thinking of staying at with websites such as TripAdvisor. You can read reviews by past occupants to make sure the lodging is up to your standards and is in a safe location of the city.

Local Meals

Aside from sightseeing the biggest thing for tourists to do is eat the local cuisine.   Still, fears of eating something you’re not familiar with can lead you to slipping back to your default and eating at restaurant franchises you can find at home. This can happen if you’re tired and don’t want to figure out where to eat. If you do this then you’ll be missing out on amazing new food experiences. The best thing to do is to research places to eat before you even leave on your trip. With a list of places to eat throughout the city you will have a restaurant choice no matter where you are in the city during the day. When hunger strikes you can eat at one of the many restaurants you’ve pre-selected.

The easiest way to avoid fast food chains is by using websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, and similar region specific ratings websites. These websites will include both tourist and local reviews. You’ll know which restaurants serve good food, based on reviews from other travelers and people who live in those cities and eat at those restaurants regularly. Don’t be afraid to use a search engine such as Google to find websites and blogs of travelers and use their suggestions on where to dine. Another suggestion is when you check into your hotel ask the staff for recommendations. The hotel workers live in the city and will have recommendations for the best restaurants on any budget.

Food purchased at local market - Nice, France

Food purchased at local market in Nice, France

An alternative is to skip the restaurant and visit a local farmer’s market or grocery store for a meal you can bring back to your hotel. A sampling of local bread, cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, and candies can turn into one of your most memorable meals. If you are traveling with checked luggage bring a bottle opener with you to use on an alcoholic beverage. A local beer or wine from the market will enhance your hotel picnic even more. Cities such as Nice in France are perfect for such meals. You can dine in the comfort of your hotel room on local delicacies such as foie gras, comté, and salami. Pair your food with a slice of fresh baguette and a glass of French wine for a delicious meal.

Local Shopping

Pedestrian zone with stores and restaurants - Bern, Switzerland

Pedestrian zone with stores and restaurants in Bern, Switzerland

Chances are you packed more clothes than you’ll ever need for your trip in your suitcase. It’s human nature to over pack. What’s unfortunate is that the heavy suitcase you’re now lugging over town and over cobblestones has made you crazy. The next time you travel, consider not filling up your entire suitcase. Pack enough clothes to begin your journey and buy the rest of your clothes.

Pedestrian only zones, such as those found in Bern (Switzerland), are great places to find local brands of clothing. Shopping while on vacation is an adventure and it will help freshen up your wardrobe. Plus the clothing you wear will resemble the clothes the local population wears. If you wear local attire it allows you to blend in and trick the locals into thinking you aren’t a tourist. In addition clothes make a great personal souvenir and when your friend asks you where you bought that article of clothing you’ll be happy to tell them where.

When using your credit card if the store, or restaurant, asks if you wish to pay in your home currency versus the local currency always select the local currency. If you choose to pay in your home currency you may find your credit card company will charge you additional service fees. The service fees will be on top of getting the worst currency exchange rate possible for that day. Save yourself money and pay in local currency every chance you get.

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Manage iPhone Data Usage Abroad

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Article Last Updated September 2016 to reflect iPhone software update iOS 10.0.1

Having an iPhone available to you while traveling is useful. When traveling abroad you do not want to worry about data charges that might be imposed on you by your cell phone carrier. Here are the steps needed to use your iPhone in another country and how to control the amount of data you are using. Unless otherwise specified most of these settings will be available to you while your phone is on Airplane Mode. Make use of your flight time by adjusting the settings during your flight so your phone is ready once you land. After landing and switching Airplane Mode off you can adjust the remaining settings.

Please note all the Settings application navigation listed below are correct as of iPhone software update iOS 10.0.1. Images displayed below are from Apple’s iPhone, with the step being described circled in red.

Get an International Data Plan for you iPhone

Prior to your trip contact your existing cell phone data provider and add an international data plan package to your cell phone account. Select the amount of data you feel will best suit your travel needs and find out how much added data may cost if you need more during your trip. If you plan on making calls on your phone also ask your cell phone provider about calling rates.

Enable your iPhone to Work Abroad

Upon arriving in another country you will need to turn data roaming on to allow your iPhone to pick up signals from international carriers. This allows you to access data and receive calls and texts.

Step 1: Open the Settings application and tap Cellular. (Please note: Cellular is unavailable in airplane mode)

Step 2: Tap Cellular Data Options

Step 3: Turn Data Roaming on.

Data Roaming setting for Apple's iPhone

If you plan on making calls on your phone you will need to make sure that the iPhone includes the correct country prefix when dialing.

Step 1: Open the Settings application and tap Phone. (Please note: Phone is unavailable in airplane mode)

Step 2: Turn Dial Assist on.

Dial Assist setting for Apple's iPhone

With dial assist on you can make phone calls to people in your contacts list and you won’t need to add the prefix for your country code.

Decrease iPhone Data Usage: Mail, Notifications, and Locations

Mail

It takes a lot of data for your phone to automatically pull in new e-mails into your inboxes so you will want to turn this feature off.

Step 1: Open the Settings application and tap Mail.

Step 2: Tap Accounts.

Step 3: Tap Fetch New Data and on the next screen switch Push to off.

Step 4: Under the Push tab you just switched off you will want to tap each e-mail account, including the Holiday Calendar, and for each account under Select Schedule select Manual.

Step 5: Return to the Fetch New Data screen and scroll down to the Fetch section and select the Manually option.

Mail Fetch setting for Apple's iPhone

After turning the push feature off to get e-mails you will need to open the Mail application and refresh your inboxes by swiping down within the application.

Notifications

Turn off all of your notifications except essential alerts such as texts and phone calls. Also keep on notifications for calendars and reminders if you use them for travel plan alerts.

Step 1: Open the Settings application and tap Notifications.

Step 2: Select each application listed under Notification Style and switch Allow Notifications to off.

Notifications setting for Apple's iPhone

Locations

You will most likely use location-based services while traveling, such as Maps and any transportation or dining applications. You will however need to turn off applications that use location-based services but are not required for your trip.

Step 1: Open the Settings application and tap Privacy.

Step 2: Tap Location Services and turn off the applications you will not need during your trip.  To turn off the application’s location access click on the desired application and select the Never option under Allow Location Access.

Step 3: At the bottom of the list of applications is System Services. Tap on it and to decrease data usage turn off everything listed except for Find My iPhone. Although they all sound important most are not needed to run your phone but rather what Apple calls “crowd-sourced location data”. For more information read Apple’s support article: About privacy and Location Services in iOS 8 and later.

System Services setting for Apple's iPhone

If your phone automatically sets what the time is then your phone is constantly using data to verify the correct time. To turn this feature off you will need to open the Settings application and tap on General. Select Date & Time and turn Set Automatically off. Under Time Zone select the right location so that your phone displays the correct local time.

Time setting for Apple's iPhone

 

 

Limit iPhone Cellular Data Usage

 

It is possible to turn off the ability to use cellular data for specific applications. This ensures that you do not by accident open an application and use unnecessary cell data for that application.

Step 1: Open the Settings application and tap Cellular. (Please note: Cellular is unavailable in airplane mode)

Step 2: Scroll to Use Cellular Data For and turn off applications you know you won’t use over cellular.

You may also turn off iCloud’s ability to save information over cellular data.

Step 1: Open the Settings application and tap iCloud.

Step 2: Tap iCloud Drive and scroll to the bottom. Switch off Use Cellular Data.

iCloud setting for Apple's iPhone

 

 

Keep Track of your iPhone Data

 

If you go over the allotted amount of data on the international data plan from your carrier you will have to pay for more data or be charged fees. By setting your cell usage counter to zero once you land in another country you can track how much data you are using.

Step 1: Open the Settings application and tap Cellular. (Please note: Cellular is unavailable in airplane mode)

Step 2: Scroll to the bottom and tap Reset Statistics and select Reset Statistics.

Cellular Reset setting for Apple's iPhone

During your trip go back to the Cellular screen and under the Cellular Data Usage section you will find the statistics on how much data you have used since the reset.

Use Wi-Fi When Possible

The easiest way to make sure you are not using cellular data is to use Wi-Fi. When using Wi-Fi log into secure Wi-Fi zones. Many restaurant chains abroad (including Starbucks) allow for customers to use their Wi-Fi. Your hotel may offer Wi-Fi service either in your room or in the lobby. For increased security consider purchasing a VPN (Virtual Private Network) such as from Private Internet Access (PIA). VPN’s encrypt the data you send over Wi-Fi ensuring extra protection no matter which Wi-Fi hotspot you are accessing.

Gather the information you need over Wi-Fi and you can save your allotted cell data for times when Wi-Fi is not accessible. If you aren’t purchasing an international data plan, you can keep your iPhone always set to airplane mode. Even on airplane mode you can turn on Wi-Fi to access the data you need. Open Settings, make sure Airplane Mode is on, and tap Wi-Fi and select the network you wish to join.

When in Doubt More is Better

 To have to change all the settings listed in this article is time-consuming and tedious. The alternative however is winding up with an expensive cell phone bill. It is easy to use up your data allotment so any step you take to mitigate cell data usage is worth it. If you are in doubt about any setting the best thing to do is just turn that feature off. Your iPhone will alert you if a feature you want to access won’t work because of a setting you changed.

The settings listed above are all suggestions. To make absolute sure you do not go over your international data allotment speak with a representative of your cell phone carrier.

 

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Apps to Ease the Stress of Travel

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When traveling you may not realize that your biggest enemy is time. You have a set agenda that has to be accomplished within a set number of days. You work out the details of your trip and without even trying something comes along to disrupt your plans. This is inevitable, but how you handle the issues that arise will set the tone for the rest of your trip. Wallow in self-pity and your trip has become a horror story. Meet whatever comes head on and you’ll continue your vacation as if nothing ever happened.

Smart Traveler

Thankfully with a multitude of travel apps (short for applications) available for our smart phones we are able to access the tools to tackle whatever comes our way. If you are traveling abroad a great app is the United States government’s Smart Traveler app. The app includes information on various countries and those countries current relationship with the United States. You can check to see if the U.S. has issued its citizens any travel warnings for specific countries. Additionally you might want to consider enrolling in the U.S. government’s STEP: Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This program allows you to alert the local US Embassy or Consulate with which days you will be in their country. If an incident occurs while you are traveling it will be easier for you to gain help from the US Embassy or Consulate staff.

Flights

Staying informed extends not only from information on the country you are visiting but to the airline you are flying. For whichever airline you are traveling on be sure to download their specific app. With their app you will be able to get updates on flight times, gate changes, and other useful trip details. The airline’s app may even allow you to change your seat. To help you select your flight’s seat assignment use SeatGuru. With SeatGuru you enter your flight number and the app brings up a seating chart of your plane. The seating chart highlights the best seats and which seats customers have found to be uncomfortable. Additionally you can see which seats have amenities, such as an electric port for charging cables.

Navigation

For getting around once you’ve reached your destination you can always use the maps app provided to you by your smart phone’s operating system or Google Maps. If you’re traveling internationally and worried that cell phone data charges will pile up you can use Genius Maps. Genius Maps allows you to download maps you can use off-line. Be sure to download the maps you need before leaving for your destination. Another useful traveling app is MetrO. By entering in two destinations the app will let you know the quickest way between the two points using public transportation. MetrO will show you how long the journey will take, which transfers there may be, and the number of stations you will pass before your stop.

Translation

Once you’ve gotten yourself to your destination, if you are traveling to a location where you are not familiar with the language Translate by Google can be useful. Select the language you wish to translate and type in the word you need translated. The app will give you the translation and you can have your device read out loud the translated word. This can come in handy when you are trying to speak to someone who doesn’t understand you. Additionally if you are too shy to use the diction feature you can display the words in bold by holding your device horizontally.

Conclusion

These are just a fraction of the many wonderful apps that can help you in your travels. There are many more apps available. Don’t be afraid to try other apps out before your trip. Just search through your phone’s app store and see what other apps might be useful. Read reviews by other travelers on how useful the app is to help you in choosing the best apps. Before you know it you’ll have more than enough useful tools at your disposal and you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation in no time.

 

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