When you’re overseas, you want to take advantage of everything a foreign country has to offer. Some days are packed full of sightseeing, adventure, or spontaneous excursions. Others are a little lazier. Days of aimless wandering, whiling away the hours in a café, or lounging on a beach chair are just some of the wonderful ways you spend your day on vacation.
But no matter your itinerary, there’s no question you’re going to have your cell phone with you. Sometimes it can seem inconceivable to spend a day without a phone handy, but when we travel, we have to rethink how we use our phones. Because of international rates, it can be quite costly to get online, call, or text. As technology advances, though, international travel with your cell isn’t totally off limits anymore, but you still have to manage your device. It’s not as hard as you may think. Use these tips to keep costs down and your battery’s charge up.
Get a Plan
Not too long ago, you had to turn off your phone the second you boarded the airplane, and leave it off until you came home. This archaic concept has thankfully been addressed by cell phone carriers. Now you can call, go to a store, or find a great international plan online. There are a variety of options, so think about what you actually need.
A tip: you can always buy more, even once you’re overseas, but you can’t return your purchased data, so get a modest plan (unless you know what you need), and keep an eye on the data. Some carriers send a text alert when data is getting low, but it’s a good idea to check in often.
Purchase a plan with data, but also get the phone plan. You aren’t going to make a lot of phone calls, but if you want to make reservations, you need to call. You may want to call home, too, in which case you definitely need a plan. Regular international rates are expensive. When you purchase the international phone plan, it’s still going to cost per call, but at least you can afford the fees. Try not to call too much, though. You’re there to experience, not to chat.
Know Before You Go
There are tons of different places you can to visit when you travel. The last thing you want to do is stand in the middle of a sidewalk and be that tourist walking in a circle, trying to figure out where to go. Not only does this annoy the locals (and other tourists), but it sucks up precious data.
Before you take off for the day, research all the places you want to see. No one’s holding you to that plan, but it’s a lot more fun to be able to hop into a museum or shop you already know is up your alley.
Take it a step further, do your research at home. Come with a list, and then everything’s already organized, so now that data can be better used for an unexpected adventure. Being prepared before any trip is an excellent way to save money.
Some days are long, they stretch out many hours and maybe they require you to use your phone – you’re hiking a mountain and need to find the trail, you’re driving and want to find an historic site, you wandered out to the other side of the city and need to find your way back to your hotel. For many great adventures, your phone charge is at risk of dying before dusk.
There are solutions! You can get a battery phone case, which are excellent options, particularly if you’re going out into the wilderness. These cases have a battery charge option integrated, so you double your battery life. Many are also weather resistant and made of tough material, so if you drop your phone on a rock in the middle of a rainstorm, you’re probably okay.
Another solution is to carry a jolt charger in your pocket. It takes a few hours to get a full charge, so this is a good option before your phone totally dies. These little gadgets plug into your phone and refuel your battery completely. It’s a travel must have.
Don’t Unnecessarily Use Data
Take a moment. Do you absolutely have to post that picture on Instagram? Does everyone on Facebook need to know about how lovely the locals are right this very moment? Maybe! If you’re traveling alone, sometimes social media can provide a nice touch back home. Usually, though, you don’t really need to waste your data on social media sites.
That said, there are ways to avoid eating up data but still use your phone. WiFi is free overseas, and is readily available in many places. Cafes, public parks, your hotel or apartment all have WiFi service. The texting app Whatsapp is free and operates on WiFi, so this is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family at home, without using data. Skype is another way to connect. You can get it on your phone or your computer. Use WiFi for Skype, too, and you can text or video chat.
If you use your phone as a navigation device, you can save here, too. Using WiFi or data, load up directions to your destination. Then turn off data. The directions stay uploaded. If you’re driving, have the passenger read directions to you. You know you’re going the right way because the little blue dot, which depends on GPS satellites and not cellular signals, follows the pre-loaded path. If you’re walking, simply follow the path.
Put the Phone Away
While cell phones are convenient, you don’t really need it when you travel. A new country or city is ripe for your exploration. You want to look around you and experience something new. A phone can distract you from all the beauty a foreign place has to offer. If it helps, bring a real camera instead of using your phone. The pictures tend to be better, and you won’t feel the temptation to post your vacation instead of living it. If you really want to share your adventures, upload the photos at home. The best way to save on charge and data, is to not use your phone at all. Think of your phone as an emergency only device.
While best to stay offline, most of us use our phones at some point when traveling. With the right international travel plan, you can travel safely, and conveniently. How do you use your phone overseas? Do you have data saving tips of your own?