The day after your trip to Paris you wake refreshed and renewed. In the kitchen you’re rejuvenated by the delicate aroma of the french roast coffee you picked up in your favorite café off the Champs-Élysées. The scent transports you across the Atlantic, inspiring you to reflect on the two-week trip you’d spent the better part of a year saving for. As you look across your sunny kitchen table you recall the flaky taste of a fresh croissant; the way a tab of hand-churned butter dissolved into its fluffy crevices … the perfect trip.
At least that’s what you think until your postman delivers a bill from your wireless provider.
International data charges are the bane of the modern traveler. While there are some who prefer to unplug and leave their smartphones and tablets behind during their European vacation, others enjoy staying connected – appreciating how convenient it is, even during their time abroad, to find restaurant reviews and online recommendations with a few taps of the screen; sharing their journey with friends and family back home via Facebook and Twitter.
The trouble comes later – when you return home and discover that hundreds (sometimes thousands!) of dollars in international data charges have piled up without you knowing about it. Whether you’re traveling for business, planning a big vacation or intend to stay state-side while your son or daughter spends a semester abroad in Europe – finding an international data solution is more critical now than it has ever been before.
The good news is that you have choices, and there are affordable options available to travelers who plan ahead. Here is a quick list of digital age travel tips (ranked as good, better and best) to help you avoid hefty international data charges in Europe.
Good: Talk to Your Wireless Provider Ahead of Time
This may sound like a no-brainer, but taking a moment before you travel abroad to speak with a representative from your cellular provider is a smart move. Each wireless provider in the US has different coverage options and rates for international trips and these rates vary by country. Even if you think you know everything about your plan, it’s wise to double-check.
The cost of wireless service abroad is expensive, but if you research fees and charges ahead of time you can go into your trip with your eyes wide open, customizing your data usage to your carrier’s options and to your budget.
If, for example, you’d like to retain email on your smartphone but won’t use your device for anything else during a short business trip, T-Mobile offers BlackBerry users an unlimited international e-mail plan for about $20 a month. AT&T, on the other hand, offers international data plans which vary in cost according to the country you’re traveling to and the amount of data you expect to use. The price tag will range from $25 per month for 50MB of data all the way up to $200 for 800MB of data. Overage costs on most of AT&T’s plans are as low as $10 for every extra 10MB of data you use … still – this can add up fast and only applies if you secure an international data plan before heading overseas.
While it can be bothersome to monitor your data usage during your trip to Europe, you can avoid big surprises on your bill by being vigilant about your data usage. Sure, this is probably the last thing on your to-do list while sunning yourself on the banks of the Mediterranean, but if you do some research ahead of time and speak with a representative from your carrier you’ll have a firm grasp of your service provider’s international data charges. With that knowledge in hand it’s far easier to monitor your data usage. The alternative (coping with devastating financial fallout) could be devastating.
The good news is that some wireless providers offer alerts which make keeping tabs on your data usage easy. Sprint, for example, will send you an alert the moment your device registers on an international roaming partner’s network. The alert will include roaming charges for voice, text and data which allows you to make an informed decision about what (if anything) you decide to use.
Best: Inexpensive Wi-Fi Options
One of the best options for European travelers who want to stay connected is a personal Wi-Fi (or MiFi) hotspot. These portable, chargeable units can be rented on a daily basis for the duration of your trip (meaning you won’t pay for more than you use), and you can carry these small units with you, meaning that you’ll be able to stay connected on the go.
If you’re a US resident renting a car from Auto Europe you can enjoy one of these portable WiFi units for just $5 per day in the UK, France, Italy and Germany. The Huawei mobile WiFi E5331 model allows up to eight WiFi enabled devices to connect, making one unit a terrific value – your whole family can stay connected to friends and family back home with a single portable router.
Worried about security? So are we. Auto Europe’s MiFi rental keeps your data secure – each connection is password-protected. Enjoy 3G cellular access in the UK, France, Italy and Germany with this device which comes complete with SIM equipment, a wall and car USB charger and a carrying case for added convenience.
We think a personal WiFi unit is the best option for international travelers which is why we worked hard to drop the cost of our MiFi rentals for Auto Europe customers to just $5 per day. More details are available HERE.
However you plan to stay connected in Europe, a rental car with Auto Europe will allow you to stretch your dollar and spend your money where it counts: on fine dining, luxury accommodations and European mementos which will remind you of your trip for years to come. We guarantee the lowest rates in the rental car industry and if you’re planning a trip to Europe and are concerned about international data charges we invite you to call us toll-free at 1-888-223-5555 to learn more about a Mifi Rental with Auto Europe.