You can tell when I travel internationally because my Twitter feed starts to fill with angry expletives about Verizon Wireless. Taking my mobile phone abroad can be expensive, confusing, and so annoying that — more often than not — I take advantage of the opportunity to turn it off and disconnect from the world.
However, I love staying on top of my email. I also enjoy sharing photos as I take them rather than waiting until I get back to the hotel room, at which point most of the excitement is lost. I have considered T-Mobile’s unlimited international data before, since it’s bundled into the Simple Choice monthly plan and has no additional cost. T-Mobile even lent me a phone for an extended trip through Southeast Asia. However, I’ve heard that T-Mobile’s service is less impressive when traveling to more rural parts of the US, i.e., whenever I visit family.
So for now, I’ve put up with Verizon. A typical conversation goes like this:
I’d like to add an international data plan to my phone.
We have two packages that include X minutes or Y minutes.
No, I don’t want minutes. I want to add an international data plan. $25 for 100 MB.
Let me check. Sure, we can do that. When are you traveling?
I’ll be departing on X and returning on Y.
Okay, we’ll have to charge you twice because your monthly cycle falls during the middle of your trip.
Really? Fine. How can I track the data I use? Last time I got a surprise charge when I exceeded 100 MB even though my phone said I was only at 75 MB.
You can’t really check. Your phone won’t match our records. Your online account won’t match our records. Just make sure you don’t go over 100 MB.
And that’s about where I hang up or ask for a supervisor.
TravelPass Lets You Pay Only on the Days You Use It
The new TravelPass is meant to make the whole process simpler. Basically it allows you to continue using your existing talk, text messaging, and data plan when you travel abroad. You get the same speeds and monthly caps. However, you need to pay an additional fee for each day you use it. That fee is $2 when traveling to Mexico or Canada and $10 when traveling anywhere else.
To sign up for TravelPass, simply visit MyVerizon.com and select “manage international services” or use the MyVerizon app on your phone to activate it before embarking on a trip. Once at your destination, you’ll receive a text message welcoming you to the country and reminding you of the service and the daily fee: $2 per 24 hours in Mexico and Canada or $10 per 24 hours in 65+ other countries*.
The daily fee is only charged on the days you use it in one of the TravelPass countries.
But TravelPass Isn’t Necessarily Cheaper
It is definitely simpler. I don’t have to worry about going over some tiny 100 MB cap since I can instead draw down the 10 GB shared data plan I have at home. At $10 per day, the costs still add up quickly.
On a two-week trip, I can usually keep my data use under 200 MB ($50) by turning off non-essential apps and limiting my web browsing habits. Two weeks in Europe or Asia would cost $140 using TravelPass, nearly three times as much as buying a separate international data package. True, you can save money by not using your phone every day, but I don’t know anyone who does that.
TravelPass still has other merits. If, like me, you rely on data only and pay for text messages and phone calls separately, then those texts and calls are now effectively “free” since they are deducted from your home plan. (Or you could use a combination of iMessage, WhatsApp, and Skype.) You still have to be making a lot of calls and texts to come out ahead, which suggests you aren’t currently buying data-only plans.
The other benefit is that, relative to the competition from T-Mobile, you’ll be able to download at higher speeds, using the local 3G or 4G networks just as you would at home. T-Mobile limits their free data to 2G or slower connections. I personally have not found this to be a problem. I’d rather have some connection than no connection, and it’s good enough for email. Pictures just require a little waiting. I know others who are less patient.
What’s most important is that we now have more choices. You can buy a la carte international packages. You can rely on Verizon’s daily surcharge if you use your phone a lot and want fast speeds. You can switch to T-Mobile for their all-inclusive features and accept some compromises on service. Or, with a little legwork, you can still find a local SIM card and purchase a separate plan upon arrival.
Caribbean and Central and South America: Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, French Guiana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Eustatius & Saba, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maartin/Saint Martin, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos.
Europe and Middle East: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Mann, Israel, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira and Azores, Netherlands, Norway, Palestinian Territories, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Vatican City.
Asia Pacific: Australia, Singapore, Taiwan.