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Staying Connected While Traveling

Guarcino, ItalyFor the last two weeks in September, my husband and I traveled to Italy to visit Rome, the Amalfi Coast  and the towns from which my grandparents emigrated.  Our electronic gear was lightweight and simple, but exactly what was needed for the trip.

Which gadgets did we take?
-Europe enabled Verizon LG smartphone. This was much lighter and more compact than my U.S. Android phone. We used it mostly to make calls to our offices and to relatives living in Italy. We didn’t use it for self-guided tours or maps as we were warned of pickpockets and petty theft, though we didn’t experience either. We used locally provided paper maps and guidebooks to get around.
Kindle Fire loaded with 7 books from local libraries. I was very optimistic that I’d read them all on the long flights over and back, but Air France has great media for viewing at one’s seat so I watched movies and did some reading. However, the Kindle came in handy when jetlag hit the first night in Rome and I could read without turning on the light.
Acer netbook: I used this to check email, the web for museum hours, Metro information, etc. I know I could have used my Kindle, but love this little netbook. I also faithfully wrote a trip diary on it in Word each evening. That would have taken much more time on the Kindle. I also used the netbook for Google Translate to create scripts in Italian for when I called relatives who spoke no English.
GPS: After 8 days in Rome, we needed a car to visit small towns in Italy. We reserved one here in the U.S. and picked it up at the Stazione Terminali (main train station) our last day in Rome. I doubt we would have made it out of Rome and to our destinations without the GPS. The only time it failed us was in Formia when it had us going in circles down very narrow alleyways.
Outlet adapter: In order to keep all our electronics charged, we needed an adapter to plug into outlets. A friend loaned us a really cool cube-like one that had the ability to connect in many countries, depending on which piece one used. It fit together like a 3D puzzle. This is not a plug (no pun intended), but it is from Brookstone and also has a USB port and lights up to indicate your device is charging (http://bit.ly/TQf41c).
Digital camera: We took our Olympus FE-280 8 megapixel camera. We didn’t need extra storage media as I offloaded pictures every evening onto the netbook. I never had to charge it though I brought along the charger.

Which gadgets did we leave behind?
We both left behind our U.S. phones though on a future trip, I’d probably buy a disposable phone off of Craigslist or eBay and just add minutes from a phone card that all the Tabacchi sell. (Tabacchi are everywhere. They are little stores that sell everything from Metro tickets to toothpaste and are staffed by the most helpful people.)

Once we were in Europe, how did we connect?  Did it always work?
Connecting was never a problem in any of the hotels we stayed in, except one.  At our Rome hotel, they changed the user name and password every 48 hours so that meant stopping in at the front desk every two days to get the new ones. In Formia and St. Agnello on the Amalfi Coast, we just needed a password. The easiest place by far to connect was at the Ibis Paris hotel at the Charles De Gaulle Airport. There was neither a user name nor password to log on, which made connecting easy and fast.

The night before we flew out of Rome, we stayed in Fiumicino by the airport in a tiny hotel. We could not get a connection the whole time as it was down and the ISP didn’t seem to have a 24 hour helpline.

How was traveling to Europe — were we able to be wired and charging during the flight?  We flew economy class where  there were no outlets and Internet access was fee only. I was on my netbook some to work in Word, but not enough that power ran out.

 

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