Have you ever been traveling internationally and wished you could just make a phone call easily? Say you’re traveling as a family, and dad takes the kids to a park but wants to let mom know they’re going to play a while longer. Often this means finding a pay phone, but in some countries you need a phone card to make a call, and where are you supposed to find the phone card? So in the spirit of “be prepared when going global with kids” here are some tips on using mobile phones overseas.
The first thing to know is the difference between CDMA and GSM technologies. In most countries around the world, GSM is the standard for mobile telephony. Since more than 80% of the world uses GSM, if you have a GSM phone it is easy to use your own phone in many other countries. Unfortunately, in the US only TMobile and AT&T have GSM service, so if you have a different provider you probably can’t use your phone overseas. Another caveat is that GSM service operates on different frequencies in other countries, so if you’re taking your GSM phone overseas make sure it’s a “quad-band” phone. To find out what companies provide GSM service on which frequency in the country you will be visiting, see the GSM World website.
So you’ve got a GSM phone that works where you’re going. Now you need to make sure your phone is “unlocked.” In the US, most people get a phone at a discount by signing a multi-year contract with the service provider. In order to prevent you from just switching to a different GSM provider, these phones are “locked” to only work on the contracted network. However, phones can be unlocked with a code so that you can switch the SIM (subscriber identity module) card inside the phone and use a different network. TMobile will do this for free if you’ve been a customer in good standing for 90 days, and AT&T might do the same. Other methods for unlocking your phone are also available.
Once your phone is unlocked, you can buy a new SIM card for any network you choose. SIM cards can be found readily at convenience stores or supermarkets in most countries, and usually cost between $10-20. You will also need to buy prepaid minutes for your phone, which usually comes as a card with a scratch-off number that you enter into the phone to top-up the minutes. Ask the store to help you put in the code the first time you do this, since following the voice prompts in another language can be difficult. The good news is that minutes are usually very inexpensive, even for international calls, and many networks will not charge you for incoming calls. Do a little searching on the web before you travel to find out which networks are available and where to buy the SIM cards. There are other options, such as buying or renting a “world phone” or roaming on a partner network for your home provider, but these are usually much more expensive.
As you can see, taking your phone overseas requires some legwork, but being able to easily communicate while traveling adds a level of safety and convenience that we find very useful, especially with a child. Have you used your phone overseas or have any specific tips for mobile phones in countries you’ve been to?
In celebration of our recent launch, we are thrilled to announce our first ever travel contest! The grand prize is a complete Ergo baby carrier travel system, complete with carrier, infant insert and backpack valued at over $170!
Second prize is a passport travel bag from Bambootique, Beth’s fair trade company, valued at $22 PLUS a copy of the excellent travel book Travels with Baby, signed by author Shelly Rivoli and valued at $20.
Third prize is a copy of the Lonely Planet’s helpful guide Travel With Children, valued at $15.
The prizes are great and entering is super easy, but you have to do before the end of July to qualify, so enter now! Just submit a comment at the bottom of this post in one of the following three categories:
- Best Travel Destination – Tell us about the most interesting place you have traveled with your child(ren), why you chose it and why you would (or wouldn’t) recommend it for other families.
- Best Travel Tip – What is the most useful tip you have learned in your own experience to help make traveling with kids more enjoyable for everyone?
- Best Travel Story – What is the most exciting, craziest, most unbelievable, or most hysterical travel story your family has experienced?
Please indicate at the beginning of your post which category you are entering. Be sure to include your email address (won’t be made public on the site) so we can contact you if you win! Regardless of which category you submit for, please keep your entry somewhat brief. Please only one entry per household. Entries close July 31st, when we will choose our winner in each category. From those three winners we will randomly draw from a hat to decide who gets which prize. Thanks for entering and good luck!
As we’ve posted elsewhere on this blog we are big fans of the Mia Moda Cielo stroller, despite the fact that two have broken on us. We figured out how to fix them with a simple screwdriver (popping up the latch behind the seat) but the manufacturer has kindly replaced the stroller each time at no charge, increasing our undying love for this brand. We’re now on our third Mia Moda stroller and this time the company upgraded us to the all new Cielo Evolution. The Fed Ex guy just dropped it off this afternoon and we’re in stroller heaven.
We love the basic Cielo (above) because it is small, super lightweight (15 pounds), easy to fold with one hand, comfortable for our daughter, and easy to push even on rough surfaces thanks to large rear wheels and front-wheel suspension. It won the JPMA award for design innovation it’s so clever.
The all-new Cielo Evolution (above) has us drooling though (isn’t it crazy what we parents get excited about?). First of all it’s chocolate and mint-green. Love the color combination! The basic Cielo is light-blue and shows every speck of dirt (and there are a lot of specks on there). This brown will hide Grace’s smeared snacks so much better. The Evolution is a teeny bit bigger but increases in weight by only 2 pounds, weighing in at just over 17 pounds. Steve noted the rear wheels seem a little bit bigger which should only add to the control we’ve found to be so great in the basic Cielo. The seat has more padding for Grace, a deeper recline as well as arm rests (the basic Cielo does not), PLUS, wait for it, there’s a cup holder! That’s a great bonus for a travel stroller when it’s nice to have your water or your child’s sippy cup at your fingertips.
Overall we’ve been happy with our basic Cielos (both of them!) but we are thrilled to give the new Evolution a spin. We’ll update this posting once we’ve used it for a bit if we have any changes. The basic Cielo retails anywhere from $99-$139 through various online retailers. The Evolution seems to run higher at around $180 although we imagine the price will go down after it’s been on the market for a while. Either one is a good investment for the traveling family, as far as we’re concerned.
Have you tried the Mia Moda? What did you think? Or do you have another favorite stroller for travel? Do tell by leaving us a comment here.