International Travel Tips for the Gadget Geek

I’ve done a fair bit of international travel (50+ countries). I’m also an IT professional. Here are a few tips that I’d like to share for my fellow travel geeks. Many tips are technical in nature, while others are just steps I recommend.

Life Hacks

Clothes to Pack

As a seasoned geek, you’ve been to many tech conferences and have received many t-shirts from vendors. I like to pack unwanted vendor shirts, old socks/underwear, and other items that no longer fit to leave them behind as I travel. I get rid of stuff I no longer want, I lighten my load as a travel, and I have less laundry to do when I get home.

Use your labeler

You label your servers, cables, fiber, and other items in your datacenter; do the same for your stuff. In addition to labeling your bags, I also put my info on all of my wall warts and power adapters that are easily left behind.

Photography for Fun


I love my EyeFi SD card. You likely have a smart phone with a lot of capacity. EyeFi makes a good smart phone app that will wirelessly copy photos from your camera to your phone. Now you have two copies of your photos as you travel.

Camera (please return to)

Make the first picture on your camera and each SD card a picture of your home address. Optionally include a URL with more detailed reward information.

Camera (date and time stamp)

Ensure the date and time on your camera is accurate to your destination. Ask others in your party to do the same if you plan on sharing or combining photos for a slideshow or book. It is much easier to sort all photos by date and time if the meta data is accurate.

Photo Book

Get a copy of everyone’s photos at the end of the trip. Then use a service like Blurb to make a hard-bound book for all or traveled with you. It forces some creativity from the travel geek who spends too much time thinking about 1s and 0s.

Photography for Security and Documentation

Photograph your bags

Before every trip, I take a picture of all of my bags and their baggage claim tickets. If a bag gets lost during travel, I have photos I can show and provide anyone who is trying to find them for me — or something to show the authorities if they were stolen.

Photograph all of your stuff

While you are at it, photograph all of your important stuff: you wallet, your gadgets (capture the serial numbers), your watch/ring, or anything else of value.

Photograph your money and identification (with caution)

I also carry encrypted photographs of all of my credit cards, identification, and even the serial numbers of my cash. Use caution. My smart phone is normally configured to automatically upload photos to Flickr and Google Plus, which is not something you’d want to have happen with this information. Make sure these images are not publicly posted, are in an encrypted 7-Zip file, and are on a BitLocker USB I carry with me.


Credit Cards and Cash

Notify your credit card and debit card companies of your travel dates and locations. I recommend taking two of three major cards (Visa, Master Card, American Express). Try to charge everything. Otherwise, visit an ATM. Avoid cash exchange booths. Lastly, carry some American cash, which is accepted everywhere by anyone (though change will be in their local currency). Ditch your foreign coins, for no one will exchange them to another currency.


Pack only devices that charge by USB

This is hard to do, but if you can pull it off, travel and charging is much easier. My smart phone, tablet, BlueTooth keyboard, camera, and BlueTooth headphones all charge via USB.

USB Battery Packs

I love my miniGorilla battery. While it does not charge by USB, it outputs 5 volt power for all of my other devices for days.

USB Power Adapters

The Elago TRIPSHELL World Travel Adapter and Dual USB Charger is great to have at any location. It is an international power adapter with two USB ports. I then add a Belkin SurgePlus USB Swivel Charger to add two more USB ports and three power slots.


Walkie Talkies

Small walkie talkies for the group are quite helpful when you don’t have cell phone access. These Uniden 16 Mile Range FRS/GMRS Radios work well. Also, I’ve yet to have them confiscated by boarder guards or security.

Smart Phone (roaming)

To avoid high international charges, I suggest disabling all roaming. On iOS > Settings > Cellular > Roaming > Off to disable both data roaming and international CDMA roaming.

Smart Phone (locking)

It’s easier to lose things when you are traveling. Configure your smart phone to automatically lock after 1 minute of inactivity and delete all data on the phone after 10 incorrect passcode entries. It would be a disaster if a bad guy got a hold of your unlocked phone, for they would have full access to your email, banking app, etc.

Smart Phone Apps

Google Maps offline

Before you depart, search for and save many of the locations you anticipate on visiting. Maps for countries, cities, hotels, and several historic sites are handy to have offline. Google Maps let’s you save most of this info offline.

Google Earth offline

This app also enables some offline maps, if you prefer it instead.

Wikiepedia offline

The native Wikipedia app allows articles to be saved offline. Save articles about countries, cities, and famous tourist sites to learn more as you travel.

Google Hangouts with Google Voice

If you get an internet connection and have a Google Voice account, connect it to Google Hangouts and you can make phone calls over wifi. I once tracked down my luggage by making only free calls to the US via WiFi.

Airline Apps

Most airlines have apps. They allow you to check in electronically and use electronic boarding passes. Download the apps and set up your accounts before you depart.