We’ve all heard the horror stories of families coming home from holiday to enormous phone bills. These bills were usually run up by simply using their data and making calls as normal. But on some networks and in some countries the cost of doing these things isn’t included in your usual tariff, so you’re charged a premium.
Unfortunately this is the risk of using your phone abroad. But this doesn’t mean we should all leave our phones at home. There are plenty of things we can do to protect ourselves from huge phone bills. Today I want to share some of the ways our family keeps phone costs low when travelling.
We make use of free roaming in the EU
As of 2017, people travelling within the EU can use their allowance of data, texts and minutes as they would at home. That means there are no additional charges for calling home or uploading photos to Instagram, provided you have the allowance available. There are generally fair use policies in place, such as data limits, so call your network to find out what they are before for you travel.
Some European countries are not covered by this rule, including the Vatican City and Monaco. Again, check with your network for the full list.
As with going over your allowance in the UK, exceeding it abroad will cost you dearly. To avoid doing this and putting a dampener on your whole holiday, set a data cap.
Buy roaming bundles from your network
If you’re travelling outside of the EU, you won’t be able to use your allowance as usual. Every call you make, text you send, or web page your browse will cost you.
However, many networks offer overseas bundles for their pay monthly customers and these are something we will definitely consider next time we travel further afield.
These bundles aren’t cheap, but they will save you money if you need to use your phone while travelling. All the big networks offer some kind of roaming bundle, with prices starting at £5 a day (you won’t pay for any days you don’t use it).
For example, if you are going to the USA, we would get a Three PAYG SIM as they offer US roaming as part of their ‘Feel at Home’ plans. There’s a few to choose from, covered in this review, but £20 for 12GB that lasts 30 days will be enough for most people.
We use free Wi-Fi at the hotel…
… And in restaurants, bars and cafes! In fact many public places offer free Wi-Fi and we make use of these as much as possible, especially for data-heavy tasks such as downloading maps or watching videos.
Always be wary about which public hotspots you log on to as some can be unsecure. Other hotspots have even been set up by criminals to steal personal data from unsuspecting users. To stay safe online only ever use password protected hotspots (ask a member of staff for the password) and avoid performing any sensitive tasks while logged on.
We make free calls
One of our favourite money saving hacks is using Skype or Facetime to make free calls home while we’re away. You need to be connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot for this to be truly free, so we save phone calls for the hotel or AirBnB.
An important note; the person you’re calling has to be using the same service as you, whether that’s Skype, Facetime, Whatsapp or another VoIP service.
We turn off or change certain settings
There are lots of settings on our smartphones that use data without our knowing it. We turn some of these settings off whilst we’re away so our phones use as little data as possible.
Many apps work in the background even when you’re not actively using them. Some use location services (which can drain your battery), others use data. Before we leave for holiday, we turn off mobile data and location services for any apps we know we won’t use or need. This can be done in the settings of your device.
We also change the automatic update settings for the duration of our travel. All smartphones connect to the internet to update apps, sync email and pull in notifications. You can change the settings on most phones so that yours can only perform these tasks whilst on Wi-Fi, instead of using precious data.
An app to also consider is: My DataManager which helps you manage data effectively
We download Google Maps to use offline
Google Maps is an incredible resource for trying to navigate a new city. It has been a lifesaver on more than one occasion when we’ve gotten lost trying to find a museum or park.
However, Google Maps can be quite data-heavy so you want to avoid using it for extended periods if at all possible. Instead, you should download maps of your destination and use them offline. You won’t be able to rely on Google to navigate for you, but if you can read a map it’s a great and completely free solution.
*Post written by contributor