Marcia Hansen

Getting Internet While Traveling: 9 Tips for Making the Most of 3G Data and Wi-Fi Service

free wifiI’ve recently returned from an international trip, and I’ve discovered ways to get Internet service (Wi-Fi and 3G) when I can’t rely on my employer or my home account to provide. For this trip, I took my tablet and cell phone. I signed up for an international 3G data plan for my tablet, but not for my cell phone since I new I wouldn’t be making very many calls while on vacation. You may choose different internet devices, but the following tips should be helpful regardless of device.

Using 3G Cell Data Efficiently

1. Turn off 3G and 3G data roaming until times when you really need it to find information. If you’re like me, you’re used to an unlimited data plan and not in the practice of considering how many MB of data being used. By turning it off, it’s easier to get in the habit of knowing when you’re using it and when random actions might use a bunch of the plan inadvertently.

2. Upload images when you’re using Wi-Fi. If you upload images when connected to 3G, you’ll burn through your 3G data plan too quickly as it’s based on MB used. I made this mistake by uploading a picture to facebook and suddenly, I’d used 60% of my plan before I realized it.

3. Use Google Maps even with 3G off. It’s not perfect, but I learned that it’s possible to use Google maps to pinpoint your location by tapping the triangular pointer even with 3G turned off. This works best when you have previewed maps to the appropriate detail level when you have a Wi-Fi connection. You can do screen shots to save driving directions, which may be more detail that you need if you’ve got a good paper map. However, it may be helpful for lunch and entertainment stops, especially if you want to recall the information for your blog or journal later.

Using Other People’s Wi-Fi

1. Use free Wi-Fi at Coffee Shops. You can pop in for a quick coffee and take advantage of free Wi-Fi. When I stopped into Starbucks in Dublin, I discovered that I needed to log in to my account before I could use the free wi-fi. Luckily, I knew my username and password without having to look it up.

2. Use free Wi-Fi at Restuarants. McDonald’s and other restaurants are everywhere and many offer free Wi-Fi. Plus, in Dublin, McDonald’s even serves cake! I was in a small town having lunch one day and was able to connect to a pub’s wi-fi network simply by asking if it was possible. The waiter handed me the local phone book where they’d written the password on the cover. While some might question their password security, I was happy to use their Wi-Fi while having lunch.

3. Copy passwords into your notebook first. By not entering passwords into your network settings immediately, you have it in plain text and can enter it into your other device(s) as well so you can multi-task and make the most of your time when you’re tied to a physical location for wi-fi.

4. Decide what level of Wi-Fi access you need when you stop for the night. TripAdvisor lets you sort lodging listings based on places that offer Wi-Fi access. So while you’re choosing a hotel or B&B, you can choose one that lets you catch up on email or download another movie rental while you’re staying over night. However, if it is really important that you have wi-fi access in your room vs. just in the common area of the hotel or B&B, make sure you test it out in advance. I learned that the signal doesn’t always reach to rooms or that small business owners try to cut costs and only offer it in common areas, but advertise that they offer free Wi-Fi, which may be true but not quite what you anticipated.

5. Check out free Wi-Fi finder apps. Just download the app and data you want to access while offline. That way you’ll be able to search for and potentially take advantage of free and open wi-fi locations.

6. Use free text message apps. Check these out in advance and start whatever accounts and share data with your friends on how they can text you while you’re out of town. By doing so, you may be able to send more text messages without burning through your limit and paying international rates.

Do you have other tips to make the most of 3G and Wi-Fi service while traveling here or abroad? Please let me know in the comments below. Also, if you’d like to get the Inside Scoop on Twitter, please follow IntelScoop.

Photo Credit: Free WiFi by Tiseb

Marcia Hansen

About Marcia Hansen

Marcia works as a digital storytelling marketing strategist for iQ and the Intel digital newsroom. She joined Intel in July 2010 after her pioneering work in social media at Allstate Insurance. She loves words, movies, photos, and world travel. Marcia holds an M.A. from the University of Missouri where she completed a thesis on digital literacies.

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