We just returned from an overseas trip, and I want to share how our family used the iPhone as a travel helper. With certain apps and settings in place, it was easy to navigate, communicate and prepare for our adventure. Here are our top 10 iPhone tips for family travel:
1) Adjust settings to avoid international cell phone charges
I wanted to ensure that having our iPhones didn’t accidentally incur huge overseas data rates. Before we left the house, all family members opened their iPhone Settings app and turned airplane mode on, and cell data off. When we arrived at our destination, we left airplane mode on but enabled Wi-Fi. This allowed us to use hotel Wi-Fi for connectivity without activating the local cellular network.
We had one person with an international data plan for phone use while away from the hotel. Everyone else kept airplane mode on, cell data off, and used hotel Wi-Fi for connectivity.
2) Set the World Clock with home and away destinations
Jet lag can be a challenge, especially with kids. Knowing what time it was back home helped us plan sleep and wake times during the first few days in a new time zone.
3) Use the alarm to wake up during jet lag
Our first local outing was to the Harry Potter Warner Brothers tour near London. Our bus was leaving early and we certainly didn’t want to miss it. We relied on the iPhone’s alarm to wake us up, and it worked great (although we were so excited I think most of us were awake well before the alarm!).
4) Open Google Maps for navigation assistance
While driving a rental car in Wales, we learned that some castles can be hard to find. With my husband’s iPhone (he’s the one with the international data plan) we used Google Maps to analyze our location and find the correct routes. Using Google Maps is effective for double checking locations and routes in real time, especially when road signs are in Welsh.
5) Check weather apps for rain
Winter travel requires the right gear. Checking the iPhone’s Weather app (or Yahoo Weather) helped us determine the hour-by-hour forecast for our location. If rain was in the forecast for the day, then we knew to pack umbrellas and raincoats.
6) Browse Safari for museum or attraction open hours
We were traveling over the winter holidays, including Christmas and New Years. We needed to find out if certain museums and attractions were open during the times we wanted to visit. It was helpful to open Safari and check their websites in advance so we could plan our visits accordingly.
7) Download digital camera apps to transfer pictures
This was my first trip using a Nikon digital camera. I did not need to rely on my iPhone for pictures. Instead, I carried around an actual camera. My Nikon works with an app called SnapBridge that uses bluetooth to communicate between the camera and the iPhone. This app enabled me to pull any pictures I needed from my camera onto my iPhone.
8) Activate AirDrop to share photos between family members
A daughter’s eye view can be quite different from a mom’s eye view. Both of my daughters enjoyed taking photos during the trip, and it was interesting to see the difference in our perspectives. I would line up a shot based on landscape, and they tended to zoom in more closely on subject. Looking through their photos at the end of the day offered a bright and lively point of view on our shared experiences. If I wanted a photo of theirs, we could share files easily via AirDrop.
To access AirDrop on an iPhone, simply swipe up from the bottom of any screen.
9) Check Khan Academy for information on historic sites
I like art museums. But some museums can be boring if you don’t have context. Before our last two big trips, we searched Khan Academy for information about our destinations. I downloaded the Khan Academy app so we could play art history videos from Khan Academy on Apple TV. This was especially helpful for learning about Tate Britain, home of Ophelia and The Lady of Shalott. When we finally arrived to the Tate in person, my daughters were connected to the experience because they learned about those paintings in advance of the visit.
10) Connect with friends over Instagram, email, or WhatsApp to share adventures
We enjoyed sharing special moments with friends and family back home. Thanks to WhatsApp, we were able to wish our cousin a happy birthday. Thanks to Instagram, we were able to pick our favorite photos and post them to friends. Thanks to email, we were able to communicate status and highlights with grandparents and close family. Making positive connections with people we care about added to the enrichment of the trip.
Bonus #11) Add a passcode to feel more secure in case of loss or theft
I was worried that at some point in the trip I’d lose my iPhone. In the event it fell into a villain’s hands, I wanted to keep my data secure. Adding a passcode helped me feel a little bit better about keeping my information safe.
To add a passcode, go to Settings, and then Touch ID and Passcode.
Photo credit [Flickr Creative Commons]