Travel tech traps

What to look out for when taking your phone, tablet or laptop on the road.

Don't get grounded by your tech

The humble dog-eared guide book has been replaced by travel apps, while smartphones and social media let us beam our trip pics out to anyone with an internet connection, rather than wait for the slide night. But there are a few security concerns to look out for when hitting the road with your phone, tablet, laptop or other device.

Heading overseas? Check out our destination guides for the best tips for your next adventure to Thailand, Indonesia, the US, UK, Europe and many more places.

Tips to travel with tech

  • Use a pin code on your devices to prevent easy access to your personal data.
  • Ask your provider to immediately block your device if it's lost or stolen.
  • Back up all your data to the cloud in case you need to remotely erase it from your device.
  • Turn on 'Find my phone' in iOS or 'Find my device' in Android to locate the device or erase its data.
  • All the iOS advice for lost devices is at:
  • All the Android advice for lost devices is at:
  • Change your passwords for any apps or accounts on your device, just in case.

Watch the mobile phone

Are you keeping your stuff safe with two-factor authentication? You get a pat on the back if you are. Just watch out if you've swapped your regular SIM for a travel one, as your original phone number will still be listed for internet banking, emails or other web services for authenticating logins or certain transactions.

Dropbox, for example, has two-factor authentication. So if you're planning to change your phone's SIM, use an authenticator app such as Google Authenticator or Duo Mobile instead. 

  • If you need to access internet banking while travelling, you'll need to have your mobile phone's global roaming switched on to receive any secure codes. If you foresee problems with this, check that all your Bpay and payees are pre-authenticated to avoid authentication SMS issues while away. 
  • Alternatively, if you're using an Australian travel SIM, register that number in your internet banking before you travel.

Watch the Wi-Fi

Free Wi-Fi is great and can save on mobile roaming costs, but it can also leave you vulnerable to being hacked. 

  • Consider investing in a VPN and use it at all times when on free Wi-Fi. 
  • Don't use open or unsecure wireless networks.
  • Check that secure sites have https in the address. 
  • Check the settings on your phone or tablet so they don't join wireless networks automatically. 

Mind the money

Using ATMs overseas is an easy way to grab some cash without having to carry wads of notes around with you. But wherever possible, stick to official ATMs located inside banks and avoid 'no name' ATMs in convenience stores and other shops, because they're less secure and could pose a greater risk of having card readers, cameras or other devices that can steal your details. 

And always notify your bank that you're heading overseas so they don't suspend your card when they suddenly notice unexpected foreign transactions.

Where's my Netflix?

If you're travelling and want to watch Netflix on the road, you can – with one small hitch. You'll only have access to the Netflix library for the country you're in, not your country of origin. Depending on where you subscribed to Netflix, this could make a huge difference to what you can stream on the road. And if you think that downloading the shows is the solution, Netflix says this won't necessarily work either. 

There are a few workarounds, although there's no guarantee it'll work in all cases. For example, a VPN isn't guaranteed to work, because Netflix is wise to this and blocks many of them, so you'll need a tool that blocks the IP address with the computer's country of origin. 

What's on the horizon for tech and travel?

Tech and travel go hand-in-hand as innovation has enabled people to be their own travel agent when booking and organising trips, and then become their own travel guide when they're on the ground in a new place. So what comes next?

  • Try before you fly – The immersive experience of VR (virtual reality) and the enhanced experience of AR (augmented reality) will inevitably change how we travel. Museums such as London's Natural History Museum are embracing VR to bring objects to life, while cities including London, New York and Amsterdam can promote their tourist sites by letting travellers experience them virtually. 
  • Travel goes increasingly mobile – Think location-based services such as guide apps Detour or FieldTrip, personalisation and smart services such as Hopper which predicts the best time to buy flights, and platforms such as planning app TripIt which is designed to be used seamlessly between desktop, mobile, app and social.  
  • Drone photography gets a notable mention as small, portable drones take over from selfie sticks as the latest trend in travel photography. 
  • Messaging – WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are handy for travel, while newer platforms such as Slack lend themselves to communication with travels agents, hotels and like-minded travellers. There are also dedicated travel apps such as Lola for bookings and in-app concierge services.  

Want independent advice on travel insurance? We identify the best policies around in our latest travel insurance reviews.

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