The only thing worse than having to leave a glorious vacation is coming home to a gigantic wireless phone bill. All that social media posting, picture sharing and video chatting can add up to a pricey souvenir nobody wants.
People like Eddie Rojas, manager of the Best Buy Mobile store in the Dolphin Mall near Miami, have seen the faces of folks suffering from data overindulgence.
“Panicked parents are who we get,” he said. “Kids aren’t too worried about their data because a lot of times it’s mom and dad who pay the bill. We have a college campus not too far away, and it’s typically the parent coming in to ask for help.”
Eddie and his staff spend a lot of time helping people stay connected while avoiding big data bills. “Vacation is your way to get away from stress, so don’t add stress to it by worrying about data costs,” he said.
Here are nine tips to help save you data, money and frustration.
1. Get an unlimited plan.
Multiple carriers now offer plans with unlimited calling and data, and many families who use three or four lines of services can benefit from moving to that route.
2. Check your plan if you’re going to vacation outside the U.S.
Some plans have a roaming feature that covers usage in Mexico and Canada, which is great. But if yours doesn’t, make sure you turn off cellphone data roaming and keep voice-only roaming in your phone’s settings.
3. Use airplane mode — even when you’re not on an airplane.
Doing so shuts off all network connections. (Sometimes going off the grid can be a vacation in and of itself!)
4. Entertain yourself wisely.
Music and videos rack up data faster than you can memorize the latest dance moves. Check if your music or video streaming services allow you to download content for offline use. You could also choose to lower the quality of the music, or watch higher-quality videos only when you’re on Wi-Fi. Downloading books ahead of time is a good idea, too.
5. Download map segments.
Cruising the open road? You can save map segments ahead of time so you can find food and entertainment spots while you’re on the go without going online.
6. Adjust the settings on your social networking apps.
This includes turning off the auto-play function for videos, turning off background data so social media apps don’t constantly send notifications and switching to lower-quality video streaming (it takes a bit longer to load but saves lots of data).
7. Back up photos with Wi-Fi only.
Vacation pictures can quickly eat up data if you upload them to the cloud without being on Wi-Fi.
8. Find good Wi-Fi and connect carefully.
For all of these things, and especially if you’re video chatting, connecting to good Wi-Fi is your best bet for keeping your data under control. However, do so with caution: When you’re at a free Wi-Fi location, be sure to not share credit card or other personal information when on those networks — they’re popular places for cybercriminals.
9. Know when it’s better to use your data!
If you need to get online to do things like banking or other sensitive information, that’s a good time to use data to be safe. If it’s sensitive enough information that you’d shred it if it was on paper, opt for data over Wi-Fi.