Vacation Time? Tips for Traveling With Your Phone

Woman at the beach on vacation with her phone
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It feels like it’s been so long since any of us have traveled that most of us have forgotten how to do it.

Thanks to our smartphones, traveling is pretty easy (what did we do before Google Maps and Uber?), but you’ll want to make sure you have reliable coverage wherever you travel. The last thing you want is to be stranded in a dead zone in New York City and unable to hail an Uber to take you back to your Airbnb. No, of course, that’s not a true story! Okay, it is.

Here’s everything you need to know about coverage and roaming features from the three major cellular networks.

Traveling with Verizon

Verizon offers the best 4G LTE coverage in the country, covering around 70% of the United States. Still, you’ll want to double-check Verizon’s coverage map before you book your next vacation to see if you’ll get reliable cell service.

For example, Verizon coverage gets spotty in certain pockets of Idaho, which could make a trip to Yellowstone a bit more problematic. That might be a case where you’d want to download area maps before the trip on your navigation app, or bring an old Thomas Guide Map book with you.

Traveling internationally with Verizon

As for international traveling, Verizon offers a feature called TravelPass that essentially allows you to bring your cellphone plan with you while you travel. You’ll have the same amount of data, texts and calls as you normally do at home.

The service costs $5 a day while traveling in Mexico and Canada, and costs $10 a day while visiting other countries (over 185 countries around the world offer Verizon wireless coverage).

Verizon hotspot data

Except for the basic unlimited plan, Verizon unlimited plans also come with hotspot data. For the Do More and Play More Verizon unlimited plans, you get 15GB of hotspot data every month. If you have the premium Get More Unlimited plan, you get a whopping 30GB of hotspot data every month.

With that handy hotspot data, you can connect Wi-Fi devices (like your laptop) to the internet. Check out the Verizon unlimited plans below:

Traveling with AT&T

AT&T offers the second-best 4G LTE coverage in the country, covering roughly 68% of the United States. Check out AT&T’s coverage map to see if you should expect any dead zones during your next vacation.

Almost all the eastern and central United States is reliably covered by AT&T, but your signal will likely get less reliable while driving through the deserts of Nevada or Arizona, for example.

Traveling internationally with AT&T

As for traveling internationally, AT&T offers an International Day Pass that allows you to use your wireless plan while traveling abroad. It’ll cost you $10 per day per line ($5 for additional lines on a shared family plan) to use the service, which certainly beats paying tons of money in roaming charges. AT&T’s International Day Pass currently covers over 200 countries around the globe.

AT&T hotspot data

AT&T keeps with the trend of not offering hotspot data for its basic unlimited plan, but you do get 15GB per month of mobile hotspot with AT&T’s Unlimited Extra plan and you get 30GB of hotspot data with the Unlimited Elite plan. Check out the details on AT&T’s unlimited plans below:

Traveling with T-Mobile

T-Mobile has the third-best 4G coverage in the United States, covering 62% of the country with reliable coverage. You can get a more specific look at coverage for your next travel destination by checking out the T-Mobile coverage map.

You’ll definitely find pockets of the country where T-Mobile gets spotty, particularly in more rural areas. If you’re planning a big camping or backpacking trip, you should account for the possibility that you won’t get reliable cell coverage while you’re out and about. But if you’re planning on visiting a big city like Los Angeles or New York City, you can count on your phone working properly.

Traveling internationally with T-Mobile

T-Mobile really shines when it comes to international travel, however. If you have a T-Mobile Magenta Unlimited plan, you get unlimited texting and data in over 210 countries automatically. You don’t have to set up anything in advance; you can literally get off the plane and start using data like you would back at home. Calls will cost you 25 cents per minute, so try to keep all of your communication to texting or a communication app (like WhatsApp) that uses data.

T-Mobile hotspot data

T-Mobile also shines when it comes to hotspot data, even its basic unlimited plan comes with unlimited 3G hotspot data. Sure, 3G hotspot data isn’t very fast, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

For the higher-tier T-Mobile unlimited plans, you only get 5 GB per month of hotspot data with the Magenta unlimited plan (and unlimited 3G hotspot after that’s depleted), but you get 40GB per month of hotspot data with the Magenta MAX plan.

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