Smartphones can be handy tools for travelers. They can also be costly if you travel abroad and don't take precautions.
These suggestions can help you avoid an unpleasant surprise on your bill.
When you're out of the country, keep your phone on airplane mode to avoid getting charged for incoming calls and for roaming. It's smart to add an international calling plan in case you need to use your phone in an emergency; such plans lower the per-minute cost of calls.
You can also add an international data plan to your phone if you think you will need to use data when you are not in a free Wi-Fi spot. Check with your carrier before you leave to see what kind of plans it offers for international use.
Another option to investigate is MagicJack, a small device that plugs into a USB port on your laptop. Plug a telephone handset into the device to make calls to the United States or Canada free, as long as you have an Internet connection. The device costs $40, which includes one free year, and it's $20 per year after that.
Before you get on the airplane, you can forward your cellphone number to your MagicJack number.
MagicJack also has an app that allows you to make calls from your cellphone or iPad to the United States or Canada or to any MagicJack number. If you are traveling with someone, make sure you both have two different MagicJack numbers so you can use the app to call each other free of charge. MagicJack is available at local retailers, or through the website at www.magicjack.com.
Other options include Skype, which offers a phone plan to call the United States and Canada for $3 a month or $36 per year.
Other helpful apps include Google Translate, which can help you communicate while abroad by offering translation into 60 different languages. The app also allows you to speak the text instead of typing, in 23 languages including English, and you can have the translations spoken aloud in many different languages.
Google Voice allows you to text for free. Apps are also available for things like public transportation, travel guides and more.
With any apps, you should get familiar with them before you leave so you have a full understanding of how they work and what they will do.