Whether you’re planning on traveling abroad for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, the good news is that it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with people. Between email, text, instant message, social media, and smartphones, there are a litany of ways to stay connected to friends, family, co-workers, and business associates. With that being said, you do need to do some prep work if you intend to use your phone overseas or across borders. Here are some helpful tips and tricks to prep your phone for traveling abroad:
Purchase an International Plan in Advance
The easiest, most surefire way to ensure your phone is ready to use the minute your boots hit the ground is to buy an international plan in advance of your trip. Typically, these plans provide data, texting, and minutes at fixed rates, which will help you avoid expensive roaming fees. Whether you need a plan for an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus, wireless carriers offer a number of international plans to choose from. T-Mobile, for example, offers service in over 140 countries, including free calling to Canada and Mexico. Once you arrive at your destination, you’ll be able to use your phone worry-free.
Download Apps that Help You Track Data
If data usage is an issue, it’s a good idea to keep track of how much data you are consuming. If you go over your data limits, you will likely be subject to expensive overage fees. Remember, anytime that you use GPS or check social media over the air, you are using data, and this data can add up quickly if you aren’t paying attention. Download a data management app for your phone, such as My Data Manager, so that you can track your data usage in real time and adjust your phone habits as needed.
Minimize Background Data Usage
Many apps continue to work in the background even while you aren’t using them. To reduce your data usage and help avoid surprise overage fees, there are a number of steps that you can take to cut back on data consumption. Under Settings, review your apps and cellular data. Disable cellular data for any apps that you don’t anticipate using while abroad, and turn off Wi-Fi assist as well. With Wi-Fi Assist, you could be fooled into thinking that you are using a Wi-Fi network, when in fact the network is being supplemented with cellular service. As a general rule of thumb, disable as many apps and cellular connections as possible.
Use Wi-Fi Whenever Possible
If you are able to log onto a Wi-Fi network, do so! If the network is private, even better. However, make certain that you have disabled Wi-Fi Assist. As mentioned above, Wi-Fi Assist will tap into your data plan if the Wi-Fi network is slow or intermittent. Remember to avoid accessing private or personal data on public Wi-Fi networks, as well. You might be tempted to check your bank account while enjoying an espresso at an Italian cafe, but resist the urge and check once you’ve arrived back to your hotel room.
Use Messaging Apps
Many international plans are actually quite generous with their texting limits. Don’t be surprised if you receive limited data and minutes, but unlimited texting. That being said, if your plan doesn’t provide unlimited text messages, there’s an easy way to get around this: messaging apps. With these apps, you can chat back and forth over Wi-Fi for free. Of course it helps if the recipient also has the messaging app, but with WhatsApp and Google Messenger having millions of users, the odds are good that this won’t pose a problem.
Protect Your Private Information
In extreme circumstances, you may want to consider encrypting your phone. However, simply using a password or fingerprint lock will deter all but the most hardened and professional of hackers in the event your phone is lost or stolen. Additionally, if you remain logged in to applications that carry private or personal data (even social media accounts, such as Facebook or Twitter), log out of these applications prior to traveling overseas. If you must use these apps, simply log in each time you access the program. Ultimately, protecting your personal information involves closing as many doors as possible, so that your private data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.