Here are some tips on what technology to bring when traveling to Europe
- Electrical outlets are scarce and in inconvenient locations in hotel rooms and B&B's. Take along a short extension cord. If I could only bring one thing in addition to my iPhone, charger & adapter, this would be it.
- Bring a 2-prong continental Europe adapter. You can plug the extension cord into this and then you only need one adapter. Go with a simple one if you can, rather than one of those more complex multi-country models. If all your devices are dual voltage you don't need to bring a 240 volt converter. I found my iPhone charger, shaver, and battery pack are all dual voltage.
- A battery pack is handy for keeping devices like smartphones charged. Nav apps are notorious for sapping battery life. It can be easier to use this in a rental car rather than dealing with a car charger. This is also handy when hanging out at a cafe. Also, if you have trouble locating an outlet in your hotel room (or it's just late and you don't want to deal with it) you can charge your devices overnight with the battery pack. I use this model from Hyperjuice - there are several models and vendors who make small and large battery packs.
- I like having my iPhone on a neck lanyard (worn inside my shirt). I don't have to worry about pickpockets, and it can be more comfortable than having it in my pocket. This one was a few dollars on Amazon, and it comes with a quick disconnect. The thin cord attaches to probably any case.
Some people bring a standalone GPS such as a Garmin or Tom Tom. I think this is just one more thing to carry, or get lost or stolen. It is possible to use Google Maps or Apple Nav, but these require a cellular data connection...expensive and unreliable.
I use an iPhone app called Navigon, which is actually owned by Garmin. Download the country maps you need before you go, and you'll never be without nav. Even if you don't intend to make cell calls, the GPS will be augmented with the triangulation data from the cell towers, so the accuracy is very good. It gives turn-by-turn verbal directions...in a relaxing British female voice, no less. This particular app is good for walking directions, too. It has a huge database of attractions, hotels, and restaurants. And you can enter an address if you need to.
- Cell phones: You can buy a cheap pay-as-you-go SIM card in Europe, or add a voice and/or data plan to your American cell plan. Roaming data without a plan is very expensive. You can save on data by only turning on cellular data when you need it, and using WIFI in the hotel and at cafes. You can Skype virtually for free using WIFI in your hotel room (the WIFI at a cafe may be too slow). Europeans pronounce WIFI as Wee-Fee.
- In the UK, you need a different adapter (3 prong).
- If you're in a museum, park, or city centre and you don't have a map, you can snap a photo of one on a wall and use it for reference on your smartphone.
- If you find a map or other info on your smartphone, but when you really need it you won't have an internet connection, take a screenshot and it'll be in your photos folder. On the iPhone it's the Home+Sleep button.
- I use Dropbox to backup my photos to the Cloud. You can start your smartphone to upload the photos overnight if you have WIFI. Note that Dropbox turns off if your device goes to sleep, so you may need to change the sleep setting. If photos are hogging all your smartphone memory, once photos are on Dropbox you can delete them from your device - they'll still be in the Cloud.
- For security I recommend using a passcode on devices like smartphones and tablets.