Monday, June 17, 2024

Travel season is here: 7 tips and tricks from a tech and traveling pro

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I’ve been to 32 different countries, and let me tell you, travel can be stressful. But a little know-how and planning can make your getaway more relaxing than worrisome. 

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Stick to sites you know and trust

I’M A TECH EXPERT AND YOU NEED TO MAKE THESE TECH CHANGES NOW BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE

Crooks are great at creating fake travel apps and sites to rip you off — and AI tools make it even easier to whip them up. Fortunately, there are signs to watch for that can help you avoid them.

  • Check official resources: The Better Business Bureau can be a great aid in determining whether a business is legit. The agency lists real companies; if you can’t find the one you’re working with, it’s best to run away.
  • Online reviews and ratings: Read online reviews and ratings on sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp or Google. Incredibly positive and negative reviews could be bogus. Watch for a balance of reviews and consistent themes.
  • Accreditation and licensing: Many legitimate travel agencies are members of recognized industry organizations like the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) or have IATA (International Air Transport Association) accreditation. Check for credentials on their site.
  • Transparent pricing: Legitimate sites are clear and upfront about all costs. Beware of sites that have hidden fees or don’t clearly explain costs.
  • Secure payment options: Reputable travel sites offer secure, well-known payment options. Be wary of sites that only allow bank transfers or money orders.

Speaking of, I recently took a fantastic trip to Japan. Watch my travel tips on YouTube. You’ll definitely want to put this on your bucket list!

Keep track of your bag

Lost luggage can ruin your trip. Many major airlines (including United, American, Delta and Air New Zealand) allow you to track your luggage in real time through the airline’s official app, so download it before you hit the road.

Travelers with luggage use smartphones while waiting in line for boarding at an airport. (iStock)

Pro tip: Searching the app stores can lead you to copycats. Go to your airline’s official website and look for a link to the app in the header or footer.

I throw an Apple AirTag in checked bags for extra peace of mind.

  • Apple’s AirTags are ideal for an iPhone, Mac or iPad.
  • The Tile Essentials 4-pack comes with various tags for your keys, wallet, luggage or whatever else you want to try. Nice option for Android.

Set your Gmail and Drive to offline mode.

Sometimes, the connection is so bad you can’t even load your inbox. Lucky you, you can still get your replies all queued up if you plan.

In Gmail on your desktop:

  • Hit the settings cog > See all settings.
  • Choose the Offline tab, then check the box next to Enable offline mail.
  • From here, choose how many days of messages you want to sync.
  • Click Save changes.

FIX AUTOCORRECT IF IT’S DRIVING YOU DUCKING CRAZY

Now, do the same for your most-used documents in Google Drive. You need to do this for each document, so be sure to take care of it ahead of time.

First, enable the setting:

  • Open Google Drive.
  • At the top right, click the settings cog > Settings.
  • Turn on Offline.

Depending on your storage, recent files will be automatically saved offline. To manually select files:

  • On the file you want to use, hit File > Make available offline.

Score, in-flight Wi-Fi! Before you start browsing …

Most of us see a network name that looks about right and click it without much thought. That’s what hackers are banking on! Crooks can create fake Wi-Fi networks with almost identical names to the airline’s. If you’re not careful, you could plug into a copycat network instead of the legit one.

If multiple options look similar, ask a member of the airline staff which network is the right one. Hey, they may even give an in-air PSA if you spot a fake.

A Wi-Fi sign on a Delta Air Lines plane

A Wi-Fi and fasten seat belts sign illuminated on a Delta Air Lines plane at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU) in Morrisville, North Carolina, U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Oh, and switch on a VPN

Normally, what you do on the internet is open for anyone with the right know-how to peek in on. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) encrypts your data — acting as a shield from prying eyes. VPNs aren’t quite as reliable in the air, but it’s still worth switching on. 

Not optional if you’re visiting any site that contains financial or other identifying, important information.

Double-check your AirDrop settings

I got a strange picture sent to my phone at the airport once. I looked around and saw the snickering teenagers. Yeah, it was funny — but not every prank is innocent.

Keyloggers keep track of every single thing you type, and criminals love to pass them along using Apple’s AirDrop feature. Don’t accept drops from strangers in flight. 

On your iPhone: 

  • Go to Settings > General > AirDrop.

CHARGING AND TRAVEL: 5 MALWARE MISTAKES MOST PEOPLE MAKE

You can set your phone to reject all AirDrop requests, only allow them from contacts or allow from everyone. (That last one is not the best idea for travel.)

On a Mac:

  • Click Control Center in the menu bar (it’s the icon with two toggles).
  • Click AirDrop. From here, you can turn it on or off and choose who can send items.

Your phone is worth a lot

It’s way more valuable than just the amount someone could sell it for. (Though that’s a pretty enticing amount if you have a newer phone.)  Think about all the accounts connected to it: your bank and other financial apps, email inbox and private text messages containing who knows what.

  • When you’re out in public, shield your PIN. If you really need to open your phone in front of people, use Face ID or your fingerprint.
  • Don’t use an easy PIN, either. No four digits! Make it as long as you can remember.
  • If you don’t want to use Face ID, use a passcode with numbers and letters if your phone allows it.
smartphone apple

A view of someone charging their phone in a public area. (Fox News)

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