How to avoid cell phone charges while abroad

Smartphones have become the ultimate travel gadget, as the wide array of applications available make them a technological Swiss Army Knife. There’s no doubt that many travelers love the ability to be able to translate phrases, map routes and research restaurants on the fly. Yet what they may not love is coming home to a huge cell phone bill.

Many travelers don’t realize that their current cell phone contract only applies to the U.S. Without an international plan, they’ll be paying dearly for every call, text or download that they receive while overseas. Considering the data usage that of some smartphones, that means hefty charges when they return home.

CNN recently used the example of Sarah Evans, who was in Canada for less than a day just a few months ago. Between a 20 minute phone call, a few texts and wireless browsing, she had racked up a $700 bill.

Travelers should know that they don’t need to pay that. By calling their carrier ahead of time, they can arrange for an international calling plan at a much more reasonable rate, one that will fit their budget. They should also limit their usage while overseas. Download any useful applications beforehand, preferably ones that don’t need to download big chunks of data. And rather than using the phone for calls, travelers might want to consider an alternative like Skype or Google Voice that will allow them to make calls on the computer for free or just pennies per minute.

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