Kudos to the generations before mine who travelled the world before smartphones became a thing, and technology was not as advanced as it has come to be. My travelling experiences would have been significantly different (and harder) without the aid of technology. However, it is not enough just to have a smartphone in your pocket. To get the best use of it, you need to know what there is out there to use.
There is an abundance of apps that can be used to make travelling an easier experience. Google maps is a lifesaver all on its own. Here are some of my favourites, all completely free.
Visit a City: Also a website, Visit a City is an itinerary planner. For a great number of cities across the world, you put in the city, and it gives you some options of how many days you are in the city and whether you want a low-key or jam-packed itinerary. It then gives you an itinerary with suggested times, and how long people, on average, stay at each site. Even without following it place by place, it is a great resource to find sites that might otherwise be missed.
Rome2Rio: Not sure how to get from one location to the next? Rome2Rio will solve that problem. Put in your start and end destinations and it outputs the options. It was great to get an idea of cross country routes to then further investigate (I might be wary of taking it as fact on international bus and train routes, but it can be a good starting point.) However, I found it particularly useful for intercity public transport, using it to figure out how to get from international bus and train stations to my accommodation by city buses, trams, or the underground.
Circa: Time zones are terribly confusing. It can be difficult enough trying to figure out what time it is in a different country at the current time, and even more so when trying to figure out what time it will be somewhere else sometime in the future. Circa allows you to put in a few different time zones and it will tell you the time in each one. Where this differs from the time app phones already have, is you can move the hand around to change your local time, and it will do the same with the others put in.
Google Translate: This one perhaps speaks for itself. Being able to quickly translate foreign languages is invaluable. (I personally always like to learn at least the translation of thank you in the main language of the country that I am visiting.) The app’s ability to translate a photo of foreign text was also a life saver; especially in supermarkets where you are not entirely sure what the product in front of you is.
Of course, a special mention to apps like Skype and WhatsApp that allow you to keep in contact with friends and family without having to rack up a huge international calling bill. However, no one wants a huge international data bill to return to either, so what are the SIM card options?
Using your own provider: This is perhaps the priciest of the options. A lot of providers have options to travel on your own SIM for an extra cost. This has the bonus of keeping your active number in your phone so you still get texts from those who may not know you are away. Your phone company’s website should mention the options on it. This one can be useful if you are not away long, and do not intend to use much data.
Specific travel SIM cards: Then there are companies that specifically create SIMs for travelling that will work in a handful of countries across the world. These rates can also be high, but you have the convenience of having a SIM that works in various places.
Local SIM: This is the least convenient option, but I found it the most effective. A local prepaid SIM tends to get you the most data for your money (and also some calls and texts depending). It does however take a little research as for each country you will need to know what company to go to, what SIM you want, and where to find them.
Whether or not to take your computer can be a personal decision. Do you specifically need it? Say for work. Are you moving around constantly, or are you staying in the one place? Will that extra weight matter? Computers are a matter of weighing the pros against the cons.
Consider taking a tablet instead, if that will do the same job that you would want your laptop for. If you do decide to take it, make sure everything works and something is not about to die on you. The last thing you want is for your charger to die with four months to go on your trip, and being left to carry around a useless computer for that time. (Not speaking from experience or anything…)
Cameras again are a personal choice. In a lot of cases, a smartphone works perfectly (and makes it a lot easier to put your snaps up on Instagram). It depends on what you are looking for, the money you are willing to spend, and the quality you are after.
If you just want some happy snaps, depending on your phone camera quality you might not even need a camera to carry, or a small digital one could do the job. For those more interested in photography and willing to learn the different settings, a DSLR can be a worthy investment. My best piece of advice is to ensure you have enough space on (various) SD cards to get your pictures. It is incredibly frustrating to line your camera up for a shot, and realise you’ve run out of space.