Over my years of travel I have picked up lots of tips and tricks to making travel smoother. Since organising and leading travel studies over the last few years I have developed some key technology (mostly free) that I think are essential or help to create a smooth travel study experience for all. Also I have some luxury items that I will list at the bottom – those things you really don’t NEED but I love to have.
My list of technology to lead a smoother travel study.
Cloud – Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive
Cloud based storage allows for files and documents to be saved to a virtual drive and therefore be accessed by multiple people and from multiple places at once. No more worries about where you left your USB or having to search through emails for the latest version.
I often lead interdisciplinary travel studies and having a shared folder in the cloud means everybody has the latest, up to date version of the files and nothing falls through the cracks. The key here is to use whatever the least techno person is comfortable with. Most of the major cloud service providers (Google Drive, DropBox, OneDrive) are much the same.
I always want a back up for my backup plan. In the cloud I keep a copy of all students signed code of conduct and a copy of their passport. ( always have a printed copy of these but just incase my bag gets stolen/lost I like to have the cloud as a backup).
Facebook – Moments
I try to encourage my students to enjoy the moment rather than just take pictures… but, they can’t resist because if they don’t post photos on social media how will they be able to induce FOMO to their friends and family back home? ENTER Facebook moments an app to share photos with other people in them (There are other apps – arguably better apps but the students all have Facebook so adoption is higher).
When students are enjoying the moment I take photos of them – send them to them (and then delete my copy otherwise I run out of space.). After a few days the students will start to do it too and the amount of photo time reduces and more time spent in the moment enjoying the view/restaurant/show/talk. My anecdotal evidence only – maybe there is a research paper in this??
In the fast/instant pace of social media the art of letters and postcards is long forgotten. I encourage my students to send a postcard to thank anyone who supported them going on the trip. Again, this is anecdotal evidence but mums and grandmothers LOVE receiving postcards.
Given most students have probably never been inside a post office or bought a stamp – we need to take the postcard to their world. YES, there is an app for that! Postcard apps are fantastic as you can use your own photo and they print them and post them in the destination country to they actually have a chance to get to the receiver before the students get home.
Here are one’s I’ve used in the past.
- MyPostcard – Use GRXJRZ for $3 credit – postcards $1.99
- TouchNote – $3.99 for 1 postcard. Can buy credits to make them cheaper – more you buy, cheaper they are.
- Postgram – $2 or 8 cards for $13.99
I use this for my personal travel in groups. I also use it with the other faculty lead and recommend it to my students. As a lot of countries don’t split restaurant costs or take large currency bills (especially is all 15 students try to pay with a $50 bil in the same small shop). Therefore, I student can pay put it in the app and split the costs out.
Settle up is FREE. I like that it gives live updates on who should pay next and how much to pay back. It costs $3.99 to open up the ability to covert to a single currency but I think its good practice for students to learn how to calculate between currencies so this is not an issue for me.
WiFi only messaging app
Not all students get roaming and I’ve found it useful to ‘text’ students about the evening or next day activities. For this technology I use what my students use. Mine all use GroupMe which I think is antiquated and features limited but the students use it and it does the job.
A free jet lag remedy based on science. Insert your current city and destination city with flight times to get a schedule that moves your sleep time forward or back by 1 hour a day to get you on the destination schedule. If it aligns with my work requirements I do this a week before. When we arrive in the destination I can keep going when the students start to fade.
International phone connection
Some universities have international phones that they give to faculty, most don’t. Including mine. The easiest option is to add a roaming pack to your current provider. The cheapest option is to buy a sim card when you arrive in the destination. I don’t recommend this as you may need your phone before you get to a store (if nobody meets you at the airport for example). I also give my number to parents and university administration.
Due to my frequent travels (3+ international trips a year) I decided to go with a company with an international plan. I have Google’s Project Fi. Project Fi has great rates including free international texts – always and international data roaming at $10 per G (you only pay for what you use to the closest megabyte). Use my referral code MY0115 to get $20 credit.
Carry on Luggage
Travelling light has many advantages in general but an extra for leading travel study is to be able to move around quicker and:
- meet with local representative at the airpot while the students are waiting on their bags,
- organise rooms at the hotel while they unpack the bus
- change flights at the last-minute if needed
- pack up your stuff in a few minutes when students have keep you busy all day/night
TSA pre-check /Global Entry
If travel to/from the USA I recommend TSA pre-check or Global Entry. As with travelling light, this allows you to move about quicker. I have been able to wait for students, or go back through security when a student forgot something with no worries about missing a flight due to the speed. When you have 10,15 or 20 students to worry about it’s nice to be able to leave on shoes and not have to unpack and re-pack your bag.
Okay, so I haven’t tried this out on a travel study because I only just got on board the audio book train. I do see great potential here. I try to avoid light during the nighttime of the destination and those airplane lights make reading horrible. So I envision a comfy pair of headphones and an eye mask results in hours of entertainment options.
- Audible – $14.95 a month, 1 book per month (keep it forever)
- Overdrive – If your local library has a relationship with Overdrive is free. The only downside is long wait times for popular books.
I bought a smart watch to go running. On my first travel study after I wished I’d had one earlier. When students have free time and go exploring the smart watch lets me relax and not keep checking my phone incase I missed an SOS from one of them. Text, calls and messages go straight to my watch so I am immediately notified. Yeah, this is certainly not an essential item but it lets me relax during those rare travel study downtimes so I find it worth the money.