If you’re addicted to your smartphone, raise your hand. If your hand isn’t up you either don’t have a smartphone or you are very unusual. Those who do can’t imagine life without it to the extent that some would even have them surgically implanted in their skulls if that were possible. We take our smartphones everywhere; to work, to church, to the doctor’s office, to the bathroom. We even take them with us when go on vacation overseas. Unfortunately, that’s a good way to come home and find a bill that sends you into cardiac arrest.
Sign up for an International Plan
If you’re using a contract phone, the most obvious tip is to contact your carrier and sign up for an international plan. Most of the major carriers offer something that will at least reduce the cost compared to what you’d pay without one. If you use a prepaid service like Tracfone or Virgin Mobile your international rate may already be predetermined through the program you normally purchase. If not, you’ll have to ask about international plan as well. If you’re lucky enough to have T-Mobile as your carrier you may not need anything at all because most of their plans include free roaming.
Track Your Data Usage
Just about every modern smartphone keeps track of all your airtime and data usage. You should be able to find this information somewhere in your options menu. Once you find it, start tracking your daily usage for a week or two before your departure date. If it helps, you can clear the memory every evening to make it easier to see how much you’re using on a daily basis. This will help you determine what type of international plan you need, if you need one at all.
Deactivate Data Services and Push Notifications
Most smartphones have a host of services running in the background that require constant data updates. You should consider turning those off even when you’re home in the States, but at least do it while you’re overseas. You don’t really need to know what the weather is back home when you’re enjoying the sunny French Riviera. If your hometown weather report is that important to you, you can always catch it on a television before you head out for the day.
Love Your Wi-Fi
It’s true that lots of smartphone users can’t stand the thought of Wi-Fi when they’re paying for 3G or 4G data services. But remember that Wi-Fi is free, 3G and 4G are expensive. If you know beforehand specifically what cities and towns you’ll be visiting spend a few minutes on the net and locate some Wi-Fi spots you can get to throughout the day. Use the hotspots to check your e-mail, post your Facebook messages, and check your favorite sports scores. Always remember that Wi-Fi is your friend.
Consider Skype or another Alternative
If you absolutely must take a phone call consider using Skype or another alternative via a Wi-Fi hotspot. Skype accounts are easy to come by and pretty easy to use these days. There’s no point paying for 3G or 4G connectivity when you can use the Internet to make your phone calls. Along the same lines, a lot of travel experts suggest you put your phone in airplane mode before departure and leave it that way throughout your trip unless you absolutely must make a call. Otherwise you’ll be charged every time your phone rings or someone sends you a text.
Buy a Pre-Paid Phone at Your Destination
If you want to avoid any possibility of running up a bill you can’t manage you can always leave your smartphone at home and by a cheap prepaid phone once you reach your destination. In most cases they can be had for under $50 plus the cost of the prepaid card. But even if you spend $100 on the deal you’re still likely to get away cheaper than if you were to use your own phone without taking the necessary precautions. You can even bring the prepaid phone home and save it for your next trip abroad.
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