Are you going to be traveling abroad with your iPhone this year? Besides your spouse or bestie, your iPhone is your best travel companion, but it needs a little prep before heading overseas or across country borders. Here are some iPhone international travel tips we will answer: What do I need to do to my iPhone before traveling? Do I need to unlock my iPhone to travel? What iPhone traveling accessories do I need? Are the power outlets different in the country I am going to? We have got you covered with all these answers, plus some you may not have considered yet. All of this advice is also applicable to iPad international travel also.
What Kind of iPhone Plug Adapter Do I Need?
After you have bought your plane tickets, look here to find out what outlets the country you are going to uses, as well as the voltage. Chances are, it is not like what we use at home. So you will need a plug adapter that will let you use the local plugs. These are easily found on Amazon or at your local Target. The safest bet is getting an all-in-one plug adapter so you only have to buy one for all your future travels.
Plug adapters are not surge protectors and they are not voltage converters, so be sure not to confuse those two things. Fortunately, Apple’s power adapters for iPhone, and iPad are finely tuned beasts in tiny boxes. Do NOT use a cheap knock off iPhone charger block or you will lose the precision power regulation that comes with the real thing. Apple’s iPhone power adapter takes AC input that is between 100 Volt (The U.S. is typically 110 Volt) and 240 (Europe is typically 220 Volt) and lets out a nice regular stream of 5 or 10-volt power for the iPhone. So as long as you have a plug adapter, Apple has you covered for the voltage. It also shuts down with a power surge, so you are good to go on that as well, just do not use a fake or third party product. If you want to pack light and only pack one charger and cord for an iPad and an iPhone, remember to pack the iPad power adapter. The iPhone adapter will not provide enough voltage to charge up the iPad, but the iPad charger puts out enough voltage to power up the iPhone.
Basically: Use only the real Apple Power Adapter that came with your iPhone or iPad, and if you are bringing both devices, remember to pack the iPad charger because the iPhone charger alone is not strong enough to charge your iPad.
Avoiding Roaming Fees and How to Unlock Your iPhone
Depending on your cell phone service provider, international roaming rates can really jack up your bill. So you will want to research what it will cost you to use your phone in the country you are going. That is pretty easily accessible by calling your cellular company’s customer service or checking their site. Some plans, like T-Mobile, let you travel Mexico and Canada as if you were in the US with no extra charges. Some may also have add-on plans for the country you are visiting. Others will heavily penalize any data usage abroad, so much so that you may want to restrict data and cellular use entirely, and just hit up Wi-Fi when you can.
“How do I turn off my iPhone’s cellular capabilities?” you may be asking. Go to settings, then to Cellular, and finally turn off Cellular Data, LTE, and Data Roaming. Put it into Airplane mode and only turn on your Wi-Fi alone when you need it. This will make roaming charges impossible. This is a good option if you are going to a place with constant Wi-Fi. However, if you are going to be traveling in a place with spotty Wi-Fi, or you need constant access to a phone line, apart from Skype and Google Voice, then you should look into getting a local SIM card and plan.
Getting a SIM card when abroad first requires you to call your cell phone company and ask them to unlock your iPhone. Know your rights, as laws have been passed to ensure fair play with unlocking. Once your iPhone is unlocked, you can get a local SIM in the country you are visiting with a local number and all the cheap rates that come with that. This gives you all the abilities you would have at home, including cellular data and phone calls for local prices, but with a different local number. Don't forget that you will also probably need to clip the sim card down to the right size for your iPhone, so be sure to know what size SIM card your iPhone takes. Here's a quick reference guide:
• Regular SIM Card: iPhone 3, iPhone 3gs
• Micro SIM Card: iPhone 4, iPhone 4s
• Nano SIM Card: iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 6s Plus
Obtaining a local SIM for your iPhone is an easy process for the most part. Companies are eager to sell to tourists and they make it convenient to get at most corner stores. Just don’t lose your SIM card that you will need back home. They are small and easy to lose. Once you have the card you need to usually put some credit on it then you will have convenient and affordable cellular data and phone calls, just like a local. Since you are likely purchasing as needed credit at this point, be sure to turn off anything that eats up unneccessary cellular data. Go to Settings, Cellular, and scroll down to see what apps have been given permission to use your cellular data and turn off nonessentials, especially the App Store so updates don’t gobble up all your credit needlessly. All of those things can be done on free Wi-Fi. And DEFINITELY turn off Wi-Fi assist.
Basically: Choose between sticking to Wi-Fi only, or unlock your iPhone and get a local SIM card.
What iPhone Travel Accessories Should I Bring?
Batter Backup: So now your iPhone is unlocked, ready for a local SIM, cellular data suckers have been trimmed, you have all the right plugs and adapters. What’s left? What iPhone travel accessories should I pack? Having learned the hard way, number one on that list must be a battery backup. When you are busy traveling you either have such a full itinerary that you have no time to charge at a wall outlet, or you can’t find one because it's crowded, or you are so tired at night that you forget to charge it while you are sleeping. That is why portable battery back-ups are a life saver.
These iPhone battery backups come in all shapes and sizes, so pick one that meets your needs. They can get a little heavy if you get a higher mAh capacity, but the tradeoff is you can go longer without needing an outlet. To help you choose, keep in mind that a complete iPhone 6s Plus battery charge is about 2750 mAh and an iPad Air 7300 mAH. Usually, an iPad charge lasts you for quite a while in between charges, so I would recommend using a battery charger just for your iPhone. Then, every charging session you can charge the iPhone battery and the battery back-up and that gives you days in between needing a wall outlet.
iPhone Travel Case: Next on the list, is a carrying case that matches your trips needs. Personally, I have carried some variation of the Pad & Quill Bella Fino Case for iPhone for years. I like how it conceals my phone into looking like a little book (who would want to steal a little book?). I like how much protection this case offers me because my clumsy factor increases by ten when I am traveling in unfamiliar situations. Drops are a footnote in my day, not a disaster to cry over. Since it has multiple card pockets, I love having access to credit cards, money, and my iPhone all in one place. The Camera is still perfectly accessible in case, and this means that my unassuming book-looking case can sneak some pretty good pictures without being intrusive or ostentatious.
Travel Bag: Finally, a good bag is a must have while traveling. Hand bags and purses get really annoying during long city walks or museum days, and are nearly impossible on beach days. But a good quality backpack or messenger bag lets you be hands-free, take pictures, easily schlep your stuff, and enjoy the sights. However, to have complete piece of mind while traveling you need to be both comfortable with the bag when it is fully-loaded and completely confident that it is thief-proof since pick-pocketing is rampant basically everywhere tourists are.
Be sure to put a lot of thought into what bag you get because it will be your travel companion for a long time and will affect your travel experience wherever you go. You want a bag you can really break-in and keep for decades. The Rolltop Backpack is a perfect pick. It is expandable, compatible, weatherproof, ages gorgeously, and is very pick-pocket resistant. Plus, it just looks awesome. Or if you prefer a messenger style over a backpack style this Messenger Bag is awesome. It combines supple and durable leather with rugged and hip canvas for a truly unique look that will work in any environment.
Basically: A portable iPhone battery charger, a good multi-function iPhone case, and a high quality, broken-in bag to fit all your tech.
Traveling abroad with your iPhone is a blast. In your pocket you have access to a high quality camera, high speed internet, a translator, a library of books, and endless games to pass the time. With a little forethought and the right accessories, international travel with your iPhone will be a cinch. Bon voyage!