My family travels to the US regularly and up until this year, to avoid paying through the nose for roaming, my husband and I would put our phones on Airplane Mode as soon as we crossed the border.
They’d remain that way until we were able to get free WiFi connection – which most of the time meant waiting until getting back to our hotel room after a long day of exploring.
The Cost of Roaming with a Canadian Phone Provider
The cost of roaming (using your Canadian based phone to make calls, send and receive data while travelling outside of your home coverage area) is pretty high – pay per use charges can set you back up to $1 per text, $5 per MB of data, , and $1.50 per minute of talk time.
If you’re not a heavy phone user while you’re on vacation – for example, making 1 or 2 phone calls, checking email or social media every few days (or only when you have free WiFi), then pay-per-use is a good option.
Canadian cell phone providers have travel packages for those heading to the US but even those have some restrictions and requirements. Customers have to be on a monthly rate plan to be eligible for them, the duration of the plan is too short or too long for what you need, or talk, data and text limits are capped.
From what I’ve researched, Canada to US phone travel packages can range from $15 to $50 for a 1 month period depending on who your cell phone provider is.
If you’re planning to use your phone to call home frequently, need access to Google maps while you’re exploring, and want to be able to respond to emergency emails/texts while on vacation, Roam Mobility may be a more affordable option.
Avoid Costly Roaming Fees with Roam Mobility
A few months ago, I was invited to check out Roam Mobility – a company based in Richmond, BC who specializes in phone plans for Canadians traveling to the US or Mexico.
Roam Mobility offers three types of plans and users are charged per day according to the plan they choose.
My family tested out Roam Mobility’s service during our two week summer vacation (Vancouver, Seattle and an Alaskan cruise) and were really surprised about the coverage we got. It was great being able to share some of our experiences on Instagram as they were happening.
I didn’t have to worry about missing important emails or phone calls either while we were out and about in Seattle.
What we really loved about Roam Mobility’s Talk+Text+Data ($3.95/day) plan was that we were able to get service for most of the days we were on our Alaskan Disney cruise as we were sailing close to shore where some cell phone towers are. If you’ve been on a cruise before, you probably know how expensive internet and cell phone services are.
We loved Roam Mobility’s pricing and service so much, after we returned home we purchased a SIM card for my parents and in-laws for their phones as they travel to the US several times a year.
Things to Know Before Signing Up with Roam Mobility
1. Your Phone Must Be Unlocked
Since Roam Mobility requires you to purchase their SIM card ($20) either online or at an authorized dealer, you will need an unlocked phone to use their services.
2. Research Coverage Areas
Roam Mobility offers coverage for most of the US, including Hawaii and Puerto Rico however some of the coverage is with a partner network and you’ll need to add-on an Enhanced Coverage plan if travelling to these locations. Check out Roam Mobility’s Coverage Map here.
3. Figure Out How Much Data You Need
If you’re looking at a plan that includes data, use Roam Mobility’s Data Calculator to estimate how much data you’ll need per day. They also have a nifty chart that shows how much Canadian carriers charge for data so you can compare their pricing with your provider’s before making a decision.
How to Get Your Phone Set Up with Roam Mobility
1. Purchase a Roam Mobility SIM Card
Make sure you order a SIM card that is the correct size for your phone – either standard SIM, micro SIM or nano SIM. If you order the wrong size, you may need to purchase an adapter to make it fit properly or cut it down to the correct size.
When ordering online, delivery time can vary but packages come with a Canada Post tracking number so you don’t have to worry about lost orders. Shipping time for my parents’ and in-laws’ SIM cards was about a week from British Columbia to Ontario.
Make sure you keep the small pin that comes with the SIM card somewhere safe as this makes changing SIM cards easier when you’re ready to travel.
2. Activate your SIM Card Online
After you receive your SIM card, you’ll need to set up an account on Roam Mobility. For customers who purchased the SIM card from Roam Mobility’s website, you’ll have an account set up automatically for you.
You’ll be assigned a US phone number that will be your number for the next 12 months. If you don’t use your SIM card for over a year, you’ll be assigned a new number for your next trip.
3. Choose Your Plan
Prior to your trip to the US (or Mexico), login to your Roam Mobility account and select the plan you want and choose the dates you need coverage. Remember to consult Roam Mobility’s coverage map in case you are travelling to a destination that requires coverage from a partner network, in which case means you’ll need to purchase an Enhanced Coverage plan.
4. Swap Your SIM Cards When You Get to the US
Once you’re in the US (or close by), swap out your phone’s SIM card for Roam Mobility’s SIM card. Remember to use the small metal pin!
You’ll get a “Welcome to the US” type text message from Roam Mobility and then you can surf, talk, and text without worrying about sky-high roaming charges.
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