My Pre-Trip IT Checklist

I have systematized my IT routine on recent Africa and Pacific trips where connectivity was to be unpredictable and often slow. The nature of my solo travels is that I must be heavily self-dependent, so this may seem over the top to you, certainly is for US trips, yet is crucial for me.

As example from this afternoon, it would seem simple to get a taxi from Nigeria’s Lagos Airport to the Protea Hotel Select Ikeja nearby, yet after the driver insisting on taking me to two wrong Proteas, and the hotel phone not connecting, he relented to follow my maps.me offline navigation, I had pre-bookmarked the location, which whisked us right there. I thought maybe it was a scam, though he never asked for more than our pre-agreed price and appeared generally lost.

IT Checklist

Getting Started with Travel IT:

  • 2-step verification: I have 2-step verification set up for all my key accounts that support it, for those new to this topic, see Google’s tutorial
  • Backup: I have a cloud backup of my laptop in case of loss (I use Backblaze, here’s my referral link that gives me one month if you keep it after free 1-month trial)
  • VPN: I have a VPN to ensure secure connections on public wifi, and to have US connections to log in to accounts such as banks that might block logins from foreign locations (I use ExpressVPN, here’s my referral link that gives me one month if keep it after free 1-month trial)
  • Boingo wifi hotspots: I have free Boingo with my Amex Platinum card (check eligibility and sign-up here); especially useful in Europe with many hotspots, even hotels that otherwise charge for internet

General:

  • Power: pack the right power adapters for the trip and charge all devices
  • Documents: scan and print hardcopies of all key trip documents (still crucial at, for instance, airport security, and a good safety precaution compared to showing a phone to someone)
  • Prepare a backup USB drive with key documents in case of theft of computer, or need to print, including passport, driver’s license, international vaccination certificate, and any insurance
  • Copy key pages of guidebooks, such as maps, for easy reference and to not stick out in public

Laptop:

  • Mail: sync all (I use Gmail Offline in Google Chrome)
  • Podcasts: sync all (I use an old version of iTunes that I refuse to update to the progressively worse new versions, anything better out there?)

Phone:

  1. T-Mobile: check which countries I will have free data/text
  2. Mail: sync all
  3. Podcasts: sync all (I use an old version of iTunes that I refuse to update to the progressively worse new versions, anything better out there?)
  4. App store: update all apps, then turn off auto-update apps, which clogs slow connections
  5. Airline and hotel apps: refresh all with current itineraries, download new airline apps as needed such as those for free streaming in-flight entertainment
  6. maps.me: download offline maps for all destinations and verify key places are listed, if not, bookmark (this is even useful in US states such as Vermont with weak phone coverage in many areas)
  7. XE Currency app: add and refresh currencies
  8. Google Translate app: add any needed languages, I always keep French and Spanish, then add/delete others for specific trips

Tablet:

  1. Mail: sync all
  2. App store: update all apps, then turn off auto-update apps
  3. Pocket app: sync all articles saved for offline reading
  4. Kindle and Overdrive: sync books, if guidebooks will expire mid-trip, return and re-checkout so not to have to download again
  5. Amazon Video: download Prime videos for offline viewing until memory is full

Kindle e-reader:

  1. Sync all books

Camera:

  1. Charge batteries
  2. Double-check charger is packed – most do not charge via USB!

Ok, yes, I carry too many devices. When I have this much time on planes and waiting in places I like to have a device that does each thing better than one multi-purpose device.

Readers, what do you do? What should be added to the my routine?

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  • Nancy O.

    Hi Stefan – I also copy/upload docs to my Dropbox or Box account in case everything (hard copies and/or all tech gea) gets stolen/ruined/lost/whatever. Passport copy, etkts copy, hotel/car res info, etc. Any cloud-based password-protected service would work. I also carry an extra camera battery for a quick swap out if needed. And btw, Express VPN continues to be a great service!

  • caveman

    Nice. Looks like you are going to a battlefield. I am impressed.

  • caveman

    Why cant you combine kindle e-reader to your tablet, just to save space?

  • J Rudenko

    Thanks for sharing, good list. I added to bring extra memory chips for the camera.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @caveman – in some sense, I have found that every step I leave out because much more time-consuming to do once on the road.

    For the Kindle and tablet I had the Kindle first and still prefer the e-ink and size for long reading, plus flight attendants less likely to chase me to turn off during takeoff/landing, though it did happen today on usually indifferent Ethiopian. There seems to be mental value to assigning one device to productivity (laptop) and one to pure pleasure (Kindle) while my tablet is encroaching on productivity.

  • Olesya

    Only thing I add to my list that’s not listed above: portable phone charger. It saved my economy sitting rear a few times 😉 (also useful on trains).

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Oleysa – mine just save me on the way over, I should expand this post to gear as well.

  • john

    hmmm, thorough prep. I also do thorough prep, but in the exact opposite spirit. I am completely anti-tech when I travel. I dont want to deal with it, fight with it, or carry it and I work hard to take nothing with me. OK, the one thing I take is a $10 phone for local sim cards. No laptop/no tablet/ no junk.
    I print everything mildly important and also have a copy up on my email. I make hand notes as to currency rates and print google maps of important things like where the F*@^*$ is the hotel.
    This has always worked for me over the last 20 years although I do not do such quick turns like you.
    Over the last few years internet has become more of a challenge in rich countries (no internet cafes), but luckily internet computers are more prevalent at lodging.
    For all the fear of using public computers, 20 years of it and I never had a problem.

    I do like your tip of taking a USB stick with everything on it too. seems prudent.

  • John

    I copy important travel related pdfs from my desktop to my icloud account, then I download/copy those pdfs to ibooks on my phone/tablet. It’s not the most efficient, but I don’t have the luxury of free data roaming when traveling and I am probably out of wifi range as well.

    @RTC, what does “sync all” mail mean, that you’ve downloaded all email before leaving home?

  • John

    I like your approach. I do not feel it is a lot of devices. My big thing is weight. I on a trip now for 3 weeks Israel, Tuninsa, Malta, and Rome. My bad weight in at a tad under 17lbs.
    I use IPad mini, IPhone, Kindle Voyager, Camera ( 2 extra batteries) and Bose over ear (newest one) noise reduction headphone. All charges including separate for iPhone and IPad. I have had wires and/chargers die on me as was glad to have the extra one. The kindle is a superior reader to Apple kindle apps. I use drop box (and offline docs) to store all my important documents. I use AT&T and pay for extra data and unlimited text. Use Skype to phone. I buy Lonely Planet chapters for my trips.
    I do love my VPN FOR Netflix, Amaxon Prime, and shows I am following.
    @John, I respect your style of bringing nothing! What do you do about reading books? I do not sleep much and read a lot plus I have been visiting Crusader and Roman sites and like to read books in nonfiction and historical fiction of the places I visit. Without my kindle books use to weight a ton.

  • degania

    I used to use maps.me, but now that Google Maps runs offline, I stick with that. As for key documents, including emergency health information, I now carry that in a credit card USB that stays in my wallet.

  • DDDB

    For podcasts, I recommend Downcast. It’s pricey but is the most robust podcast app I’ve found.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @degania – are you having a decent experience with Google Maps offline? What countries? My attempts have utterly failed, for instance in Morocco could not once get navigation side by side when maps.me worked perfectly.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @DDDB – thank you, had not heard of that one.

  • This is a great list of apps. I have reviewed most of the ones you talked about above and totally agree with your list. I have a few more apps that I like as well for travel: zinio libraries app, tripit, accuweather, and several others. Take a look and see if you’d like to add some of these to your list. I think travel with all of these apps, enhances your travel. It’s great to see people posting about travel apps. Your app selections are great!

  • John

    Here are some other apps: off the top of my head: citymaps2go, AllSubway, PackingPro, Tip, ICOON, Units Plus, and here is a fun one:Sit or squat for finding bathrooms.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @John – in that sense I have book looking for cologne or deodorant, and for airlines: paper towel or tissue. Do you really use all those apps? I find myself cluttered with apps I forget about or never use.

  • john

    @John, yea I always miss books. However it just forces me to get out more, interact and immerse in the country. So I feel its worth it since I get more out of my trips even if sometimes I really miss books (I also almost never watch TV when overseas; I can do that from my couch at home).

  • John

    @RTC the travel apps Like packing pro is always used for putting together list and printing it out and checking off as I pack. The all subway comes in handy, the tip app helps me look up how much to tip . Units plus is great because it is not just currency but other me metrics as well. ICOON is app I can point to items without language skills. However, with google translate I don’t use it as much.
    I too have lots of apps I never use and ever so often go on a purge.

  • John

    @john I was wondering what you bag weight without devices and chargers?
    As for reading and watching movies/shows, I am up at 3 am can’t sleep would be lost without kindle, or movies to see. It helps also for those long layovers at airports for me to have something to read. Especially, Books on places I am visiting. The Kindle is one of the great inventions.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @John around 10 kg without snacks, I carry my laptop and charges in a separate packing cube type thing.

  • John

    @John, my bag is usually 6-7KG. Its a simple north face back pack (an old big shot). I love the light feeling and being extremely mobile at a moments notice. I carry it on all buses, trains, taxis, and planes with me with no space issues; it never leaves my sight.

  • John

    @John good job, as that is light anywhere between 13.2 to 15.4 lbs. I believe in strapping it on and carrying it on, no wheeled luggage for me. I am 60 years old and will keep traveling that way for as long as I have the strength. I am in total agreement with the mobility issue.
    I use a Eagle Creek DigiHauler under 2 lbs bag.
    I have my eye on a cabinzero bag, 1 lb 7 oz. (.67oz)
    http://www.cabinzero.com/collections/cabin-bags

  • John

    because the Kindle reader does not have a glare problem like tablet and phone.