Wander the streets of Venice, the boardwalks of Brazil or even just the aisles of a grubby Boeing 737 and you’ll quickly notice tourists abusing their gadgets with ill abandon, as if nobody is watching.
But as well as red-faced foreigners using iPads as cameras and show-off friends checking in on Facebook while still at the airport McDonalds, the usually tech-savvy can be prone to the odd holiday slip-up, too – usually by massively over-estimating their gadget needs.
Here are 10 of the most common tech-related errors that make travellers look stupid. Stop yourself from committing these sins to avoid irritating locals and embarrassing your fellow tourists.
1. Checking-in on Facebook… at airports
Airports are exotic only to children. "Look everybody, I’m in New York City!" is a half-decent boast. Posting that you’re wandering around the duty-free shops at the airport, on the other hand, is more a cry for help.
Facebook is at its best when informing us where trusted friends are on the globe, particularly if they’re somewhere unusual and also post some stunning photos. Knowing friends are enjoying themselves somewhere special is certainly more interesting than knowing how boring their day at work was, for sure.
But if you’re busy queuing in a large concrete block to get to an airline seat that’s already been allocated to you, please keep your powder dry. Nobody is interested.
2. Chatting during take-off
There was a time when the phrase, "we’re just about to take-off, I’ll call you later," was generally uttered into a mobile phone when boarding the plane or settling into one’s seat. Now it appears to have moved back 20 minutes to the actual point when the pilot has already rattled down the runway at 100mph and is tilting towards the clouds.
We don’t blame the flight attendants, but couldn’t their breeze down the aisle to check seat belts also involve spotting – and possibly tranquillising – covert smartphone users who rate the importance of their business call with Derek from Distribution far higher than the safety of 149 people crammed into a long tin tube attempting to float?
3. Obsessive phone battery preservation
Your phone’s alarm goes off at 4am. You silence it to prevent the battery draining further: you’ve a long journey ahead, and in the airport you barely check Facebook at all while you hop between charging points – at one stage sitting on the floor behind a bin just to avoid dipping below 99% as your flight starts to board.
You’ve bought yourself an emergency battery that’s good for a full recharge, and packed a worldwide adaptor just in case it’s possible to charge up on the plane. You’ve even put an old MP3 player in your now bulging carry-on bag just in case.
And what happens when you get on the plane? You watch The Dark Knight Rises on the in-flight system, drift into a Zen-like trance and drink cheap wine until you fall asleep, finally arriving at your hotel many hours later with a healthy 97%.
4. Careless photography
We live in a throwaway age where SD cards are capable of holding thousands of photos, but do try to consider what it is you’re photographing. On a recent trip to the ultimate honeypot of world tourism – Machu Picchu in Peru – we spotted more than a few fellow tourists so desperate not to miss out on the ultimate shot (read: overdone clichés that you’ll never look at twice) that they were snapping away with a camera while looking in the opposite direction.
Spend less time taking indiscriminate pictures and more time thinking about light, subject and composition, to get nice photos.
Oh, and when a couple give you their camera and ask you to take a picture of them in front of the Taj Mahal or the Sydney Opera House, remember that it’s probably the only photo of them together on their honeymoon, so don’t absent mindedly cut their heads off.
5. Using an iPad as a camera or camcorder
The ultimate tech faux pas? The iPad is a quite brilliant boredom-beater, but wielding an iPad above your sunburned head to film rudimentary video is the new sandals with socks.
Whether it’s during a guided tour, a show at Disney Land, a sporting event or – worst of all – a gig where that 10-inch screen is an unwanted beacon of bright light, we nevertheless predicted this worrying trend years ago. After all, the two-gadgets-in-one concept is always hard to resist, and who wants to carry a camcorder?
Please just use a phone – it’s more discreet, it’s safer and it’s far less intrusive. Or perhaps you are actually on holiday specifically to spend quality time with your iPad. If that’s the case, point the thing at your own face and take a long, hard look at yourself (yes, we know it has a front-facing camera).
6. DSLR in one hand, smartphone in the other
You want to take a professional, nicely framed picture of your significant other in front of Buckingham Palace to keep forever on a hard drive when you get home. On the other hand, you want the instant gratification of about 10 meaningful ‘likes’ and perhaps a ‘LOL’ on Facebook, too.
So as well as lugging a DSLR across the globe you insist on composing the identical shot on your phone exclusively for uploading. If you’re in a busy tourist spot, taking twice the time is likely to get you shoved out of the way, and rightly so.
Until all cameras come with Wi-Fi, like the Samsung Galaxy Camera, Panasonic LF1 and friends, why not try waiting a few hours or days and then just uploading your well-composed, considered pictures from the DSLR?
7. Obsessing about music and movies
What if you get bored? It depends what kind of trips you take, but any amount of lazing by the pool/long train journeys/killing time in airports demands a Plan B comprised of music, movies and books.
So a week prior to your holiday you get busy compiling playlists on your phone, stuffing it full of music, endless reams of podcasts, movies, TV shows and more.
But hey, guess what? Being on vacation isn’t just about taking a break from the daily routine of work – it’s also a getaway from all those digital distractions you fill up your home life with. We predict that you’ll consume about 5% of what you actually travel with… and, no, you really don’t need that just in case cache of 1001 Ebooks You Must Read, either.
8. Checking email while away
What did you do on your annual leave? Clear your mind? Or just your inbox? The smartphone is a misnomer on holiday and best left at home if you’re the type who can’t resist checking work email.
The logic is fool’s gold; if you check email while on trips away, you can delete some ahead of time and get back to the office with a less-than-overflowing inbox. Whoopee.
If the checking of email on phones wasn’t already almost a reflex action for many, it’s about to get even easier with the price of data around the globe (especially in the EU) about to drastically reduce, which is the ultimate in false economy if you’ve spent hundreds to escape the daily grind. Besides, isn’t an overflowing inbox the ideal excuse to take it easy on your first day back?
9. Abusing stargazing apps
We like learning about space, and our summer holiday is usually the only time of the year when we’re likely to be somewhere outdoorsy with a big horizon-to-horizon view of the night sky – perhaps even somewhere dark enough to show the Milky Way in all its glory (at what other time of year does anyone actively seek out a sunset or sunrise?).
We like having someone knowledgeable to point out constellations, star clusters and planets, but that’s not the same as having some berk proudly thrust a tablet in our face to "show us" where Venus is by pointing at their free Night Sky app. And on a bright LCD screen that instantly kills our night vision, too.
Those apps – which, incidentally, all get very confused anywhere near the equator – are great for solitary learning. So come back next year when you’ve learned enough to actually point something out in the sky. We can all use apps.
10. Back-packing with bulky noise cancelling headphones
In theory these are great; what better way to block out the din of air travel than by donning a massive pair of headphones that cleverly create a sheen of calculated silence?
Except, when the flight is complete, they’re virtually useless – too big and clumsy to wear around your neck in hot climates and a pain to stow in a backpack, they’re another symptom of our obsession with how awful flying is. They almost always come with massive protective cases, and most of them don’t have a passive non-battery mode.
Still, it could be worse. On a recent trip we spotted a family of five – including three kids no older than 10 years old – all sporting a pair of Beats by Dr Dre. We’re sure they had a lot of fun on their holiday.
Did we forget any other irritating tech habits of tourists? Seen anyone doing all of the above at once, or something even weirder? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.