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Gadget Gay Guide: Save Money While Using Your Cell Phone Internationally

The Everyday Gay’s “Gadget Gay” scours the web for the best technology advice/goods that will make any Everyday Gay’s life just a bit easier. This week we help you prepare for an international trip with helpful phone apps that promise to make your next vacay a breeze.

The future is here, guys, and the days of taking off on an international vacay and disappearing off the grid are long gone. Of course, you can always turn off your cell phones while you’re away, but what’s the fun in that? Why not take advantage of all the available technology in every continent that will not only make keeping in touch, communicating, and documenting your experience a breeze,  but will also save you some serious cash on the way (allowing you way more money to spend on those cheesy souvenirs you know you adore so much!).

Preparing for your trip

As far in advance of your trip, spend as much time getting familiar with the local language.  The 24\7 Tutor apps are great way to learn short phrases.  Depending on where you are going, most European countries speak English, but it is always courteous to know some key phrases.

When booking your hotels, be sure to choose a hotel that offers free or affordable WIFI.  This will save you on using cell data and also provide a fast enough connection to make calls over your data connection (VOIP).  More on this later.

If you do not already have a Google Voice account, sign up for one now.  Once configured, download the Talkatone app and activate your Google Voice account on it.

You may also want to consider some additional hardware that can help you out during your extended trip away from power outlets.  I prefer the Sol Hybrid Power Pack.  This will triple your phones battery life and also can charge via the solar panel on the back.  You also might want to consider an extra battery for your notebook or an airplane power inverter.

TIP: The day before you leave for your international trip, add an International Data Roaming plan to your smartphone.  Each provider has several plans for various devices. Be sure to check that your cell phone carrier provides international roaming in the areas you will be traveling to and that they fall into their plan.  Verify your device supports international roaming as well.  AT&T offers plans from 50 MB for $25 up to an 800 MB plan for $199.  If you plan on only checking email every once-in-awhile, a 50-200 MB plan would suffice.  I recommend going for the 800 MB plan so that you can feel free to use your phone while out and about.

When you are in the air on the way to your first international destination, reset your cell data meter.  That will allow you to track exactly how much data you have used throughout your trip.

During your Trip

Once you land, configure your phone to only allow data.  Disable any other features for calling or texting to prevent expensive charges. You can use messaging apps that run over data like Apple’s iMessage.  If you chose a thrifty data plan, be sure to disable other features that can sip data in background such as push email and location services and always connect to WIFI where available.

When you are connected to WIFI, feel free to call home using your Talkatone app.  You can also use video chats such as FaceTime to keep in touch.

While out-and-about, your native Maps app will come in very handy in finding direction and locating the nearest coffee shop or attraction.

Some other apps that might come in handy: a Currency Converter app, Language Translator, your airline’s app, your hotel chain’s app, camera app, and of course, FaceBook and Twitter to make your friends jealous.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your data usage throughout your trip.  If you are using a large percentage of your total quickly, cut down on apps that use a large amount of data like Facebook or maps.

After your Trip

As soon as you return from your trip, disable international roaming on your cell service provider.  They should prorate the amount for the days it was activated on your account.  Now touch-up your photos and share!




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