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How to Prepare Your Phone for a Gap Year

Written by: Vicky Philpott

Of course you’re taking your phone on your gap year with you. How else will you show off your awesome life on Facebook, keep up with your mates on Whatsapp and edit those overcast photos to look like a dream on Instagram?
You need to acknowledge that your phone is going on an epic journey too, though, and so needs some love, support and preparation before you leave, just like you do. It’s a lot easier to sort all this out while you’re still in the UK, rather than trying to faff with it when you’re on data roaming or some dodgy South East Asian Wi-Fi.

Know your contract

Look over the terms and conditions of your contract again. You’re looking for things like get out clauses, extra charges abroad and whether you can get cheap bolt-ons in any of your chosen countries. Some phone companies offer the same deal you have in the UK in selected countries, but then they may charge you an outrageous rate if you go out of that. Know your terms and conditions.
If your contract is up in the next month or three there could be a great opportunity to save some money. Terminate it and switch to a local SIM instead, or to a cheaper tariff if you’re not going to be using all the free minutes, texts and data you get with it. Do your research, think tactically and you could save some serious cash.

Switch off data roaming

I’m ashamed and embarrassed to admit how much I’ve spent on my phone since I took out a ridiculous contract in September, just before I went off travelling . Ihad my eye on the phone and not on the common sense or the bank account and am £700 worse off thanks to not fully understanding point 1 and making calls and using data abroad. Massive regret.
As soon as you get on the plane switch the master data roaming setting to off, and switch off all the apps too. This way, if you are tempted to turn your data roaming on in a moment of desperation (think Google Maps), you won’t have to suddenly pay out a fortune to download all your Instagrams or Facebook updates. I sent one email in Japan, one, and it cost around £40 because it updated all the other apps while I had data roaming on. Not worth it.

Unlock for calls abroad

Phone your provider and tell them you’re going abroad, to a few countries, and that you need your phone unlocked in each of them. Even if you’re planning on not using your phone at all for calls you never know when you might need it, so for your safety have the option.

Use protection

Your phone will go through a lot of abuse on your gap year, trust me. Water, dropping, drinking, sand, all sorts – make sure you at least have a normal protective case on, if not some sort of waterproof and drop proof cover. From personal experience I’d definitely recommend buying a little dry bag for when you’re travelling on boats too.

Invest in good insurance

What’s your history with phones like? My record is not good and I’ve lost or damaged 8 or 9 in my life, possibly more. In fact the current one gained irreparable water damage only last week on a boat in Indonesia. For this reason I took out extra valuable items cover on my insurance for my travels, as well as an excess waiver. It was inevitable something would happen along the line.
When it comes to getting insurance for your phone, shop around. Check with your bank as some accounts offer free phone insurance included. My general insurance should cover the cost of the phone when I get back, meaning I’ll be without a phone for a few weeks, but if I’d have kept up the expensive plan with my phone company they guaranteed they’d ship one out the next day. It’s up to you how prepared you want to be.

Download useful travel apps

My must have apps for travelling include:
·         All the usual social media apps
·         Camera+
·         Google Maps
·         Adobe Reader
·         Whatsapp
·         xe.com
·         Booking.com
·         HostelWorld.com
·         Rome2Rio
·         Skyscanner
·         Guardian
·         Skype
·         TripAdvisor
You can get apps for everything; flight notifications, maps, itineraries, language-translations, destination guides, gas finders and the weather. I don’t like to fill my phone up too much but you can check out these awesome free apps for your gap year if you want more.

Set up iCloud back up

Have you connected your phone to the iCloud, and you know all your passwords and everything? You might say to yourself, yeah, yeah, tomorrow, but when you’re travelling, especially if you’re travelling by yourself, you need to be prepared for the worst. That could involve your phone being stolen, lost or damaged. The money for your phone is one thing and can usually be covered by the insurance, but your memories are another. If you don’t want to lose all your photos, notes and videos you should make sure your iCloud sync up is running properly and that you are saving the right things so that you don’t end up filling your allotment too soon.

Download music / podcasts / entertainment

Have all the music you’re going to need on your iPhone before you leave, especially if you’re not taking a laptop. There are a few really good apps out there, like free music download, where as soon as you have Wi-Fi you can download music for free and legally. Once you’ve listened to your albums a few hundred times on the buses and planes of the world you’ll thank me for telling you about this one.
If you haven’t cottoned onto podcasts yet, get involved. I used to think they were just boring radio shows but thanks to a sudden development of travel sickness when I read, podcasts have been a mind saver. I’d strongly recommend the TEDex talks for variety and interesting topics, but you can find a podcast for any subject in the world.
If you’re a fussy entertainment consumer you could also get a few episodes of your favourite show on your iPhone. I had to watch Maze Runner and then Godzilla the other day on the plane; this could’ve been prevented if I’d been prepared.
Remember not to fill your smart phone up too much though – you’re going to need plenty of space for all your photos and lining up the perfect shot to be told there’s no space available is so annoying.

Buy any extra gadgets

I have an extra charger for my phone. It’s come in use more than a few times, and saved my life at least three. You could also buy solar chargers, reinforced phone cases and waterproof casing to help you keep your phone safe and active while you’re on your gap year.

Improve the battery life

If you have every app turned on you’ll use your battery and data way too quick. Go through your settings and make sure everything is as it should be. Also double click the main button and swipe away any unnecessary apps that are running in the background to avoid sucking the power.
Turn the Bluetooth off, the brightness down, switch to airplane mode when full mode isn’t needed and turn off notifications to help improve the battery life of your phone on the road.

Think about security

Always have a pass code for your phone and don’t store any bank details on it insecurely, in case it gets stolen along with your wallet. If you really want to prepare for the worst, take a photo of your passport and your bag possessions in case they’re lost or stolen too. Another good idea is to have a screenshot of your contact details as your background. It may be a good person who finds your phone but with no getting in to it they can’t return it to its rightful owner.
I hope these steps help and if you have any more ideas on preparing your phone for your gap year, let us know in the comments box below!
Follow my gapyear.com blog @Vicky

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