Best expat hacks and gadgets for 2020

Best expat hacks and gadgets for 2020

As expatriates of our country (or perhaps those scouting around for a new home), staying in one place is not always on the cards. And one inevitably finds yourself living in more than one timezone, whether you do travel or not.

It’s therefore quite nifty to learn some tricks and stock up on gadgets which hold unique value for the expat and jetsetting communities. 

Here are our favourite tips and tools for 2020.

Secure account info in the cloud

We are told time and again not to write down our usernames, passwords or sensitive account details as this may be stolen. And, of course, this is true. But there’s no thing more frustrating than being on the road or away from home and not remembering essential details.

There are several password or smartkey applications that one can use on your phone, for instance, but the major problem with this is that you will need your phone to access this. If your phone’s battery is flat or it has been lost or stolen, then you will have quite the challenge to get anything sorted.

An alternative is to use cloud storage and draw up secure documents where you keep this information. Things you may want to include are account numbers, passwords, your phone’s PUK or PIN and so forth. Most cloud storage is incredibly secure and you will also have the option to change document security settings to your liking. Another plus is that you can access cloud storage from any device with internet and a browser. So you can easily log in from someone else’s device and access your information. Two additional tricks are to use the person’s incognito browser to hide your activity and also remember to log out and close the browser menu when you’re done.

If you want to add an additional measure of security, save your content in a document which you’ve password protected (such as an MS Word document or PDF) before dropping it in your cloud storage folder. In the very least you’ll only need to remember this password to access your other sensitive information.

Book flights on Weekends, accommodation on Fridays

No one wants to pay more for flights and travel than they absolutely need to. And we all know that booking flights and accommodation on weekends is a no-go. Or is it?

Strangely, the Airports Reporting Company (ARC) and Expedia scoured airport flight and cost records and found that over all, weekend flights are actually less expensive on average than booking in the week since many people travel for work and want to be home on weekends. The priciest tickets by far are Thursday and Friday bookings.

When it comes to accommodation, however, the tables are turned. It turns out if you want the cheapest stay, book on the Friday right before the weekend you want to check in, since hotels and guest houses need to ensure that their rooms are filled. This doesn’t, of course, count if you’re booking far in advance, so not always a real win if you’re travelling internationally or afraid that you won’t have a place to sleep.

Check for coupons

This is one hack which is quite simple, but not necessarily intuitive. If you come from a place like South Africa, for instance, vouchers are usually not very useful as you probably only ever get R1 or so off and you cannot use multiple vouchers at the same time. But if you travel abroad, things may be much different. In the US, for instance, multiple coupons can be used for the same products and it saves you so much money, couponing is nearly a vocation in certain places.

Check the rules and customs of the area you are travelling to or through before going and also see online whether there aren’t coupons or discount codes available for the places you plan to visit. You could save loads in the process.

Track Stick

Everyone uses Google Maps, Apple Maps or Waze to get around these days, but often you don’t necessarily want to see how to get somewhere, you also want to track the roads and routes you’ve travelled. This is particularly useful if you’ve seen a shop or venue along the way which you want to visit again, or want to position yourself in an area you’re unfamiliar with.

Though many people buy trackstick for security reasons, for travellers the gadget provides an opportunity to track their movements via GPS. The entry-level trackstick records up to 16 000 waypoints while the other models have built-in memory cards. The earlier models require AAA batteries, but newer models have rechargeable lithium-ion batteries which can be powered via USB. 

Your traveled locations can be traced via a clear red line on satellite photos and 3D terrain using Google Maps, Google Earth, Microsoft Live and/or MapQuest. You can geotag your photos – which some people use to make travel collages – simply print out a map of the area and paste the pictures you took on the route on the map. Trackstick will also record temperatures, dates, altitude, stop times and speed of travel. You can view your data via in a spreadsheet format, or see it on your mapping software. If that’s not available, you can export the data as html and view it on any computer with a browser and internet.

Hide your location and searches

We don’t like to admit it, but unfortunately all places aren’t treated equally. We’ve experienced this with things like online streaming apps (Netflix, etc.) or goods which can’t be imported and so on. But we also need to be mindful when making bookings online, as travel sites tend to inflate prices depending on your location and what you search for.

Websites track your physical location using your IP address. This address is the ‘logical location’ of your PC or router and it is usually quite accurate (though it can be a bit off at times). Many travel sites inflate prices for individuals based on where you’re located – if you seem to be from an affluent country, they may charge more for the tickets than they would for someone living in a less affluent region. Furthermore, these sites use cookies to see what you’ve been searching for. If you’ve scoured the internet for travel bookings to the Bahamas, then they know you are hard-up for a trip to the Bahamas and many sites will use this information (and your supposed desperation) to bump up the prices.

First things first, clear your cookies on your browser before doing a search to ensure that your search history is not available. Secondly, get a VPN – this is a virtual private network service which you can install on your devices. There are several VPN services available. Some simply hide your IP by making it jump to different locations in the world, but most allow you to choose your IP location. So if you’re in the UK, for instance, you can set your IP address to Kenya. This tool is also useful for getting localised search results in your search engine (like Google) as your preferred location settings in the search engine will still be overridden by your IP location.

Multiple Timezone watch

It’s easy to quickly jump on Google and check what the time is in another part of the world. In fact, if you do it often enough you can probably just do the calculation in your head. But if you have friends, business partners or family in various parts of the world, it could become a bit problematic.

 Enters multiple timezone watches. Whether you choose a smartwatch with timezone functionality or a watch specifically designed to incorporate multiple time zones – the choice is yours! There are a myriad of options available.

If you have quite the budget on you, you can take a look at Patek Philippe’s 5131/1P model from their Complications series. The watch allows you to simply adjust the face to choose between 24 time zones, and it even features a map of the world on its face. You can also choose one of the other models if you don’t like the all platinum colour, including rose gold, yellow gold or white gold.

Looking for something less flashy but with the same functionality? What about Diesel’s DZ9024 watch? Or simply load the dual clock app on your Samsung Galaxy smart watch. There are a wide variety of options depending on your budget and style.

Check-in & back-home baskets

If you’re going to travel for a while or arriving at odd hours and want to make things easier for yourself, It’s good to pack a ‘check-in’ and ‘back-home’ basket. This is simply the most important necessities you will need when you check into that hotel or when you arrive back home. The things you will definitely need to unpack immediately. Whether you make a basket or bag – it doesn’t matter as the container it’s in doesn’t make a difference. Simply make sure that it’s easily accessible and has everything you need.

People who visit their holiday homes will, for instance, put the following items in the basket as an example:

  • keys to the home
  • electricity or gas cards/coupons and information
  • Smart TV box, mini router/wireless devices & remotes
  • mini flashlight
  • coffee/tea, longlife milk pods and sugar
  • toilet paper/wipes
  • reading glasses
  • chargers
  • sleepwear & underwear

The contents of the basket will depend on your destination and what will be most important for this league of your journey.

Take your home with you!

One of the most convenient things to come along in the past few years is undoubtedly the Internet of Things (IoT). Sure, the name is a bit weird, but the concept is not that difficult to understand. IoT uses smart technology to connect multiple devices and offer you a more convenient lifestyle.

You may not have as many benefits travelling abroad as you will have at home with your IoT given that you won’t be able to integrate all devices on the go, it does offer you quite a lot of benefits. The most common devices to use are Google Home, Amazon echo and the Apple Homepod. They’re conveniently small and connect with your account to offer you an array of nifty hacks. You can listen to your favourite playlists, find translations, recipes, venues and even make calls or stream/cast films to other smart devices.

Smart home devices are voice-activated, which means you can talk to the device and ask it questions or give it commands.

Indeed, you may have the same functionality on your phone, but a smart home device is a godsend if you’re going to stay put in one or more locations on your journey and will save your phone’s battery power.

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