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You so need a phone

I've just done 3 plane trips in the past 6 months and ... resistance is futile. You need a phone, and it needs to be modern and totally up to date with operating system and security updates. If for nothing else, it's now the only way to fly. You almost can't survive without your airline's app. They will ping you constantly with reminders and updates and, most importantly, the boarding pass. I'm still old fashioned enough that I prefer a paper pass and when I'm near a computer and printer, that isn't hard. On the road, it's hard. And once you check your bag, they'll send you a confirmation and the claim check number. Want to change or update your seat? Hello app! Want to double check your itinerary, or get notices that one or more of your flights are delayed or cancelled? That is how they will reach you. They might also send an email but again, how do you read email when on the road? Phone!

Also on United, you can no longer pay for stuff onboard without the app. Not just cash, now they won't take credit cards either! Your card of choice needs to be preloaded into their app (before you board obviously) and it is the only form of payment they will accept. And I was watching while sitting at the United club, 98% of the guests had their boarding passes on their phones. Either by necessity or choice, but that's just the way things are.

In Europe, want a menu at the restaurant? You'll often have to scan the QR code. Want a self-guided tour at a museum or site? Often you scan that pesky QR code again for that. And if we go back to COVID passes, which is not impossible, guess how they will send you the certificate?

Posted by
7573 posts

I agree, a smart phone has become an essential travel tool. Don't forget being able to use it to arrange a ride, check public transport in real time, etc.

Posted by
1951 posts

Curious, so how does United put a charge through to your CC on file - do they scan your boarding pass.

Posted by
12719 posts

Yes, this was clear to me on my trip last October and even more clear on my recent trip.

Smartphone + cell service (yes, I really resisted this!) + at least minimal skills using apps, email, What's app, etc.

Posted by
5654 posts

I disagree (though I have a smart phone). It's still possible to travel without a smart phone. You can get your paper boarding passes at the airport like always. You don't have to buy anything on the plane. To be honest, I don't think I've ever purchased anything on a plane, so I certainly don't need an app for that.

A smart phone would make it EASIER for many people, no doubt. But not essential.

I have found a smart phone very helpful especially on the ground on vacation e.g. in Europe for walking directions, etc., but I was certainly able to make trips in the past without a phone and could do it again.

Posted by
1951 posts

No question having a smartphone, with you, while travelling is a handy companion, although I do not allow it to be all-consuming. After I download the boarding pass(es) I turn off all notifications because I find them incessant and annoying. The smartphone has a place, and that place is mostly in my pocket.

Posted by
8951 posts

I was coming through Atlanta airport on Saturday, and was on the little shuttle between terminals heading to C terminal for my connecting flight (after two hours awaiting and having my Global Entry interview on arrival after going through immigration ) , and right as we arrived at C, I saw the Delta app notification that my flight had been moved to D terminal — where the train was right then ! The app notification saved me going to an extra terminal and coming back (not that would have been a huge deal, but still it was nice to be rerouted more easily).

Posted by
6204 posts

I find that the TripIt app will notify me of any airline delays or gate changes a little earlier than the airline. I also love using the Dark Sky app because it will give me the weather for the next few days & hourly it’s pretty reliable.

I am one of those dinosaurs that still loves having a paper ticket for reservations; I like to hand the Booking.com reservation printed in Italian (or French, etc.) to the hotel front desk. But, I also have access to it by iCloud photos, etc.

I prefer the QR code in restaurants to a printed menu.

Thanks for the info about paying for food on the plane!

Posted by
156 posts

So…what happens when you get a SIM card at the airport on arrival to Europe? Now your phone number for texts and messages is different. I’m flying with Westjet to England and back to Canada. If I have to contact Westjet to tell them of a change of number, it’s impossible to get them on the phone. In Canada, I can arrange a “callback”, but they’re usually so busy, it can take a week for the callback.
I’m not on social media. How do others let their airline know what their new number is?

Posted by
6113 posts

I haven’t used paper tickets for years as everything is on my iPhone, which is 7 years old, so it doesn’t need to be a modern phone. Travelling with a phone is much easier than not travelling with a phone.

Posted by
2766 posts

Someone mentioned SIM cards. If you are signed into your apps you still get app notifications, most of those aren’t tied to your phone number. Your problem is when the app uses 2 step verification by text. You know, where they text a code to you and you need that code to sign in. If you have a traditional new SIM card, you don’t get your texts at your normal number. Sometimes they can do the code by email, so if you are signed into email by password you are set. But sometimes email apps want to do the 2-step…

I don’t know a lot about e-sim but apparently dual SIM cards, with at least one being an e-sim get around this problem. I should probably look into that as opposed to paying ATT $10/day to use my phone plan…

I think buying physical sim cards (at airports or otherwise aimed at shorter term travelers) will go the way of travelers checks in the next few years, for this exact reason. Remember when people would buy a burner phone for travel? Not very useful now, when apps and cameras are the important things!

Posted by
462 posts

We bring our phones and use them a lot, but we don't have cell phone coverage.

When we were at CDG on Saturday, we took the time to read the board as we made our way through the airport to see that our gate had changed since our ticket was printed in MRS. As I was standing in the line to board our plane, a confused, young woman came up to the agent saying her different flight was supposed to be at that gate, and she even showed him her phone as prove. He had to look it up, but our two flights had switched gates. If she would have taken a moment to confirm her departure information on the airport monitor, she would have known.

Posted by
468 posts

So…what happens when you get a SIM card at the airport on arrival to Europe? Now your phone number for texts and messages is different. I’m flying with Westjet to England and back to Canada. If I have to contact Westjet to tell them of a change of number, it’s impossible to get them on the phone. In Canada, I can arrange a “callback”, but they’re usually so busy, it can take a week for the callback.
I’m not on social media. How do others let their airline know what their new number is?

You don't bother - because the number will change again when you swap back to your home SIM - Use the app - you will get notifications through that. I can't even remember an airline calling me anytime - and most don't do text either. You just use the app -so much easier

Basically tell friends/family to use the app of choice: whatsapp/ facebook messenger, skype whatever - and again your phone number no longer matters - whatsapp actually asks you if you want to switch to the new phone number - to which the answer is always no

Posted by
8083 posts

I don't like to be completely dependent on an electronic device. Its too big of a problem if there's a glitch or you lose it.

But a question for the users of Apple Pay, etc. Do you have to be connected to cellular for that to work overseas?

Posted by
1951 posts

"Do you have to be connected to cellular for that to work overseas"

NO, you do not, in fact you don't even have to be connected to wifi - as long as your battery is charged on your phone, Apple Pay will work.

Apple Pay uses an electronic wallet and the cards in that wallet TAP exactly like a physical card in your hand - in both cases the POS device does all the work.

Posted by
8083 posts

periscope & Nick , yes but. . . .

Wallet links to my bank credit card, which automatically sends me a confirmation notice when a transaction occurs. So it seems to me that my phone needs some kind of connection in order to communicate with my bank (where the card "lives"). Otherwise, I could go through a whole trip's worth of transactions, that don't upload to my bank until I turn on cellular or wifi.

I'm mostly just curious how these things work, since I haven't used Apple Pay outside the US, and past practice, has been to keep my phone off as much as possible.

(edit) OK maybe I figured it out. Its the merchants' devices that does the hard work communicating back to my bank (that is, via card services) not my phone. Is that it?

Posted by
2766 posts

Your physical card doesn’t have an internet connection, it’s just a piece of plastic with a chip. I believe Apple pay or other service should work the same - the card machine at the store has a connection and “talks” to your bank that way. The card info is stored on your phone, but the internet is through the reader at the store.

But the best way to find out is to try it! Go to the grocery store, turn off wifi and cellular data and try to buy your groceries.

Posted by
1951 posts

" Is that it?"

That's it. Once you TAP your card on the POS device that info goes through to Visa to your Bank and back to the POS device, with authentication (or not), in a nano-second.

My bank allows me to set allerts on my cards - both SMS and email - but because you're out of the country and don't have cellular turned on, you'll want the alerts to you by email (SMS works only on cellular while your email works on both cellular and wifi data) so you can check for them when you have wifi.

If you're tapping your way around Europe, both Visa and your bank know where you are. When I travel, I check my bank account every morning to see what got charged and what got posted and cleared.

Posted by
3660 posts

I’m flying with Westjet to England and back to Canada.

Susie, WestJet has an option for email updates as well, that's how I get mine. Thinking about it, its App doesn't give notifications of updates though, it automatically updates, but doesn't warn me. Strange.

Posted by
1951 posts

"at some point the debit card no longer works contactless"

Yeah, that's a tweek special to Debit Cards - it's the same here in Canada, but I rarely use mine so I don't get caught up in that.

Posted by
32066 posts

phred,

I agree completely, and would add that it's especially important for solo travellers (something I learned a few years ago when I ended up in a European hospital for a week). I've been travelling with a smartphone since about 2011 when the iPhone 4S was introduced. These days I use a "Roam-Like-Home" plan from my cell provider so I have full cell coverage at all times, although it's a bit expensive.

It's such a versatile travel accessory and I can't imagine ever travelling without a smartphone. While it may not be "essential", it sure makes travel a lot easier.

Posted by
155 posts

Good point about Google 2 step verification. I think setting up another email with them prior to leaving n America would work, wouldn't it? Then ignore the phone number when asked. Don't know for sure. Anybody?