While we spend an awful lot of time packing physical goods for vacation, I often forget to do my digital packing. At least once a year I take time off, including time off the grid. No phone, no internet, no connection to the outside world. Yet, I still want to read and feed my brain while I’m taking time off. I still want access to great media.
Even during travel where I have access to the Internet, that access may not be high quality. Almost every business traveler has been to a hotel where the Internet speed left something to be desired. For flights with wifi, the in-flight service is either slow as mud generally or becomes slow as mud the moment we start downloading something.
So, how do we pack for poor or no Internet? Consider the kinds of media we’d want to bring along and pack accordingly.
For packing text, I love the Pocket app for articles, the Kindle app for longer-form pieces, and the Adobe PDF reader for PDF specific documents. These apps are especially important if I’ve got a large pile of documents on my desktop that I want to sync to my tablet or phone via cable.
Cloud services are great if the cloud is available, but digital packing assumes it’s not. All these apps sync and then make documents available offline after sync.
Need some reading? Google for an area of interest and the restrictor “filetype:pdf” to find unexpected good reads. Here’s an example of pricing strategy.
No matter the service, almost every paid music service has an offline component. Be sure to download favorite playlists so they’re available for use without an Internet connection. I also pack a small Bluetooth speaker, the $30 Anker Soundcore for when I want to share.
YouTube is a great source of free video, but manually saving videos one at a time in the mobile app is kind of a pain. Also, saving it in one instance of the app - such as on the phone - doesn’t mean it’s available on other devices. No, I’d rather download the videos locally and then sync them later. For downloading, I use youtube-dl, a command line utility that lets me queue up batches of videos in a text file and then download them all at once.
For playing videos, the gold standard is the VLC app, with desktop and mobile device versions available. VLC, like the text apps above, lets me transfer video files locally over the wire, so no Internet access is needed at all.
Most mobile games these days require an Internet connection, but a quick Google search for “top offline games for (iOS or Android)” will help find the best of what’s available without an Internet connection. My two favorites for iOS are Starbase Orion (a derivation of the old Masters of Orion 4X game) and Sid Meier’s Pirates, the classic available for iPad.
Before I leave, I sync everything, I make sure all my apps have updated, and open each - some apps have further in-app updates that need to run.
I do this a full day before I leave, in case I discover I need a major upgrade of some kind, like an OS update. I also make full desktop and mobile backups before I leave, just in case I lose a device.
No matter whether travel is for business or leisure, by digitally packing in advance, we're prepared for poor or no Internet access. While everyone else throws their hands up in dismay when the wifi isn't working, we just smile and keep enjoying our travels.
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