I spent last week in Vancouver and the surrounding area to see the Olympics. I had a great time and highly recommend going to see the Olympics the next chance you get.

Before I left, I was very happy to discover that Verizon offers a Global Travel Program, which allows you to temporarily change your data plan so that you can use unlimited data in certain countries including Canada. Verizon doesn’t provide a lot of details on their site about this plan, but if you call the toll-free number on the Global Travel Program page, you can have someone activate it for you. This is a very good idea if you’re traveling out of the country because you do not want to pay per usage for your data. The current data roaming rate is $.002/Kb, which would probably result in a devastating bill with even moderate usage over the course of a week. I did some quick arithmetic using my latest phone bills and concluded that a week of data roaming would run me close to $500. However, with the Global Travel option, I was able to pay only $8 for the time I was in Canada.

And I used a lot of data there.

Smart phones are becoming an almost must-have accessory for travel. Whether you use apps like Yelp to find great restaurants, Google Maps, to find your way around, or simply use the web to get information while you’re on the go, today’s mobile technology allows you to spend more time enjoying your vacation rather than pouring over maps, getting lost, and missing important sites. For example, while in Canada, I frequently used Google Maps to get directions around Vancouver, find Olympic sites, and even find our way back to our car one time when we got lost. We also used Google Maps to get bus route information. Not only can Google Maps give you driving directions, but it can also give you walking directions and public transit routes. You have so much navigation information in the palm of your hand, it’s astounding. The GPS antenna in my Motorola Droid is accurate enough to tell me where I am within a hundred feet or so of the true location. This is tremendously useful when walking around an unfamiliar city.

So in summary, if you do not have a smart phone like a Droid, iPhone, or Blackberry, now is probably a good time to think hard about getting one. Yes, the data plans will add to your monthly expense, but the benefits far outweigh the costs in my opinion.