Travelling with Technology

We have recently been travelling overseas so it was a good chance for us to see how we would use various technologies while on the road. Sorry Apple users, you have lots of different clever things you can do with Iphones, Ipads etc that we haven’t discussed here.

We travelled with

A small laptop / tablet computer (Windows)
A Samsung S5 mini Phone (Android)
A Kindle Fire 7

What we found is:

We had intended to use the laptop for email and most of our browsing. We thought the removable screen tablet would be useful for reading books and browsing.

We ended up using the laptop for email and occasional work things because it had a real keyboard. We used it for a bit of browsing in the evenings but not a lot. We hardly ever removed the screen and used it as a tablet – this didn’t really give us any advantages and it didn’t have a real keyboard.

We used the phone a lot more for browsing than we anticipated. We found that most public spaces or cafés had some sort of free Wifi that we could connect to (we didn’t have a good data plan). So while we were out during the day, it was very convenient to look up anything we wanted on the phone while having a coffee, lunch etc.

We often comment on how we see people glued to their phones in cafes and how antisocial that appears to be. But that must have been how we looked – glued to the phone! It was really useful being able to look up menus, scenic spots, bus fares and timetables and other travel or tour information, or just interesting facts about something that we had just seen.

HOWEVER! It really highlighted to us the importance of having mobile friendly websites. On quite a few occasions we found normal or important sites (like public information sites) that were not mobile friendly. Some were impossible to navigate in order to get any useful information from them. Or the basic information was missing. Others were just too small and difficult to read. In these cases it would be a matter of seconds before we left the site and looked somewhere else.

So, we cannot recommend strongly enough that if your site is not yet mobile friendly, have it fixed or rebuilt so that it is.

Also, if your site is meant to be mobile friendly, check it and ensure that it actually works well. We regularly see sites that are meant to be mobile friendly that are broken or hard to navigate etc. That is as bad as not having a mobile site. Some sites also have different information on the mobile site to the main site.

I guarantee you are probably losing potential customers if your site is not mobile friendly and working well.

Consider things like whether the links are large enough for someone to get their finger on them. Is the navigation menu obvious and does it expand out to what it should? Does it have the information that people will want while travelling? For example, we were often looking for location maps and some sites were sadly lacking in location information. That was really frustrating.

Look at your mobile site with critical eyes and make sure it provids the best experience for travellers so they don’t go somewhere else. Time is short for many people while travelling so their attention span is very limited on a frustrating site. Zooming in and out of a non-mobile friendly site is just plain tedious and unnecessary these days.

We can do a review of your mobile site if you want another set of eyes to look at it.

We didn’t use our phone much for actual calls but did need it a couple of times to make connections with Uber drivers. We found Uber was great service and better than the taxis we used. We didn’t have a data plan the whole time – mostly we didn’t need it.

I did actually use my phone as an e-reader – it was more portable and convenient than using the laptop/tablet screen. Involves quite a lot of swiping to turn pages but certainly quite acceptable to use. It is possible to load the Kindle reader onto an Android phone and buy or read Amazon/Kindle books.

But we also discovered that our local library (and many in NZ) now have an online book lending service that is free. It uses a downloadable app called ePlatform which runs on Windows and Android devices. You download the book you want and have it for 3 weeks before it automatically “returns” to the library (no chance of fines). Have look at your library’s website or call them to find out if they offer this.

We also used the phone so we had music in the rental car. Most late model rentals will have Bluetooth that lets you play the music from your phone through the car audio system, Nice to have on long road trips away from radio stations. And pretty easy to set up usually (reading the instructions can help).

The Kindle we had was a Kindle Fire & that has more functionality than a normal e-reader. It was able to run the Library ePlatform and also allow us to browse websites etc if we had wanted to. We could have done emails on it but had the laptop for that. But the e-reader was definitely a lot more convenient than carrying books on the trip. There wasn’t a lot of time for reading but it was nice to have an e-reader when needed.

Our Recommendations for travelling:

Have an easy way to do your emails and browsing, be that on a laptop, tablet or whatever you prefer.

Have an e-reader of some sort – clever Kindles, phones or tablet as you prefer if you wish to read books.

take a good functional phone with a large enough screen and enough memory for browsing etc. Check cafes, stores and public spaces for free Wifi to use while out and about. Not important of course if you have, and want to use a roaming data plan on your device (these can be expensive overseas).

Remember though, do not use free open and unsecured internet connections for logging into sites that require your passwords – eg online banking etc. Be careful where you do secure transactions and check banking information etc. Change your passwords if you are not happy with security somewhere.

As an aside, if you have a café, restaurant or “public space”, offer free Wifi to your customers. This was often the decider about whether we went to one place or another if we needed to look something up. And always buy something from the place you choose to sit in – they deserve something back for offering you the free Wifi. Fair is fair!