Posted by Jim Martin 06 August 2014
6 top tips for travelling with your gadgets: why you should avoid public Wi-Fi and how to stay safe
If you're heading abroad this summer, watch out for public Wi-Fi, pick pockets and getting stuck without access to the stuff you want to watch, listen to and read while on holiday.
Here are 5 top tips for making sure your kit stays safe, and you don't end up with a huge phone bill.
1. Turn off data roaming
This is one of the most commonly misunderstood pieces of jargon. Roaming doesn't mean accessing the internet while travelling around the UK. It means using your data connection (either 2G, 3G or 4G) when NOT in the UK.
Unless your tariff specifically includes roaming, you will end up with a big bill - or use up all your credit - as prices are still high per megabyte. So, here's how to turn off 3G on an iPhone
If you must have mobile data, then sort out a dedicated SIM card from a company such as Global Gig, or look at the deals available on Dataroam.co.uk as these work out much cheaper and you can have a gigabyte or more to use up.
2. Don't rely on public Wi-Fi
It's rare to find a tourist hotel that doesn't charge for Wi-Fi. Even if you do, or you pay for Wi-Fi access, assume it's going to be a very slow connection. Unless it's guaranteed (it never is), you'll be sharing the hotel's connection with all the other guests, so you can pretty much forget about using YouTube to entertain the kids, or yourself for that matter.
3. Download what you need before you go
If your plan is to listen to music, watch movies or entertain the kids with Topsy and Tim or Peppa Pig, download that content before you leave. Books and magazines can be bought in iTunes, via the App Store, on an iPhone or iPad, or on the Google Play store on Android. There are other apps, too, such as Zinio and Readly. If you pay for a premium Spotify account, you can download music offline, just as you can with Google Play Music.
Even if you have fast internet access abroad, you won't be able to use UK catch-up services as they're for UK users only. And that means having a UK IP address, which you won't have abroad unless you use a VPN service, and that's even trickier if you're using an iPad or smartphone.
There are lots of free VPN services, but CyberGhost - for example - only allows you to use its iPad app if you're a paying customer: it's not for free users.
The good news is that you don't have to wait until the last minute to download your episodes of TV shows. Programmes on iPlayer can be watched up to 30 days after downloading on Android or iOS.
4. Restrict your activities on public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is easy to hack, and it's really easy for a criminal to set up an access point that makes it look like a genuine network, complete with real-looking log-in screen.
For this reason, only use free or public Wi-Fi for non-sensitive things. That means not checking your bank balance or entering your credit card details to make purchases. Don't fill out any forms that require personal data, and don't log onto sites which require your password - you know, that one password you use for EVERYTHING.
Or, make sure you use a VPN so that the data is encrypted.
5. Keep your gadgets hidden
The best signal, and therefore the best speed, for hotel Wi-Fi is generally in the lobby, lounge or other public areas. But, if you flash your iPad Air around, chances are that someone will notice. If you then drop off your gadgets in your room to head out for dinner, a thief can easily break in and take them. I know this from painful, first-hand experience.
Therefore, if you can't carry your valuables on you at all times, use the safe in your hotel room, or the hotel's deposit box.
6. Protect it from damage
Finally, to keep your tablet or other gadget safe from water, sand, drops and other physical damage, make sure you invest in a decent case.
Here's a load of great kit for protecting smartphones, laptops, tablets and other gear.