Most of us rely on our phones for navigation, communication and even payment, which is why it’s absolutely horrible when something happens to our phones when we travel. Here are 12 practical things that you can do to protect your phone while you travel — from installing a VPN to buying phone insurance:
Get a screen protector and case.
First of all, if you don’t already have a high quality phone case and screen protector, go out and get one immediately. These protect your phone from physical damage whether you are at home or traveling, making them a must-have item. If you are especially hard on your phone, get a rugged one that is super shock absorbent to lower your chances of damage.
Update everything in advance.
The last thing you want to have to do is download a huge phone update over sluggish hotel Wi-Fi. Before you leave, make sure that both your phone’s firmware and your various apps are up-to-date. This will help secure your phone, since many updates include fixes for bugs and other software glitches that could leave your device vulnerable.
Download helpful apps.
Speaking of apps, you should download any that you think you might find helpful before you leave, such as current exchange apps or weather apps for the country that you are visiting. You should also download maps for any driving, biking or hiking routes that you plan to take so that you don’t have to rely on Wi-Fi or cell service in order to navigate.
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Back up your data before you leave.
Before you leave, you should back up your phone to your computer, a hard drive, the cloud or some combination thereof. If you plan to back it up to a physical drive, make sure that you aren’t taking that device with you (so don’t back your phone up to your laptop if you will be bringing your laptop with you). This will allow you to more easily restore your phone in case it gets lost, stolen or damaged.
Lock your phone.
Adding a password to your phone is one of the best ways to protect your personal information in case the worst happens and your phone is stolen. Even better than a numeric password is a biometric password, either your fingerprint and/or your face. If you don’t already have your phone secured with one of these, do it now — and don’t revert once you come back from your trip.
Turn on phone tracking.
Apps such as Find my iPhone can help you find a lost or stolen phone, but only if they’re turned on before it happens. Each cell phone maker has a slightly different way to enable this, so look up instructions for your device. If you have a lot of sensitive information on your phone, then you might also want to look into enabling remote wiping, which allows you to wipe all the info off your phone in the event that it’s stolen.
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Turn off location tracking in apps.
On the flip side, you should turn off automatic location tracking on all your apps, and disable it for social media as well. You don’t want to broadcast to the world where you are in real time or how long you will be gone, which can make you more vulnerable to both in-person and cyber crime (not to mention help people plan out when to break into your house). Keep all that information offline and don’t disclose exactly where you are.
Install a VPN.
Using public Wi-Fi hotspots is the best way to save yourself from expensive international roaming charges. Unfortunately, using unprotected Wi-Fi networks also exposes you to potential cyber criminals. Installing a VPN on your phone will allow you to establish a secure, encrypted connection that will protect you as you browse the internet. Note that VPNs are often blocked by banks and other financial institutions, so if you want to log into those, you should switch to cellular data.
Protect it from the environment.
Temperatures that are either very hot or very cold are not good for your phone. When you are traveling, try to protect your phone from these scenarios — be especially careful of hot cars. If you plan to be near water and/or sand, you should also invest in a waterproof phone pouch to protect your devices from an accidental dip in the hotel pool.
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Don’t leave it lying around.
Cell phone theft through pickpockets and other means is one of the most common crimes that international travelers experience. Don’t leave your phone in the back pocket of your pants, or even the front pocket. Ideally, it should be secured in a zipper pocket on the inside (not the outside) of a bag or jacket to make it harder for aspiring thieves to access.
Get phone insurance.
Even the warranty on a new phone may not cover accidental damage, so you may find it prudent to purchase a legit phone insurance plan before leaving. These insurance plans can save you significant money in the event of a phone-destroying accident and make it easier to get a replacement while traveling.
Know your cell carrier’s international fees.
Each cell carrier charges different fees for international service, and it often depends on what country you are traveling to as well. In many cases, you might need them to add a special international phone plan if you plan to use it abroad. In many cases, it’s actually cheaper to buy a SIM card once you arrive and put it in your phone so you can use a local carrier, but certain smartphones (like iPhones) make unlocking your phone to switch out the SIM card rather difficult. Got more tips for protecting your phone while traveling? Let us know in the comments below!