For those of you who may not know, my family packed up our clothing and my laptop (and a few other supplies) and flew to Naples, Italy at the beginning of November. We spent 3 months in a house by the Mediterranean Sea, eating pizza and visiting the ruins of ancient Rome. Then, my children and I packed up our clothes, my laptop, and our books – we are homeschooling this year, and flew to England at the end of January, where we will stay until May. Then it is back to Italy until school starts in the fall.
My children on our balcony in Monte di Procida
While I knew before that my laptop is truly a valuable piece of equipment, this journey has proven to me just how helpful and entertaining a laptop (particularly with internet access) can be. We use the laptop for homeschooling, communicating with family & friends, banking, playing DVDs and games, looking up recipes, and just about everything else. If you are considering a trip, whether abroad or otherwise, please consider packing your laptop or iPad for the journey. With some of these online tools, you will be glad you did.
Waiting for our plane
- Kayak.com – This website truly seems to have the ability to scout out the lowest prices. Then it just sends you on to purchase your tickets through your chosen airline or consolidator. Easy to navigate and pretty straightforward. http://www.kayak.com
- Google Translator – Ever needed to ask your landlady to help you fix your light in the kitchen in Italian? I have. Thank goodness for Google Translator. Find your word or phrase in just a few seconds. http://translate.google.com/
- Google Maps – I use Google Maps just about everyday. I can get directions from where I am staying to another location. I can search nearby for restaurants, a post office, bus stops, train stations, banks, anything. I can use it find the best route either by car, by public transportation, or by walking. http://maps.google.com
- XE.com – Be sure to keep an eye on the currency exchange. Find out how much those shoes really cost by visiting http://www.xe.com/
- Weather.com – While I will admit that checking the weather has been higher on my priority list in England than in Italy, it has nevertheless been invaluable to me as I make plans to see the sites. Do we need to bring an umbrella? Should we wear our coat or jacket? Which day will have better weather for visiting a Roman ampitheater or the Tower of London? http://www.weather.com
- Skype – I have lived abroad before. I remember striking a deal with my parents. I would call them on a Sunday evening. Then they would call me the next Sunday. And so on. Now, with Skype I can talk to anyone in the world (with or without video) with a Skype account for free. Also, I can purchase some Skype credit and call any number in the world for as little as $.02/minute. When I first arrived in England, I needed my own phone number. I purchased a UK number on Skype for just $18 for 3 months. Now, when I am ordering pizza, I can give them a local number. http://www.skype.com
- TripAdvisor – I have relied heavily on the reviews of various accommodations found on TripAdvisor. They are a one-stop shop for everything from B&Bs to hotels/inns to self-catering flats. http://www.tripadvisor.com
- Rick Steves – I really like this guy. He is perfect for the budget traveler. He advocates for safe adventure. He is enthusiastic about travel and he is contagious. I love listening to his podcasts. His guidebooks are wonderful. His website is packed with useful tips for planning your travel. http://www.ricksteves.com/
- Facebook – Your friends and family will be dying to know where your adventure is taking you. So use Facebook to keep them posted. Then be sure to check in when you start missing people from home. http://Facebook.com
- Last.fm – This is an internet radio site that you can play outside of the U.S. So tune in to listen to your favorite artists and bands even when you are away from home. http://www.last.fm/
- Grocery delivery – The cottages that we are staying in here in England are completely stocked with most everything I need to make my family’s meals. All that’s needed are the groceries. We’ve carried groceries a mile on our backs many times, but when I discovered that the grocery items that I need can be purchased online and delivered to my front door, I was relieved. Check your local area for a grocery delivery website. In the UK, look up http://www.sainsburys.co.uk
- Transport Links – There is no one answer for this. You will have to look up the websites for train, bus, and ferry routes in the country you are visiting. You can check departure/arrival times, platform numbers, changes, route maps, prices, and station information. Once you know where to look, bookmark these sites and refer to them often for all of your public transportation needs.
What online tools have you used while traveling abroad or otherwise?