Tech Tip: Data plans when you travel with your Smartphone

Tech Tip: If you’re traveling out of Canada with your smartphone, either turn off data roaming or add a data roaming package to save money

Smartphones are fantastic tools to have when traveling.  Not only do you have maps with you to get you around, you can find restaurants, local attractions and information on the area you are visiting.  The problem is with travel outside of Canada, you have to roam on different networks to get access your phone and data packages.  Unfortunately Roaming rates for data are not exactly the cheapest around.  Even a short visit across the border can lead to some hefty charges on your bill.  There are a few ways you can mitigate the costs associated with roaming.

Turn off your Data

Most smartphones have the ability to turn off the data features while roaming outside your home area.  Although it may be inconvenient, turning off data is the safest way to prevent surprises on your phone bill.  Each phone is different, but generally you will want to look under the settings area, and look for mobile networks.  Sometimes there will be an option to turn data off while roaming, other times you just might need to turn all data services off.  You won’t be able to get your email or facebook status updates, but its a small sacrifice for a reasonable bill.

Roaming Data Package

Most wireless carriers will offer data roaming packages now.  They can range from a 24 hour package to a week at a time.  They are still on the pricier side, but a lot cheaper than roaming without adding one of these packages.  To set one of these up, a call to your providers customer service line will get you in touch with someone who can help add one.  If you already know what you need, there are sometimes options to add the package either online or via text message.  Check with your provider before heading out to see what deal is right.

WiFi only

If you don’t want to spend the money on an extra roaming package, turn the mobile data roaming feature off, and use WiFi in local hotspots.  Most restaurants, coffee shops, hotels and attractions will offer free WiFi. (although sometimes you will have to open up a web page on your smartphone to agree to the terms of service before you can access it)  If you are staying at a resort or hotel that offers WiFi, check to see if it is free or if there is a cost.  Some places will charge you access costs per device.  This can be a problem if you have a Tablet, Smartphone and laptop on your trip.  If that is the case, choose which device is most important.  If it is based on an access code like a room number, then you may be able to get away with multiple devices connected for one cost.

Specialty Roaming Packages

A few companies have popped up that specialize in offering better roaming rates than your normal provider.  Roam Mobility for example is one company that specializes in offering mobile voice and data packages through their network agreements.  The upside is you probably will get better roaming rates than your existing provider.  The downside is that you need to replace the SIM card in your device with one of theirs.  Make sure you either forward your calls to the new number or tell people to call you on that other number.  Some newer Smartphones have dual SIM card slots, designed for such instances, but they have not caught on yet in North America and are hard to find.

While this blog post is geared towards smartphones, you can be extended to include Tablets and even laptops when traveling.  Do you have any horror stories of high charges when traveling or any tips for wireless access overseas?  I’d love to hear them.  Tweet me @Stealth2377 or leave them in the comments section below.

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