When planning a trip overseas, you might think your biggest expenses will be your airfare, lodging and food. However, if you are not careful, your smartphone also can rack up a hefty bill. To avoid the high costs of using your phone abroad, consider the following tips:
Contact Your Carrier
Long before your friends wish you bon voyage, talk to your cellphone carrier about what international calling and data plans the company offers and how much they cost. For example, T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan includes unlimited data and texting in over 120 countries for $50 a month on updated smartphones like the HTC One M9.
Unfortunately, the Simple Choice Plan’s international upload and download speeds are pretty slow for certain tasks, but they are sufficient enough for email and social media.
Buy a SIM Card
Another option is to purchase a SIM card from a phone store at your destination. As long as your phone has been unlocked to accept a foreign SIM card, this is a great way to save money. For instance, if you are traveling to the UK, Vodafone UK sells a SIM card with 500 MB of data and 100 minutes of talk time for around $16.
Ask your carrier to unlock your phone so you can use it overseas. However, one word of advice — since international SIM cards usually come with instructions in that country’s language, purchase it at a store where the clerk can help you set it up.
Buy a Temporary Phone
If you mainly want to use your phone to make calls, buy an inexpensive pay-as-you-go phone at your destination. For example, Telestial sells a bare bones model for $19.
However, if you want a few more bells and whistles, the phones can cost $50 or more, which means you are probably better off with one of the other options.
Connect your smartphone to Wi-Fi so you can email, post pictures and use FaceTime or Skype to stay in touch with friends and family back home. More likely than not, your hotel will offer free Wi-Fi, and many coffee shops, restaurants and even forms of public transportation have free Wi-Fi service.
Another option is to purchase a Wi-Fi service for your phone. For example, a subscription from Boingo comes with over 1 million worldwide hotspots. For $7.95 a month, you can get worldwide Wi-Fi service on up to four mobile devices. The only downside to using Wi-Fi overseas is that calls tend to drop, especially if you are walking while on the phone.
Download Ahead of Time
If you mainly plan to use your phone on the plane and when connected to Wi-Fi, you may be able to plan ahead for certain data-heavy tasks. Before you leave for your trip (or anytime you’re connected to Wi-Fi), download anything you can to your phone so you don’t waste your data. This includes, apps, movies, books, music and games.
Also, make sure any movies, playlists, apps and books download completely because they may resume downloading once you turn your phone back on.