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!

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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.

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If you are anything like us you want to get the most out of your vacation and check new cities off your bucket list. What better way to do that than to get two vacations in one? Especially if the second vacation is so cheap anyone can afford it. Sound too good to be true? Well, we are here to fill you in on our little secret.

The secret is easy: layovers! I know what you’re thinking, layovers are typically the worst part of your flight. You’re either running from one airplane to another frantically or you’re sitting bored in an airport for hours in a waiting limbo. Why not instead make this dreaded time into a WHOLE OTHER VACATION (really, does it get any better?).

BONUS: Flights with layovers can actually be cheaper than direct flights since on the surface they can seem less desirable. You can find stopover flights to top travel destinations like Italy, Iceland, and Hong Kong.

On a recent trip to Thailand, we scheduled a 24-hour layover in Singapore. The cost for the flight fare was actually cheaper than it would have been without the stopover flight and we could now leave the airport and go explore a new city. We did this again on a trip to Bali where we were able to enjoy another 24 hour layover in Hong Kong. This layover cost the exact same as a direct flight would have and we got to enjoy dim sum in the heart of the city.

So before your fingers get click happy and book your next flight, hear our advice and learn from our mistakes.

How Do We Do This?

Before we found Skiplagged we manually checked websites to find flights with long layovers. This meant that we would sit for hours plugging in our dates and cities and scrolling through dozens of flights. There isn’t really a setting to adjust the time of the layover so we would have to not only look at the airport code of the airport but also the duration of the layover.

skiplagged, layover, stopover, search, flight

Skiplagged simplifies this process. It will search out flights that have long layovers to any destination you want.

The best part is you can add your starting airport and leave the destination open. This will show you a list of flights everywhere in the world starting at the cheapest price. It will also give you information like the airlines, the booking information and where the layover will take you.

You may also like: The best money you will spend in Bali.

How Long Should Your Layover Be?

There are many things to consider when planning a layover. Customs can take a while when leaving the airport (if you are anything like us you can ask for a seat near the front of the plane and RUN LIKE YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT to the booths. Or you know, patience works too). Keep in mind that they say you should plan to be at the airport 3 hours before an international flight which will eat into some of your travel time.

Give yourself as much time as possible. We have found that 11 – 24 hours is the sweet spot. Just check the time you land and depart. This is SOOO important!! Unless you plan to be in Tokyo or New York and are ready to party you will not have a good time if your 11 hours start at 9 pm and goes till 8 am.

Know The Type Of Traveler You Are (And The People You Are Traveling With)

This is one of the most important aspects of deciding the course of your layover vacation. Are you someone who enjoys taking it slow and stress-free by enjoying hours at restaurants, ordering room service and sleeping in? Or are you more like us: chickens with their head cut off running through the city trying to take in as many sights as you can.

flight, travel, tourist, tourism, airplane, airport,

If you are travelling with someone else, it is important to take both of your travelling personalities into account. I know what you are thinking: this matters for any type of travel. Well, you are right but if you are only spending a couple of hours in an area the need-to-know becomes more significant.

Pro Tip: Before leaving the airport buy some water and snacks to bring for your day. It will likely cost way more than it would in the city but is almost guaranteed to make your time better. Trust us, no one has a good time when they’re hangry.

You may also like: 6 unbelievable spots in BC, Canada you have to see.

Treat Your Layover Like It Is Your Main Destination

Even though this leg of the trip is shorter doesn’t make it any less exciting. You are still paying for the flight so make the most of it. Get excited and spend some time scanning Pinterest or Tripadvisor for the top activities in the city. After all, this is a whole new vacation!

As you are going to be there for only a select few hours it is important that you know where to go and what there is to see. Can you imagine if we had gone to Singapore without seeing the famous Gardens by the Bay?

airplane, flight, vacation, holiday, travel, tourism, backpacker
Myles playing on his little toy plane at the airport.

With that being said, when we went to Hong Kong we had absolutely no idea where anything was and we just jumped on a random bus from the airport

and got dropped into the middle of “backpackers downtown”. A random online hotel booking at a cheap hotel (we had just come from Bali and so we didn’t think $40 a night was cheap) left us sleeping in a place smaller than a walk-in closet full of cockroaches that smelt like dirty fish. So small that they had cut the mattress to fit in the room and I couldn’t even extend my legs – I am 5’6”. Learn from our mistakes: know before you go!

Know Before You Go

  • Make sure your luggage goes to your final destination, not to your layover. This will make it one less thing you need to worry about planning for.
  • Check your phone’s storage space! Nobody wants to have the best shot lined up to get the dreaded “Not Enough Storage” message. I am notoriously bad for this!
  • Charge Your Electronics: The worst feeling is not having your phone or camera charged when you need it the most. This can not only make you miss capturing the moment but possibly even your flight. If you have a phone with a removable battery investing in an extra one can save you.

For phones that don’t have this feature, we suggest a battery pack. These are small, yet powerful. They can fit in your pants pocket and can give you up to 10 full charges. Not only can they power your phone but some can even power cameras and computers!

  • Customs & Visa Regulations: Some countries, such as Vietnam, require special visas for entry including a passport-sized photos. These are easy and inexpensive to get and should not deter you. Trust us, 24 hours in Saigon is never a bad idea.layover, flight, city, thailand

Knowing the general layout of a city can help you tons! There are many ways of doing this, but Google Maps is one of the best apps to have on your smartphone. Not only can you use it offline, but you can also download a specific area.

This will let you search public transit stops without being connected to (and without a signal).

You may also like: The 10 best cities in Vietnam.

Keep Track of Your Flights

We strongly recommend getting an app to track your flight. If you decide to leave the airport you will be busier than you realize. The last thing you want is to spend a day in the town to find out that your flight was delayed or cancelled.

There are many smartphone apps that can keep track of your flight for when you connect your phone to Wifi at coffee houses or even fast-food chains. All you need is the flight number on your boarding ticket.

Set alarms throughout your day to remind you to keep track of the time.

What To Do With Your Time

24 hours in a city may not seem like enough time. That’s because it isn’t. These layovers are a way to get a sneak peek at a country, or city, rather than an in-depth experience. Think of it like a first date, you can go explore enough to see if it is worth giving it a second date (note: it always will be).

Consider how you want to fill your time. Perhaps booking a guided tour through the city is your best option. Or maybe you are more adventurous and just want a taxi to drop you off in the middle of the downtown core and you can walk as much as possible. Try looking into a city bus pass that you can hop on and off to get around the city. Or you may be wanting to see one specific thing that you can plan your day around.

For example, if your layover is in Cambodia you will want to make sure a trip to Angkor Wat is the focus of your day.

You may also like: Top US cities that aren’t on your radar but should be

What To Pack

You are treating this as a separate holiday so be sure to put some thought into packing. As you will not be getting your main bag we suggest packing a larger, but still portable (backpacks work great), day bag. If you bring along a bulky rolling carry-on, check if your airport has lockers and stash it in there so you don’t have to cart it around with you.

  • A change of clothes: This is especially important if you are about to step into a completely different climate than you were once in. This includes shoes, I know they’re heavy but hear me out. You will want shoes you can walk far distances in. While this is a given, you never know what your day will look like. You are one puddle, a rainy day, or a beach trip away from being stuck with wet feet or blisters. Trust me, learn from my mistakes, BRING AN EXTRA PAIR. You can thank me later! 🙂
  • FOOD: Not a full meal, you will likely remember the food you ate in whatever city you are in more than anything else, but snacks. Think granola bars! Stashing a few in your backpack will make it so that you don’t have to find a restaurant right away.
  • Camera: or let’s be real your smartphone will probably do just fine. If you do bring your phone though, pack a charger just in case. You will likely be snapping so many photos you may run out of battery. 20 minutes in a Starbucks plugging your phone into an outlet may just save your trip (or at least your photos).
  • Pre-print all your boarding passes: This isn’t just advice for people who are late for everything. It is really really easy to get delayed, especially when you’re in a city you don’t know well and are at the mercy of taxis or public transit. Having your boarding pass on your smartphone can solve this. Depending on how long your layover is you may even be able to print your boarding pass before you leave the airport for your whirlwind adventure. This will save you time when you return to the airport to catch your flight.
  • A plastic bag or dry bag: You are literally walking into the unknown with little to nothing with you. I mean that in the most exciting way possible. Bringing a ziplock or dry bag to stash your electronics in can end up saving you a ton of money.
  • Money: Kind of an obvious one but can be easily overlooked as it isn’t your main destination. Make sure you have enough cash to get into the city (a simple google search will tell you the best way and roughly holayover, flight, travel, sleeping bag liner w much it will cost) and some extra for any souvenirs and food you want to buy.
  • A blanket or sleeping bag: We have this one. Not only is it useful to keep you warm when sleeping in airports but in case you are like us and opt for the sleaziest (aka cheapest) hotel imaginable, you have a nice little barrier between you and a questionable mattress

I know this seems like a lot of information but trust us, getting the most of your holiday by extending your layovers will be well worth it. Take the time you have in the new city as bonus time.

Don’t stress, you don’t have to cram everything in. Really, if all you bring is a camera and plan to spend the whole time on your Roman layover eating pasta, is that really the worst thing?

Have fun and let us know how your next vacation goes – we love to hear stories!

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