cell phone


It is no secret nowadays that cell phones have turned into our lifelines. You will rarely find anyone, let alone a millennial, without their cell phone with them at all times. Most people, us included, even sleep with our cell phones just inches from our bed so that we are always within reach.

But this is especially true when you’re traveling. More than likely, you’re only going to travel to a place once in your life. This makes the decision of the device you choose extremely important. Nobody wants to look at their pictures after their trip only to find out they look like potatoes.

While it’s a romantic idea to be away from your phone and be so caught up in your travels you don’t even know where your mobile phone is, it isn’t really reality for most people. The truth is our phones have even more of a role to play when we travel. From a mere a way to check our social media when you’re home, when traveling smart phones turn into video recorders, cameras, travel agents, GPS guides and even in-case-of-emergency lifeline. This means travelers require the best smartphone you can get.

The best travel smartphone is one that is rugged enough to handle your travels (Samara is known to be hard on her technology), is reliable and perhaps most important of all Not only does it need to be reliable but also fast enough to respond to your every demand (trust us on this, you will not believe how many photo opportunities have been missed due to slow technology).

What do you look for in the best travel phone? Is it a camera quality, battery life, screen size, worldwide bands? If you are anything like us your answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE. After careful consideration and a ton of research we opted for the Huawei Mate 20 pro.


One of the biggest issues people have with aging phones is the limited storage space. Just a few years ago 32 GB’s of storage came standard on most phones. Nowadays though, that is simply not enough.

Smartphone applications are constantly increasing. Instagram, for example, is 116 megabytes. This means an older phone with smaller storage won’t be able to have access to as many crucial applications.

In a given day we use: google maps (saving maps for offline use), Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Messenger, WhatsApp, Spotify, Snapchat, GMail, Google Photos, Trello, One Drive, Planoly, Lightroom and LensDistortion.

This list then increases with banking apps, travel apps, loyalty apps and Netflix. Needless to say, we require a lot of storage. Most travelers will agree that having enough storage space to not have to worry about snapping too many photos is so important. We have been in situations where we weren’t able to capture a special moment because of a lack of space on our phone.

The Mate 20 pro comes with 128 GB’s standard. This allows us to not only have as many apps as we want but also take thousands of photos and back all those photos up. We don’t always have the time to transfer the files off our phone to our computers or we are off traveling abroad without our computers with us.

  • 32 gb = 6,250 photographs
  • 64 gb = 12,500 photographs
  • 128 gb = 25,000 photographs
  • 256 gb = 50,000 photographs

Having the ability to download full length movies or 12 episodes of our favourite showa makes long flights or extended buss hauls so much easier. Trust us, you’ll love being able to store your top 2000 Spotify songs directly to your device.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

Just like a laptop computer, smartphones have RAM. This is similar to the actual storage of the device but allows you to have multiple applications open at one time without them closing. RAM also plays a massive role in the speed of your device. The Mate20 pro comes with 6 GB’s of RAM which is excellent by today’s standards.

Our previous smartphone only had 4 GB’s which means it is more susceptible to slowing down over time. A higher amount will ensure the device is future-proofed (ie, won’t be considered old technology in a matter of months). This will give you the longevity you need out of a $1000+ device.


This should really be at the top of our list as it has proved to be one of the most important things to us. Camera quality is one of those things that you don’t know what you’re missing until you have the best and then think to yourself “how did I ever go any other way”. If you read our 2018 Smartphone review you know we were impressed with the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus cameras quality. Well, upon trying out the Mate 20 pro camera we quickly realized it doesn’t even compare.

Nowadays, the need for bringing along your big bulky DSLR camera is diminishing as smartphone cameras are becoming real rivals in delivering photo quality.

Rear Camera

Especially when it comes to traveling, you have one shot to take that great photo. You don’t know when, if ever, you will be zooming down a backroad of Thailand on a scooter so it is important that get your perfect shot the first time.

This phone has a set of 3 rear facing lenses that work together to take the perfect photo. All of these work together to make some of the best photos we have ever seen from a phone. We aren’t kidding when we say the quality of this phone is unlike anything we have experienced. There’s also data to back this up!

There is an 8 megapixel (MP) telephoto (zoom), a 20 MP ultra wide angle, and a 40 MP main lens. Yes, that is a higher count than our Nikon d5200 DSLR shooter.

What we like the most is that the smartphone seamlessly switches between the lenses. If you are in the camera app and slide the zoom the camera will transition between the lenses without issue. This is a stark difference from a DSLR setup which requires you to manually remove each lens. Not only is it a pain to switch the lenses, it means you have to carry each one individually – not ideal for travelers.

We love having a built in wide angle lens. This gives us the freedom of being able to take shots without having to backup too far.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

This is one of the most powerful cameras when it comes to scene detection. Huawei touts the camera is able to detect more than 1500 scenarios and 25 categories. What this means for you is when you’re in a snowy environment it’ll automatically switch scenes, and thus all the settings, to optimize the photo. The camera auto-detects faces and automatically switches to portrait mode.

At first we didn’t give this feature as much thought as we should have. We knew it was cool but didn’t recognize how much it would transform our photo quality. Our blue skies are enhanced, photos of our dogs are crisper, the snow is whiter… it is honestly one of the main reasons we are such advocates of this phone.

Front Camera

We know that it can be hard to take photos of yourself on your trip. This is why the front camera of a smartphone is so important. Yes, we know it can be embarrassing using a selfie stick but trust us, you’ll be thankful you did 6 months down the road.

The front facing camera on the Huawei Mate20 pro is 23 MP. It takes stunning photos but we definitely recommend turning off, or at least down, the phones beauty mode.

Battery life

All of this doesn’t matter if the smartphone dies halfway into your day. This is why we picked a phone that has one of the best batteries on the market. It is rated at 4200 maH which is high for such a small device.

This is so nice as we often have really long days traveling without access to a plug in. We rented a car in Bali and drove around the island and by the end of the 12 hour day both of our phones were completely dead with the amount of photos we had taken.

Huawei has coupled the battery with software that learns your usage patterns and tailors your experience accordingly. For example, if you use Instagram, maps, and WhatsApp regularly the phone will keep those apps open in the background. This makes it easy to switch between apps without having to wait for them to reload. It also means that the device uses less power (and thus less battery) throughout the day.

Fast charging

If you are a super heavy user and find yourself with a low battery you’ll be happy to know that you have a device that has built in fast charging. This has to do with the charging cable and brick setup you use. In fact, this is one of the fastest charging phones on the market. A 30 minute charge will give you 70% battery. We always travel with a portable battery bank which gives us nearly 5x our battery life.

Reverse wireless charging

One of the coolest features about this phone is that it was the first phone to have reverse wireless charging. This means you’ll be able to charge another phone (with Qi capabilities) with this phone wirelessly. This may seem silly, but it can really help out in a pinch. It’s not the world’s fastest charging (less than 5W), but it will give you enough for a couple hours while you eat dinner.

High resolution screen

The screen on this smartphone is pretty special. It can be bumped up to 3120 x 1440 for when you’re editing photos or watching movies. But out of the box it comes set to 2340 x 1080 and the Smart Resolution feature is turned on. This increases or decreases the screen resolution based on what you’re doing. So, if you’re watching a movie it’ll increase to 3120 x 1440 but if you’re just browsing the web it’ll decrease it. You should care about this because the screen is one of the biggest factors in determining battery life; The higher the resolution, the worse the battery life.

It is also made with OLED technology. This is usually found in high end televisions and smartphones. What’s great about this type of screen is that the blacks are actually the pixels of the screen being turned off. This makes it have true blacks instead of the panel trying to imitate black. None of this you will notice a difference on but will contribute to a longer battery life.

Curved glass

Not only can it be a super high resolution, it also features a curved display. While some people don’t like it we are not part of this group. It seems to fit in your hand more comfortably. Overall, it makes the devices feel much more premium than its competition. It seems like all of the best rated cell phones have this type of screen.

Small Bezels

It seems like there’s a race to a bezel-less phone, including this one. Yes, there is a notch but it houses some important features (more on this later). The curved edges give the feeling that there is no bezel along the sides. There is a slight chin at the bottom of the screen but that’s the only wasted space you’ll find. It actually makes it easier to hold in landscape (aka watching movies).


There are many ways this device keeps your information safe. It has an in screen fingerprint sensor that works surprisingly well. This one is an optical sensor meaning it takes a photo of your fingerprint. The only drawback of this is that it has to shine a bright light onto your finger. You’ll only truly notice this at night or in dark environments. The cool thing about this feature is that you can set the home screen to be different based on a different fingerprint. So if you use certain apps more frequently than your wife, you can simply set it up to show a different home screen when it detects her fingerprint.

The notch is where the high tech 3D Face Unlock is located. Unlike other Android smartphones which simply use a photo to recognize your face the Mate 20 pro shoots over 30 000 little dots onto your face. This makes it much more secure as it “reads” the contours of your face. In fact, it can recognize you even if you’re wearing glasses or a hat. In our time using the phone the face unlock has worked so well that we’ve actually forgot we had it enabled.


Most phones these days come with some sort of water resistant rating. This device is IP68 rated. The “IP” stands for Ingress Protection meaning it fights against debris entering the device. The first number refers to solids – 6 meaning it is “dust tight”, while the second number is talking about liquids – 8 meaning it is able to be submerged in water for a period of time.

When this is put together, Huawei says this phone can handle up to a 1.5 meters (5 feet) depth for up to 30 minutes. While we don’t recommend swimming with the device we do regularly bring ours out into rain storms or kayaking with us on a lake. Just keep in mind also that this doesn’t include salt or chlorinated water. Both of these can damage the gaskets that keep the phone water tight.

Trust us, this is more than a feature you should overlook. While traveling in Bali one of our phones got a little wet and started malfunctioning. This wouldn’t be an issue if we were somewhere we could get it repaired, but we were in a remote area. The phone stopped working the next day, meaning we lost a way of capturing photos.

Worldwide bands

Travelers will appreciate the long list of available bands this device can connect to. For those not familiar with this term “bands” refers to the frequencies a device can connect to. Each country, region, and cellular company uses different bands. This means that no matter if you’re road tripping through Canada, or backpacking Thailand, you’ll be able to stay in touch with your friends and family.

Expandable storage

Even though this phone’s storage can be expanded it’s not entirely needed, and can be expensive. This is because Huawei have strayed from the industry’s standard of micro SD cards. Instead, they use something called Nano Memory. It’s quite similar to micro SD cards except it’ll be much thinner. You can get 64 GB, 128 GB, all the way up to 256 GB.

Comes with a case

Most top of the line smartphones these days come with the bare minimum in the box: a charger, the device and headphones (if you’re lucky). You’ll find a fast charger, headphones, a 3.5 mm headphone jack adapter and a case. It may not be the most durable but it keeps the device from scratching. Every time you place your device on a surface it has the chance to scratch so even the thinnest cases will ensure it stays in pristine condition for as long as possible.

Addressing the controversy

Huawei has been in the news a lot in the past few months, especially in Canada. This has tainted their name a little when it comes to their products. Some people have brought up that the company may be spying on it’s customers. Most people don’t realize that Huawei manufacturers nearly all of the cellular communication towers (at least here in Canada) so if they really wanted to take your data they’d simply siphon it from the towers. In other words, they wouldn’t need to produce a physical device in order to spy on you.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for the best smartphone for travel in 2019 you’ll want to check out the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. When it came time for us to upgrade our phones, we did a lot of research in order to find which one was going to fit into our busy rough lifestyle the best.

We are so happy with our choice to go for the Huawei, mostly for the impressive photo quality it gives us as well as the waterproofing technology.The entire device has built in Artificial Intelligence which tailors everything from the apps that stay open to the battery to the automatic selection of the cameras.

The Huawei Mate 20 Pro specs speak for themself. Having 6 GBs of ram allow you to multitask without apps force closing, 128 GBs of storage gives you the ability to take photos for months without having to transfer them to a computer.

Until next year…

What unlocked smartphone do you use for travelling? Let us know in the comment section below!

Like it? Pin it!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means we may get a commission if you make a purchase at no extra charge to you. Our opinions are our own and we only share what we believe you’ll find helpful. We also use all the products that we have links to. You can even see them in the photos we post.

You need the best gear when you travel. It needs to be reliable when you need it. You can’t be hanging off a 40 foot bamboo ladder in the perfect Instagram pose only to wait for your phone to load its camera app. No, you need to double tap that unlock button and have it snap into action. (Yes, I’m speaking from experience here!).

Since the beginning of this year we’ve been using the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. We don’t usually write articles about our gear, but this phone has changed the way we travel. Instead of trying to bring our big, bulky DSLR camera (for those are curious, we have this one) with us wherever we go, we can simply bring our cell phone. This may seem nit picky, but when you’re traveling with three dogs you never seem to have enough arms.

Honestly, we don’t care about the Galaxy S8 specs in terms of phone function. I could talk to you about software and RAM, but when it comes down to it we need a phone that is reliable and can take excellent photos – and this phone is just that.

You may also like: Essential Layover Tips: Tools To Make You A Travel Guru

Battery Life + Charging

samsung galaxy s8, fast charge, samsung, s9+, s9, galaxy, cell phone

One of the main things we love is the Samsung Galaxy S8 battery life. It can literally last all day on one charge. That’s with 8 email accounts all syncing and constantly checking and updating all of our social media accounts. Oh, and we take around 200 photos ever single day.

It doesn’t have a removable battery, but makes up for it with a fast charging system. You plug it in for a half hour and you have enough charge to get through the rest of the day. This may be one of the best S8 features. While this is true, we still always bring along a small portable power bank that more than doubles the battery life of the phone (it’s best to look for one that has fast charging capabilities). All you have to do is plug it into the device and throw it in your bag while you walk.


That takes us to photo editing (the main reason we are so in love with this phone). We use the full suite from Adobe including Lightroom CC (our preferred editing software) and Photoshop. When we compare the Samsung Galaxy S8 screen size to that of the iPhone 7 and 8 we were blown away.

samsung galaxy s8, apple, iphone, samsung, galaxy s8, galaxy s9, s9+, s8+
Screen comparison size between the Samsung (left) and iPhone (right).

And the colours! It’s hard to capture just how amazing this screen is through a photo.

Samsung is known for having over saturated displays, but this is definitely not a negative. The photos we take, even the ones we just view, look completely different on this phone than they do on our iPhone’s screen.

While we prefer to edit all the photos on a computer (our laptops are NEVER far away) we don’t always have this ability which means we need a great phone that is able to produce high quality photos even with its smaller screen. It’s screen needs to show us what the photo actually looks like so we can get the colours right. The screen on this phone is incredible. It has such an incredible display that we can edit photos without struggling to see details.


samsung galaxy s8, grouse mountain, photo, picture

This may be the aspect that we love most about this cell phone. It has enabled us to capture images where we simply couldn’t bring our bigger camera. We have been blown away by the picture quality of this device. In fact, we didn’t realize it but we’ve been using the camera at a lower resolution than it’s capable of!

The fact that this phone is waterproof allows us ultimate freedom. We can jump in a lake, bring it on a hike and take photos in the middle of a storm (Samara’s favourite).

It takes such good photos that I bet you couldn’t tell which photos were from our cell phone or from our DSLR camera. This is amazing considering our big DSLR camera (24.1) has more than double the megapixels than the phone (12 MP).


Taking great photos is one thing – being able to store them is another. The Samsung Galaxy series has been famous for allowing you to expand it’s storage. This means you can use a micro SD card to the phone which gives you even more storage. But it’s only necessary if you take a ton of photos. This phone comes with 64 GBs of storage. That translates to around 9000 photos. We just bought a 128 GB micro SD card but only rarely seem to use it. The cool thing is that we can use this same card for our GoPro Sessions 5 so we can simply switch them out.


The only issue we have with the Galaxy S8 is how slippery it is. I guess this is one of the downfalls of having such a beautiful design. It took our phone falling and smashing on the ground for us to realize we needed a case for the phone (thankfully we bought insurance on the phone). Even though we appreciate how the phone looks it would be more functional if it wasn’t so slippery.


The best camera is the one you have with you. Our large Nikon DSLR doesn’t fit in our pocket so we were limited with the image quality we could get. Being able to instead bring our phone is so much more convenient. The downfall is the phone is big. In this case opting for simply the S8 rather than the S8 plus that we have may be a good option. While it fits into my pocket with ease and the screen size is a huge thing for us, the phone doesn’t fit well into the smaller pockets found in women’s clothing.


If you’ve ever met us you know how much we love being outdoors. This means we’re always playing near water or mud. Having a device than can withstand the occasional dunk in water is a requirement in our life. My last phone took a beating. I brought it into the ocean in a waterproof case and it still ended up breaking. Just sitting on the beach led it to corrode from the salty air. Having a phone we can jump into lakes with is huge and gives us killer underwater shots.

Carriers + Unlock

If you travel lots you will need a phone that is carrier unlocked. This means you’ll be able to use a SIM card from any phone provider. The great thing about this phone is that it comes factory unlocked. We got ours from Bell and only found this out when we called them to get it unlocked.

Trust us – you don’t want to have to deal with international roaming charges.

This is amazing. Every phone we’ve ever owned had to be unlocked by the phone provider. This would come with a fee (usually around $99) for them to simply send you a code you’d have to enter. Having a phone that can be used with any company around the world (depending on the phone’s bands) will give you access to call hotels and car services. It also puts your mind at ease if you run into an emergent situation.

Final Thoughts

When traveling full time as we do, it is important that the gear you carry has as many uses as possible. All in all you want it to not only maximize in functions, but excel in those functions. We bought this phone primarily for the camera and it has surely delivered in that area.

If it seems like we’re raving about this cell phone, well we are, we love it. It has an amazing screen and is even waterproof. There’s not much more we could ask for from our cell phone.

What cell phone do you travel with? Let us know why you use and what you think of it in the comment section below!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which means we

may get a commission if you make a purchase. Our opinions are our own and we only share what we believe you’ll find helpful. We also use all the products that we have links to. You can even see them in the photos we post. This post is in no way supported or sponsored by Samsung.

The best travel gear is your traveling phone that you go on adventures with.

The best travel phone for traveling photography.

When you travel full time you need gear that can keep up with you. We’re not talking a 5 year old cell phone that can takes blurry photos and has a battery that lasts less time than a cup of coffee.

No, you need gear that is waterproof and can stand up to some dings and dents. Your bag needs to have enough space to hold your gear but can still be light enough that it doesn’t put strain on your body.

When we first started vanlife 4 years ago, our plan was to try to escape from modern world as much as possible. This meant no phone plan, no internet connection, no wifi and no phones. It didn’t take long for reality to set in that we weren’t simply living an off grid retro lifestyle but instead an ultra modern digital nomad existence. Our search for an escape from technology turned into a quest to find the best of the best. Slowly we upgraded our computers, phones, tablets and cameras so that we now have the best of the best. These upgrades, while coming at a significant cost, made it so that we can work from anywhere, take high resolution photos to record our travels and stay in touch with loved ones from wherever we are in the world.