If you live in France, Italy, Spain, or even here in the U.S., you know it’s peak season for summer vacations. And, according to Hopper, a site that helps travelers find flight deals, air travel will cost about 5.7 percent less this summer than last. Plus, with gas prices around a buck cheaper this year, summer 2015 is proving to be an opportune time to take a break from the grind, pack up a bag, and hit the highways or the skyways.
But, while technology can be a big help on your vacation — from buying your ticket to finding your hotel — it can also lead to big problems if you’re not careful.
So before you head off to Yosemite to convene with nature or Cabo to convene with a towel and a palm tree, here are 4 safety tips to help you avoid any tech catastrophes on your summer vacay.
1. Beware the Wi-Fi
From airport lounges to roadside diners, there are lots of places offering free Wi-Fi these days. But keep in mind that open Wi-Fi networks are generally unencrypted, which means that everything you do online (via unencrypted websites) is clearly visible to everyone in range.
If you log into an unencrypted network while on vacation, try to avoid accessing any sensitive info, like your bank or credit card accounts. And if you must log on, make sure it’s an encrypted website. You can tell a network is unencrypted if you don’t have to enter a passcode or phrase to log in.
So keep your browsing light and try to avoid checking your annuities or paying your bills when you’re kickin’ back in the hotel lobby with a Sloe Gin Fizz. I mean, good grief! You’re on vacation!
2. Be careful what you post online
According to an article on Adweek’s SocialTimes site, 75 percent of convicted burglars believe other burglars use social media to find targets. And if burglars believe it, you know it must be true.
While social media’s great for sharing plans and photos with your friends, it can also be used for some distinctly unfriendly purposes. For instance, every picture you upload online contains info called EXIF data, which includes where the pic was taken and with what type of camera or phone.
Any cyber burglar worth their salt will know how to use this info to find out where you live … and more.
Yes, it’s true that the primary function of social media is to make your friends jealous. But nonetheless, it’s a good idea to wait until you get home from your vacation to start posting pics of your toes in the sand.
3. Be aware of your surroundings
It may be tempting to google the hibernation patterns of black bears or check the Yelp reviews for the café on the corner, but try to avoid staring at your phone constantly while on vacation.
In fact, being aware of your environment (look up!) can help you avoid becoming a target for thieves and will also help you avoid running into things. (You laugh, but Smithsonian.com recently reported that from 2004 to 2010, the number of injuries from walking into telephone poles nearly tripled. Due in part, no doubt, to the amount of time we spend staring at our phones.)
And besides, there’s a lot of cool stuff to see in the world. Even cooler, if you can believe, than your Instagram feed. So look around … that’s what you came all this way for anyway, right?
4. Use a lock screen on your phone
According to Consumer Reports, 3.1 million smart phones were stolen in 2013, nearly twice as many as in 2012.
Having your phone stolen while you’re on vacation could put a serious damper on the good times. It could also result in an expensive bill for apps, not to mention the potential cost of any in-app purchases. Oy! But a good lock screen can help prevent all that and minimize your financial losses by keeping your info safe if the bad guys do manage to get their hands on your phone.
Try to avoid a simple pattern lock screen since those can be easy to crack (especially if you leave smudges on the screen). Android™ and iPhone® both offer fingerprint lock screens, which require you to scan your fingerprint for access. But there are literally hundreds of lock screens available, so pick one that works for you and use it.
More vacation tips
Ready to go but can’t decide where? Check out these 6 tips for finding your perfect vacation. But before you lock the door and say bon voyage, make sure you do these 10 essential things. And if you’re headed to foreign lands and thinking about driving, don’t miss this roundup of countries with the safest (and most dangerous) roads.