iPhone Traveler Pt. 4 – Home screen and alerts

iphonepasspordThe iPhone apps you use while on vacation will be different from those you use while at work or during typical home life. At least I hope so. Keeping our focus on convenience and ease, I’ll suggest that you make adjustments to the the apps on your home screen, the alerts your iPhone delivers and more before departing for a trip. Here are the changes I make to my iPhone while preparing to spend time away.

Re-organize Applications

Your iPhone 5 can display 24 application icons per screen. Folders hold 16 apps each. That means you can have well over 200 applications on your home screen. I don’t recommend doing that, but it suggests that having a lot of apps installed doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of swiping between screens. It also means that things can get crowded quickly, making it hard to find what you’re after.

With this in mind, I consider which apps I’ll use during my trip, and move them to the home screen. The rest are pushed to subsequent screens, reducing visual clutter and saving me from playing “hide and go seek” with my iPhone. I typically have these apps on my home screen during a trip:

  1. Mail
  2. Phone
  3. Safari
  4. Maps
  5. Messages
  6. Camera
  7. Evernote
  8. Kayak
  9. Motion-X GPS Drive
  10. Path
  11. Rego
  12. Rdio
  13. Any destination-specific apps

I’ll discuss my favorite travel apps later this month, but this is my core group. Each has a specific job.

Most of these apps have obvious functions: phone calls, a web browser, Maps, text messages, music and the camera for shooting photos and video. The others have specific duties.

Evernote is my database for everything. It lets me create and browse a fast, lightweight and searchable repository of all the specifics I’ll need. Hotel information, airport details, parking locations, confirmation numbers and so much more are all a tap away. In fact, my “everything database” has all but eliminated paper from my travel materials.

  • Motion-X GPS Drive is my preferred turn-by-turn navigation app for the iPhone. It’s reliable, inexpensive and easy to use. Advanced features like saved searches and synthetic voices that are genuinely easy to understand make it a winner.
  • Path is a social networking application with an interesting premise. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, which invite users to broadcast their comings and goings to whoever will listen, Path asks you to invite a handful of family and friends to share your favorite moments. I often use it with my family, most of whom also do a fair amount of traveling.
  • Rego lets me maintain a record of all the interesting places I’ve visited, which I enjoy reviewing. I can also note places I’d like to visit and create an on-the-go itinerary that sorts itself by proximity.

Finally, I’ll add any destination-specific apps I find. For instance, there are several great apps available for navigating Walt Disney World Resort. In 2011, Macy’s released an official Thanksgiving Day Parade app. Search the App Store for apps related to your destination. I bet you’re successful most of the time.

ID Your Equipment for Instant Recognition

buoytagssNot every trip is a vacation. I often travel for work and when I do, my iPhone is in tow, as is a pile of other tech goodies, like wall chargers, cables, keyboards and so on. What’s more, I meet colleagues who also travel with gadgets, often identical to my own. To avoid confusion, I mark my own stuff for easy recognition.

The easiest and least permanent way is with a small sticker. I prefer the colorful circles people often use in retail to identify sale items, etc. You’ll find them at most big-box office supply stores. I’ll put a red circle, for instance, on all of my chargers, cables, iPhone and iPad case, keyboards and so on. That way if there’s a question about who owns what, I can ask, “Is there a red sticker?”

It’s impermanent, too, and I like that. Someday I might want to sell or give away some of my gear. No one will want it if it’s got “Dave Caolo” written on it in black permanent marker. The stickers are easy to remove and don’t leave any residue.

While stickers work, they’re not always the most elegant solution. For something a little better-looking, consider Buoy Tags. These customizable plastic tags clip onto your iPhone’s USB cable. You can add your own initials, name, phone number, etc. They’re very handy. Buoy Tags are also available for MacBook Air and MacBook Pro power cables.

Disable Alerts

I check email during trips. However, I do reduce the temptation to spend too much time with it. First, I disable the alert sound. Thanks to Apple’s push email notification system, your iPhone chimes whenever a new message arrives. Fortunately, it’s easy to turn that feature off. Here’s how.

You’re on vacation! Disable those incoming email alert sounds.

You’re on vacation! Disable those incoming email alert sounds.

  1. Open the Settings app and then tap Sounds.
  2. Tap New Mail and select None.

New messages coming in will now arrive silently.

Or, you can disable push notification all together:

  1. Open the Settings app and tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  2. Tap Fetch New Data
  3. Move the Push slider to off

Once you’ve done that, Mail will retrieve new messages on the schedule you create. The options are every 15 minutes, every 30 minutes, hourly or manually. Unless you’re traveling for work or some other reason that requires you to send and receive email, it sure is nice to select manually and disconnect email receipt until you’re ready to view it. You’ll be glad you did.

This article is part of a series on traveling with your iPhone. You’ll find the other articles here.

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