Traveling Overseas With Your Smartphone

While I love my smartphone and canít bear to go anywhere without it, I always hesitate a little when Iím planning an overseas trip. Iíve had too many vacations where I congratulated myself for staying within budget only to find that my cell phone bill was hundreds of dollars more than I expected. With international calling rates, costly data charges, and unexpected roaming fees, itís easy to think that taking a phone abroad is far more trouble than itís worth.

Thankfully, times are changing. Phone manufacturers and wireless carriers recognize the difficulties associated with cell phone use overseas and have made enormous strides in trying to simplify the process and help control the costs. By talking to a sales representative or visiting your carrierís web site, you can now get good advice on exactly what kind of device and service plan you will need for the countries you will be visiting.

However, despite the improvements, traveling overseas with your phone can still be a costly experience. Here are some tips on how to make it a little more affordable:

Make sure your phone will work in the countries that you will be visiting

While cost might be a concern, there is nothing more frustrating than arriving at your overseas destination to find out that your cell phone doesnít work. Check online or call your carrier beforehand to find out whether your phone will work in the countries you plan to visit. If you are a Verizon customer, then the Verizon web site has an excellent Trip Planner tool that can help you with this task.

(If you are a Verizon customer and you donít have the right phone, then you can take advantage of their Global Travel Program. Under this program, Verizon will ship you a country-compatible phone which will give you all the call, text, and data services that you will need during your trip. You keep your regular phone number and you can transfer your SIM card or use Verizonís Backup Assistant to take all your contacts with you. You just pay for the cost of shipping the device, and the usage costs appear on your regular bill.)

Buy an international plan before you go abroad

Even if you have a phone that works in the countries you will be visiting, you should make sure you arrange for an international plan before you start using the phone. This will allow you to take advantage of low calling, text, and data rates that your carrier has negotiated with local providers, and also eliminate all or most of those expensive roaming charges.

Turn your phone off when you are not using it

Many tourists and other travelers only want a phone for emergencies or to occasionally check in with the family back home. To make sure you keep charges to a minimum, you should turn off your phone when you are not using it. This way you avoid those unnecessary calls and connections that can quickly add up to a significant amount of dollars.

Uninstall or disable data-guzzling apps

Your smartphone may have weather, news or other apps that download data on a regular basis or every time your phone is turned on. While this data transfer may be comfortably absorbed by your monthly allowance back home, it could prove to be expensive while you are traveling overseas. Make sure any data-guzzling apps are uninstalled or disabled while you are abroad.

Disconnect from your mobile network or switch to airplane mode

Most smartphones now have ďairplane mode,Ē or the ability to disconnect from mobile networks while still being able to access Wi-Fi hotspots. When you switch to airplane mode or W-Fi, you wonít be able to call or text, but you will still be able to connect to Wi-Fi networks to send e-mail, surf the Web, and use certain apps. And the really good news? Data transfer over Wi-Fi will not incur any charges from your wireless carrier.

Comment by Gail McHam, posted 1/24/2014, 1:43 PM:

Wish I had this info 5 years ago when we went overseas!
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