2018-02-01 / Community

Tech SAVVY: Prepare your smartphone for a trip abroad


Heading to Europe this spring? A cruise? It is natural to take your favorite tech gadget, your smartphone, with you on an international trip because these devices have become part of our everyday lives. You want to stay connected and the camera is always with you. There are very good and affordable international plans available. I’ll also describe a free option.

We’ll focus on the iPhone and both Verizon and AT&T cellular carriers. First you should check on your carrier’s website or by call to verify that your phone is world ready, that is, your carrier has the proper band technology to work abroad. Next you need to determine your expected usage. Do you want to make calls, use GPS, post to Facebook anytime of the day or can you wait until you’re near a WiFi hotspot, especially at your hotel, where access may or may not be free?

If you want full access, just like at home, call your carrier to turn on Verizon’s TravelPass or AT&T’s International Day Pass for only $10/day. With either, you can use your domestic plan while abroad. You get charged only for days you use your smartphone abroad but any use triggers the daily fee – even just one text or an app running in the background. For AT&T you also get unlimited phone and text; its $10/day fee pays for data usage. There are other plans available for cruise ships.

If you’re willing to be just a bit disconnected while you’re walking the ChampsÉlysées or touring the Roman Colosseum, then restricting your access to WiFi hotspots might work very well. And isn’t this a great idea anyway? You’re on vacation. Enjoy the scenery, the people, the food. Don’t just experience it through your phone’s screen. Take the photo, but send or post it later. If you need your phone for GPS, then you’ll need the cellular data plan; WiFi mode won’t do.

Wherever you can access free WiFi, you can make all the normal calls, you can text and access data you want for free. Here’s how:

1. Go to Settings > Cellular

2. Turn Cellular Data off before you leave the United States. This is best done at the U.S. departure airport. Turn Cellular Data options to off.

3. Turn WiFi calling to on.

I recommend the WiFi approach; it’s free and it forces you to enjoy your vacation and live in the moment. If you must remain connected to home due to a special circumstance, then designate only one phone in your party to the daily international plan and notify people at home that this is your emergency line.

Bon voyage!

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