You’ve heard the stories. A family goes travelling and after their vacation is over, they’re surprised when a massive phone bill arrives with hundreds of dollars in roaming charges. Voice and text roaming generally isn’t a huge problem, it’s the data charges. But, if you follow these tips and become a little more travel tech savvy, you can holiday without worrying about coming home to a huge bill. These tips have the added bonus of helping you save money at home too.
Know what you need for your trip
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Do your research
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Call your carrier and negotiate
This is especially important if you're about to renew a contract. Because carriers want to retain you as a customer, you can often negotiate a far better deal than what they offer publicly. Tell them you're going to switch to another provider unless they can match or beat the other provider's plan. Even if you're in the middle of a contract, you can work with your carrier to find a better package for a lower price.
While you're at it, don't forget that cancelling your landline is one of those phone calls that can save you hundreds of dollars.
Investigate pay-as-you-go options
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Turn off data
VOIP to the rescue
There are several options. Personally, I use Hushed. It gives me a Canadian number and I can add different numbers for different cities for short periods of time. My deal was $25 for lifetime service (500 minutes/2500 texts anywhere in Canada/US for a year). Other app options are Line2, Burner and MagicJack.
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Use airplane mode
Get a local SIM card
Once your phone is unlocked, you can buy a local SIM upon arrival. Swap it with your Canadian SIM card. The local carrier's SIM will give you a local phone number plus access to their network without roaming fees. Add the options you need and you're good to go.
I always do this in Europe. A few years back I bought an Irish SIM. My credit never expires and the second I land in Ireland, I have a phone that works without roaming fees. The added bonus? There are no roaming charges for EU carriers across the EU. So you can roam from Ireland to Estonia without any extra costs.
Change your phone
If you don't want to carry two phones or switch SIM cards, you can always get what I have; a dual-SIM phone. I leave my Canadian SIM card in one slot and put a local SIM in the other. That way, I can still receive calls and texts going to my home number, but I also have a local number for local calls and data.
Before travelling south
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Get a burner phone for the US
When you're done, you can sell the burner phone to someone else or keep it for your next trip. Unlike these things, a burner phone is something you'll pack and use.