Running a successful business from the beaches of the Maldives or the steps of the Taj Mahal in India is often a dream. For Jessica Nabongo, a frequent flyer traveling nearly 200,000 miles annually and conducting her business from 50-plus countries in 2017, it's a reality.
Nabongo has figured out how to utilize technology to craft a life and career that interconnects her passions and talents. Creator of the travel blog The Catch Me If You Can and a boutique luxury travel firm called Jet Black that curates itineraries to countries in Africa, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, Nabongo has collected passport stamps from 103 countries and territories.
I caught up with the digital nomad at Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, to get a list of her must-have mobile apps, sites, and hacks that aid her business and help her to travel more efficiently.
In October, Nabongo traveled between five south Asian countries and spent only $200 on flights with the help of her Chase Ink Business Preferred credit card points. Nabongo believes, every digital nomad should maximize their credit card points for free flights, hotels, other travel perks and of course the zero foreign transaction fees. As an American Express (AmEx) credit card holder, I was amazed to learn about the offers I have been leaving on the table. Chase's small business rewards has paid off as evidenced by its increased market share, threatening AmEx's longtime dominance.
While many people think of Charles Schwab as solely a brokerage account (myself included), Nabongo set the record straight. Charles Schwab's checking account is one the best among U.S. commercial banks. There is interest on deposits, no fees, no minimums, no-fee overdraft protection, free checks, electronic deposits via app, an ATM card, and best of all unlimited reimbursements of any ATM fees around the globe. Nabongo says, avoiding bank fees that would add up quickly for the digital nomad is reason enough to sign up with Charles Schwab.
With 128 GB of storage on her phone, Nabongo still finds herself running out of space for her essential apps. Below are some of the apps she says she uses when traveling:
Mobile Passport Control, the first app authorized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that does not require pre-approval and is free to use to U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors entering the U.S.
TripIt instantly organizes your travel plans in one place so you can access them at anytime from anywhere instead of scouring through your email box for hotel, flight and car reservations.
Gate Guru is a one stop shop for information on shops, restaurants and other amenities in both domestic and international airports. Looking for an ATM while in LAX Terminal 1? Look no further. Gate Guru will save you time searching the airport and point you in the right direction
Roaming outside the U.S. has improved dramatically over the years, but not all cellular providers are created equal, even in 2017. For Nabongo, T-Mobile is her preferred carrier whether traveling in Europe, Africa, or Asia because of unlimited data and texting in most countries in the world. While my provider, Sprint does not require a flat fee to access international data similar to T-Mobile, my data is however capped at 64 kbps, half of T-Mobile's speeds which is essential while working. I also learned AT&T has a one-time, per-device charge while traveling abroad and Verizon has a TravelPass service where you pay a little bit per line per day, and voice and data usage comes out of your domestic plan.
Nabongo retold a story of her once sending a critical document from her laptop in the back of a taxi in Nairobi, Kenya, using her phone as a hotspot. It instantly had me reevaluating my cellular connectivity as I too occasionally work abroad.
Nabongo has come a long way from swapping SIM cards and the added inconvenience of having a different phone number every time she traveled to a new country.
Whether you are an entrepreneur who is working on-the-go or an employee who is building a business while on vacation overseas hopefully these tips will allow you to travel and work more efficiently.