Traveling with your cell phone

Beautiful young business woman talking on mobile phone while staNote: this post is primarily for my readers who live in the USA. To the others, I hope it applies to you someday.

About two weeks ago (June 26), the New York Times ran an article about traveling with your cell phone called “A Comprehensive Guide to Taking Your Smartphone Abroad for Cheap.” In case you don’t have a subscription to the online NY Times, the basic conclusion of this article was:To cut to the chase: There is a cheap way, which involves a lot of work. Or there is an easier method that will most likely cost you a pretty penny.” And then less than one paragraph later, they said, “There’s an exception to this. If you are a T-Mobile subscriber, you get free international roaming in more than 200 countries without having to make changes to your account. And to that I said, “DUH!” 

I have been preaching to my friends, family and clients about the benefits of having T-Mobile as your cell phone provider if you travel internationally for quite some time. We have been T-Mobile subscribers since we left evil AT&T (why they are EVIL is an entirely other story but I don’t feel like crying right now, so it will have to wait for another time) in the autumn of 2014.  And I have to say that I am as happy with T-Mobile as I used to be with Apple (before Steve Jobs died).

I don’t want to make this a commercial for T-Mobile but if you haven’t heard me go on and on about T-Mobile, then we haven’t talked before, LOL! First, they have some great programs for people like us…seniors (They also have special programs for military, veterans and government workers). When it comes to their senior program, I am not sure what the current cost is, but when we signed up for it we got two lines with UNLIMITED fast data and phone service anywhere in the US for $60 a month (TOTAL) FOREVER! Yup, forever. Each and every month our cell phone bill is $60 (for both of us, not each). It never changes. And that includes taxes, fees, etc. Has been that way every month since we signed up. (If you buy a phone on installments, your bill will be higher and you can add to it in certain situations which I will mention below.)

Besides having a great and permanent price, there is another benefit to T-Mobile that applies to us because we travel. Free 2-G data pretty much everywhere in the world. And free calls and 4G LTE data in Canada and Mexico which we use a bunch when we go to Chilliwack. On our October trip to Québec, we had 4G LTE fast coverage on almost the entire trip. I will tell you that they will limit the 4G fast coverage in Canada to 5GB of data but that’s a ton. I did run out on the Québec trip, but that’s because I tried to stream a Seattle Seahawks game. But when I went over the 5GB, they just throttled me back to 3G which was fine for everything but streaming video.

In Europe and the rest of the world (more than 210 countries) you will have unlimited data at up to 128kbps, which is great for web browsing, e-mail, social media and occasional use of certain features like GPS/maps. On our Iceland trip, we had plenty of coverage in Scotland, England, Ireland and Iceland. On a previous trip to Europe in 2016, we spent almost a week in the Netherlands before we cruised and there we had 4G LTE the entire time. In fact the coverage in Amsterdam and Rotterdam was better than we have here at home. You should also know that making calls in foreign countries other than Canada and Mexico will cost you something. The cool thing is that as soon as you arrive in a country, you get a text from T-Mobile welcoming you to the new country you have just arrived in and telling you exactly what the rules are for usage in that country. For instance, when we arrived in Iceland, it said, “Welcome to Iceland. All texts and 2G data are free and part of your plan. If you wish to upgrade to faster data, please click here to see the cost. Phone calls are 25¢ per minute.” That was it. In other places, different rules but always a text to let us know. If you want to see how much it is going to cost (or if it is free) before you go, you can click here to go to their Travel Abroad page, put in the country you are going to and it will tell you if there is any cost and if so, how much that is.

By the way, I checked on upgrading my data speed in Iceland and it was $5 for a 24 hour day for 5GB of fast data. Not enough to stream a Netflix movie but I got to upload a few photos to this blog. And I should add that T-Mobile does a great job of letting me create a mobile hot spot to connect my Mac which in many cases (here at home) is faster than our Ethernet connection with Comcast. So if our Comcast internet goes out, we just start a mobile network with our unlimited data and we are good to go. Of course we make sure the phone is plugged into power since that really drains the battery.

Is that enough of a reason to switch? If you ever travel outside of the USA or you are over 55 or military or veterans and can get a lifetime guaranteed price, then yes! When we were with evil AT&T our monthly bill was NEVER the same. It changed every month. They always found something else to charge us for or some other fee or tax to add on to it. One time we uploaded a short (30 second) video from a cruise ship sitting in Victoria, BC’s harbor (we thought we were on the ship’s WiFi) and the bill from AT&T was in excess of $3500. T-Mobile rocks! If you travel, get them.

My cell phone is my best friend. It’s my lifeline to the outside world. —Carrie Underwood