You have your airline ticket, hotel booked, and travel insurance coverage taken care of for your international trip. Have you done your cell phone prep? Whether to take your phone or not isn’t even a question anymore – it’s a travel essential. It’s vital in emergencies, useful for confirming travel reservations, handy for finding the perfect restaurant or pulling up a map download in an unfamiliar city. You can keep in touch with family and friends, take pictures, and listen to your favorite audiobook while gazing at the sunset.
Before wheels up, don’t risk an enormous phone bill upon your return. Use our tips to prepare your cell phone before you catch your international flight.
Have a Plan for Data
While some companies offer unlimited data overseas, others only allow for a certain amount of data. Beware of going over your data plan abroad – your bill will not be pretty – especially if you activate multiple phones. You have options: you can upgrade to an international plan, spring for unlimited data, invest in a native SIM card, and even pick up a portable Wi-Fi device for backup. Please note: if you rent a SIM card native to the country you’re visiting, it will give your phone a new number, so be sure to tell friends and family to contact you via email or a chat app if this is the case.
Check with your service provider regarding international policies and services, confirm your phone will work in your chosen country, what your current contract allows, and cost options for roaming functionality. When you get home, be sure to cancel any add-on plans you may have activated for your trip.
Save Emergency Numbers in Your Phone
In the United States, 9-1-1 is our go-to for emergencies, but do you know what the emergency numbers are in the country and region you are visiting? Check the Department of State’s list of emergency numbers from around the world, find the specific numbers you need, and save them to your “favorites” on your cell phone. Save the nearest U.S. Embassy’s emergency line to your contacts as well. Don’t forget to save the number for your travel insurance carrier as well. If situations occur that require official assistance – like an evacuation or a lost passport – you have these important numbers at your fingertips.
Prepare Apps and Downloads before Departure
Avoid draining your battery and data plan while traveling by downloading at home. Download all of the apps you will need for language translation, itinerary, maps, flight notifications, weather and destination guides. Download a local public transport app for your destination before you go – you’ll have better access offline and the added benefit of useful information on local transport. Because you won’t always have access to Wi-Fi, it’s a good idea to download all of your music, audiobooks, and other entertainment before you leave home for offline use.
Power Banks, Adapters and Cables
You will need to keep your phone charged throughout the day. Be sure to keep a charged battery pack, adapter, and necessary cables in your carry-on luggage in the case of a delay, lost luggage or cancellation. There are all kinds of power levels and USB options for power banks these days, including solar charging. Shop around for the best fit to meet your travel needs.
Set Up Cloud Services
In case your phone is lost, stolen or broken while traveling, set up your phone with a cloud service to back up your precious photos, videos, and app settings. Research your options, including iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox, and OneDrive.
Take Photos of Important Documents
In the event your passport, driver’s license or other important documents get lost or stolen, having a photo on your phone of these details can be tremendously helpful. Send copies to your personal email as a backup, and copy a trusted family member or friend on the email as well.
Turn Off Automatic Modes
Unless you set your phone to manual, your phone will continually roam to find data – look for free Wi-Fi spots. Also, save your data by turning off automatic updates for all apps and email. When you get to a location with free Wi-Fi, go ahead and manually update. Always check to see if the Wi-Fi is truly free, or if there’s a fee involved. To avoid not being able to make a connection, make sure your smartphone is unlocked so it can be used on other cellular networks as you travel abroad.
With a little prep, you can safely stay connected while traveling abroad.
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