Twice The Baggage: Why get an international cellphone plan, and which to choose?

Want to use your phone while abroad? You'll need one of these.
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Long gone are the days of traveling abroad and incurring an exorbitant cellphone bill because you used data and spoke with someone on the phone for a few minutes, writes BMTN's guest bloggers Twice The Baggage.

In the USA, there are now many options for consumers to choose from when it comes to phone plans while traveling internationally.

The question is which to choose and how much they cost. Never fear, here we break down the major international cell phone plans, as well as alternative options that could save you some money on your next foreign trip.

AT&T

AT&T recently adopted an International Day Pass. For $10 a day, you may access your domestic plan in 100+ countries. The $10 is charged the second you use data, voice or text messaging, which lasts for 24 hours.

This is one of the more expensive options, especially when you consider that AT&T sells the day pass by device, so it would get quite expensive for a family.

Still, it's better than what AT&T previously offered. Before the launch of the day pass, the only thing offered was the AT&T passports (still offered), which alone start at $60 for 1 GB of data, and talk at $0.35 per minute.

Verizon

Verizon was the first major U.S. carrier to offer international cellphone plans with its Travel Pass service. For $5 a day in Canada/Mexico, and $10 a day in 130+ countries you will get access to your domestic plan.

If you are a frequent traveler and will be gone a month or more, Verizon offers a monthly plan that starts at $70 for 100 minutes of talk and 1/2 GB of data (not much at all).

T-Mobile

As a T-Mobile One customer you receive unlimited texts and data at 2G speeds (ie. very slow) in 210+ countries, and talk at $0.25 per minute.

On July 22, 2018, T-Mobile introduced T-Mobile One Plus. For $5 a day you can upgrade to a plan that bumps your speeds up to 512 Mbps of 4G LTE speeds.

T-Mobile One Plus is a welcome addition to the U.S. carrier day pass options.

Sprint

Along with having AT&T we also have first-hand experience with Sprint’s international cell phone plans.

Already included in your Sprint carrier plan is the same amount of data you currently have, but at 2G LTE speeds.

Sprint also offers an upgrade option, and for $5 a day or $25 for 7 days you can increase speeds up to 4G LTE. Text messages meanwhile are free and calls from international countries cost $0.20 per minute.

Buy an international SIM card

If you want to save a few bucks while traveling internationally, but don’t necessarily want to purchase one of the international cellphone plans, you can buy an international SIM card. This option allows you to get a to-go or top up plan through your phone carrier wherever you're traveling.

To do this, your smartphone needs to be unlocked – ie. it's not linked with a specific carrier. Once your phone is unlocked, you can buy an international SIM on Amazon, eBay or the phone carrier of choice for just a few dollars. Airports and some convenience stores in your destination cities will also likely have SIM cards you can use.

Google Fi

Google Fi is a lesser-known option while traveling abroad, yet it comes with the best prices and is one of our favorite options. The Google Fi network partners with T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular to offer you coverage in 170+ countries for $10 per GB used, as well $0.20 per minute call.

It is the only plan available from US carriers with completely unthrottled 4G LTE service in over 170 countries. If you need to be connected at 4G speeds, there is no better option.

The only downfall of Google Fi is that it does not work with all phones. Compatible phones include Google Pixel, Moto G6, and LG G7. If you are an iPhone owner, Google Fi will generally not be an option for you.

Rely on WiFi

This is becoming an increasingly available option as WiFi coverage expands across the globe. If you really want to save money and not worry about possible overages, this is for you. Turn off your cellular network and data and just use WiFi.

With so many restaurants, museums, coffee shops and places offering WiFi, it's easy enough to stay connected. In fact, many of our favorite travel apps allow downloads for certain aspects for offline use. This is a great option when taking the WiFi-only route.

You can find more writing from Ashlee Kronforst and Ryan Monk at Twice The Baggage, or by following them on Instagram.

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