Verizon’s best plan for most people is also its least obvious offering: the 5 GB for $55 deal. It’s difficult to find this plan on Verizon’s homepage, but you should see this option if you select a phone, add it to your cart, and scroll past Verizon’s flagship “unlimited” offerings when selecting a plan. (Verizon’s website quotes a $60 rate for this plan, but signing up for auto-pay using a checking account or debit card gets you $5 off—though this precludes running up points on a travel-rewards credit card).
Finally, take advantage of WiFi wherever possible. Most hotels offer it as a complimentary service, and you'll find free wireless internet available in many tourist and business-friendly places. By switching off your phone's cellular connection and relying on WiFi, you can potentially save hundreds, even thousands, of dollars over the course of your trip.
More good news, at least for heavy data users, is the rise of unlimited data plans. These plans, which carriers started to pull a few years ago when smartphones such as the iPhone started using substantial amounts of data, can be a respite for a new wave of consumers hooked on streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify. All the major carriers now offer unlimited plans, but they come with catches. More on that below.
Most major U.S. phone companies give you the option of choosing a plan that allows you to make calls, send texts and access data while traveling abroad. These plans may be offered on a daily basis or as a temporary service that you can set up for a single month when you know you’ll be leaving the country. Each company offers different plans for various prices that work for a number of phone models and in designated countries. Per-minute calling rates vary for different countries.
If you need better connectivity to, say, hail a Lyft from the Acropolis, simply add a global package to your current service. It's shockingly easy. For example, AT&T offers a service called Passport, which gets you 200 MB of data and unlimited texting in more than 200 countries for just $40 tacked onto your current monthly plan. (Calls abroad still cost a buck a minute, so talk quickly.) Verizon offers a similar service, Travel Pass, that costs $5 a day to extend your plan to Mexico and Canada and $10 per day for service in more than 100 other countries. How much data you need depends upon how active you plan to be online. Posting 30 photos to social media costs about 10 MB; each web page you visit costs about one. Downloading apps like Whatsapp lets you send texts and make calls without racking up minutes, and disabling "automatic refresh" on email and other apps helps avoid blowing through your data allowance.
If you'd prefer to use a different Android phone or an iPhone, T-Mobile remains a strong alternative, letting T-Mobile One subscribers use data in more than 210 countries, though at 2G speeds. You can talk and text for free in Canada and Mexico, though T-Mobile limits you to 5GB of LTE data in those countries. (Be aware that the carrier's new T-Mobile Essentials unlimited plan doesn't include these international perks.)
One of the key ways Sprint has been able to stay competitive in the U.S. mobile market is by pricing their plans very inexpensively. Take for example Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan, just $50 for one line, or an incredible $100 for four lines. And this to say nothing of the carrier's $1 for a year of unlimited deal. No U.S. major is cheaper than Sprint.
Assuming you make fewer calls than average, and you don’t need Verizon’s better network, Ting offers flexible billing and a choice of Sprint and T-Mobile coverage. Ting consistently ranks high in Consumer Reports reader surveys and placed well in past PCMag surveys (although it faded in that site’s latest round of reader assessments). And with Ting’s recent addition of third-party device financing, you can even have some of the same low up-front phone costs as with the big four.
Once we had an understanding of performance, we dug into the phone plans carriers offered and the prices they charged. Unless you’re purchasing a prepaid plan, the days of phone minutes and a nickel for every text are past — prices are based on data now. The best value is typically an unlimited data plan, but we looked into plans with tiered data, too. You’ll want to think about how often you use internet data (when not on Wi-Fi) to find a plan that fits your needs.
Ashley Turner is director of Gadget Valuer – one of America’s biggest gadget trade-in comparison sites. Launching in 2009, the founding team wanted to create a completely independent recycling comparison website after running an actual phone recycling site. Such experience in the recycling market means Turner is constantly in touch with the latest trade-in trends and consumer habits.
Given that a traveler is always on the go, battery life matters the most. Apart from that, a good camera and global compatibility with different cellular networks is a big factor. Looking at these criteria, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge fits the bill. It’s priced well, supports various global networks including VoLTE, and has a 12MP camera and good battery life with 3600mAh capacity.
Voice-call quality has improved as three of the four carriers (Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T) have built out Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service and made it interoperable. (Sprint doesn’t plan to begin its VoLTE rollout until this fall.) And across the board, data caps have risen to reflect customers’ increased demand for data: All four major US carriers now offer unlimited data plans and have refrained from curtailing them since T-Mobile and Verizon’s late-2017 pruning of their unmetered deals.
Sprint Unlimited 55+ Plan: Reqs. new account activation. Acct holder must be 55 or older. 2 line max. Includes unlimited domestic calling, texting & data with 3G Mobile Hotspot VPN & P2P data. Discounted phones subject to add'l $25/mo./line. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Plan not avail. for tablets/MBB devices. Select Int’l svcs are included see sprint.com/globalroaming.