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It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: Tech Travel Tips

How to Pay Less and Get More Out of Your Cell Phone Plan

Do you feel you’re paying too much for your monthly smartphone usage for what you’re getting? Maybe it’s time to more closely review your plan…

Here are two clues you’re probably spending too much on your mobile bill… Either you haven’t chosen a fresh deal lately. Or you just opted into a shiny-new plan, and then you inexplicably get more perks for free.
(Like… how often does that happen?)

Here’s a cautionary tale where I tripped over both scenarios…

Data Limits are a Drag
For years, I’ve been holding for dear life onto my legacy unlimited wireless plan from AT&T. Not that I use all that much data…

I do stream the occasional video while I’m commuting on the train to
New York City.
(Netflix/Amazon Prime Video)

But I’m not risking the integrity of the entire wireless network!

I just like the idea of not having to worry about data limits. And when unlimited plans went out of vogue some years back, I clutched to mine even tighter.

Time zipped by, and I thought I still had the deal of the century.

Unlimited Data Plans are Back
But a funny thing happened. I recently spotted some advertising from the competition about new unlimited plans. Huh!
(What’s old is apparently new again.)

Then I realized my legacy plan was no longer such an unbeatable deal…

International Day Pass
I stumbled upon this unsettling realization when I temporarily upgraded my iPhone’s plan to help it operate overseas during my family’s vacation to Barcelona.

In preparation for a lot of Gaudi and a little Cava in Spain, I called 611 on my iPhone to contact customer service and find out about my international-use options.

I quickly realized the best move was to add AT&T’s “International Day Pass” plan to my account for just ten bucks a day. This offering gives you free calling and texting and mirrors the same data plan as you have at home.

For me, that’s a far better deal that AT&T’s older “Passport Gold” plan, which costs a whopping $120/month, plus 35 cents/minute calling, plus a paltry 800 MB for the month. And then 15 cents per MB of overage.
(Ugh.)

So I thought I had the perfect solution…

AT&T Unlimited Plus Wireless Plan
But then the operator told me my existing unlimited data wireless plan was “too old” to ‘accept’ the International Day Pass feature.

What?!

She explained I would have to upgrade to one of AT&T’s newer plans.

I defiantly proclaimed that I wasn’t willing to give up my cherished unlimited data flow.

But then she said the oddest thing…
“What about upgrading to one of our new unlimited data plans that will work with the International Day Pass feature?”

What?!!

“Yes, we just started offering them.”

“It’s really unlimited data… like my legacy plan?”

“Yes.”

“No catches?”

“No, sir.”

“Wow.”

“And our new AT&T Unlimited Plus wireless plan is forty dollars less expensive per month than your old plan.”

“It’s cheaper?”

“And that’s with the wireless hot spot feature.”

“I get the hot spot option too for my iPhone?”
(That’s always an à la carte add on.)

“Yes, sir.”

Still in consumer shock, I finally agreed to let my legacy plan go and entered the less expensive present of wireless phone plans.

But the story doesn’t end there…

Hello HBO Streaming!
A week later, while on vacation in sunny Barcelona, I received a text from AT&T telling me I would also be receiving HBO streaming for free, because I had so wisely joined the new Unlimited Plus club.
(The text didn’t really affirm my consumer prowess… but it’s how I felt.)

Clearly, I had bought into a higher-level tier plan. Deep down, I knew I didn’t really need to take the full boat. But I was paying less per month than I had been. So it still felt like a really good deal.
(Plus, I’ve been meaning to catch up on some HBO programming.)

I’d say you can confidently place me in the column of happy AT&T customers!

Your Old Deal Stinks
The moral of the story is you just need to pay attention when it comes to using consumer tech.
(Buying at a good price is often just the beginning of the journey.)

Is your wireless plan really the latest and greatest?
(Yesterday’s deal never lasts forever, even if the monthly costs do!)

Yes… sometimes it makes sense to hold onto a feature that gets discontinued… but usually the rule of thumb is both tech and tech usage get less expensive over time.

There’s always a better deal waiting around the corner…

So go find it!

Five Tips to Not Lose Your Tech While Traveling

You don’t have to stash your personal tech in a barrel at Niagara Falls to risk losing it while traveling. If you’re not careful, there’s plenty of opportunity to part with your gadgets along the way.

You don’t have to stash your personal tech in a barrel at Niagara Falls to risk losing it while traveling. If you’re not careful, there’s plenty of opportunity to part with your gadgets along the way.

I was in Buffalo last week on a work-related video project.
(Yes, it was snowing in Buffalo.)

On the last day, we drove to Niagara Falls to get some beauty shots.
I must say the American Falls looked especially beautiful half frozen.
(The Horseshoe Falls was mostly obscured in fog.)

We also spent some time in town doing some additional videotaping.
The frozen urban environment didn’t feel quite as quaint with steady snowfall and a stiff wind confronting us.

So between shots, we ducked inside a building to warm up while we planned our next move.

And we broke a cardinal video production rule.
We left a piece of our gear outside unattended.

No, it wasn’t anything really expensive, like the camera.

It was a lowly wooden Apple Box.
No, not an apple fruit box… though it does look like one.
(And no, it’s not some Apple computer packaging either!)

It’s simply a sturdy wooden box.
More like a little platform, it’s used to position someone or something up a few inches.
(A couple inches can make all the difference when you’re looking to tweak a shot!)

Our inside huddle lasted only four minutes.
But when we emerged, the Apple Box was gone.

D’OH!!

We looked at each other uneasily, as we were also guilty of breaking a really basic rule our mothers had taught us decades earlier.

Then, an innocent bystander walked up and said he had seen the perp pick up the clipped item.

And he pointed in the direction the thief was walking.
He also mentioned it looked like the guy was part of group of five or so.

By this point, they were a few blocks away, just out of my visual range.

We each considered the situation.
To me, it was clear running after our bandit wasn’t the right move.
It seemed risky. We could run into a confrontation with a superior force.

The look on other faces suggested a similar conclusion.

But our consensus was not unanimous.

One bold soul jumped to action.
Declaring the rest of us wimps, our hero launched a rescue mission.
Our fasted vehicle powered up, and it roared off in hot pursuit.

The rest of us stared for a moment, flecks of snow falling on our gaping jaws.

I eventually jumped in my car and brought up the rear.
By the time I arrived, the incursion was over.

The Apple Box had been rescued.

The opposition had not been five muscular men.
It was just one older gentleman, who had fallen on hard times and innocently picked up an item he thought had been abandoned.

It was just a matter of confronting the truth of the moment.
The retrieval ended up being an easy one.

Boy, did I have egg on my face.
And I didn’t hear the end of it for the rest of the trip!

Odds Are Some of Your Tech Won’t Make It Back
Let’s face it. Losing your gear on the road is surprisingly easy to do.
You may not be dumb enough to leave it on the street while you talk about where to go for lunch.
But there are plenty of ways to inadvertently part with your expensive gadgets and their accessories.

  • Secondary Smartphone
    Many of us are forced to juggle more than one smartphone for work and home.
    If that’s the case, you may not be paying as much attention to the secondary unit while on a trip.
    (Like if you’re on vacation and not looking at your work BlackBerry very often)
    That scenario can easily lead you to miss the unfortunate fact your smartphone has suddenly gone MIA.
  • Chargers and Power Cables
    How many times have you left behind your smartphone charger or laptop power cable plugged into the outlet under the desk in your hotel room?
  • Lens Cap
    And if your DSLR’s lens cap is not tethered to your camera’s lens, it’s constantly pulling a Houdini, right?

You Won’t Lose It If You Don’t Have It
My simple advice is just don’t take any tech you can do without.

Much like over packing clothing for a trip, we also have a tendency to travel with too many gadgets.

Don’t take that laptop if a tablet will do.
Don’t take the tablet if your smartphone can handle the job.

Sure, many hotel rooms are now equipped with mini safes.
And laptops are small enough these days to jam into these tiny vaults.

But then you’ve got to remember to clear out the safe before you leave.
(And no matter what, isn’t it always a rush?)

Maybe you won’t forget the laptop, but what’s hidden behind it might get missed with a hurried exit plan.

Don’t let your view freeze up trying to keep track of your tech while on the road!

Don’t let your view freeze up trying to keep track of your tech while on the road!

Five Ways to Hold onto Your Tech on the Road
But if you absolutely must bring it, here are five tips to help you increase the odds you’ll come home with all your precious tech gear and accessories-

1.  Protect Your Smartphone like ‘Renegade’ or ‘Trailblazer’
The Secret Service has code names for its presidents.
(Renegade for Obama and Trailblazer for George W)

Yes, you can lockdown your smartphone with a code.

Yes, you can track it.
(Up to a point)

Yes, you can remotely wipe the memory.
(The Secret Service can’t do that yet. Right?)

Yes, you can even change all your passwords just to be totally safe.

But you really shouldn’t need to act like a Secret Service agent to protect your smartphone.

I know this is obvious, but I say treat your smartphone like your wallet.
People do lose their wallets, but usually you can devote enough brainpower to maintaining track of it, right?

Bad things happen, but a little vigilance can go a long way to keep your smartphone at your side.

Enough said.

2. Use the Right Carry-On Bag
Keep your tech with you at all times.
Assume an 800-pound gorilla will be jumping on your stowed luggage.

So bring a carry-on bag with distinct compartments and keep each piece of tech in its designated position. Then take a moment to memorize where everything belongs.
That way, you’ll be able to quickly scan if all your digital tools are in their rightful place.

3.  Have Power in a Pinch
It’s always nice to bring a little backup power in your bag, while you’re going about your day. That way, you don’t have to worry about where you’ll be juicing your smartphone next.

More importantly, that also means you’re not putting any of your kit and kaboodle at risk of being left behind, while your charging up behind enemy lines.

These days you can store a power stick that’s not much larger than a pack of gum.

4.  Keep Your Pockets Light at Security
When going through airport security, it’s always such a fire drill to get everything back on your body before rushing to the gate.

Reposition as much digital paraphernalia as you can into your carry-on bag.

5.  Watch Your Laptop Like a Hawk After the X-ray Machine
I’m not talking so much about someone stealing your laptop from its bin while you’re putting your shoes back on. I’m referring to simply protecting it from being harmed.

During my Buffalo trip, I watched in horror as a bin holding a laptop rolled out of the X-ray machine conveyer belt. It got squeezed by a bin jam ahead of it, and then it veered off the rollers, dumping the laptop onto the cold, unforgiving cement surface below.

No, the poor laptop didn’t bust into multiple pieces,
but I’m not so sure how solid its guts were after that kind of spill.

Try to position your laptop bin so it comes out of the X-ray machine soon after you’ve crossed passed through your own X-ray body scan experience.

That way you’ll be close by to rescue your laptop if a bin jam becomes imminent.

Bonus Tip: ID Your Gear
Sometimes, no matter what you do, fate still intervenes.
So when you end up losing a gadget like your tablet or eBook-reader on a plane, in your hotel room, or after a solo lunch at a restaurant… what do you do then?

Well, you’d better leave a trail for someone to find you.
(Like simply taping a business card inside your new iPad case)

If your gear is in lockdown mode, there’s no way for anyone to know it’s yours.
Sure they can do some sleuthing based on your reserved plane seat or hotel room record, but would you want to leave your gadget’s future in the hands of an Inspector Clouseau?

Get That Tech Back Yourself!
And if all else fails, and you’ve accidentally just left some tech behind, make sure you can sprint four hundred yards or have access to some really fast wheels.

It’s been known to work!

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