If you're like most people, you can't imagine your everyday life without your smartphone. Sure, you might complain that your children or grandkids always seem to be staring at a glowing-blue screen.
But you probably stare at your smartphone, too. Don't feel guilty about that (but do be careful).
Smartphones are a fact of life. You use them for GPS directions in the car. You use them to take photos and videos and, of course, you get updates on your family and friends on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites.
One great thing about smartphones is that it's so easy to use Wi-Fi for free, to avoid using up your data plan. You most likely have Wi-Fi at home but you can find FREE Wi-Fi just about everywhere these days, whether it's your hotel room, a restaurant or shopping center.
If you travel, you use Wi-Fi to stay connected when you're in an airplane or halfway around the world. The problem is, Wi-Fi isn't always free when you're overseas. In fact, you can get socked with big roaming charges.
Before you hit the road, call your cellphone provider to ask about extra charges you may incur when you're traveling. Then, follow these four steps to make sure you don't come home to a shocking cellphone bill.
1. Google Maps Offline
How often do use Google Maps? You probably use it all the time.
It's a great way to feel safe. You know you'll get to your destination without getting lost or stopping in dangerous locations to ask for directions.
You probably know that using maps churns through your data plan. So, if you're traveling where you will pay to access maps, make sure you download a map of your location.
You can do that at home, too. Once downloaded, you can use an offline map of your region without any internet access.
Download Google Maps on Android: Open your Google Maps app while connected to the internet >> choose the location where you'll be traveling >> tap the name of your location >> Download >> Download Offline Map.
Download Google Maps on iPhone: Open your Google Maps app while connected to the internet >> choose the location where you'll be traveling >> tap the name of your location >> Save Map to Use Offline (or it may say Download).
2. Turn Off Automatic Downloads
There's a good chance you don't even pay attention to your apps automatically downloading on your smartphone. Apps automatically download so often that it's just part of everyday life.
That's fine when you're using free Wi-Fi. It's not so fine when you're paying lots of money on your vacation to do it. So, turn off those automatic downloads.
Android: Google Play Store >> tap 3-line menu icon on upper left side >> Settings >> Auto Update Apps >> select Do Not Auto-Update Apps.
iPhone: Settings >> iTunes & App Store >> Automatic Download >> turn off Apps.
3. Download Music
Have you ever found yourself on a long trip and realized you don't have any music to listen to? Not good!
If you're on a plane, you can pay to use their Wi-Fi to listen to tunes. That can be expensive. But then you get desperate when you're in the air for six, seven, eight or more hours.
Don't find yourself in that situation. Instead, open your music app. Go to the menu and look for an option to download music. If you're home or you're safely using free public Wi-Fi, download the music you'll want to listen to on vacation.
Tip in a Tip: Apps to get the best musical experience
4. Turn Off Voicemail
If you're traveling to a part of the world where you'll be charged to receive phone calls, you will most likely be charged for calls that go to voicemail.
Instead, turn off your voicemail. The easiest way to do this is to call your cellphone provider's customer service line. Ask them if you'll be charged for incoming calls where you're traveling. If so, ask them to turn off voicemail for the duration of your trip.
There's a good chance your provider offers free international texting. If so, tell your family, friends and coworkers to stay in touch that way.
Bonus: Stay Safe When Traveling
No matter where you're using public Wi-Fi, whether it's at your local coffee shop or at a hotel in an exotic, faraway location, hackers and criminals can remotely watch what you're doing.
They can tap into your internet connection to see which websites you're visiting. They can see your bank account password and other personal information.
Instead, use a Virtual Private Network or VPN. These are encrypted web browsers like Opera VPN that scramble your information so that hackers can't see what you're doing. They disguise your device's IP address, so you can appear to be thousands of miles away.
Now that you've saved your data, it's time to protect it
Many Americans travel frequently for one reason or another. You might be hitting a sunny beach to get away from the daily grind or visiting family and friends over the holidays. Or you could be a businessperson who is constantly traveling for work. No matter what the reason is for your trip, you should be on the lookout for cybercriminals trying to steal your critical information.