David’s Travel Tech Prep

I wrote this up prior to my Birthright Israel trip with Towson Hillel, but the advice here is applicable to any international travel. It covers essential technology and financial stuff that people always forget to do before their trips and regret after it’s too late.

  • Disable any Sim Card security locks that prevent you from using your phone if your Sim is removed.
  • Back up your device to the cloud and/or save important photos and contacts to your computer. Assume the worst can happen.
  • Google Maps – say/search “okay maps” to download the region you are traveling to as well as the route to the airport. The entire country of Israel is approximately 270MB as of June 2022. Waze is commonly used in Israel as well but doesn’t allow offline downloads.
  • Spotify premium or other music services, download your playlists offline in high quality, as streaming licenses may be unavailable in Israel. Enable offline mode. Overkill: firewall-block Spotify from accessing the internet prior to flight.
  • Google Translate, Microsoft Translator – download offline languages for the region you are traveling. For Israel, this would be English, Hebrew and Arabic (under 400MB for both apps)
  • Keyboards and voice typing – Enable Hebrew layout and input, download English voice-typing offline, and Hebrew if available
  • Update all apps, especially WhatsApp and the Birthright Israel app, and any pending system updates to your phone. Do not remove WhatsApp in Israel because you might not be able to log back in if you don’t have access to your phone number.
  • Multi-factor authentication that doesn’t rely on a phone number for accounts such as email and social media. Twilio Authy, Google Authenticator, etc.
  • Determine one or two credit cards and checking accounts that have minimal or no foreign transaction fees to bring on your trip. The Amazon Chase card has no fees, and Ally Bank debit cards have a 1% transaction fee. Discover is not commonly accepted in Israel but Visa and Mastercard are.
  • Write a note with all international and local phone numbers for financial cards you are carrying in case they are lost or stolen. Have this note emailed to yourself or to a family member in case of emergency.
  • Notify your financial institutions that you will be traveling so they can put a note on your account. Have all financial apps installed and logged in and know how to access card locking functionality. Lock all cards you aren’t taking on your trip prior to leaving home for the airport.
  • Decide if you want to keep biometric authentication (facial, iris, fingerprint) enabled on your device. While this is HIGHLY unlikely to occur, Israeli law allows police to forcibly unlock your phone with your biometrics, unlike most of the United States.