This article was first published on 12 March 2018 and updated on 17 September.
It's amazing how we got by without our smartphones. To be more specific, the cameras that come with it.
But we're not just talking about vacation pictures and selfies here. The clever use of smartphone cameras has saved many a vacation.
From taking a photo of your receipts for travel insurance claims to getting your bearings, here are some travel and safety hacks that you can perform with your smartphone camera.
1. Snap a photograph of your luggage and bags, before you head to the airport
If you lose your luggage and bags, you'll usually be asked for a written description (colour, manufacturer, size, etc.) The airport staff will then have to sort through hundreds of bags, trying to find the one that's yours.
If you can provide a picture of your luggage, that process becomes much faster. It's easier to find your bags via a picture than by a written description.
2. Take a photo of your kids
If your children wander off, you'll need to give a description to the authorities. Things will go much quicker if you can present a photograph, rather than having to describe your children in words.
But wait, wouldn't you already have a photo of your child with you? Why would you still need to take a photo of them for every day during your vacation?
Simple: it's easier to identify the children if they are wearing the exact same clothes as in the picture when they wander off.
3. Capture a shot of your medicine labels
Some of us need to take a lot of different medication, such as elderly parents who may be with you on the trip. Always brace for the possibility that this medication can be lost.
Snap a picture of the medicine and the labels (make sure they're readable). Show it to the doctor or pharmacist to, again, speed up the process.
This is also more convenient than writing medicine names on bits of paper and tucking it into your wallet.
4. Getting into a hire car or cab? Snap a picture of the car and license plate.
There are two reasons to do this.
The first is that, sometimes, you'll need to track down the vehicle after you've gotten off. This can be to file a complaint (e.g. you were overcharged) or because you left your wallet / passport / phone*, etc. in the cab.
The second reason is security. If the driver is trying anything strange (e.g. driving you somewhere you've never been), you can quickly send the image of the vehicle to friends or local authorities for help.
*If you upload your images to a cloud service, such as iCloud, you can access the pictures even if your phone is missing.
5. Got into an accident? Snap a picture for your travel insurer
If you get into an accident, such as with your hired car, you'll want your smartphone camera on hand.
Take images of the accident from multiple angles, and be sure to get the exact position of involved vehicles. Also take photos showing nearby street signs, highway ramps, toll booths, etc. This will give a better sense of what transpired when the accident occurred.
Travel insurance claims can be processed a lot quicker, if you accompany your report with relevant images.
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6. Buying things home for your friends? Send a picture for verification first.
If you're buying something for your friends, make use of that camera! Snap a few pictures and make sure it's what they want. No one is happy to pay for the wrong thing.
Also, you can snap pictures of alternative products, for their consideration.
But do be mindful of the shopkeepers - not all of them may approve of photography. Ask before you snap.
7. Afraid of getting lost? Try the "snap and walk" method
Some of us just don't have a great sense of direction. An easy way to fix that is to "snap and walk" the first few times you wander from the hotel.
As you walk, turn back and take pictures of the buildings, or snap pictures of the street signs. If you get confused while finding your way back (GPS is not always reliable), use the photographs as references to find your way back.
If you are totally lost, it's easier for your host or friends to find you if you send them a picture of your immediate location.
8. Photograph important receipts
You'll need to provide a receipt for insurance claims if your items go missing. Unfortunately, paper receipts tend to go missing or even fade to the point of being unreadable.
Take photographs of high value items that you buy abroad, such as electronics. This can help if you need to make a claim but lack a physical copy of the receipt.
9. Use images to get an expert opinion
Are you shopping for antiques or art? You might want to get the opinion of a savvier friend, before making your decision.
If you're not sure whether something is genuine, snap a picture and send it to a friend in the know. It's easier for them to offer an opinion on, say, whether a Persian rug is the real thing, if they can see a close-up picture.