Top 10 tips for sending e‑mail while traveling
Whether you're on the road for business or pleasure—provided you're not traveling by canoe in the Amazon jungle or dog sled in the arctic—there’s probably a way to stay in touch by e‑mail. With a little knowledge and advance planning, it’s easy to check your e‑mail from the road. Here are some tips to help you remain in contact with friends, family, and colleagues while you're on the go.
1. Use web mail and travel light
If you use a web-based e‑mail service such as Windows Live Hotmail, you can send and receive e‑mail using someone else’s computer, without the need to carry around your own mobile PC while you travel. All you need is a Hotmail account and a computer with a web browser and an Internet connection. You can even access Hotmail from some web-enabled mobile phones.
To open a Hotmail account, go to the Windows Live Hotmail website.
2. Carry a laptop and use your own e‑mail program
If you’re traveling on business, chances are you'll have your own mobile PC with you. In this case, you can use a more full-featured e‑mail program such as Windows Live Mail or Windows Mail. These programs enable you to store all your messages locally on your PC, so you can read messages you’ve already downloaded and compose new messages even when you can’t get an Internet connection. Windows Mail is included in Windows Vista. To download Windows Live Mail, go to the Windows Live Mail website.
When you have your own computer with you, you also get the added bonus of being able to check e‑mail in the privacy and comfort of your hotel room (assuming your hotel offers Internet access). Also, if you're really on the go and don’t want to stop and open your laptop, you can check e‑mail from many mobile phones, including many Windows Mobile devices.
3. Try doing e‑mail offline
Write messages when you're inspired, not when you're connected. If you have a laptop with you, take advantage of offline time to read messages you have already downloaded and compose replies and other new messages. Unlike web-based e‑mail, programs such as Windows Mail and Windows Live Mail save your messages locally (on your hard disk), rather than on the web. The next time you connect to the Internet or your company network, you can download new e‑mail and send any messages you have ready to go, sitting in your Outbox.
4. Hone your skills at finding Internet cafés
If you're traveling without a mobile PC, train yourself to watch for Internet cafés and other places where you can rent a computer for a short period of time to check your e‑mail. Don’t wait until you absolutely have to check e‑mail and then expect to find a place on the nearest street corner. Depending on where you're traveling, there might not be very many Internet cafés. Learn what kinds of places offer computers with Internet access. Many places may offer wireless Internet access but have no computers you can use. Ask around for locations. Hotel clerks, waiters, airline staff, and other service people can often tell you where to go.
“Internet café” is a generic term that many people use to refer to almost any public place with a computer you can use to access the Internet. An Internet café may or may not refer to an actual café. Also look for Internet kiosks, public libraries, and other locations that let you use their computers. Many rent computer time by the minute or hour.
5. Look up Internet café locations before you go
If you want to be sure you can check your e‑mail from the road, make a list in advance of Internet cafés where you will be traveling. This can be important if you will be traveling in areas where Internet access is less likely to be available.
Several websites offer lists of Internet cafés around the world. You can go to online resources such as The Cybercafe Search Engine website
or the Cybercafes website where you'll find thousands of Internet cafés, public Internet kiosks, and even cruise ships with Internet cafés. Of course, not every café is listed, so ask around if you can't find one on the web.
6. Find local wireless hotspots
Many cafés, coffee houses, and airports have wireless networks called hotspots where you can access the Internet. They might not rent PCs, but if you have a laptop with you, you can sign in and check your e‑mail using your own computer and an e‑mail program such as Windows Mail or Windows Live Mail. There is often no charge for customers to access the wireless network.
Windows Vista makes it easy to log on to a wireless network. To learn how, see View and connect to available wireless networks.
7. Stay at hotels that offer Internet access
This is becoming less of an issue as more hotels and motels offer Internet access. But if you really want to be able to do e‑mail from your room, you might want to skip that charming bed-and-breakfast or quaint country inn, where guest Internet access is probably not on the list of amenities. Most hotels or motels that have wireless Internet access include it in the price of a room or offer it for a modest fee. Business-class hotels usually offer the speediest Internet access. Ask about Internet access when you check in or make room reservations.
8. Leave your laptop at home when traveling to places where it’s hard to get an Internet connection
Even if you have a laptop, it may be easier in some places to check your e‑mail from an Internet café than to try and find a connection for your own computer. Relying on Internet cafés is helpful if you're unable to locate wireless hotspots or hotels with Internet access. (I won’t go into the numerous hassles of trying to get a dial-up connection in countries with different phone systems. Wireless Internet access has eclipsed dial-up Internet access for most mobile PC users.) One side benefit of leaving your laptop at home: you won’t have to worry about losing it or having it stolen.
9. E‑mail important documents to yourself before you leave
E‑mail is for more than just communicating with people. If you're not bringing a laptop with you, you can use e‑mail to send important documents to yourself that you want to read or work on while traveling. Then you can access them from an Internet café or Internet kiosk. Another option is to put files on a web-based storage service, although this will require you to find a service you like and sign up for an account there.
10. Take advantage of flying time
Time spent on planes is often time wasted. But there’s no reason to be unproductive just because you can’t get an Internet connection while cruising at 30,000 feet. Take advantage of the downtime to use your mobile PC to do offline e‑mail and other work when you are flying (see No. 3). You can’t send and receive messages without an Internet connection, but you can read e‑mail you’ve saved and compose new messages offline.
To work with offline e‑mail, you’ll need a full-featured program such as Windows Live Mail or Windows Mail that enables you to save your messages locally (on your hard disk).