Use Your Smartphone Abroad As You Do At Home And Have No Surprises Later

While traveling to several destinations in Europe in the last few weeks, I bumped up my calling plan for a period of time. Adding global messaging and an international data plan helped with reducing possible overage charges but it didn’t solve all of my problems. Often, I would find connectivity issues using my smartphone abroad as I do at home. I began my quest for a solution.

The first stop before international travel was to add services or modify my existing smartphone plan, mainly because of bad results in the past. On a trip to Mazatlan, Mexico, a couple years ago, I found out the hard way just how badly things can get, almost racking up over $1000 in overage charges for data usage alone.

Ignorant of how it all worked, the resort’s “free internet” was blazingly slow. On domestic travel, the next logical move was to tether a signal off my AT&T charged smartphone, bringing good speed and creating my own Wi-Fi hotspot, which I gladly shared with others having a similar connection problem. Dumb move. After a few days a text message came from AT&T’s international department, advising me that I had incurred $956 in overage charges. The result after they graciously removed those budget-busting charges was an international plan offering comparatively reasonable rates. Still, the cost was high so off I went looking for an alternative.

A friend had gone the “get a sim card that works in the destination country” route with good results. But traveling to different countries produced different results. On this recent trip, with an itinerary of Amsterdam and Italy, that looked to be the case. Looking for the ultimate situation: being able to use my phone abroad as I do at home, I kept looking.

What looks to be the best answer I have found came via Boingo, the worldwide connectivity company that recently added some Japanese airports to its list of 600,000 Wi-Fi hot spots. I like Boingo for one primary reason: it works for me.

Constantly scanning for Wi-Fi hot spots with its finder app, Boingo also provides a level of additional security with its free security VPN to protect data like credit card information when on the road.

What I like is that via agreements with hundreds of Internet service providers, Boingo-enabled smartphones and other devices connect quickly through one secure Boingo account. Loading their apps on a device makes connecting easy and they offer a variety of plans. I am testing the unlimited plan for $9.95 a month, well worth the price to know I can find a hotspot that will connect and be compatible with my smartphone virtually anywhere around the world – or so they say. I have not been everywhere on the planet, far from it, but so far the Boingo service has worked well for me and I will no doubt continue to pay a fee that makes sense.

One of the best parts is that the Boingo program tracks my data usage, avoiding potential overage charges. Boingo is not an ISP though, so picking the right plan for usage is a huge part of controlling expenses.

Still, with my Boingo-enabled devices, there should be no bad surprises when traveling internationally.

[Photo Credit – Flickr user @boetter]