This posts follows on from part 1, titled “How to avoid paying data roaming charges on your next overseas trip part 1 – before you go” and has been updated in August 2011 to reflect pricing changes and more tips from my travels.
Now you have your unlocked phone, cheap 2nd phone, local SIM card and MiFi, outlined below is how I am planning to set up my communications for an upcoming trip to the US as an example of how you can put this all together for your next trip.
[Top tip] When travelling anywhere, I always pack a UK 6 way powerboard, with the appropriate UK adaptor on the end. This means that I can just plug in my normal UK adaptors, and not have to pack an adaptor for every device. My standard setup would be 2 Nokia chargers, laptop power supply, iPad charger and MiFi charger – that’s 5 sockets, with no need for 5 corresponding adaptors.
NOTE: DO NOT DO THIS IF YOU ARE TRAVELLING FROM OR LIVE IN THE US. US power boards are designed for 110V circuits and plugging one into a 220/240V socket in Europe/Asia could be fatal. If you live in a region where the power supply is 220V, it is perfectly safe to plug your 220V rated board into a 110V US socket.
Shown below is how I am going to set up my phones and MiFi on my trip to Seattle and San Francisco. Click the image below for a larger view.
The Nokia E72 on the left is my normal UK Vodafone mobile. As I will be roaming in the US, I don’t want to pay roaming charges when people call me from the UK. Also as Seattle is 8 hours behind, chances are that most calls will be made while I am asleep. Therefore I will divert all calls to my live message service in the UK, All Day PA.
They run a very cost effective and professional service. I simply divert all of my calls to my All Day PA number, and set up a greeting online. The greeting will be read out by a live operator informing callers that I am travelling, but still picking up messages.
The operator will then take a message (and check any name spellings, and confirm the phone number etc), then email me the message instantly. As I will be on free Hotel WiFi (checked ahead of my trip), or prepaid MiFi, the message will cost me effectively nothing.
Compare this with having to make an international call back to your voicemail, listen to it, listen to it again to get the spelling and the number right etc – all at around £1.35/minute (as Vodafone do not offer a Passport tariff in the US).
In the middle of the picture above is my second phone (another E72 generously provided to me by Nokia back in 2009 when the phone was launched). I will place my AT&T SIM card (purchased on my last trip) which provides me with a US number, and calls at US rates.
It also allows me to activate a data tariff of $15 for 100MB of data (valid for 30 days). This will allow me to use data services and maps etc when I am away from the Hotel WiFi or my MiFi. Also it means I can provide business contacts with a local number to call me on at any time.
I would feel guilty giving out my UK mobile number as the only way of contacting me while in someone else’s country knowing they would be incurring international rates when calling me.
A local US number tells those I am dealing with that not only am I a professional traveller, but I want them to be able to contact me easily.
On the right of the picture is my Vodafone R201 MiFi that is enabled for the 1900MHz UMTS bands that are used in the US. When I arrive in Seattle, one of the first things I do after I have checked into the hotel will be to visit the local AT&T store to pick up a new SIM card and enable a $50/1GB data connect plan. [update following this - it was not simple to do this, but the guys in the AT&T store in Bellevue Square were very helpful.
[Top tip] Now I have the physical SIM, before each US trip I head to the AT&T data connect site buyasession.att.com and purchase a 1GB data connect plan good for 1 month. As I am a UK resident, I use my EntroPay Virtual Visa card to pay for the top-up as AT&T only support US cards.
When the Vodafone MiFi is up and running with the AT&T SIM, I will then connect my iPad, laptop and the mobiles via WiFi from the MiFi for the duration of the trip when I am not in range of free WiFi.
I also mentioned in part 1 (tip 7), Truphone is a cost effective service if you live in the UK/US or Australia and travel between each country and allows me to call the UK or Australia while roaming in the US for 10p/min for landlines and 22p/min for mobiles.
Hopefully this has provided some tips to help you save money and time on your next trip.