Travel Technology: No Netflix streaming outside the U.S.

During my recent European vacation, I left my netbook at home and instead relied on my iPad for travel entertainment and on-the-road research.

With no individual in-flight entertainment screens aboard my Delta 767 flight, I was especially grateful for the TV episodes that I had downloaded onto the iPad. Other than the fact that my iPad kept toppling over when the person in front of me shifted in his seat, it was like having a personal seat-back entertainment system.

It is easy, however, to forget that the tools that I rely on for domestic travel aren’t always readily available for international travel. For example, instead of forking over $8 for the hotel’s pay-per-view channel, I often use my Netflix account to stream movies in my hotel room. (After spending hours walking around during the day, I find it relaxing to fall asleep while streaming a movie or some TV shows.)

Unfortunately, when I logged into my Netflix account from my hotel room, I received this message: “Watching instantly is not available outside the U.S. We noticed that the computer that you are using is not located within the 50 United States or the District of Columbia. Due to studio licensing reasons, movies are available to watch instantly only in those locations.”

I ended up downloading more episodes from iTunes, which was painfully slow using the hotel’s Wi-Fi.

As it turned out, Netflix wasn’t the only travel tool that was unavailable on my trip — I couldn’t access Yelp in many cities (I kept getting the message that there were no nearby restaurants even though that clearly wasn’t the case). Interestingly enough, Foursquare had a few check-ins — unfortunately many check-ins appeared to be several months old, so I didn’t feel like I could trust that as a travel resource.

Lessons Learned: Had I known that I wouldn’t be able to use my Netflix account while overseas, I could’ve saved time by downloading extra movies and TV shows before I left on my trip. I also should’ve done more advance research on where to eat instead of assuming that Yelp restaurant reviews would be available. Instead, I had to resort to Google searches, old New York Times travel articles — and following the crowds (a travel tip that never seems to let me down).

[Photo by Amy Chen]