I can’t count how many people have told me they’ve ended up with a $400 phone bill after “barely using their phone” while out of the country.
That’s because data is a bitch.
We love it, we need it, we live by it. But outside of your home country you will also pay for it, unless you know how to use it.
I must warn you – it involves you doing math. Before you close your browser, hear me out.
Wouldn’t you rather do math to track your data beforehand, than do math to figure out how you’re gonna pay rent cause you spent all your money on a phone bill?
Yeeeah. So here’s what you do:
- When you land at your destination, turn off your data and roaming. On the iPhone go to Settings > Cellular > uncheck all the boxes.
- Then, reset your data usage statistics – from the screen above, scroll all the way down and hit Reset Statistics.
- All data counts will go to zero.
Now you can keep track of how much roaming data you’re using on your trip (Current Period Roaming).
International data plans
I highly recommend purchasing a small international data package (I survive on 120Mb per month for $40) so you can turn your data on when you absolutely need it and wifi isn’t available. If you don’t, you’ll get massacred by pay-per-use data charges unless you keep your data off the entire trip.
Here’s where the math comes in: a 120Mb international data plan means roughly 4Mb per day. That can either get you five minutes on Facebook or a day’s worth of Whats App messaging.
That’s why I only use my data to text on Whats App or look up directions. Anything beyond that drains your data too quickly. Save social networking for when you have wifi.
If you start a new billing period while abroad, reset your data statistics again on the morning of new new billing period. But keep track of your count from last billing period, too, in case you have a billing dispute with your wireless company.
Forward your calls
Check with your wireless carrier because some (including mine) charge $1 for every missed call. WTF? So I forwarded my calls to my Google number since the Google app only rings when I’m connected to wifi, and voicemails get transcribed and emailed to me. But you can forward yours to voicemail, too.
Hide yo kids, hide yo wifi
Travelers know that free public wifi is the equivalent of finding money on the ground. Most require passwords. But if you ask around, some cities have free street wifi available to the public! Woot!
Take France, for instance. The wifi name “Free Wifi” pops up all over the place. I don’t know if it’s country-wide, but I’ve successfully used it in Paris and Nice. Most ignore it because it requires a password. Well here it is!
And here is a screenshot of what it looks like.
In London, there’s “_The Cloud”. Register for a free account and BOOM. You’re connected.
Excuse me sir, can you spare a password?
When you travel, ask people in the service industry about free public wifi. It can save you from using your data unless you absolutely have to. And if all else fails, I’ve learned that coffee chains tend to use the same passwords so when you’re out about, you can huddle near the entrance and swipe their connection. I do it all the time.
Oh, and apps help. See my Best Apps for Travelers article for free apps to help you stay connected and get around. **shameless plug**
The app Onavo Extend is supposed to help you compact the way your phone uses data, so it uses less data to perform the same tasks. I haven’t personally used it but it’s a free app so it’s worth a try.