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What to do (and not to do) when traveling overseas with Apple gear

Serenity Caldwell | Aug. 1, 2013
Want to bring your Apple stuff with when you visit another country? Macworld associate editor Serenity Caldwell shows you how to minimize the ensuing aggravation.

One way to prevent yourself from subconsciously checking your phone is to keep Airplane mode on (or cellular data off) unless you're using it for navigation. You can still use your phone to take snapshots or video, but you won't get notifications, emails, tweets, posts, or other annoyances while you're trying to enjoy scenic countryside. This has the added benefit of preventing background apps from leeching data from your plan throughout the day.

Bonus tip: You can preload both Apple and Google's map tiles when on Wi-Fi. If you turn cellular data off (but leave Airplane mode disabled), you won't draw any more data, but you can still use your phone's built-in GPS to find yourself on those preloaded map tiles.

Do: Use Dropbox
If you need to access trip itineraries, receipts, train tickets, and other PDF documents, a shared Dropbox folder can be your best friend on an international trip. Before the trip, save all your paperwork—hotel or homestay confirmations, train and plane tickets, museum passes—to your folder, then favorite the folder in the Dropbox app so that all the files are saved locally to your device when you're offline. Additionally, Dropbox's Open In support on iOS lets you send any PDFs you get in your email or through Safari to the application.

Dropbox saved our bacon at least once during our Italian trip, when we realized that our PDF train tickets to Siena weren't printable at the station. Instead, we used Dropbox and its zoom features to let a bemused train attendant scan our smartphones. Dropbox: Sometimes, it just might save you a trip to a foreign police station.

Don't: Leave your DSLR at home
Apple's latest iPhone models have great cameras for capturing a snapshot on the go, so it's natural to think that you might want to let your phone do the majority of your photo-snapping. But really: Don't.

While the iPhone may be useful to pull out for a quick snap, both its light sensor and quality are still vastly subpar compared with a consumer DSLR or mirrorless camera. You can certainly take great vacation photos with the iPhone if you put some work into it—and we did so from time to time—but I was incredibly glad I took my DSLR along for the ride. It captured both vistas and portraits much more cleanly than my iPhone could, and I didn't have to stress so much about lighting or camera shake.

If you want to avoid the tourist look, I'd suggest outfitting your DSLR with a pancake lens for most day-to-day shots, as its small profile will make most consumer-level DSLRs practically pocket friendly. I purchased Canon's 40mm f/2.8 lens for our trip, and never regretted it for a second. No, it didn't have the zoom capability of my Canon's kit lens, but we still got some amazing shots—without the extra weight or bulkiness of a DSLR zoom lens. And if you have a CILC (compact interchageable lens) or minature DSLR camera, you can make that weight even smaller.


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