International travel can be the adventure of a lifetime as you explore new places and interact with new people. However, you will need to prepare extensively before you depart, from tours and sightseeing to securing logistics, like your flight and lodging.
Throughout all the preparation, remember to get your device ready. When many travelers use their phones to navigate new places, having a functional international travel phone is essential.
What to Do to Make Your Device Ready for International Travel
If you are planning a trip overseas, you might be unsure where to start when prepping your phone. Following these international travel phone tips can help get you ready for your trip, so you can focus on your plans when arriving at your destination.
1. Understand Roaming and Current Carrier Plans
Your phone will most likely work internationally, even if you do nothing. Many carriers have international roaming and data rates built into their terms and conditions, meaning they will charge your account by the day or minute for the data usage, calls and texts you receive when you use your phone in another country.
Understanding your provider’s existing plan and rates can help prepare you for any account charges. You might find you have access to one of the best international roaming plans, making this planning aspect simple and stress-free.
However, this system is too expensive for many travelers. When traveling abroad, you can avoid high roaming and carrier rates by investing in alternative plans. The cheapest way is to turn off roaming and data usage in your settings and keep airplane mode on whenever you aren’t connected to Wi-Fi. International plans and SIM cards can also help travelers stay online without breaking the bank.
2. Research International Cell Phone Plans With Your Carrier
Check that your carrier has service where you travel. Many major providers offer an alternative international data plan you can sign up for if you travel to a foreign country. These services are often cheaper than the automatic international rates, allowing you to use your data, call and text as you travel while saving money. Many of these options will let you pay as you go, so you only have to invest in what you need.
While you can find great deals when searching these international phone plans, your provider will restrict you to only their options. Ensure you have the best international phone plans available, especially if you elect to use your phone often throughout your trip.
3. Buy an International SIM Card
If your automatic settings and provider’s plans are too expensive or restricting, consider buying a SIM card for an international provider. A foreign SIM card is an excellent option if you want to ensure continuous and reliable service while abroad and have access to cheaper phone use. This method provides you with a local phone number and connects you to a different provider, so you can pay national rates instead.
Before you purchase a new international roaming SIM card for your phone, do some research to ensure your phone is ready:
- Check that you have an unlocked phone: With an unlocked phone, you can switch to another carrier at any time. Locked phones require staying with your current provider. If you have an unlocked phone, you are free to switch out your SIM card for another while abroad.
- Know your SIM card size: Depending on your phone’s age, you might require a particular SIM card size. Older phones need a different size than newer ones. Ensure you know what your phone needs so you can buy the right option for your device.
- Explore buying options: You can buy an international SIM card for travel online and get it delivered to be ready for when you arrive at your destination. Explore your options and providers, compare prices and plan to find the one that works best for you and your trip. Many airports also have phone stores where you can buy a local SIM card with that country’s providers. These sellers can offer a prepaid international SIM card, pairing you with a specific amount of data you can use for the duration of your trip. It makes traveling and using your phone easy to manage and take care of when you return home.
If you travel frequently, you can reuse old cards for a free international SIM card in covered areas. You might need to add more credits to cover additional data, but it is also great if you have unused data from previous trips.
4. Use Portable Wi-Fi Devices or Hotspots
Many travelers don’t need to call or text while abroad. Depending on your needs, you can find different options for you. Wi-Fi connectivity is excellent for those who might not need to get in touch with others but want to use their phone for other functions, like navigation or translation. In this situation, portable Wi-Fi devices and hotspots provide online connections without using international data plans.
Smartphones have many helpful apps available, especially for those traveling abroad. Personal Wi-Fi capabilities ensure you can always use them. Whether you are waiting in the airports, exploring a new city or driving through the countryside, this option travels with you. Personal Wi-Fi devices are small and can fit in your bag or pocket, while hotspots exist on your phone.
If you want to communicate with others, you can still use apps like WhatsApp, Skype and Messenger to talk without an international plan.
5. Find a Quality Portable Charger
As you prepare for your trip, you will start to collect different tools and gear you’ll need, like water bottles and dictionaries. You should invest in the right tools to support your devices while abroad. A portable charger will help your device hold a sustainable charge for longer than usual. Having access to a portable charger ensures you can always use your phone, whether you want to take a picture of the sights or need to reach for help in an emergency. Sustainable charging is especially important if spending long days sightseeing or outdoors.
There are many types of portable chargers available. Most are small, so you can easily slip them into your bag or pocket during the day or hold them as your phone charges. Some have a simple USB port that you plug your phone’s charger cord into, making it compatible with multiple device types and models — you can share these easily when traveling with friends.
You might have different charge capabilities, depending on the charger you choose. Some last for a couple of charges, making them ideal for tourists visiting new places during the day and returning to lodgings at night. Others last longer for someone camping or staying somewhere without electricity. Exploring your options and features can help you find the portable charger that will best meet your travel and technology needs.
6. Research Wall Adapters and Converters
Depending on where you are from and where you’re traveling, you might need to invest in a wall adapter and converter to plug in your own devices. While you have a certain type of wall outlets at home, different countries and regions have other types. For example, the US has two flat prongs, while most of continental Europe uses two round ones.
Your plugs will need an adapter that matches your target country and an output plug that fits the one from your home country. Carefully research socket types to find a suitable adapter. Some kits include all adapters, ideal for frequent travelers.
You may also need an electric current converter. Other regions run specific currents through their electrical systems, which might be different than your home country. Technology companies design devices to withstand certain electrical charges, so plugging your device directly into another country’s outlet can hurt your device’s quality and functionality.
A converter will receive the charge and convert it into your country’s standard voltage. For example, the US runs on 110 volts of electricity and Europe doubles that at 220 volts. A converter will protect your American devices by ensuring they only receive 110.
7. Download Information for Offline Use
Whether you use a prepaid SIM card or an international cellular plan, you can decrease your data usage by moving essential information offline. This system can also be helpful if you find yourself somewhere with limited cell service, ensuring you still have access to what you need. Some things to move offline include:
- Maps: Navigation can use up large amounts of data. Downloading maps can help you find your way around areas without using data, keeping you safe and saving money. You can download your maps for specific apps, including Google Map and maps.me.
- Tickets and confirmations: Keeping sightseeing, tour and other booked information backed up offline can ensure you can participate in your planned activities while traveling. Take screenshots or save tickets and confirmation emails to your phone — this can also help save time searching through your email for confirmation or other information. Printing before departing is another way to keep things accessible and safe.
- Personal content: Traveling is more than seeing new things and exploring. You will likely spend long portions of time in airports or commuting to your destination. While some people enjoy people-watching or reading, you can download entertainment for waiting periods. Apps like Netflix and Spotify let you download content, so you can find something to do without using your data.
Offline information can help you better manage your cellular data usage while abroad. If you want to cut costs or save data, offline services offer continual functionality. This option is also great when you lose service or go somewhere with limited coverage.
8. Change Your Default Settings
As you get closer to your departure, minimize unnecessary data usage and save yourself from expensive fees by changing your app and phone settings. Consider looking into the following:
- Roaming and data: If you aren’t using an international plan or a SIM card, you will want to turn off roaming and data to prevent hefty charges to your phone account. These activate automatically, so you need to turn them off manually. Airplane mode is a great way to use your phone without data or roaming.
- Automatic refreshes and updates: Depending on your setting preferences, apps may update automatically as they release. Updates that drop during the day can use your valuable data while you are out exploring. This can also drain your battery. While you’re abroad, go into your settings and turn this feature off for the time being. You can always manually start app updates if you want new features when connecting to Wi-Fi.
- Manual fetch notifications: You might receive push notifications for many apps, meaning you get alerts on your lock screen to check that app. This can be helpful during a typical day, keeping you up-to-date on vital information. However, you might be able to pass on these messages right away when abroad. Instead, switch to manual fetch notifications, where you have to open apps to receive notifications. This can also be a great way to filter unnecessary information.
Changing your notifications and settings can help optimize your data and online features when traveling abroad. When selecting a data plan carefully, you can help save yourself from unnecessary fees or battery drainers with these tips.
9. Connect to the Cloud
Cloud syncing is an excellent security method when you travel abroad. Many pickpockets target larger cities and tourist locations, putting your phone at risk. Your cell phone will likely already have various personal information, from your contacts to credit cards, but you will also lose any saved memories from your travels.
Cloud storage gives travelers the peace of mind to protect their pictures, videos, contacts, apps and other crucial data as they travel. If your phone gets lost, damaged or stolen while traveling, you only need to log in to your cloud account from another device to access your information. There are many cloud services available, so you can find the option that best works for you and your storage needs.
10. Buy an Unlocked Travel Phone
If you are unsure what plan will best serve you, invest in a travel phone. An unlocked travel phone will allow you to explore the best international plans in your country and SIM card options. They are great for frequent travelers who want to use one phone for travel needs only, like navigation and taking pictures. You can protect your personal cell phone and optimize your time overseas.
Travel Easy With a Used Phone From Gazelle
Your phone can be a handy tool when traveling abroad. As a place where you can store and access endless information, you will want to give yourself the capabilities you need throughout your trip.
Gazelle can help you prepare for your trip with a used phone. We offer a diverse selection of makes and models, so you can find the device that you like best. Whether you are searching for a new phone or a cell just for travel, Gazelle connects you with unlocked devices from a safe, fast and easy-to-use source. Our employees inspect each phone we receive to confirm its quality.
Explore our iPhone collection today and discover how Gazelle phones can help you stay connected while traveling abroad.