How to Save Money When You Can't Unplug on an Overseas Vacation
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
When entrepreneurs go on vacation, is there really such a thing as unplugging completely? Lia Batkin, co-founder of In the Know Experiences, a New York City-based luxury travel service for CEOs and celebrities, shares three tips she gives to clients who need to stay connected when they go overseas.
1. Call your service provider.
"First and foremost, call your [mobile] service provider and discuss all the countries you're going to, how long you're going, and ask what the best plans are," Batkin says. International calls are very expensive (in most countries, several dollars per minute), and each country's plans vary, so you don't want to get caught off guard and charged $10/minute. If you're going for a week or two, Batkin suggests upgrading your plan to the largest plan available for a month.
2. Consider renting an international phone or purchasing a cheap phone.
International companies offer the option to rent an international cell phone with plans starting at $5 per day (minutes not included). However, Batkin cautions that the rates per minute aren't as cheap as other options, such as purchasing a phone.
If you travel to Europe more than twice a year, Batkin suggests purchasing a cell phone abroad (approximately $40-50), and getting a SIM (subscriber identity module) card for that country. A SIM card is a portable memory chip that contains personal information for the account holder. SIM cards can be purchased at the airport or through your hotel's concierge.
3. Arrange to stay connected ahead of time.
Before you leave, purchase a Skype number (starting at $6 a month for three months) and forward your incoming calls to your Skype number. Calls from Skype to other Skype accounts are free, regardless of location. However, there's a fee for calling mobile or landline phones. Purchase Skype credits in advance (they never expire) or, if you're going to be out of the country for several weeks, consider getting a one month subscription for the country/countries you'll be visiting.
Skype offers two options: purchase credits and pay as you go, or get a monthly subscription. If purchasing credits, Skype requires a minimum purchase of $10. Monthly subscriptions range based on the country and whether calls are to a landline or landline/mobile phone, but are generally between $14 and $40.
Jeffrey Dougherty, a Dallas-based pilot for an international shipping company travels frequently for business. He uses Skype, as well as Apple AirPort Express ($99) to keep in touch when outside the United States. Because many hotels overseas still have Ethernet connections, Dougherty plugs the Ethernet cord into Apple AirPort Express to create a mini wireless signal, which allows him to use his phone, iPad and laptop in his hotel room. Dougherty also recommends purchasing a VPN (virtual private network) that encrypts data and allows users to access websites that may be censored in certain countries. (WiTopia plans start at $50/year).
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