If you’re going to Europe for an adventure, and if you’re someone who likes to travel more than you like to holiday, then you need to ensure that you pack the right gadgets and the right supplies with you to make the most of the trip and to make sure that you don’t find yourself in trouble. Travelling without creature comforts, staying in hostels and making it all up as you go along is a lot of fun – and particularly in Europe – but it’s also inherently risky and there’s a lot that can potentially go wrong.
By keeping us connected, and by giving us more resources, our technology can enhance our capabilities and help us to stay safer. Here we will look at some of the ways that your technology can be useful when you travel to Europe, and at some of the very best gadgets to take with you.
When visiting Europe, a Kindle is an absolutely fantastic device that can make life easier in a whole range of ways. First of all, Kindles are great devices if you do just want a beach holiday. This is because they are so light, yet still manage to give you access to a library of thousands of books. At the same time, they also have a great ‘e-ink screen’ that means you won’t struggle with glare even when you look at your device in direct sunlight.
Most impressive of all though, is the fact that Kindles provide you with 100% free 3G anywhere in the world. If you’re struggling to find a WiFi hotspot then, you can use your Kindle in order to get very basic internet access (it’s slow and black and white – but it’s better than nothing), and you can then use this to check e-mails, to look up directions or to perform other basic tasks that might just get you out of a pickle.
Tip: If you can’t find the browser right away, look under ‘experimental’. On some versions the concept is still in Beta.
Of course taking a smartphone is useful pretty much wherever you go, and Europe is no different. While you won’t be able to access 3G without getting a serious charge (it’s crucial you remember to turn off your ‘data roaming’ unless you want to rack up a massive bill), you should find that most hotels offer Wifi, as do most cafes that you’ll be able to find walking around town. This then means that you can access a wealth of functions on your device that are very helpful for travellers.
For instance you can use Google translate in order to look up what things mean (though take the answers with a pinch of salt – they aren’t always 100% accurate). Likewise, you can use currency conversion apps (or again the Google one) in order to check prices and get more of a ‘feel’ for the value of money in the country you’re visiting. Better yet is using Google maps to find your way around – if you get lost you can just stop off at a café to quickly see which way you’re meant to be heading (try taking a screenshot so you can work from the map offline too).
Of course it’s also very important to have a phone on you in general, so that you can make emergency calls if you get into trouble, and so that your friends and family back home are still able to reach you as well.
If you have a smartphone then you won’t necessarily need a laptop – particularly if you’re travelling and trying to keep your bag light. However, if you’re on a business trip, or if you just want to be able to watch films in your hotel room/check the web properly, then you may want to consider taking one.
The best laptops for this sort of travelling used to be netbooks which are light, cheap and have a good battery life. Now though another new class of device has emerged to offer an even better alternative: the tablet computer.
The best example of this is the Acer Iconia W3. This is an 8’’ tablet that runs full Windows 8 and offers around 10 hours of battery life. It barely weighs anything, but comes with a full-sized keyboard accessory for anyone who wants to work on the go.
Alternatively you could just take an Android tablet. With a Nexus 7, you’ll have a device that’s light enough to easily slip into a bag, and the Android operating system should be versatile enough to meet most requirements. If you need to input more text more quickly, then you could always consider investing in a small kickstand and Bluetooth keyboard to turn it into almost a full PC.
And the best thing about either of these devices is that they’re perfect for reading the news or a copied of Wired while sitting in your hotel room with a mug of coffee.
Finally, if you’re driving, then a GPS Sat Nav is an absolute must. This can help you to avoid getting lost on unfamiliar roads and could even be a lifesaver in an emergency. While many car rental companies will offer a sat nav thrown in when renting in Europe, you shouldn’t take this for granted and it’s worth checking that before opting to leave your Sat Nav out of your luggage.
Special Mention Goes To…
Of course it’s not technology in the way that most of us think of it, but if you want to take a tool that will be incredibly useful with you to Europe you really can’t beat the notepad and pen. In many ways it can do everything a smartphone or tablet can do – you can draw pictures to pass the time/capture the experience or play hangman with friends, you can jot down notes and reminders, you can draw out routes and maps and you can even use it as a handy communication tool. If you’re struggling to order a beer in the pub, then a quick sketch can help you to get by and amuse the locals. And it doesn’t even matter if it gets lost…
Sometimes the old ones are the best!