Monday, April 29, 2013

Using The Cloud for Travel and Emergencies

          Hopping on a plane and taking a trip is as common as stepping into an elevator. In just a few short hours you can be thousands of miles away.  For most trips many of us now take very little cash. Depending instead on debit cards and credit cards. Need cash, just step up to an ATM. Our wallets and of course for the ladies your purses are stores of financial resources and information. Credit Cards, Debit Cards, Drivers Licenses, Insurance Cards, Auto Registrations, your little cheat sheets for passwords. But what happens if you lose that purse or wallet? What if you get mugged? What if you are in a bad car accident and you are separated from that wallet or purse? What if you lose that credit card or leave it behind and need to cancel it right away? What number do you call? What was the credit card number? Here’s an idea that can give you some piece of mind.

Take a scan of Credit and Debit Cards (front and back), a scan of Passports (including any Visa’s), a scan of your driver license, auto insurance card, auto or boat registration, a scan of your health insurance documents. Scan your airline, cruise and other travel documents. If you are traveling with a minor and you have written authorization to provide medical treatment. If you are traveling with a domestic partner and have documentation that allows you to authorize medical services to your loved one, you should scan these legal documents as well. You may want to include addresses and telephone numbers of people you are visiting or people close to where you will be going. In an emergency, these people can be a resource to you.
Once Scanned create either one master document, or separate documents, password protect them and upload them to Google Docs or any other cloud storage medium.

Now, as long as you can get access to the Internet, you have access as well as a copy to all that critical information should you need it when you are away from home. All you need is one login and the password for the files. It’s also a great idea as part of a hurricane preparedness plan, or any natural disaster. Even if you lose your smartphone or laptop, you can access this file from any hotel computer or internet cafĂ© anywhere in the world.

Communication Apps for Travel

If you have ever traveled outside of the United States you will surely encounter the need if not the urge to reach out and talk or communicate with friends, family and co-workers. Even if you do not travel often you may have friends and contacts and like me business in other countries. So you really want affordable and easy to use mediums to communicate and stay in touch with your VIP’s. Here is a round-up of some cool apps that require web access and keep you in touch. Best of all the apps and the services are free or at very deep discounts!

Skype: Okay I am sure you have heard of this app. Telephone calls for free to anyone that has an account. Or discount calls to land lines almost anywhere in the world. Works on Wifi or 3G. Sends texts, Pics, Videos, and you can transmit attachments. Really good for very large attachments. You can use this on your iPad, computer or iPhone. I use it all the time for those international calls at pennies for the minute. On a smartphone, Skype will use cell phone minutes but if you have a computer or a tablet its Wifi only.

Talkatone: Nice app that requires you’re a gmail account user. Essentially uses your google voice account and the contacts already on your phone. The telephone pad looks just like the iPhone pad. All you need is Wifi access and voila, you’re talking away with your VIP’s; for free.  It does not use your cell phone minutes where google voice does. You can call or SMS text the US and Canada for free and international calls are at a discount.

Whatsapp: You’re on vacation and suddenly feel your thumbs are becoming weak from lack of texting. Or maybe you just want that intermittent interjection of how wonderful your vacation is and how rude the waiter was in Paris. No problem. Whatsapp uses your smartphone contacts and allows you to text other cell phone users anywhere in the world for free. Send Pics, audio notes or videos. Switch from SMS to exchange messages.

            So you say you don’t like being that connected. No worries, turn the phone off. On my next newsletter I will provide the top 10 excuses for not staying in touch during your vacation.