Save On International Data
Imagine coming home from an amazing vacation and finding a $600 phone bill in your inbox. What it if was $1000? It’s happened! To keep it from happening to you here are five steps to save on international data and phone charges when traveling.
Calling all travel lovers
According to a recent Grindr study, gay men spend upwards of 10% of their disposable income on travel. When we say, “the gays get around” we’re talking travel. Whether you’re queer or not, you probably love getting away. If you can afford it, international travel opens a whole new world to you. For most, the travel budget usually only includes, plane tickets, hotel stays, food and a few tourist attractions.
Rarely does it include a triple or quadruple-sized phone bill. Yet, you want to stay connected to family back home, locals for advice or for finding tourist destinations and dining.
To save on international data and phone charges and keep your wallet from this landmine, use these steps.
1. Turn off data roaming
The addiction to cellular data runs strong for Americans, whether for teenagers who must stay connected to friends via Messenger or Instagram or adults checking out the latest on Facebook, doing “research” on Wikipedia or drunk shopping on Amazon. Either way, we Americans use a ton of cellular data. Being on vacation only increases our chances of getting sucked into our phones, laptops and tablets.
As most of us are tethered to our phones and most devices require Wi-Fi to connect, the first step on saving money when traveling internationally is turning off cellular data roaming. Data roaming is a sneaky way for phone companies can get you with because even though most notify you when you start to use roaming data. Roaming is when your phone connects to a network outside your normal network.
Most carriers have agreements with international partners that allow your phone or data to be carried over other networks. When this happens, your carrier hits you with an increased charge. Thus the $600-1000 phone bill.
How do you turn this off? For most phones, go into settings and click on cellular to see the data options. From the data options, select ‘turn off data roaming.’ This will keep you from connecting to another network when you’re surfing the web or on an app.
Another key is to turn off Wi-Fi Assist. Wi-Fi Assist is a service for phones to switch to cellular data when a Wi-Fi connection is poor, like when you’re in a packed café in the local gayborhood.
2. Turn off all auto-updates
Saving on international data means using less data. Turn off all auto-updates for apps, your phone and your tablet’s operating systems and podcasts like Queer Money™ when you’re on the go. Not doing so while traveling internationally can wreak havoc on your data plan and phone bill. As with above, this is simple.
- Click Settings
- Click iTunes & App Store
- Click ’No’ to Use Cellular Data, which will only allow updates when connected to Wi-Fi.
You can also click to stop all auto-updates.
- Click Settings
- Click the Podcasts icon
- Turn on ‘Only Download on Wi-Fi’
- Open Google Play
- Click the hamburger icon, which is the three horizontal lines in the top left
- Tap Settings
- Tap Auto-Update apps
- Finally, select the option Do not auto-update apps.
For Android podcasts, you’ll need to select the app you use for podcasts, such as Pocket Cast, and turn off Auto Download.
Another tip is to use Airplane mode when you’re not within reach of your hotel or a café’s Wi-Fi. This will prevent accidental usage of cellular data. Plus, this is a great way to save battery life as your phone won’t be searching for a cell signal. Remember to turn on Wi-Fi afterward, so you can still connect to hotspots.
3. Download these apps for messaging with Wi-Fi
We may be tempted to chat a lot via normal means such as text when traveling, which eats up data, especially when sharing pictures and videos. Thus, the reason gay men love Facebook and Instagram. We all love our fabulous lives and love sharing it with others. Sharing may be caring but it’s expensive, and we don’t want to put that on credit cards. Here are several apps that will let you message only on Wi-Fi.
- Facebook Messenger (turn off cellular for this app in Settings), LifeHacker has a great explanation on how to use Messenger and its benefits
- WhatsApp.com has a great post on how to set the app to only use Wi-Fi
- iMessage, Clint from Travelhackr.com shares how to use your iPhone abroad for free
4. Download these apps for making free phone calls on Wi-Fi
The key to save on international phone calls is to use apps that allow you to make them for FREE. For all the services mentioned below, you cannot make free calls to user’s landlines or phones. Ask your friend or family member to connect to the same service before you leave. In case of emergencies, you will want them to be easily accessible.
- iPhone Facetime (this only works with other Apple products and make sure you turned off cellular for it in Settings)
5. Find free Wi-Fi
All the above tools and tips are worthless without Wi-Fi. If you’re staying in a hotel or using a service like Misterb&b, then it’s likely you’ll have access to free Wi-Fi. In some cases, free WiFi may only be available in the hotel lobby. There are other options when you’re on your vacation excursions. Get started with these.
- WiFi Map, claiming over 100 million free Wi-Fi networks and associated passwords along with maps of free hotspot locations that can be downloaded, this app is available for both iPhone and Android users.
- WiFi Finder, like the aforementioned, this is a user updated network of hotspots that tend to be free or requires a password
- Wi-Fi Mapper, available on both iPhone and Android, works like the above.
These resources will help you keep your travel expenses under control. We know you like to travel, so the more you save, the more you can take off to your favorite international destinations. Here are 7 more ways to cut costs for the tech-savvy traveler.
A friendly reminder, enjoy your travels, take pictures, but above all, take in your surroundings and take a break from technology. You can post all your pictures and videos when you get back to your hotel or back home.