According to an estimate by Juniper Research, mobile roaming will reach $90 billion a year by 2018. While $10,000 phone bills were once the stuff of headlines just a few years ago, the National Consumers League (NCL) asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate roaming fees charged by American phone companies. The Washington Post reported that the NCL found a “significant” portion of the more than 73 million Americans who travel abroad annually are at risk for higher than expected wireless phone bills because of roaming charges.
The bad news about international travel and roaming is it’s not cheap, and isn’t always easy to control. Taking precautions like not accepting calls or sending texts can still result in data overages due to app usage and email downloads. However, there are plenty of ways to reduce, or even eliminate, the cost of communication. Here are three inexpensive ways to get started:
Switch to an International-friendly Phone Plan
Ditch your expensive smartphone plan and make the switch to something more travel-friendly for overseas adventurers. For example, T-Mobile offers free in-flight texting, free international texting to many countries and more with payment plans to keep costs low.
You can also ask your own phone company if they offer temporary international plans to upgrade during the time you’re away. Some phone companies will offer international texting options, while others can extend an upgraded data plan. Just make sure to ask what countries the service covers and double check your itinerary. Stepping outside of the E.U. could end up spiking the plan you carefully bought to avoid unexpected surprises.
Get the Right Apps
It’s possible to get by communicating with just apps on your smartphone, tablet and laptop. Stay in touch with loved ones back homes with apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or Google Hangouts.
But the trick is making sure you’re not roaming while using the apps. Even free messaging apps can eat up your data plan and add unexpected expenses to your budget. It’s also possible to rack up roaming charges with app usage just from receiving push notifications or an influx of texts. Instead, change your settings on your device so your data roaming is completely turned off and your Wi-Fi is on. Next, use the free Wi-Fi at your hotel, restaurants, cafes or on the go. Take the opportunity for free Wi-Fi to access your apps and stay in touch, text photos and launch a video call.
Take Your Wi-Fi With You
While the world is now hyper-connected through Wi-Fi, not every location will have it readily available or for free. There’s also a chance wireless will be down, offer spotty service or not connect with your device. Instead of being at the mercy of your hotel or hostel, take your own Wi-Fi with you while traveling abroad.
Hippocket Wi-Fi offers pocket-sized Wi-Fi rental devices in most European cities delivered to your hotel. They even leave behind a prepaid mailing envelope so you can return it without interrupting your trip. Best of all, if you’re traveling with a friend, you can connect up to 10 different devices at the same time.
Traveling abroad may put you thousands of miles away from loved ones, but doesn’t have to mean radio silence. Keep in touch on the go, and send back photos and videos to make your family and friends feel like they’re right there with you.