From staying in touch with friends and family back home to apps of all sorts, our phones often play a big role in 21st-Century travel. However, they also can be really expensive if you don't do it right. Here are some tips to save you money and make travel easier if you are using your your smart phone abroad.
Many major US wireless carriers will now "unlock" your phone for you. This allows you to use a SIM card from any carrier in any country, which allows you to get rid of those expensive roaming charges. You can purchase a prepaid SIM card when you arrive at your destination.
Apps like Free Wi-Fi Finder use your phone's GPS to find free Wi-Fi in your area.
Download offline apps like OsmAnd, or cache your own offline maps in Google Maps. Cacheing a map is very simple -- just zoom in on the area you want to save, type "OK Maps" into the search bar, and press the "search" icon.
Turning off your data will ensure that, when you're not on Wi-Fi, apps don't eat up all your data or make you exceed the data limit you have. You can still send and receive calls or texts while your data roaming is off. Keeping your phone in airplane mode will save your battery in a pinch. Disabling "push notifications" and manually loading your email will help save data as well.
Google Voice, WhatsApp, Skype, FaceTime and Facebook Messenger are all free apps that allow you to inexpensively call and text with friends and family back home.
If you have a limited amount of data available, you can monitor your usage on most phones. This ensures you don't go over your data limit and rack up overage fees.
You won't want to rely on Wi-Fi abroad to download apps you may need while traveling. There are tons of apps out there for travelers, but a few staples include Google Translate, Evernote, Yelp, local map apps and TripIt.
Electrical currents abroad often run differently than the American system, and have different outlets. Without the use of a converter, your appliance will often burn out in a matter of seconds.
Besides the converter, you may need an outlet plug adapter (which can be purchased inexpensively.) Sometimes the best solution is to bring necessities only, since most types of appliances can be purchased in country. High voltage items such as hairdryers should almost always be purchased in the country you are visiting.
Check out this list of voltage specifications by country to determine if you need a voltage converter or adapter for the appliances you plan to take abroad.