Mind Your Data

So your ticket is purchased, the hotel is reserved and the suitcase is packed.   All you need to do is wait for the fun to begin.  Of course you do the last-minute checklist.  3.5oz toiletries?  Check!  Travel snacks for the trip? Check!  All electronic devices charged and accessories packed? Check!  So, all you need to do is get the airport, make it through TSA’s interesting profiling tactics and board the plane.  The vacation should be easy peasy from here on out.  Right?

There are only a handful of things that can ruin memories from that dream vacation.  Sickness, crime, or unpleasant hospitality staff.  However, nothing can send you through the roof more than getting a higher than normal cellular bill because you forgot to turn off the data on your cellphone.  While, in my personal experiences, I have received a text message from my carrier alerting me to possible data roaming, i cannot verify that all carriers will be this kind and warn you first.  Unfortunately, some of my colleagues have not been as lucky and have returned home only to receive a $500 cellular bill a few weeks later.  In some instances, people have been able to ask the carrier for some type of assistance in lowering the bill; other times, they’ve been forced to pay the entire bill.

So, what should one do.  You have several options.
1. Leave your phone at home.  While some people do not think this is practical, it is probably more practical than you might think.  I stayed at a resort in Jamaica where they offered free calls to the US and Canada.  Therefore, if I needed to contact anyone back home, I was able to do so without incurring an additional expense.  If your resort or hotel does not offer free calls, you can opt to pay for call back home, if you know it will only take a minute or two to complete.  The cost of the call will definitely be cheaper than paying for roaming fees from a cellular carrier.

2. If you must take your phone, disable your data service temporarily.  Not much explaining or reasoning needed here.

3. If you decide to take your phone, request that your carrier unlock it so that you can use it abroad and ride on one of the local carriers networks at a much cheaper rate.

4. Finally, you can always purchase a local phone once you arrive at your destination.  Depending on the type of phone and service selected, you can expect to spend anywhere from $20 to $100.  In some cases you can use this phone for other destinations in the region.

The bottom line is to know before you go and make the best decision for yourself and your budget to prevent that dream vacation from becoming a nightmare after the fact.