July 27, 2010 - 4:55 pm

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Using a wireless phone in other countries can be easy and economical if you do your homework before you start your trip. The best solution for me was to leave my U.S. smartphone turned off and to purchase a world phone (the phone on the right in the photo above).

I knew I wanted to take a wireless phone on a trip to Europe earlier this summer, but I was concerned about the cost – especially unknown roaming fees. I did my homework and looked at the options. The solution for me was to use a wireless world phone I had already purchased online. But I did check with my wireless provider here in the U.S. about standard international and discount plan rates to see if their rates were lower than my world phone's. After comparing the numbers it was clearly cheaper for me to stick with my world phone than to go with my U.S. phone provider's discount plan. A representative at my wireless provider's retail store even agreed.

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My needs were simple. I had free WiFi where I stayed so I didn't need to retrieve email or do any web browsing on my phone. All I wanted was to place and receive wireless phone calls for making or confirming restaurant reservations, asking for directions, and just to have for emergencies — that sort of thing. My world phone was perfect for this. I went to the provider's site and looked up the per minute charges for calls to and from France and Spain, and to and from the U.S. I probably made about a dozen calls during my 8-day trip and when I returned home and checked my online statement, I was charged exactly as quoted on the site, no more, no less.

The best option for me this past trip may not be the least expensive alternative for me on my next trip. I will do my homework again. I'll start by checking the FCC's World Travel Page. Rates have dropped so it may be a better deal for me to go with my U.S. phone and opt for an international plan next time instead of sticking with my world phone. Maybe a totally different phone option will be the cheapest. I will keep you posted.