When you head off on vacation to the USA, one thing catches people unaware more than anything else.  Data Roaming Charges.
We are so used to our smart phones and rely upon them heavily during normal life now.
Whether it is to update our Facebook status, send an SMS picture message, check emails or browse the internet, we take for granted the generous data bundles that most phone contacts offer.

Step out of our domestic country, and things go very wrong very quickly!
This article gets you on your way to ensuring that you do not return home from vacation to be greeted by phone bills that could even make Mickey cry!

Data Roaming – The Invisible Demon on vacation!

While our headline may seem a bit dramatic, we thought we’d conduct a small experiment with a UK cell phone for the duration of 14 days (a typical Brit vacation in Orlando).
We wanted to test how costly our phone bill would be if we connected to the cellular data networks that support the Orlando area.
We kept things reasonably sensible, and our usages did not include streaming music or video, nor did it include any app upgrades or purchases.
One thing that is worth bearing in mind at this point, is that by sticking to the above rules, we had already consciously ‘cut’ our usage dramatically compared to a normal unsuspecting user!
The outcome?  When our tester returned home, she received a bill for data roaming charges that amounted to £323.30 for our two week trip to Orlando!

Our tester got hit with a £323.30 Data Roaming Bill for her two week vacation!

The bill roughy equated to about 100 MB of use over the two week period!
Please bear in mind that for each 5MB of data, Vodafone can charge £15.
Is 100MB a lot?  Not according to Vodafone’s typical data usage guide:

Typical Cell Phone data usages by activity

TV Watching a 30 min episode of a series 90MB
You Tube Music Video – 4 mins 11MB
Radio App 10 mins 15MB
Facebook 15mins with no video streaming 5MB
Email 100 emails sent/received 2.5MB
Email + attachment 10 email sent/received attachment 18MB
Web Browsing 100 web pages 20MB
Web Browsing 1 hour 26MB
Google Maps 10mins 6MB
Looking at that table, our tester got off extremely lightly compared to most users!

Take some Very Simple Steps To Avoid Huge Mobile Data Bills Abroad

  1. Only connect using WiFi (most main parks now offer free WiFi)
  2. Always turn off Data Roaming in your phone’s network settings!
    (This won’t alter the way your phone works when you return home)
  3. Leave Wifi switched on and connect at restaurants and cafes where possible
  4. Research where you can find free hotspots before you leave home
  5. Buy a local SIM when you are at your destination (needs unlocked phone)
  6. Buy a prepaid Data SIM before you leave home (Dataroam offers 100MB for $39)
  7. Get a MiFi device in the USA and carry it in your pocket for all of your family to connect to!
  8. Some travellers leave their phone in ‘Airplane Mode’ but turn on WiFi for the safest setup.  No Cell Network calls or SMS messages are available, but Skype and WhatsApp are great free alternatives.
  9. Take out a contact with a cell phone provider that does not charge extra for data and calls when abroad; (We will add more providers as they become available)
    Three Feel at Home can provide up to 25GB of data (details here)

Cost saving advice if you MUST leave Data Roaming on!

  1. Turn off automatic updates in your settings
  2. Turn off all notifications
  3. Don’t download or stream movies/music/pictures
  4. Don’t connect to social media
  5. Use the Kindle Fire’s Free Internet Connection!
  6. Update your phone software before you leave home
  7. Ask colleagues and friends not to email large attachments
  8. Check your company policy for work phone usage on vacation!
  9. Check the latest moneysavingexpert.com advice

Other articles you may be interested in: