I paid roaming fees. Here’s what I should have done instead.


By Heather

Travel & Tech Writer

667f18c745d7e-How to Avoid Roaming fees (Featured)

Vacations are all cute pictures and tan lines until you open your phone bill, see roaming fees, and realize you screwed up. Badly.

This story is hard to tell, but you can learn from my stupidity. 🫠

Here’s what happened …

I travelled from Canada down to Florida for a week-long visit, and I arrived home in a great mood. My pasty skin was actually sort of tan. I’d brought back some fantastic new outfits from store we don’t have at home. It was sunny every day, and I didn’t even see an alligator. (Or is it crocodiles they have in Florida, crawling all over golf courses and stuff?)

Anyway, the trip was excellent, but I made a terrible mistake.

I was in love.

Okay, the love was not a mistake — we’re still together — but being newly in love was a real problem because it meant I could not stop calling and texting the guy. I just missed him SO much! We were in that gooey, annoying-to-everyone-else phase where you can’t stand to be apart.

And this ended up costing me.

Mistake #1: Calling home while I was in another country

Yes, this was dumb. I don’t know what I was thinking, other than how much I missed my boyfriend and wanted to hear his voice.

Every single time I picked up my phone and called his phone — which was about 1,500 miles away — it was an international call. Even though we had the same area code (902), the fact that I was in another country meant my carrier charged me through the (sunburnt) nose.

What I should have done instead

Before my trip to Florida, I should have figured out a cheaper way to talk to my boo without crying over a phone bill that was way, way more than I could comfortably afford at the time.

It would have been smart to get a temporary phone number from Hushed. (I could have even picked a 902 area code number, so it would have been ‘local’ for my boyfriend back home.)

Hushed is only $4.99 a month for UNLIMITED calling, so I could have spent hours on the phone saying “No, I miss you more” and being adorable/annoying.

Mistake #2: Texting (way too much) in another country

Keep in mind, this was before I had an iPhone, so sending free messages over iMessage wasn’t an option. I was sending regular ol’ SMS texts — lots of them! — and also receiving a ton of texts from my boyfriend.

Every single time we texted, it cost me.

My phone carrier back home would make sure the texts went through correctly, from Canada to Florida, and then they said ‘Hey, you know what this lovely young couple needs? Lots and lots of extra charges on their next bill.’

🙄 🙄 🙄

What I should have done instead

Since there’s no way I would have STOPPED sending sweet little ‘Miss you’ texts to my boyfriend, I should have figured out a way to text without it costing me a freaking fortune.

If I’d gotten a temporary phone number from Hushed with unlimited calling and texting ($4.99 a month), we could have texted each other a billion times a day and it wouldn’t have cost anything extra.

Mistake #3: I didn’t know what ‘roaming’ meant

Be kind. I was young! And very, very dumb about international travel.

When the plane touched down in Florida and I shuffled through the airport in my new, not-very-comfy sandals, I got a text from my carrier. It announced I was now ‘roaming.’

I didn’t understand what it meant, or that I’d be charged roaming fees, and ignored it. 😐

Since I was constantly on my phone at home, I didn’t do anything differently on vacation. I used data constantly to look up restaurants, check open hours, and figure out which malls had a Charlotte Russe store (gimme alllll the cute sundresses).

Every time I opened the little internet browser on my crappy bejewelled phone, I was charged for the data I used. And using your mobile data plan from home in another country? Seriously, so so so expensive. 0/10, do not recommend.

What I should have done instead

The smart thing to do would have been to install a United States eSIM (digital SIM card) before I left Canada. Data’s super cheap ($4.50/week) and I wouldn’t have had to worry about roaming fees on my next phone bill.

My U.S. data would have powered all the apps I needed, including Hushed, so I’d be able to call and text with my boyfriend on my temporary phone number for the week.

I also would have also toggled off my primary SIM, just to be safe. (Ah, hindsight is 20/20 — just like those $20 sundresses I stocked up on at Charlotte Russe.)

TLDR; How to avoid roaming fees on vacation

Don’t do what I did, and use your phone on vacation without having a flipping clue. (Phone bill trauma is real, and it will stick to you like sand on your shiny, sunscreen-gooped legs.)

1. Decide what the heck you’re doing.

How will you be using your phone? Do you need to have your regular number working, or no? Are you okay with waiting to use your phone until there’s Wi-Fi available?

2. Install an eSIM for affordable data.

If you download the free aloSIM app, you can pick whatever country/region you’ll be visiting and buy a cheap prepaid SIM. It installs right on your phone so it’s ready for your trip.

3. Deal with your primary/home SIM *before* you leave.

If you want to use your regular phone number on your trip, talk to your carrier and ask how much they’ll charge for calls and texts. (Literally what I should have done, ugh.) Then toggle Data Roaming OFF so you can’t use that SIM for any data.

If you don’t want to keep your regular number active, you can toggle that sucker off entirely. No calls, no texts, no data, and NO ROAMING FEES. 🙏

4. Use a cheap internet phone number.

Cool kids already know this, but most aloSIM data packages come with a free international phone number from Hushed. If you aren’t using aloSIM, then consider using the free Hushed app. You can get a temporary phone number starting at just $2.99, and cancel it after your trip.

You know what they say. ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ Well, I’m happy to report that I haven’t paid any roaming fees since I pulled my head out of the sand (literally — it was Florida) and learned how to actually use my phone on vacation.

I hope you can learn from my mistakes! 🙃