Tech Travel Tips

Paula LaBrot

‘Tis the season to be traveling!

“Consumers have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season: higher wages, more disposable income, and rising levels of household wealth,” says Bill Sutherland, AAA Travel senior vice president. “This is translating into more travelers…building on a positive year for the travel industry.” Here are a few tips regarding tech and travel.

Beware Public Wi-Fi—If you are traveling, let me remind you that when you use a public wi-fi connection you are opening yourself up to being hacked. Hacking is big business. At home or at work, your network password prevents outsiders from accessing your account. In a public wi-fi situation, there is no privacy. A public wi-fi connection is a network you sign onto at a hotel, a restaurant, or an airport. Hackers using any number of programs like Firesheep or Wireshark can snoop on your browsing session and hack it. The most dangerous threat is when the hacker positions themselves between you and the connection point you are trying to reach (like your bank). If that happens, every bit of information you transmit travels through the hacker’s computer, including important emails, credit card information and passwords…the hacker gets the keys to your kingdom. I change my computer password every day when traveling.  

Use a VPN…a virtual private network—It will slow things down but ask anyone who has had their identity stolen how much time that takes. When you use a VPN, you connect through a computer somewhere in the world that then connects you to where you are trying to go. Just like your house has a street address to get mail, your connected device has an IP (an internet address) to get and receive data on the Web. With a VPN, if someone tries to trace back to your computer, they end up at the IP address of the computer in the middle, which could be on the moon for all the help that information will give a hacker. NordVPN, Cyberghost, and Tunnelbear are recommended services by PC Magazine.

You can also turn off file sharing from your control panel when you are in public places and turn off your wi-fi connection when you are not using it, as it still is running behind the scenes unless turned off.

Use RFID shields—cards, wallets, faraday bags, which block electromagnetic fields, for your credit or ID cards at risk of identity theft, and also your wireless devices, such as phones, laptops, tablets, and even your car key fobs! All of these devices broadcast wireless signals and are subject to risks such as, information theft, or property theft right out of your car. Hackers love to sit in airports or coffee houses just hanging out and using radio frequencies to read the information from magnetic strips on your credit cards.  

Recommendations from—Be prepared to keep your phone charged so remember to pack your charger and other accessories such as cables, USB wall plug, portable surge protector, international plug adaptors, and voltage converters in see-through plastic baggies so the TSA people don’t have to spread all your stuff out to see what you have. Pack per TSA rules (

If you are going to be in remote areas, bring a portable power pack. Here’s a cool stocking stuffer, GoalZeroNomad power pack, a solar powered charger ($79). Apps like Translator with Speech can do easy translations and Google Currency Converter can figure out prices for you. Outfit your phone with a good screen protector and a rugged case. If you drop your phone in water, you can try this: put your phone in a plastic baggie filled with rice for a couple days. It works.

Flight Track Pro gives you the real-time status of delays, cancellations, gate changes, as well as on-time history. You can buy a Roku streaming stick ($49) and you’ll have access to everything from Netflix to Youtube—seriously, almost anything—through your computer. Use What’sApp, Messenger, or Skype to talk freely anywhere in the world. On planes and trains, put your phone on airplane mode. You can access your e-mail or browse the web if the carrier has wi-fi. Of course, take an SD card or jump drives to store the three million pictures you are going to take, in case you run out of storage room on your devices.

Because I travel to very remote regions where there is no electricity and can’t plug into a coconut tree, I carry a Canon that runs on batteries.

A Terrific Last Tip—Scan all your travel documents: license, passport, reservations, credit cards, bank information, and the customer service numbers that go with them. Encrypt them and send them up to the Cloud or store them on a jump drive, just in case you lose them.

Happy Holiday Travels, beloved Topangans.

Vamos a Ver!  


Paula LaBrot
Paula LaBrot

Paula LaBrot is a 30-year resident of Topanga, a futurist with a special interest in the uncharted waters of cyberspace.

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