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Traveling soon? 5 smart tech steps to take before you hit the road

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Travel now means your tickets, maps, hotel, rental car and more are all stored on your phone. But what happens if that goes missing? Here’s how to find your phone when it’s lost — even if the battery is dead.

The other big phone emergency? Your battery is dying and you have to leave for the airport. Whoops. Tap or click for smart ways to get more life out of your battery.

Travel can be stressful, but these hacks can make a huge difference.

1. Keep a (digital) eye on your stuff

Digital trackers help monitor your valuables and find them if you lose anything. I put an Apple AirTag on my dog’s collar, key chains, bike and cars. Here are 10 clever ways you can use an AirTag.

AirTags use signals from other iPhones to determine where they are located. Using the Find My app, you can see the location of every AirTag associated with your account. It’s a good idea to throw one in your checked baggage. This lets you see whether your bag makes it to your destination.

But the AirTag will be worthless when your luggage goes through the airport’s inner conveyor belt system. There typically aren’t enough iPhones nearby for the AirTag to work. But once your luggage is out of there, you’ll know exactly where it’s located.

Want to grab a few now while you’re thinking about it?

  • Apple’s AirTags are ideal if you have an iPhone, Mac or iPad. 
  • The Tile 2-pack is Android compatible and has a tracker for your luggage and one to slide into your wallet.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT: 10 best travel apps to plan your next adventure

2. Track flights the easy way

Here’s a handy iPhone trick if a family member or friend picks you up from the airport. Send a text with your airline and flight number, such as “Southwest Airlines 1175.”

The person can tap on the message to open a flight tracker. They can see the flight’s progress and estimated arrival time without searching for the flight online or on a tracking site. Easy!

If your ride uses an Android, they can do a web search for the airline and flight number to see the same info.

This travel hack is excellent! Uber has a new way to have a car waiting for you when you land. Your Uber driver will track your flight. Here’s my 60-second tip about how it works.

Get breaking data breach and security news as it happens. Sign up for my free email alerts.

3. Get these photos on your phone

There are essential photos I have on my phone. Worst case scenario, you lose your wallet. Getting home will be much smoother if you have pictures of your critical documents.

Be sure to include your license, passport and health insurance card at a minimum. 

The easiest way to do that on an iPhone is to use the handy document scanner built into the native Notes app.

  • Open the Notes app. Create a new note by clicking the icon that looks like a square with a pen located at the bottom right of the screen. Tap the camera icon at the bottom of your new note and select Scan Documents.

On an Android, snap some photos and mark them as favorites in your picture gallery or use the scan feature in Google Drive:

  • Open the Google Drive app. Tap the plus button in the bottom right corner.
  • Tap Scan and allow access to your camera if you have not already. Follow the on-screen prompts to take and save your photos.

Pro Tip: I also recommend saving your identifying documents as PDF files and saving a copy to your iOS Books, Android eBook app or even sending to your Kindle. This way, you can access them offline. You might also want to send a copy to your travel partner. 

SMART STEP: Take my advice and upload these nine photos you should always have on your phone at your fingertips. You’ll thank me later!

4. Check your rental for hidden spy cameras

It’s happened to me. I rented a home, settled in, and realized how many cameras were watching me. It was very troubling. 

If you rent through Airbnb, cameras are allowed in public and common spaces but not bathrooms or bedrooms. They cannot be hidden and must be disclosed in the listing descriptions. Vrbo forbids indoor cameras altogether, though outdoor cameras are permitted for “reasonable monitoring.”

Larger cameras are easy to spot, but anyone can hide smaller cameras behind furniture, vents, or decorations. Then there are the hidden cameras that can masquerade as all kinds of things, from a Roku to an outlet extender. Seriously, you’ll be shocked when you see these things.

A simple way to spot most types of cameras is to look for the lens reflection. Turn off the lights and slowly scan the room with a flashlight or laser pointer, looking for bright reflections. Scan the room from multiple spots so you don’t miss a camera pointed only at certain places. Inspect the vents and any holes or gaps in the walls or ceilings. 

You can also get an RF detector. This gadget can pick up wireless cameras you might not see.

If you can connect to the rental’s wireless network, a free program like Wireless Network Watcher shows what gadgets are connected. You might be able to spot connected cameras. Just be aware that the owner might have put the cameras on a second network, or they could be wired or record-only types.

If you find an indoor surveillance camera that was not disclosed to you, pick up the phone and call the police. Tell them you have direct evidence that your landlord is spying on you inside your rental home without your knowledge or permission. Use this exact phrase.

Document the situation with video and photos on your smartphone. Once you have your police report, contact the rental site.

5. Find the comfiest seat

If you’re tall, you know how important a few extra inches of legroom are on a flight. It can be the difference between being comfy or cramped for hours.

Google Flights is a great way to find the cheapest flight, but you take an extra step to find the most comfortable seat.

  • Get the Chrome browser extension called Legrooms for Google Flights. You’ll also see how much legroom per seat per flight you selected when using Google Flights.
  • Another solid option is Enter your airline and flight number, and you’ll see a map of the best seats with the most legroom. No download is required.

Bonus Tip: Bulletproof headphones, credit report change, new Zoom trick

Have you tried one of those “buy now, pay later” services? Many shoppers love this setup — but now it will appear on your credit report. Speaking of shopping, you can buy a vertical mouse or life-saving headphones. (Yep: one gamer’s headphones saved him from a stray bullet.) In this episode, I’ll share AirTag news and a cool new Zoom trick that lets you speak with your hands.

Check out my podcast “Kim Komando Today” on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player.

Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”

Get more tech know-how on The Kim Komando Show, broadcast on 425+ radio stations and available as a podcast. Sign up for Kim’s five-minute, free morning roundup for the latest security breaches and tech news. Need help? Drop your question for Kim here.

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