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Tips to Avoid Roaming Costs When Traveling


By dakoda

18 July 2013

As head of sales for a young growing company, I’ve been on the travel circuit a lot over the past year.  In any company (but especially a startup) you do everything possible to limit spending on things that don’t improve your product or help your customer.  When I’m trying to find the best deal for a hotel, flight or car rental, I often use a spreadsheet and apply whatever I still remember from high school calculus to complete the booking.

After working so hard to find the best price, it can be heartbreaking to get hit with unexpected expenses – something I learned after my first business trip.  The most common culprit is a huge cellphone bill for roaming. There’s nothing worse than getting home and realizing your travel costs have doubled because of moderate cellphone use.

Here’s a few easy ways to avoid roaming costs, and keep your cellphone costs below $5 on any trip – without sacrificing convenience.

1. Turn Data Roaming Off

This tip is the most important. You’re charged roaming fees if you connect to another cell provider’s network while traveling. If roaming is off, you won’t get hit with roaming charges which can add up really fast.  You can also opt to purchase a travel plan that brings down the cost significantly but these will cost you more than $5.

2. Use Wi-Fi Hotspots

Wi-Fi hotspots are popping up everywhere, including coffee shops, hotels, airports and shopping malls. They’re usually free and offer high-speed access.Connect your phone to a Wi-Fi hotspot and you’ll be able to call, text, email, access maps and browse the web – all without incurring roaming charges.

Be forewarned though. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are convenient but they come with risks. With so many people connected to them, your online information may be visible to hackers or any snoops on the network.  Use a VPN service to encrypt the Internet connection and protect your personal information. SurfEasy offers a free VPN which can be perfect for your next trip.

3. Use Skype

Skype is a great solution for making phone calls while traveling without the hefty price tag.  Connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot, launch the Skype app, and you can call anyone for only a few cents per minute.  The bonus is that calling or messaging other Skype users is free so get your friends and family to sign up before you go.

4.  For long trips, get a local SIM card

If you’re going to be away from home for an extended period of time, consider unlocking your phone and getting a local SIM card.  This involves a little bit of work and upfront investment (unlocking your phone can cost around $35) but it can save you a lot over a long trip. Local pay-as-you-go rates offer great value.  Plan ahead by shopping online or visit a local mobile phone carrier when you arrive.

5.  Repeat Step #1

Check again to make sure data roaming is shut off.  The worst possible outcome would be to think you’re using free Wi-Fi but actually incurring data roaming charges.

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