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7 essential apps for international road warriors

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | July 16, 2014
I rarely take real vacations, but I do travel often. Since I'm a freelancer, my work can, and does, travel with me.

Plug Finder

Airplanes are becoming more and more tech-friendly: I see in-flight Wi-Fi, under-seat power sockets, and even USB chargers all the time now. But while my flight to Seoul had Wi-Fi, there were no sockets to be found, except in the lavatories, and everybody knows those stopped working 30 years ago. Unfortunately, this was an issue for me, because my little MacBook Air gets about six hours of battery life on a good day, and the flight was 11 hours long.

Luckily, I had a 2-hour layover in Narita. And instead of diving behind the airport's vending machines and ATMs in search of an outlet, I pulled up Plug Finder, a free iOS app that crowd-sources plug locations. (I may or may not have ended up unplugging a vending machine — Narita is severely lacking in open plugs, at least in my terminal.)

Plug Finder is a simple app that displays nearby outlets on a map. In theory, the app can be used to display outlets anywhere, but realistically, you're only going to find a large number of pins in places like airports and train stations. The app uses your phone's GPS (which still works overseas, even if your mobile network is turned off, by the way), but you can also enter in your location manually or just tap and drag the map. Users can upload plug locations with a photo of the plug and a description of the area, and most people are smart enough to mention terminals and gate numbers in their descriptions.

Plug Finder isn't the most polished app, but it's ridiculously useful for finding a nearby outlet when you have a short layover.

Wi-Fi Finder

When you're traveling internationally, finding Wi-Fi becomes your top priority, especially if you don't have a phone or a SIM card from your host country. Opening up your Wi-Fi menu on your smartphone can be useful for finding networks, but it's not the best way, especially not if you're in South Korea, where I swear each fire hydrant has its own Wi-Fi network. If you just use the Wi-Fi menu, you may miss out on networks because your device will get overwhelmed with the sheer number of networks in the area. Or, you may not realize that if you take three steps to your left, there's a free, public Wi-Fi network just waiting to be discovered.

Wi-Fi Finder is a free Android and iOS app for finding Wi-Fi whether you're online or offline, and whether you can currently see the networks or not. Wi-Fi Finder has a scanner, which you can use to scan for networks that your device can actually see. The scanner delivers information about each network, such as its signal strength and how it's secured. The app also has a "Public Wi-Fi Near Me" option, which gives you a listing of public Wi-Fi hotspots in your area. This is where you'll find restaurants, cafes, libraries, and other establishments that offer public Wi-Fi either for free or for a fee.

 

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