If you’re a Canadian travelling to the U.S., you may be worried about racking up expensive roaming charges on your cell phone. Our recent trip to Mount Vernon, Washington proved to be costly for us due to poor pre-planning. I cold definitely have used these cell phone tips!
Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid these fees and stay connected while you’re on the go. Here are the best cell phone tips for Canadian travellers in the U.S.
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Check with your Carrier about International Plans
Do this before you leave home! Contact your current Canadian carrier about their international plans. Many carriers offer options for international roaming, such as daily or weekly packages that include data, talk and text. They’re not always affordable but are available. Some carriers offer plans specifically for travel to the U.S.
Make sure you compare plans and if you are staying with your current carrier choose one that best fits your needs and budget.
Use Wi-Fi whenever possible - good cell phone tips
One of the easiest ways to avoid roaming charges while using your cell phone in the U.S. is to connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible. I know many hotels, restaurants, and public spaces offer free Wi-Fi, so take advantage of it when you can. I know it’s not always as easy to do in reality.
RV Parks, campgrounds, etc don’t always have the most reliable Wi-Fi available and they’re not always secure.
Be sure to use a secure network and avoid entering sensitive information, such as passwords or credit car numbers, while you’re connected to public Wi-Fi. My Mac was hacked recently and had to change my password to get it active again. It was a big worry but my own fault for not being careful.
Turn off Data Roaming and Cellular Data
One of the most important steps to avoid roaming charges while using your cell phone in the U.S. is to turn off data roaming and cellular data. This will prevent your phone from automatically connecting to a foreign network and using data without your knowledge. You can still make call and send texts over Wi-Fi, but you won’t be charged for data usage. But… be sure to check with your carrier to see if there are any additional fees for using your phone in the U.S.
Download Maps and other important information before you go
Another way to avoid roaming charges on your cell phone is to download maps and any other information you need before you leave home. You then have access to it without using data or Wi-Fi. Many popular map apps, such as RV Life Wizard, allows you to download for offline use.You can do the same for RV Park reservations and any other appointments you may have. You won’t be like we were – due to poor planning. I stood outside the closed office of a RV Park needing to book a site and had to turn on my phone to call the manager at home. Bingo! Roaming fees started up right away and it went down hill from there.
Consider purchasing a local SIM Card or a travel SIM card - next cell phone tips
One of the popular ways to avoid roaming charges on your cell phone in the U.S. is to purchase a local SIM card or a travel SIM card. A local SIM card allows you to use a U.S. phone number and a data plan, which probably is cheaper than your Canadian plan. They can be purchased at many convenience stores, electronic stores or mobile phone shops. Or… you can buy a travel SIM card before you leave Canada, so you can use your own phone in multiple countries (not only the U.S.) without incurring those high roaming charges we all try to avoid. Just make sure your phone is unlocked before purchasing a SIM card.
Two Canadians share their Cell Phone Tips during their U.S. Travel
Marcia- shares how they manage their cell phone use in the U.S.
Her and her husband have a Telus Canada-USA Plan that works for them.
- They use their Canadian phone number at home and in the U.S. and do not have 2 different numbers.
- No need to change SIM cards on either side of the border
- Their phone automatically picks up the carrier with the strongest signal as they travel. (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile)
- If the signal is weak they have the option of checking & choosing a different carrier. For example: When they were in Payson, the AT&T signal showed 2 bars but Verizon had 5 bars so they switched to Verizon.
- Friends/family from Canada simply call their Canadian number (with no additional charges), even though Marcia is in the U.S.
- Their plan has excellent data and they can use their phones as hot spots for their laptop or iPad.
Leonard: shares their first experiences that proved to be painful!
They had been with Bell for decades and Bell suggested that he spend $8/day for each line to roam in addition to their regular cell plan, which obviously was not going to happen! Bell didn’t have a suitable plan for Canadian Snowbirds, which didn’t seem right to Leonard. He did further research with “higher ups” within Bell to see if something could be done – received no good answers.
- He purchased Verizon SIM cards when they crossed the border.
- He put their Bell numbers “on hold” for $40/month
- The Verizon plan worked flawlessly, but a fair amount of work to set up accounts.
- They had to use $U.S. funds for monthly payments
- Inform friends/family of new phone numbers.
- Caused problems when verifying with their banks and the CRA that used their cell phones for verification.
- Contacted Rogers in Canada and they had a plan called “infinite advanced” for him and his wife that includes 130 shareable high speed GBs, unlimited talk and text between the USA and Canada.
- They signed up with Rogers – totally seamless and a few dollars a month less than their Bell plan.
- They use Bell extensively for streaming and general laptop use – it’s perfect!
- Verification with banks and CRA works well even when in the U.S..
- No temporary telephone number needed when in the U.S.
ONE PROBLEM WHEN USING BELL:
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video: Because their Bell phone numbers are based in Canada they cannot access their Canadian Prime Video content. They are deemed to be “travelling” and not allowed American content.
Solution: They use campground’s Wi-Fi with their Amazon fire stick or set up their own private VPN. They now use campground Wi-Fi or just watch Netflix. He also cancelled his Amazon.ca account and subscribed to Amazon.com which is needed to have Amazon Prime deliver items to them when on holidays in the U.S.
What’s your solution or Cell Phone Tips for Canadian Travellers in the U.S.? Please comment below – we would love to hear from you.