Remember when you would leave your cellphone home (or at least keep it powered off) when you journeyed off to some remote tropical island off the coast of…ahhhh does it even matter? As long as there’s a steel drum band and an endless supply of exotic frozen drinks with tiny, colorful, paper umbrellas, I’m so there, and I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that you would be too. However, nowadays, I would bet that you would be a tad more reluctant to deal with the separation anxiety that comes along with not staying connected while you are away. After all, our entire lives are on our mobile devices. They are our cameras, calendars, personal assistants, calculators, diaries…you get the idea. Today, choosing the phone that will pretty much be your everything for the next 2 years is almost as important as buying a new car, and people do not want to be separated from it, not even for a week.
It is for this reason, that I am writing this post. You don’t have to leave it behind…but at what cost. The last thing you want to come home to is a phone bill that is to the moon an beyond, and this can be a possibility. There are, however, ways that you can have your cake and eat it too, all for very cheap or practically nothing. I know this, because I have done it, and you can do it too. This past October, I spent a week in Aruba, made tons of phone calls, sent and received a bunch of text messages and actively engaged in more forms of social media than you can count on one hand…after all, it’s always fun to post photos from your trip…thus reminding everyone back home that you are in paradise yet they, themselves, must wake up in 5 hours for work, and the only thing that they have to even remotely look forward to is a mug of burned coffee that has been sitting out too long. Although, I would never…ever do something like that, because I’m a sweetie pie = )
Well, if you are anything like me, you must stay connected at all costs. Well not literally…because by “at all costs,” i mean at the lowest cost possible. Read on..
1. Before you even step foot on the plane or arrive at your destination, the first thing you need to do is go into your phone’s settings and make sure Data Roaming is NOT enabled. Then you want to make sure that your data (also knows as mobile network) is OFF. This will disable your devices data connection, which is super important with smartphones. In fact, it is the Holy Grail of roaming, reason being, if your data happens to be turned on you may have a boatload of apps running in the background, whose sole purpose in life happens to be making you want to drive off a bridge upon the receipt of your next wireless bill. Data roaming charges are what will cost you the big $$$. So disable it. Your phone will still be able to make/receive calls/texts.
I like to take it one step further and…
2. Also put my phone into Airplane Mode. This will disable ALL connections. You will not be able to use the phones call or texting feature in addition to any sort of data. Essentially at this point, you have an MP3 player/camera/PDA. “This is no fun!” you say. Agreed. Well here is where it gets magical…
3. WiFi is you new best friend. While leaving your phone programmed with the settings above, turn your wifi ON and connect to a network. Most hotels and coffee shops offer free wifi, and in the event that it is not free, the rates will most likely be a lot cheaper than your provider’s roaming rates. Once you are connected to wifi, you can use as much data as your want without being charged (Just make sure you see the little wifi symbol, which looks something like this and is located towards the top notification bar on your device.
So while you are on that wifi connection, check your email to your heart’s content, and while you’re at it browse as many web pages as it takes until your eyes glaze over. It won’t matter,because it isn’t going to cost you anything. Hmmm, but what about calls and texts, you may wonder. It gets better. There are apps that you can download that will allow you call and text over wifi = No Roaming Rates. YIPPEE!!!
The app that I use religiously is called Viber. Learn it, Live it, Love it. It is oh so Ahhhhhhhhhmazing. The call quality is actually quite good, although this is dependent on how strong your wifi connection is. Once you download the app, it will take you through the set up process. After you log in with your mobile number, you will have the option to make free phone calls and messages Here’s the catch. The person that you are communicating with must have this app as well. As long as this is all set up before you leave on your trip, it should be smooth sailing.
Of course, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you absolutely MUST contact someone and have no way of connecting to wifi, you can always momentarily turn airplane mode off and pay the roaming rates associated with your provider’s per minute/per message amount. This also holds true for data roaming, and by this I mean turning your data/mobile network on briefly if you need to use it. After you are done, you can turn the data off again and toggle your device back into airplane mode. If you foresee yourself needing to use data and there existing the possibility of not being able to connect to WiFi, it would be in your favor to contact your service provider before you leave to inquire about global data packages. These may be pricey, but it is much better to have it than to deal with pay-as-you-go rates.
There you have it. The best of both worlds…A complete and utterly serene tropical paradise alongside your means to stay connected to your every day life. Now, the only question is, what are you going to do with all the $$$ that you DIDN’T spend on roaming rates?