Travel with your Android mobile without losing your mind (or bankroll)

Jack Wallen offers some travel tips for your Android smartphone so that your information is secure, your bill doesn't cost a fortune, and your battery life is optimized as wisely as possible.

It's that time of year, people... time to pack up and head to your favorite hideaway du jour. You'll most likely be away from your normal routine, out of your usual network, and maybe even outside of your standard rate plan. In the age of the smartphone, there are things to undertake when traveling so you get the best possible experience from your mobile device. The Android platform is no different, and so here are some tips for traveling with your Android mobile device.

One might be inclined to assume that there's nothing to be done to a mobile device when traveling. To that, I say, "Nay nay." It's important to think about these three things:

  • Security
  • Data
  • Battery


It's one thing to lose your phone in your home town, but to lose your phone in a different city or state is another thing altogether. The likelihood of that phone returning to you is slim to none. Because of that, you certainly want to make sure that no one can get to your precious data. Think about it... some schmuck gets into your contacts and your various accounts -- everything could go belly up fairly quickly with the right information leaking out.

The good news is that you can easily avoid this by setting up a security pattern, pin, or password. My preference is the pattern, simply because it can be entered more quickly than using the keypad.

To create a security pattern, do the following:

  1. Tap the Menu button
  2. Tap Location and Security (or Settings | Security -- this may vary, depending on phone)
  3. Tap Change screen lock
  4. If you've already created a lock combination, enter it now
  5. Tap Pattern
  6. Draw out the new pattern (see Figure A) -- make it complex!
  7. Tap Continue
  8. Confirm the pattern by redrawing
  9. Tap Continue

That's it!

Figure A

Just make sure the pattern you create is complicated, so that it can't be quickly or easily figured out.


When you're on vacation, you are (or should) be disconnected from your work email -- especially if you are traveling over seas. If you wind up on a far-removed network that's going to cost you your very soul to pay for, it's important to stop the auto-syncing of data. Here's how:

  1. Tap the Menu button
  2. Tap Accounts & sync (or Settings | Account & sync -- again, this varies by phone)
  3. Uncheck Background data

You can take this one step further and completely disable mobile networks. I would only do this if you have access to Wi-Fi, otherwise you won't be using your phone at all. To disable the Mobile network, follow these steps:

  1. Tap the Settings button
  2. Tap Mobile networks
  3. Uncheck Use packet data (with other Android devices, simply uncheck Mobile networks from the Wireless & networks setting)

Now the phone will depend upon wireless networks.


Finally, you will want to optimize your device to use the battery as wisely as possible. The easiest way to accomplish this is to:

  • Turn off GPS
  • Turn off wireless networking when not needed
  • Set the display brightness to a lower level
  • Adjust the screen timeout to 15 or 30 seconds
  • Eke out more savings by checking Power saving mode

There are also some outstanding widgets that can be placed on the Home screen, like Power Control (typically installed by default in the latest releases of Android phones), that give you immediate access to buttons that will turn on/off some of the energy-sucking phone features, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, power, and screen brightness (see Figure B).

Figure B

If the bar below the button is green, that feature is on. Tap the associated button to turn the feature off.

You never know when you're going to be away from a power source (or how long you're going to be at a power source). Making sure that your Android device uses as little power as possible will make your travel time with your mobile much longer.

When you're on the go, the last thing you want is for your mobile to be unsafe, cost you a fortune, or lose power. With these handy tips, you should be able to avoid those issues.


Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website


Settings>Location & Security>Use wireless networks If you're not reliant on location-based services, you can safely uncheck the "Use wireless networks" setting. This stops the phone from working to triangulate your location based on cellphone towers. It should help with your battery life, plus the privacy-conscious will like it because the phone won't be tracking your location all the time. I've had it disabled for 2-3 weeks now with no ill effect. I manually set my metropolitan location into my weather app, so that stays functional, and when I want/need nav or location functions, I turn on GPS and use an app called "GPS Status" by a publisher named Eclipsim to lock in my location in seconds, then I can use Google Maps/Nav or anything else that's location-aware.


Yes, this is very weird reading this as I never ever use data, only WiFi, as it is extremely expensive here. To that extent I have already turned off mobile data and background data. Also, is there any more batt. saving tips other than that? I thought those were normal things to do? (I certainly set it up like that for everyone I know).


Some phones can be used internationally. For example GSM phones (AT&T and T-Mobile) can be used in many countries like Europe. I would recommend leaving your SIM card at home. When you get to the next country you can get a local pre-paid SIM card that allows you to make normal calls at a normal rate. You may be able to then use an international calling card to phone home at a much cheaper rate. This saves you from having to buy a local phone if you need one. Be careful, you may find that data plans in other countries are expensive. Stick to Wi-Fi for data and maybe just use Skype.

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