The iPhone Traveler Pt. 1 – Pre-vacation planning

iphonepasspordApple’s iPhone is the best computer I’ve ever owned. It’s powerful yet fits in my pocket. It gets fantastic battery life and, with the proper protection, can withstand the bumps and bruises of daily use. It’s always connected to the Internet and can be almost whatever you want it to be, from an email client to a GPS receiver. It’s a camera and a weather station; a jukebox and a concierge. In other words, your iPhone is the perfect travel companion.

In this series of posts, I’ll describe how I use my iPhone to manage every aspect of a vacation. It’ll break down like this:

  • Pre-vacation planning
  • Making the journey
  • Getting the most of your destination
  • Returning home
  • Preserving and sharing the memories

I’ll share the apps that I use, review related products and have a few surprises along the way. I mean the good kind of surprise, not the “your water heater has been quietly leaking into the basement since 2 AM” kind. I’ll also making a few assumptions.

First, I assume you own an iPhone and that it’s up and running to your satisfaction. [1. I’ve got a post on setting up an iPhone from scratch that I can save for the end of the month if people request it.]

[pullquote]As of this writing, there are over 500,000 apps available in Apple’s App Store. I encourage you to consider the apps I’ll describe this month (after all, I’ve listed them because I enjoy them so much), but I also suggest you conduct a search of your own. It’s possible that the “mother of all travel apps” has been released since this article was published. If you find it, install it and love it, and please let me know.[/pullquote]

There are a few other things to keep in mind as you read these articles, other than how handsome and talented I am. First, all prices are US dollars unless otherwise specified. Also, app prices, functioning and availability may have changed since the time of publication. See each app’s online description for up-to-date details. Also, the apps I suggest this month are starting points. I do not believe that any one app is the definitive solution to a given need, even those I personally swear by, because everyone’s preferences and needs are different. Also, the sheer number of iPhone apps available make it impossible to identify any one as a definitive solution.

Finally, this series will focus on traveling within the continental United States of America. Later this month, I’ll share my detailed suggestions for international travel, including dealing with overseas charges. Also, while all of the apps I describe may be purchased through the US App Store, they may not necessarily be available in versions of the store outside the US. With the large number of available apps, you are likely to find a different one that will work well for you.

Now, let’s get started.

iPhone Security

Before you walk out the door, make sure that little computer in your pocket is secure. There’s a lot of sensitive personal information on that thing, and you don’t want it in the hands of a n’er-do-well. Especially when you’re far from home. So let’s talk security.

Create a Passcode

This simple, crucial step is often overlooked. Yes, it’s inconvenient to enter a passcode every time you want to use your iPhone. It’s even more inconvenient to have a thief find your email, contacts list, banking information and who knows what else fully accessible.

There are two types of passcode: simple and complex. They’re both created by essentially the same steps, though the difference in security is significant. A simple passcode consists of four digits, all numbers. These are simple to remember but also simple to guess, as a simple passcode can be one of 10,000 combinations (digits 0–9 in any of four positions).

A complex passcode can consist of up to 37 characters and can contain letters, numbers and/or symbols. These are much harder to guess and the number of possible combinations is significantly greater — about 77 to the 37th power (77 possible alphanumeric/symbol characters)

A word of warning: Do not forget your passcode. Recovery is possible, but it’s time consuming and a hassle. I don’t want you to create a ridiculously simple passcode (1234), but I don’t want you to confuse yourself either. Try your best to create something tricky that you’ll remember. I have some tips on that below.

To create a simple passcode, follow these steps:
1. Open the Settings app
2. Tap Passcode Lock. The Passcode Lock screen appears (See Figure 1)

To access the Passcode options, open the Settings app and tap General and then Passcode Lock. Peace of mind awaits!
Figure 1: To access the Passcode options, open the Settings app and tap General and then Passcode Lock. Peace of mind awaits!
  1. Tap Turn Passcode On.
  2. You’ll be asked to enter a four-digit code.
  3. Re-enter the code to ensure that you haven’t made a mistake. If the first and second attempts match, you’ll return to the Passcode Lock screen.

Tips for creating a secure passcode:

  1. Use accent characters. If you press and hold on certain keys on the QWERTY keyboard, you’ll see alternate accent characters. Use one of these in your passcode.
  2. Use an all-number passcode. If you do, the iPhone will be kind enough to present a numeric keypad when you need to unlock your phone.

There are several new options once you’ve created a passcode. Here’s an overview of each.

Change Passcode

You may want to change your passcode from time to time (that’s up to you). To do so, simply tap Change Passcode.

Require Passcode

This setting tells your iPhone how quickly it should request a passcode after the display goes to sleep. There are six options (See Figure 2):

Figure 2: Several options to determine how quickly your iPhone will require a passcode after its display has gone to sleep (gone dark without powering off). Find this in the Settings app by tapping General, Passcode Lock and then entering a passcode. Once you’ve done that, the “Requite Passcode” option becomes available.
Figure 2: Several options to determine how quickly your iPhone will require a passcode after its display has gone to sleep (gone dark without powering off). Find this in the Settings app by tapping General, Passcode Lock and then entering a passcode. Once you’ve done that, the “Requite Passcode” option becomes available.
  1. Immediately
  2. After 1 minute
  3. After 5 minutes
  4. After 15 minutes
  5. After 1 hour
  6. After 4 hours

By default, “Immediately” is selected. That means you’ll be prompted to enter the passcode each time you wake your iPhone’s display from sleep, and every time you start it up from being turned off. If, for example, you select “After 5 minutes,” you will only be prompted to enter a passcode if your iPhone’s display has been asleep for five minutes. The most secure option is to leave the default selected.

Simple Passcode

Here’s where you opt for a simple or a complex passcode. By default, the slider is set to “On.” Move it to the “Off” position to create a complex passcode. Here’s how.

1. Move the slider to the “Off” position.
2. Enter your simple passcode.
3. A new screen appears, “Change Password.”
4. Enter your new, complex passcode twice. Use any of 37 letters, numbers or symbols.

That’s it. Your new complex passcode is now in place.


You can opt to have your iPhone’s digital assistant, Siri, accessible or not before a passcode is entered. By default, the slider is in the “On” position, making Siri accessible before a passcode has been entered. Note that some functions are accessible to Siri while your phone is locked (like sending email), but others are not (like reading email or text messages). I recommend disabling Siri while the phone is locked.

Erase Data

This is an extreme security measure but it could save you a lot of hassle. With this option enabled, your iPhone will erase all of its stored data — and I mean everything — if an erroneous passcode has been entered 10 times in a row. It’s unlikely that you’ll enter the wrong passcode 10 times, but a thief might.
Junior might, too. I’m speaking from experience here. Sorrowful experience. So, if you’re letting a child play with your iPhone, make sure you’ve entered the passcode before handing it over.

Find My iPhone

This free application/service could really save the day. Find My iPhone uses your iPhone’s GPS receiver, the Internet and your Apple ID to display your iPhone’s location on a map. You can also send a message to your misplaced iPhone, have it play a sound, lock it or wipe it of all data. It’s a free application from Apple’s App Store.

Note that you needn’t have Find My iPhone installed on a “lost” iPhone to track it. Instead, Find My iPhone must be turned on the settings and enabled under the iCloud preferences. This will allow you to track your missing iPhone from a computer by visiting However, if you want to track it with a second iOS device, that device must have the Find My iPhone app installed.

Download the app from the App Store and enter your Apple ID and password. You’ll need a (free) iCloud account in order for Find My iPhone to work. Also, you must give iCloud permission to track your iPhone. If the worst happens, here’s how to track your wayward iPhone’s location from a second iPhone, iPad or iPod touch (See Figure 3):

Figure 3. Enter your Apple ID and password to start searching for your wayward device.
Figure 3. Enter your Apple ID and password to start searching for your wayward device.


On an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch:

1. Open the Find My iPhone app.
2. Enter the Apple ID and Password used on the missing iPhone

If the iPhone is turned on and connected to the Internet, it will show up. From there you can proceed as you see fit. You’ll find three options on the app:

1. Play Sound or Send Message. This will cause your iPhone to play a tone or display a custom message (“This iPhone is lost. Please call _.”).
2. Remote Lock. This will lock the iPhone so that it will not let a user past the lock screen.
3. Remote Wipe. Use this option with caution, as it will erase all data stored on your iPhone.

To track a lost iPhone with a computer, get online and to go Log in with your Apple ID and password and then click Find My iPhone. Again, your iPhone will be displayed on a map and you’ll have the same options that the app offered: play a sound or message, remote lock or remote wipe.

Working With Passwords

Passwords are an inescapable part of computing, and that goes for your iPhone as well. While the need is nearly ubiquitous, many people could use improvement at two aspects at using passwords: creation and storage. Fortunately, there’s a fantastic iPhone app called 1Password that’s ready to help.

1Password is an app that will generate secure passwords for you, save them securely on your iPhone and synchronize those passwords with your Mac, Windows computer, iPad or Android device. I’ve been using 1Password for years and recommend it highly. Note that passwords in this sense is not like the passcode we set up earlier in this chapter. Instead, here I refer to the passwords you use online with the various sites, services and so on that require one.

The great thing about 1Password is that it only requires you to remember a single password. This “master password” gives you access to all of the site- and service-specific passwords that we’ve all got floating around. Additionally, you’ll likely have hotel reservation numbers to memorize, maybe the key code to a rental house or other similar information. 1Password keeps them all in your iPhone, securely.

Security is an important topic that many people overlook. Don’t be one of them.

The preliminaries are done! Now that your iPhone has been secured for the journey, it’s time to take care of the pre-vacation planning. Next time I’ll cover making a backup, creating a packing list, finding a booking flights, making hotel reservations, and more. See you then, travelers!

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


  1. Dave, please include the ‘iphone from scratch’ post. I enjoy your blog and your home work podcast. Take care.

  2. This post is for you. Whatever your reasons are it doesn’t matter. If you want a second email address, may be to separate your private life from your work life or to use for leisure. whatever the case maybe you are reading the right post. SEE HERE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *