Author Topic: Traveling to the US - need prepaid sim card data plan my phone for ~3 weeks  (Read 4663 times)

PolarBeer

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I'll be going to the US for a 3 week road trip soon (yay!) and I'd like to buy a sim card with a data plan just to be able to use my smartphone. Is there any such thing as a cheap and simple prepaid data plan that I can buy and use with no additional hassle?

I don't need a lot of data, I'll use Google Maps quite a bit while driving, some street view, some browsing, some mail checking, but no streaming or any of that sort. I would guess that a couple of gigabytes would be plenty (but I'll gladly take more if its availabe).

Any advice? The US mobile market seems like a huge mess and what I've been able to find through google is confusing and often requiring certain kinds of subscriptions...

Daley

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Re: Traveling to the US - need prepaid sim card data plan my phone for ~3 weeks
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2013, 01:55:19 PM »
There's a four post stretch in the Superguide recently that covered this topic between Khao and myself.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/forum/share-your-badassity/communications-tech-isps-voip-cell/msg138672/#msg138672

Aio, T-Mobile prepaid and Spot Mobile might be worth looking at, but your best bet would be to do an offline load of those maps and stick mostly to WiFi.

Data is just fargin' expensive over here.

PolarBeer

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Re: Traveling to the US - need prepaid sim card data plan my phone for ~3 weeks
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2013, 01:59:14 PM »
Thanks! I looked at your reply there, and you mentioned that it would be $30-50 for a few gigs. That would be a very acceptable cost to me (I'll split it with a friend also). Is there any hassle with sim cards since that was mentioned? It would be practical to be able to switch it between our phones.

Daley

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Re: Traveling to the US - need prepaid sim card data plan my phone for ~3 weeks
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2013, 02:07:17 PM »
That was just posted two days ago, nothing has changed.

You also misunderstand on the $30-50 comment. That's the minimum most providers want to charge you for service with any real amount of data. That doesn't mean that you'll get 3-5GB of data for $30-50.

The problem with T-Mobile is that most areas are going to be 2G data coverage once you get outside of any major metro area, and they're on oddball data bands (this partyly rules out Spot as well). Some band juggling is happening and they're putting some of their high-speed data services on the 1900MHz band, but it's not a full roll-out. As such, an AT&T MVNO is the best option with traveling... but good luck getting a price break there. They've lowered their data prices, but their prices are still restrictive. Aio's literally going to be the best deal per MB, but if you don't have a tablet, you're in for at least $55 with a smartphone.

You can do 3-5GB of data from AT&T directly for something like $30-50 (IIRC), but again, it's heavily device restrictive (no smartphones), tablets and USB modems only.

Best advice? Try not to need mobile data if at all possible.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2013, 02:09:41 PM by I.P. Daley »

Khao

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Re: Traveling to the US - need prepaid sim card data plan my phone for ~3 weeks
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2013, 02:14:48 PM »
Best advice? Try not to need mobile data if at all possible.

That's what I'm going to do on my trip! Some preparation (offline download of maps and other things) plus I will be borrowing a car GPS from a family member so I don't have to rely on google maps and cellphone data for that. I figure we'll have access to wifi at least 2-3 times each day (coffee shops, restaurants, hotel, etc..) so we won't need 3g at all.

PolarBeer

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Re: Traveling to the US - need prepaid sim card data plan my phone for ~3 weeks
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2013, 02:23:36 PM »
Thanks for the feedback. Yeah, I know I can do without and I may decide to do that. I'll read up on those plans mentioned here, its good to have somewhere to start when I'm new to the US market. If the service is very unreliable then yeah thats a good argument for dropping the whole thing since the value will be lower. Can I count on some kind of coverage along major roads to the extent that Google Maps will function with GPS? I'll look up Spot, AT&T, and T-Mobile now and see if I can decipher what they offer.

Daley

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Re: Traveling to the US - need prepaid sim card data plan my phone for ~3 weeks
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2013, 02:28:49 PM »
Can I count on some kind of coverage along major roads to the extent that Google Maps will function with GPS?

Again, Google Maps has an offline mode. Just plan ahead and you won't need any data at all for this function.

PolarBeer

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Re: Traveling to the US - need prepaid sim card data plan my phone for ~3 weeks
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2013, 02:47:03 PM »
Seems Google gimped their offline mode in the new version of Maps, I just tried it out and you can't manage maps and I don't even know if it deletes the last map if you download a new area. I'll see if I can test it out.

http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-download-offline-maps-in-google-maps/

Christof

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Re: Traveling to the US - need prepaid sim card data plan my phone for ~3 weeks
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2013, 03:15:49 PM »
What OS do you use? There are a number of free or inexpensive GPS tools that use openstreetmaps material downloaded to the phone in advance, for instance navfree.

If you don't need internet immediately after arrival you could visit the nearest Walmart to purchase a mobile hotspot, then visit a place with public wifi to activate. Purchasing in advance from Europe is difficult, because in the US SIM cards aren't as common and require a US address to be shipped to.