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Tech Tips for Summer Travel Abroad

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Posted: Monday, June 23, 2014 1:00 am | Updated: 3:34 am, Mon Jun 23, 2014.

(Family Features) Whether you’re seeking the view from the London Eye, the thrill of zip-lining in Belize or the taste of an icy cold gelato in the streets of Rome — summer adventure is calling.

World Travel on the Rise

According to the airline industry association A4A, air travel is expected to rise to its highest level in six years this summer, with a record number of people travelling internationally. However, if you count yourself among those travelers — perhaps one of the estimated hundreds of thousands of Americans headed to Brazil for the World Cup — are you prepared to stay connected with friends and family back home and easily share your adventures with them?

Many travelers hit the road expecting to use their smartphones abroad in the same way they use them at home, relying on them for navigation, using their favorite apps for travel tips and freely posting pictures to social media. But many are unclear about international roaming costs and coverage.

“For those who do travel or call overseas, it’s hugely expensive or requires all kinds of workarounds to avoid the huge fees,” said Ovum analyst Jan Dawson. “So this is a real pain point for some customers, at least.” 

A recent Kelton survey confirmed a high level of exasperation that international travelers feel when journeying abroad. Here are some of the results:

  • Nearly everyone surveyed (88 percent) reported being frustrated by the expenses and challenges of staying connected while abroad.
  • Among customers of the big three carriers, nearly 20 percent leave their devices at home or never turn them on while travelling outside the U.S.
  • Another 40 percent turn off data roaming to avoid high costs, and 20 percent say they would turn off data roaming if they knew how.

Make Sure You’re Prepared

So, before you head off on your summer journey, T-Mobile wants to make sure you’re armed with the best mobile tech tips for staying connected internationally. These ideas can save you from unnecessary headaches and a ton of money along the way.

  • Check your coverage: Before you travel, make sure you know the network specifications and international data rates for your carrier in the places where you’re travelling. Be sure to make adjustments if necessary to avoid costly surprises in your bill when you return.
  • Find the best international plan: Look for carriers, such as T-Mobile for example, that provide unlimited data and texting in 120-plus countries and destinations worldwide with their Simple Choice plan, freeing you from the worry of coming home to bill shock from outrageous roaming fees. Because most carriers tack 90 percent margins into their global roaming plans, many consumers see their costs total more than $1,000 a day when they use their phones abroad the way they normally do at home. Last Fall, T-Mobile launched international data roaming and texting at no extra charge — plus slashed calls to a low flat rate of 20 cents a minute — in more than 120 countries and destinations worldwide.
  • Explore the extras: Prepaid international calling cards may also be available through your wireless provider. Also, special day or week passes can get you access to high speed data or additional services.
  • Don’t forget insurance: In case your device gets lost, stolen or damaged along the way, be sure to secure an insurance plan to protect it.

Travel blogger Summer Hull of Boarding Area’s Mommy Points column notes her own personal experience with trying to stay connected while abroad.

“I am honestly sick of having to jump through so many hoops and keep such close tabs on usage internationally with other providers,” said Hull. “I’m also sick of the big bills that come with having international add-ons. This T-Mobile approach sounds so much, well, simpler.”

Vacation-worthy Devices and Accessories

Here is a list of the smartphones, tablets and accessories to take with you to keep up with your summer travel needs:

  • Samsung Galaxy S5: This water-resistant phone is perfect for all your outdoor activities and includes a story album to journal your travels with pictures and notes that can be published as actual books.
  • HTC One M8: The highlights for this device include Boomsound for listening to music outside, HTC Duo Camera for taking brilliant day or night shots and Zoe for creating mini-movies in seconds.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition: A lightweight and durable tablet that allows you to take your games, music, movies and social network virtually anywhere you go. For affordable data, the T-Mobile Tablet Freedom program allows you to get more than a gig of free data every month through 2014 and 200 MB of free data for life every month after that.
  • Samsung LTE Mobile HotSpot PRO: This half-inch-thick device expands your mobile freedom, allowing you to take the Internet with you on your qualifying service. Plus, you can share your connection with up to 10 other Internet devices.
  • TYLT Zumo Portable Battery Pack: Did you finish up a long day of sightseeing? Don’t get caught with a dead device. This portable pack provides up to four hours of extra battery life.

With these tips in mind, summer travel can go back to being a carefree experience. For more information, visit www.t-mobile.com

Worry-free Wireless Travel Abroad

Following are a few simple tips from T-Mobile to help keep your travels on track and free of complications:

  • Pack the essentials: This includes portable chargers, an international power converter and MicroSD cards to give you added storage space for photos and more.
  • Travel safe: Use features such as Bluetooth for hands-free driving while navigating the twists and turns of unfamiliar roads, or applications like T-Mobile’s DriveSmart Plus, which silences incoming notifications, sending callers to voicemail and auto-responds to incoming text messages.
  • Make packing light: Use a multi-function smartphone that allows you to access entertainment with videos and games, mobile music player, GPS navigator, high quality digital camera, and in some cases, even a mobile hotspot. 

Best Apps for Travel

Check out these leading apps to help you navigate a successful journey:

  • GateGuru (Android, iOS, Windows Phone): Especially helpful when traveling with children, GateGuru can locate kid-friendly restaurants, clean public restrooms and more. View your TripIt and Kayak itineraries, as well as view or post airport security wait times and see a structured list of airport food, shops and services.
  • Viator (Android, iOS): Helps you find and book countless tours, day trips, shows and activities for the best travel experiences worldwide.
  • Unit Conversion Free, Currency (iOS, but others are available for most platforms): Converts temperature, distance, weight, volume, speed and more, including currency in real time.

Best Bets for Brazil

Are you heading to the World Cup? Here are some tips to make your travel a little easier:

  • The World Cup is spread over 12 host cities, so it’s probably best to decide which games are must-watch and plot out an itinerary around a convenient home base in one of the cities.
  • With hotel rooms likely already booked or at a premium price, consider alternate, more affordable forms of housing. In addition to couchsurfing and Airbnb, Fodor’s recommends AlexRioFlats, or family-run guesthouses or pousadas, which are an authentic way to experience the different regions of Brazil and can be booked via online travel sites like HiddenPousadasBrazil.com.
  • To get around Brazil — which is just slightly smaller than the U.S. in area — it’s easiest to travel by bus or domestic flights. If you choose to travel by bus, you can purchase tickets in the bus stations, or online from Rodoviariaonline.com or PassagemRapida.com. Domestic airlines include TAM and GOL, as well as TRIP Azul Linhas Aereas, Brazil's newest airline, with service to about 100 domestic destinations.
  • Can’t make it to the match? Then join fellow futbol fans and be part of “El Gran Pase,” a website in which viewers submit a video showcasing their best kick of the soccer ball. You could be included in the longest pass in the world, alongside soccer fanatics like Jorge “Soccer Machine” Perez and Shakira.

 

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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