For this year's Thanksgiving, we decided to take a short vacation and spent 5 days in the beautiful city of Barcelona. My last trip to Europe was about four years ago and the mobile experience is obviously much better today but to my surprise, it was beyond "better"... it was GREAT!
Before I begin to describe my experience, I want to address that while my experience is based on an iPhone 4 I do believe any eligible smartphone running other OS like BB should provide similar experience.
For starters, I noticed considerable amount of more WiFi connection everywhere I went this trip, albeit most are secure and I have no access, I managed to find a decent open network to stay connected (mostly from larger hotels like the Hotel Mandarin, Hotel OMM, etc.). I was lucky enough to have free WiFi at the hotel where I stayed. Within 4 days, I was able to take 4th position on foursquare of all Barcelona.
WiFi also provides another layer of comfort while traveling abroad. I was able to use the SKYPE app and TANGO app to keep in touch with friends and family in Spain and back at home. It was really amazing that at one point, I was having a drink at a small local pub and holding a video call with my pal Dan over Tango via the free WiFi in the pub (I'm sure the Catalans must thought I was a major geek but you really get a sense that you are now living in the "future"). I was thankful to have access to wireless internet without being charged $20/MB via AT&T's international rate.
Mobile apps helped the experience considerably. I have always have had the habit of setting up a custom My Maps within Google Maps to set various pin-points we wanted to visit. I was able to download a cool little app on iPhone called "MyMaps". It allows me to save map tiles on my iPhone and import the custom maps I created from Google Maps. Even though I had my 3G data and Cellular Data turned off abroad, while standing outside, I was able to get the embedded GPS chip to pickup my position making me ditch the fold-able maps. This experience is very empowering...
Other things like dictionary apps and powerful camera/camcorder is very helpful as well. When we visited a famous spot, La Sagrada Familia, my amazing Canon SD4000i had ran out of power. Thankfully, my iPhone 4's decent camera and HD recording was able to step in and fill the void.
Since we only have access to one of those European wall-outlet adapter, every night, we struggle to decide which device to charge before going to bed. Given the flexibility and the necessity to keep my iPhone powered up, priority was always given to the iPhone. The lesson is to remember packing more than 1 outlet adapter moving forward.