I’ve read that time can slow down during car accidents and other emotional events. So, as I watched my cellphone slowly slip between my outstretched fingers and tumble down the cruise ship stairs, I immediately understood its outsized importance in my life. That little gadget was my map, camera, translator, and more. It connected me to my family, friends, money, appointments, and plans. That link to my life now lay on the deck, broken, and I was in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.
Luckily, it was Thursday evening, and my cruise was ending Saturday morning. So, returning home without a phone only required minor adjustments like taking a waiting cab instead of calling an Uber, printing out a boarding pass at the airport versus using the app, and driving home since, thankfully, I parked at the airport.
It could have been worse. No one wants to be without a phone Ð in fact, 60 percent of the participants in a 2022 Asurion-sponsored survey said they could only go a day or less without their phones. Our phones contain information vital to our everyday lives, yet only 50 percent of people back up the data on their devices. That’s according to research from Kaspersky, a cybersecurity and antivirus company, which also found that 28 percent of users said they would never be able to recover the data if they damaged or lost their phones.
That’s why it’s essential to have a replacement plan in place before traveling. Mature travelers have different needs. Most are looking for the most efficient way to reestablish a connection to needed information. And, in general, they have neither the time nor desire to randomly roam about unknown cities looking for burner cellphone shops. And although calls can be made on a tablet using WhatsApp, an internet connection is still required.
After researching several scenarios, carrying a spare phone that a carrier can activate overseas stands out as an ideal solution. A backup phone is helpful if you lose or damage your primary phone. It also ensures you stay connected with your family, friends, and important information. The process is quick and easy and only requires the purchase of a second phone.
When selecting a spare phone, ensure it has eSIM. This electronic chip identifies you as a subscriber and connects to your carrier’s network. A regular SIM card will not work since activation requires that it receive a signal from one of your carrier’s cell towers, all of which are inconveniently located in the U.S. An eSIM, on the other hand, has remote activation capability, depending on the carrier. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile confirmed their network’s ability to activate a spare phone from overseas via eSIM if it is compatible and unlocked.
Purchasing a phone from your carrier is always the best option. This allows you to practice the activation process before you go, and you don’t have to worry about ensuring the phone is unlocked. My carrier had Certified Pre-Owned iPhones with eSim for as little as $200 at the drafting of this article. If purchasing a phone from a third-party vendor like Best Buy or Amazon, please check the manufacturer’s website to confirm the phone has eSIM. You can also check for eSIM on a phone by selecting “Settings” and then “About.”
After activation, the process is similar to purchasing a new phone, only instead of transferring data from your old phone (which is now broken or lost), you will download your data from the cloud, and Voila, you’re back in business.
Androids and iPhones have features supporting online storage, commonly called “The Cloud.” Activate these automatic upload features now, and ensure you frequently access the internet while traveling to back up photos and other information. Most hotels have free internet, or you can stop for coffee in the morning or wine in the afternoon in a local spot with free internet, allowing you to take in the local life while protecting your memories.
If you don’t carry a spare phone, you can visit an Apple Store or a local version of Best Buy for simple repairs. Making a list of repair locations before you go is also highly recommended. The last thing you want to do is spend your precious vacation searching for a legitimate repair shop. Large electronic stores have many names. For example, one chain, Curry’s, is called Curry’s or the Phone Warehouse in Ireland and the U.K.; Elkjop in the Nordic; and Kotsovolos in Greece, and Cyrus.
Purchasing a new phone while overseas is not recommended since compatibility with U.S. systems can be an issue. And finally, don’t count on using your warranty or phone insurance for repairs outside the U.S. They are not valid overseas.
As I plan my next trip, a second phone and a backup communication plan are the first things I’ll check off my packing list. I’ll know how to connect my traveling companions and folks back home should my phone slip out of my hands into that beautiful deep blue sea. So what’s your plan?
Kim Strong has a plan for the next time she travels. Contact her at [email protected].
For a Digital Self-Service approach, visit https://www.att.com/support/article/wireless/KM1008711/. If you purchase a device outside of AT&T, be sure to check the device compatibility list: https://www.att.com/idpassets/images/support/pdf/Devices-Working-on-ATT-Network.pdf
Additional information is available on their website at https://www.verizon.com/support/esim-activation-instructions/
If you lose your phone
Following are tips on what to do if you lose your phone.
Call it: Use your computer or a borrowed device. You’ll hear it buzzing, or someone who picked it up may answer.
Use a find-my-phone feature: This can play a sound from your device or locate it on a map. This feature can also remotely lock your device and display a custom message on your lock screen. That note can explain that your phone is lost and provide a contact number or hotel. The Google Find-my-phone feature also has an option to delete all data from the phone. Find-my-phone won’t work if your phone is off or in Airplane mode.
Contact your carrier: Log in or call to suspend service and report a lost or stolen device.
File a police report: You’ll likely need the report for insurance.
File a claim: File a claim after you return to the U.S. For customers enrolled in AT&T and Verizon’s mobile protection programs, the great news is their device would be covered for loss, theft, and damage while traveling internationally. However, overseas claims fulfillment (shipping replacement devices) is not available.
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