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June 3, 2015

Traveling Internationally with a Smartphone

Last year I traveled internationally for the first time with a smart phone.  Although I took several trips to other countries in previous years, I didn't have to do any work via my smartphone, so I really made sure to do some research because I didn't want to get hit with a huge bill.

You may have read the horror stories about travelers getting hit with enormous wireless bills (thousands and thousands of dollars worth) for using their smartphones while in another country. Whether it's because they didn't realize certain apps kept using data, or perhaps they bought a data package and were charged overages because of excessive use - whatever the reason, it made me worry a lot about using a smartphone while I was on my trip to Canada.

I did lots and lots of research on using unlocked phones and buying a local SIM card, buying a prepaid international SIM card, and even buying international data packages through our current carrier (AT&T).

Thankfully, after posing the question on Twitter, @dkMOMUS replied with a lot of helpful information. He told me about One Sim Card, XCom Global, and T-Mobile's Simple Choice plan.

After doing even more research, I decided to get a phone and plan with T-Mobile, because I really didn't want to have to worry about running up huge charges. Since I would be working via my smartphone (even though there was free Wi-Fi at the hotel, we were on the road a lot, and I had work often while on the road), it meant using up a lot of data, and T-Mobile's Simple Choice Plan offers unlimited data and texting, and calls at 20 cents/minute in over 100 countries. And since I planned on traveling internationally more, I figured it was worth it to get a new phone.

And just as a back-up, I decided to buy a data global add-on package with AT&T on my husband's plan.

Although coverage was somewhat spotty on T-Mobile at times, for the most part, I had no issues whatsoever using my phone internationally. I posted a lot on social media for all of my media visits, I checked and answered a lot of email messages, used Google Maps a lot...

The free texting came in handy since not only did I keep getting texts from home, but I also had to text friends in Canada about our travel plans.

And I didn't think I'd need to make any phone calls while in Canada, but I ended up having to make an urgent call, which would've cost me over $20 had I made it on my regular phone.

When I got my bill, there were no additional charges with the exclusion of the international call I made.

Whew!

I didn't have to use the AT&T data add-on at all, and I was credited back a portion of the monthly charge for the data global add-on package since I canceled it as soon as I returned to the US.

Yes - there are numerous steps you can take to ensure you don't use or overuse cellular data (e.g. turning off cellular; use Wi-Fi only; use Google Voice for calls, etc.), but T-Mobile's Simple Choice Plan made it so simple to travel internationally with a smartphone.

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