Smartphones are amazing when you want to travel (even if the cell service can be a little spotty) and are practically necessary if you want to experience everything and stay safe. They are a lifeline and multitool all at once, and they are also likely going to be your chief camera and way of telling everyone about your amazing adventure! However, when it comes to traveling, not all are built the same, and not all are equal. Some phones are simply built better for overseas trips than others, and that’s ok.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re in the market for a new phone, and love to travel. Why not line up the two, and get a phone that you know will be a good choice for your next journey?
Here are five phones that are great to travel with, in no particular order:
Looking for a phone that is tougher than nails for your travels? Heading out into the wilderness, skydiving, or entering a maze made out of concrete where they grease your hands before you enter? Then you want the AGM Glory G1 Pro, which might be the roughest and toughest smartphone the average person would be interested in (and even the not-so-average person).
To start out with, let’s talk about the features that are unique to this model. First, it has a thermal imaging camera, which might not be the most practical option for most people, but is very cool and fun to use. If thermal isn’t your thing, you can try out the night vision camera instead! Additionally, there is a light at the top of the model that goes above and beyond the usual smartphone flashlight, being far brighter. The speaker on the back is loud, if not perfect sounding. It also has a battery to back it up, and wireless charging options (not so common with rugged smartphones). The build makes it fine in most environments and will probably be the reason you buy this phone.
It also has a lot of flagship or near-flagship smartphone features. It is 5G compatible and has a somewhat competitive camera set with a 16MP front camera and 48MP back camera. Unfortunately, it only had a FHD resolution on its 6.53-inch screen, making it below-par for high-end models. Additionally, the processor (a Snapdragon 480 2.0GHz Octa-core) and RAM (8GB) are acceptable, but not outstanding.
Getting this phone will likely mean compromise when it comes to main features, but it will run most things you want it to. It just might not be as fast or future-proof when it comes to the inside of the phone.
Though make no mistake, for good and for ill, this is a phone meant for tough jobs and going out into nature. The extra bulk and features mean that most city travelers will wonder why they got it after a trip or two. It’s large, heavy, has extra hardware, and might not be sleek and stylish as most of the other phones on this list. Yet if you’re going on that safari or hiking trip, there might not be any other phone you’d rather have.
What’s so special about the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra for traveling? You probably know about it already (or the Galaxy line in general) and it just happens to be a high-end smartphone. And this is true. But sometimes what you need for travel is simply the best, and you also know you won’t be traveling all the time unless you have embraced the digital nomad lifestyle.
This is an expensive piece of technology, and it isn’t afraid to be so. However, you get a lot for your money. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 5,000 mAh battery, great for those long walks or excursions into the city where you don’t know where you are going to charge next (and carrying around a charge pack can be cumbersome). The processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip, and the RAM is either 12GB or 16GB depending on which phone you get, but in either case, you’ll be able to do a lot at once, and do it quickly. This could be helpful when on the go or rushed for time.
As for the display? It’s important, given how it might be the only screen you can look at reliably for work, important messages, and more while you are on the go. It has a beautiful 6.8 inch Dynamic AMOLED display and has a high refresh rate. It is bright (great for reading or viewing your phone outdoors), and has a 3200x1400 display, which is more than most people can currently hope for on their smartphone.
However, the camera is where this model truly shines. It has a front camera of 40MP, which is better than many phones’ full setups. Yet it has an amazing back camera setup, with a 108MP wide camera, 12MP ultrawide, a 10MP 3xzoom telephoto lens, and a 10MP telephoto lens. If you know how to use all of these properly as well as the related software, you are going to have an amazing time on your trip and capture pictures that you will love for a lifetime.
Depending on when you are reading this, you might want to wait until the next Galaxy model comes out (the S22 Ultra might already be easily available in your region), either so that this one is cheaper, or you can get an even better version of the phone. But in any case, here is your starting point for a flagship that can keep up with you and do whatever you want, wherever that might be.
You are probably no stranger to the iPhone, with about every one in four smartphones running iOS. The Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max is perhaps the best iPhone you can get as of this writing, and that makes it the best iPhone for travel by default. You’ll want to take care of it, but you can also trust that it will give you great performance, great pictures, and be easy to use all at once.
This model of iPhone has a 2778x1284 resolution for amazing picture quality with a 120Hz adaptive refresh. Storage options vary, and the phone has about a 12-hour battery life, depending of course on how you use it and which apps you have open. You will find that there is enough here for most types of travelers, though specialized expeditions might benefit more from a specialized phone.
In terms of the camera, it has a 12MP front camera and a set of three 12 MP back cameras (telephoto, wide, and ultra-wide). These numbers might not sound like much, but Apple has always done things differently here, and the cameras on an iPhone remain some of the best you can find on a smartphone. Don’t worry about getting the perfect shot.
You also may be able to enjoy some of the software and apps that you can only find on an iPhone to enhance your journey. We won’t go terribly into specifics as we don’t know what you plan to do or what you need, but people stick with Apple for a reason, and that reason is the software.
Overall, you probably know whether you want an iPhone or not. But if you needed one more push, here it is.
What the Google Pixel line is known for, however, are its excellent cameras, especially for the price. You could get the newest iPhone or Galaxy, but you will pay well more than $1000 for each of them unless you get an amazing deal. The Google Pixel 6 isn’t the cheapest phone, but it sure won’t break the bank, and you still get great performance for your trouble.
The phone has two rear cameras, a 12 MP ultrawide camera and a 50 MP wide camera. On the front, there is an 8MP camera for those perfect selfies next to the sights. It has a 6.4-inch OLED screen with a resolution of 2400 x 1080p, enough to watch most videos at decent quality. A battery size of 4,614 mAh given that size works, but there are honestly better batteries. You can choose between 128 and 256GB storage options, and the phone will have 8GB RAM.
There’s one other thing that sets the Pixel 6 out for travelers: the Tensor Chip. It is supposed to recognize text, which can be helpful for searching and the like. But more interestingly, the chip can not only recognize text but also translate it on the fly, making it great for navigation in a foreign land. It’s not as good as having a dedicated guide and translator along with you, but it is certainly a step up. The processing power also isn’t up to par with the Snapdragon 888, but it is enough to handle most whatever you want.
You may be interested in a different variation of the Google Pixel 6 or wondering if it's for you, but we will say that for many travelers, it represents the opportunity to switch to something a bit toned down, while still providing all the best features that travelers will be interested in.
There are plenty of rugged phones out there, and we’ve already mentioned one, but we found the CAT S42 H+ a phone worth mentioning from the crowd for travelers.
Interestingly, this model has silver ions built into battle bacteria growth, making it a bit better for the outdoors when things can get grimy, or in cities where things can get even worse. You’ll still need to clean it and be hygienic in general, but this phone makes life easier on that front.
Now looking at the performance metrics, there is a fair bit to be desired. It only had 3GB of RAM when 8GB is often the standard. There is no wireless charging option. It only has 32GB of storage to start with, which might not be enough for a folder full of photos and videos. The screen resolution is only 720 x 1440, which feels a generation behind what we have now. It might be a slightly older phone compared to our other contenders, but that doesn’t mean anything when the newer phones are readily available. The battery is 4200mAH, but it will likely use less charge than the latest models, so comparisons are a bit trickier.
It has a basic camera setup of a 13MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera. Perhaps not stunning, but more than enough to get a good shot of something interesting. Additionally, while the resolution is low, the screen is plenty large and bright, making working with it easier. And, as advertised, the CAT S42 H+ is plenty tough and can take more damage and abuse than the average phone.
So why buy it? The CAT S42 also happens to be affordable when compared to most other smartphones. It won’t blow your mind in terms of functionality or power, but it works and works well, and you will likely pay less than $400 for it (likely much less). It’s a phone you won’t be panicking so much about while you take it with you on your travels. It might make a perfect secondary phone while you leave your flagship at home in a locked safe where no one will touch it.
If you found your perfect phone from the list above, that’s great! We hope that you will be able to use it for years to come. Yet to get the most out of it and avoid incidents, we recommend the following:
Some of these phones are better for people who hop from city to city, while others will be able to take the tough falls and outdoors right along with you. Whatever your needs, we hope that you managed to find a good phone for your needs, and you can get to traveling soon. There is nothing like it and the unexpected is the only thing to be expected, so keep at it and have fun.