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How to get your phone ready for your trip

The big trip you’ve waited for all year is nearly here. You finished the big work project just in time so you can relax and unplug while you’re gone. You’ve dialed in the itinerary so you don’t miss out on anything important. You’ve even cajoled your friend into feeding your cat.

Now it’s time to get your phone ready. A few minutes of prep time can make your trip much better. Here’s what to do.

One screen for your trip

If you’re anything like me, you have a myriad of various apps on your phone, occupying many folders and screens. You probably have them perfectly organized for your daily life in the city. But that means that the airline app is buried, and so is that star gazing app you hope to make good use of.

I like moving all of the apps I expect to use on my trip to one single screen—far away from the others I won’t be needing. Not only does this make it so much easier to access what you want when you need it, but it also helps reduce the temptation to get distracted on something other than your trip. Doing this also makes it easier to delete any trip-specific apps once you get home, since they’re all right there for you to see.

Silence notifications

I find it to be good practice to temporarily turn off notifications for some specific apps while I’m on vacation. I like setting a strong boundary between work time and vacation time, so for me, this means turning off work-related email and social media notifications and letting my autoresponders function as intended. That way, my phone doesn’t highjack my attention or create undo stress when I should be enjoying the moment.

More recently, I’ve also turned off many other notifications as well—simply because I don’t need the distraction. I don’t need to see how many people liked that last photo on instagram, or be alerted that someone has connected with me on linkedin, or that one of my contacts just posted a new article on Medium. Sure, this can take a few minutes to do (and later undo, at least if you find you actually need all of them), but it can really help keep you focused on the task at hand—enjoying your current adventure.

Prep for off-line status

It’s always a good idea to think ahead and plot out what items you might need to access before you unexpectedly lose coverage. Here are some of the items I make sure I have available:

  • Off-line maps, whether that’s Google Maps for navigating the city, or park maps on Maplets, or topos on Avenza Maps.
  • Any cloud-sync’d notes containing your trip itinerary or important travel notes for your trip.
  • Any cloud-sync’d emails containing reservation or confirmation numbers. I like copying these to a google doc that’s shared with my travel companions as our master itinerary. We each make sure to toggle the doc to “available offline” mode so we can access it whenever we might need it. You might also want to print this doc.

Add keyboard shortcuts

Going to post to social media while you’re traveling? Or just can’t remember how to spell that crazy foreign name? One of my favorite tips is using a lesser-known feature: text substitution. Basically, this involves typing a “shortcut” that expands into a larger word or phrase. It’s incredibly handy to use all the time, frankly, but especially when traveling.

You will absolutely love this tip. It’s a game changer. Here are some of the ways I use text substitution:

  • Entering personal data when making reservations. Typing “eml” expands to my email address, “phn” types in my phone number, and so forth.
  • Conjuring up emoticons is as easy as typing a shortcut. For me, “kk” instantly conjures up the “thumbs up” emoji.
  • I often use a specific hashtag for each of my trips. It can be fun, help others follow along, and makes it incredibly easy to recap your vacation later. Since I’m posting this specific hashtag regularly, I just create a text shortcut for it. I usually use “qq” and voila, it magically becomes #ontheroadinthemiddleoffuckingnowhere.
  • I find myself misspelling places or words—I’m looking at you, Hawaii—so I create a shortcut for it to autocorrect the word for me. This is also a way to get around your non-travel-related spelling errors, or when your phone thinks you actually meant “ducking.”

Here’s how to set it up on iOS and on Android.

Download your entertainment

This one’s pretty obvious: if you’re planning on watching some downloaded Netflix on the plane, or listening to an audiobook or podcast during your drive, or jamming to some music once you get to the campsite, or reading that ebook in your tent—well, you better download before you leave wifi.

Make space for your memories

I can’t tell you how many times my friends have missed the perfect photo because they were busy deleting old photos to make space. Just spend a bit of your downtime making sure your phone has the space you need for quick snapshots and your camera memory cards are clear of yet-to-be-downloaded shots and ready to go. There’s nothing worse than fretting over whether you can delete old photos while missing the shots you’d love to take.

Backup just in case

Things happen, and sometimes that thing happens to be you losing your slippery phone forever as it sinks into the murkiest of ponds. Backup your stuff to the cloud or to your computer before you hit the road.

Check on coverage and data plans

Last but not least—and particularly important if you’re leaving the country—is double-checking what your cell phone plan has you covered and where you’ll run into problems.

Anything else?

Am I missing something? Tell me in the comments!

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