Taking your smartphone overseas

While we all love our smartphones and can’t bear to go anywhere without them, even the savviest cellular customer has a little apprehension about planning an overseas trip. We’ve all had those vacations where we have congratulated ourselves for staying within budget only to find that our cell phone bills were hundreds of dollars more than we expected. With international calling rates, costly data charges, and unexpected roaming fees, it’s easy to think that taking a phone abroad is far more trouble than it’s worth.

Thankfully, times are changing. Phone manufacturers and wireless carriers recognize the difficulties associated with cell phone use overseas and have made enormous strides in trying to simplify the process and help control the costs. However, despite the improvements, traveling overseas with your phone can still be a costly experience. Here are some tips on how to make it a little more affordable:

Make sure your phone will work in the countries that you will be visiting

While cost might be a concern, there is nothing more frustrating than arriving at your overseas destination to find out that your cell phone doesn’t work. Check online or call your carrier beforehand to find out whether your phone operates in the countries you plan to visit. (If you are a Verizon customer, then the Verizon web site has an excellent Trip Planner tool that can help you with this task.)

If your phone isn’t going to work overseas, then most of the carriers have a program where they will ship you a country-compatible phone for the duration of your trip. It may even be possible to transfer your SIM card, so you can keep your phone number and access your regular contacts. The carriers will usually consolidate the costs of these programs within your regular bill.

Buy an international plan before you go abroad

Even if you have a phone that works in the countries you will be visiting, make sure you put an international plan in place before you start using the phone. This will allow you to take advantage of low calling, text, and data rates that your carrier has negotiated with local providers, and also eliminate all or most of those expensive roaming charges.

Turn your phone off when you are not using it

Many tourists and other travelers only want a phone for emergencies or to occasionally check in with the family back home. To make sure you keep charges to a minimum, you should turn off your phone when you are not using it. This way you avoid those unnecessary calls and connections that can quickly add up to a significant amount of dollars.

Uninstall or disable data-guzzling apps

Your smartphone may have weather, news or social networking apps that download data on a regular basis or every time your phone is turned on. The same applies for e-mail. While this data may be comfortably absorbed by your monthly allowance back home, it could prove to be expensive while you are traveling overseas. Many recent phones now have an option under Settings that will allow you to completely disable data access. If not, make sure you uninstall or disable those data-guzzling apps before you start your trip.

Disconnect from your network or switch to airplane mode

Most smartphones now have “airplane mode,” or the ability to disconnect from mobile networks while still being able to access Wi-Fi hotspots. When you switch to airplane mode, you won’t be able to call or text, but you will still be able to connect to Wi-Fi networks to send e-mail, surf the Web, and use certain apps. And the really good news? Data transfer over Wi-Fi will not incur any charges from your wireless carrier.

If you have any questions about traveling overseas with your smartphone, be sure to talk to a sales representative or visit your carrier’s web sitebefore you start your trip.

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