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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

The Connected Traveler

Despite the proliferation of more compatible networks and handsets, it’s still not unusual to hear about phone users coming home to unexpected costs after using their smartphones and tablets overseas. The sad part is that it really shouldn’t happen at all. With a little foresight and planning, your smartphone is the last thing you should have to worry about when you step on that plane.

Make sure your phone will work

The first thing to check is whether your mobile device is going to work while you are abroad. Here, you can get some help from Verizon’s Trip Planner, which will match your smartphone or tablet against the networks in the countries you are visiting and let you know if your device will operate.

Even if your device is not compatible, all is not lost. Under the Global Travel Program, Verizon can ship you an Android or BlackBerry smartphone to use for the duration of your trip. There are no daily rental fees or security deposits and customers can often keep their regular phone numbers and transfer their contacts using Verizon Cloud or Backup Assistant Plus.

Buy a global plan

If your device is compatible, then you will need a Global Services plan. Verizon offers a variety of voice, messaging and data plans, based on the countries you are visiting. Again, the trip planner can help, giving you all the options for the way you want to use your device.

If you are a smartphone owner, then the key to controlling costs is getting your data usage right. (Much like your U.S. plan.) If you don’t expect to use much data and just want to make a few phone calls or send a few texts, then it may not be worth buying a data plan at all. But if you will be using your smartphone to check e-mail, surf the Web, and access your apps, then a global data plan is essential.

Two things work in your favor when you set up a data plan. First, you will be accessing much lower rates. ($25/100MB vs. $20.48/MB for typical pay-as-you-go rates.) Second, you will get notifications on your data usage, allowing you to make informed decisions about additional data purchases. Staying on top of your data usage is the best way to avoid bill shock when you get back to the U.S.

Use apps to make your trip more enjoyable

One of the best parts about travel is planning for your trip, and here your smartphone or tablet can be invaluable. From monitoring your flights to browsing local restaurants, your mobile device can be your knowledgeable guide and travel companion all rolled into one. Points of interest, places to stay, currency conversions, even local translations – everything you need for a successful and memorable trip is available from your local app store.

So the next time you plan a trip overseas, stop thinking about your phone as a potential liability and start thinking about the possibilities. Your smartphone has gone global and it’s time for you to take advantage!

The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.

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