Using Your Mobile Phone While Traveling Internationally

Many of my clients ask me about using their mobile phones while traveling internationally.  We have all become so connected and it is quite helpful to use our smart phones when we are traveling - for directions, translation, travel apps and, of course, Instagram! However, nobody wants to open up their monthly mobile phone bill to find you have racked up hundreds of dollars of data roaming charges while traveling abroad. 
Here are a few suggestions on how to make the best use of your mobile phone when you are abroad:
Turn off your roaming.
If you don't want to be charged for international data and voice roaming, turn off all roaming before your plane takes off.  You won't be able to make or receive calls, send or receive texts or access your e-mail or any of your "apps" but you also will not be charged.  

Alternatively,  you can turn off only your "data roaming", allowing you to send/receive calls and texts (be aware of international calling and texting rates) but without racking up huge charges for international data.

Unlock your smart phone and purchase an international SIM card.
If you have a phone that is "unlocked", buy a prepaid SIM card when you arrive at your destination. Or, Keepgo and Telestial will ship you a SIM card before you leave.

Sign up for an international plan with your carrier.
Be sure to add an international calling, text and data to your current cell provider...or get a new plan.  T-Mobile's "Simple Choice" plan costs $50 per month with no annual service contract. The plan includes unlimited texting and data in over 120 countries. International voice calls are a flat rate of 20 cents per minute, and there are no roaming charges for data or texting. 

Use Wi-Fi as much as possible.
  Download the Free Wi-Fi Finder  app use your phone's GPS to find free Wi-Fi in your destination. Or, sign up for global wifi access through a network like Boingo, where you will be able to tap into over a million hot spots around the world. Recently, American Express has added complimentary Boingo Wireless as a benefit for their Platinum Card members.  

Maps on your smartphone are great, but go offline to preserve data.
Download offline apps like City Maps 2Go and maps use a lot of data AND your battery life.
Use free apps on Wi-fi for international calls and texts.  
Use Skype, Google Voice, WhatsApp, FaceTime or Facebook Messenger to talk or text for free when you are connected to Wi-Fi. By purchasing an inexpensive per minute plan, you can call to a phone number on Skype...the person on the other line won't even know you are on Skype.
As great as it is to "unplug" when you are on vacation, it is not always possible. Plus, it is helpful to be able to utilize all the amazing apps found on today's mobile phones. With a little advance planning, it is easier and less expensive than ever to utilize all of the resources of your smart phone, while staying in touch with family and friends, when you travel internationally.