7 tech tips for traveling mid-pandemic

I’ve just come back from spending several weeks in Europe. I’m from the UK, and since Brexit, travel to the European Union has become more complicated. But with coronavirus variants continuing to burn their way around the globe, this has added further layers of complications, bureaucracy, and uncertainty to traveling.

I found that having my tech set up properly was an invaluable part of making things as easy, smooth, and as stress-free as possible.

What follows is based on my experiences, and will of course, vary from country to country, and even day to day, but I think that these tips will help make your journey — whether it be work or pleasure — a lot less stressful.

#1: Your smartphone is vital

If you thought a smartphone was vital, wait until you travel. Everything from keeping up to date on changes in regulations to showing vaccination certificates to paying for stuff, your smartphone is your life preserver in a sea of change and uncertainty.

The option of “I’ll just go for a walk and leave my phone behind” just doesn’t exist anymore.

#2: Keep your phone charged up

With point #1 in mind, I realized I was burning through my battery much quicker than usual. OK, I was using my phone more for things like photography, but the number of times I needed it to show vaccination passes or various travel documents meant that it was in use a lot.

Carrying a small power bank (and charge cable) seems a super sensible idea.

Also: Best portable power banks: Zendure, Anker, and more

#3: Masks make it a pain to unlock your smartphone

If you’re one of those sensible people that have long, complex passcodes securing their smartphones, you’re going to start hating life quickly. Fingerprint readers on Android devices make unlocking smoother, and for iPhone users, if you have an Apple Watch, you’re going to really appreciate that “unlock when wearing a mask” a lot.

My life would have sucked without it, and I got a whole new level of appreciation for my Apple Watch.

Also: Best smartwatches: Apple Watch and other top picks

#4: Take screenshots of vital documents

Rather than having to dig through my emails for things like PLF (Passenger Locator Forms) and such, I found that it was easier to take screenshots of these documents. It made them easier to find in a hurry. Also, since almost anyone wanting to see these documents were interested in the QR codes on them, a screenshot made it easy to zoom in on the relevant bit.

#5: Fast access to vaccination certificate

I set my vaccination certificate as my wallpaper and lock screen. I found this far quicker and more convenient than even using Apple’s Wallet app on both the iPhone and Apple Watch.

Interestingly, and rather worryingly, I found that a large proportion of QR code readers that staff were using to check the vaccination certificate didn’t seem to work well with the Apple Wallet certificate but was fine with a screenshot.

I’m not sure why.

#6: Be prepared for frustrations

Lots of frustrations.

Things from random QR codes not scanning to last-minute changes in regulations.

It happens. Getting frustrated by it doesn’t really help.

#7: Be prepared to have to print stuff out.

Yup, printing stuff.

On a couple of occasions, I had to seek out print shops to do just that (because who carries a printer with them?). Just another one of those frustrations that you must roll with.