Traveling with a cell phone is handy and practical. We live in a world where having one is standard, and the idea of not having it can be a burden for some.

But, when it comes down to it, smartphones aren’t for everyone. Some travelers simply don’t want to hassle with figuring out how to use their phone in Europe or in other parts of the world.

Hopefully, we can help you come to the right decision.

Share this Post

A lot of people who travel like having an excuse to be off the radar. And if that’s you, it’s OK — you can be off the radar, but not out of touch. If you choose not to get an overseas plan, we still recommend bringing your device with you as a means of occasionally posting photos, sending emails, and even Skyping with loved ones when you get the chance. Even without a international mobile plan, you still have other options for contacting people, from hotel-room phones to pay phones to Internet calling apps on your mobile device.

If you do want to go mobile, you have several options:

Bring your phone from home, (only if it works in Europe.)

Bringing your own phone is the easiest option, but it’s more expensive. Call your provider ahead of your trip to ask about all the details connected with your plan and having overseas connection. All of these options can be explored further online.

You can buy a phone to use in Europe.

When you arrive at your destination, shop around at phone marts or at mobile-phone counters in department stores. Many airports and train stations will also have small mobile phone shops. Many shops will sell cheap phones (starting around $20+) that you’ll have to use with a single provider during your visit. To save even more, look for special promotions and shops that will sell used phones.

You can rent a phone.

Many car-rental dealerships, mobile-phone shops, and even some hotels offer the option to rent a mobile phone with a European number. While it is convenient, often hidden fees (high per-minute charges, expensive shipping costs) can add up. So don’t plan on a good value with this option unless it’s being used very sparingly. You can likely buy a similar unlocked phone on for the price you’d pay to rent one.

The bottom line?

When deciding whether to roam with your US provider or use a cheap unlocked phone with European-purchased SIM cards, consider the question: How much will I use a phone? In the age we live in, you can do a lot on your phone just via WIFI, and why it’s not as readily available in Europe as it is in the US, it will be available at most hotels. If you’re the type of person who dials home every night, or you just want something for emergencies, you should be able to roam with your US phone without racking up a huge bill.

Currency and Conversions: Oanda and Currency (free, Wifi) instantly tells you the exchange rate.

Weather: Want to know how to prepare for the day before you ever leave the hotel? You can better plan accurately with The Weather Channel, or AccuWeather (free, Internet).

Journaling: Note-taking apps such as All-in Notes and Microsoft OneNote (pay, self-contained) let you combine photos, recorded sounds, and written notes to keep a multimedia journal of your trip.

Translation: With Google Translate (free, Internet), you can type something in a foreign language (or have someone speak clearly into your microphone) for an immediate translation. You can also say or type a sentence in English, and a computer voice actually says the translation (or hold up the screen to show someone the written translated message).

Stay connected to home with these apps.

Social Media: Using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social networking apps (free, Internet), you can post about your experiences and share photos of your trip for your friends and family back home. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SloanTravelCo.

Internet Calls and Texting: Skype, or Fring. (free, Internet) These apps allow you to make free voice or video calls over WiFi to fellow users’ computers and smartphones, and cheap calls to other phones. Text Plus and Textfree (free, Internet) work similarly for text messaging, but remember that both parties have to have this app installed.

Custom Postcards: Using apps like SnapShot Postcard (pay, Internet), you can take a photo with your phone and turn it into a custom postcard, which will be printed and sent via snail mail to anywhere you want. Very cool and personal way to show someone you care.

Tablets & Laptops

We don’t have a professional opinion for you regarding these. Bring them if you want, leave them home if you don’t. While we think it’s great to keep in touch with people back home and love it when people share there experience back home, these things can now be done with just about any smartphone, so while it may be slightly more time consuming doing these things on a phone rather than a device with a larger keyboard, a smartphone will suffice.

Now, technology has offered us some very gracious amenities while traveling, that cost virtually nothing. If you’re traveling with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, you can make calls over the Internet to another wireless device, anywhere in the world, for free. (Or you can pay just a few cents to call from your device to any telephone back home.) Internet calling can save you a ton of money. Simply put, this is the cheapest way to stay in touch with folks back home while you’re on the road.

The major providers are Skype (also available as a smartphone app), Google Talk, and FaceTime (preloaded on most Apple devices).

Cameras & GoPro’s

All camera’s and GoPro’s are welcome, just be sure to double and triple check that you have all needed accessories because “forgetting” something at home in the realm of technology, can be very costly overseas.