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5 Week Europe Trip - Satisfying teens texting/group texting needs

I've read a lot of threads, but I'm still so confused. My daughter has an unlocked I-phone (about a year old, not sure the model) and we use Pure Talk America for service, but they do not offer an international plan. Ideally, we would like our daughter to be ale to text/group text/send travel photos to her friends on an unlimited basis, for the 5 week trip. We will be in and out of Croatia/Bosnia/Slovenia/Montenegro/Italy for the first 2 1/2 weeks and then in Ireland for another 2 1/2 weeks. Can I pick up an unlimited international data plan that will allow her those capabilities for the month/5 weeks and then just cancel? If so, what provider/plan do you recommend. Or if not, what do you recommend.

Posted by
2347 posts

I've been happy with T-Mobile. You don't need a contract, so yes, you could get service and then later cancel. I believe their latest is free texting, unlimited data, and either .10 or .20 a minute for calls made overseas. But check into it. I've only used it in France but coverage was excellent.

Posted by
658 posts

Instead of texting I just send e-mails with my pictures to people or post to Facebook, most all hotels in Europe have wifi now and it's generally free. Remember, there is a 7-8 hour difference in time zones so she could only text from ~4:00 pm to midnight otherwise people in the US are asleep or your asleep.

Posted by
11496 posts

Instead of texting I just send e-mails with my pictures to people or
post to Facebook, most all hotels in Europe have wifi now and it's
generally free.

Same here. We use email exclusively for communicating with the States as it's almost always free, and we can pick up return messages at our leisure. Yeah, I know about kids and their phones but texting isn't really a "need" on vacation, and you really don't want them walking around with their heads buried in the phone, right? This is a great opportunity for the family to unplug and connect with Europe (and each other). :O)

Posted by
5634 posts

Your kids are so lucky to be on this trip. Giving up their phones should be required for trip's duration.

Posted by
490 posts

Wifi contact via social media would be better than phone service on multiple phones. FB messenger whatsapp etc

Also phones can make kids a target for thieves ,caution recommended in public.

Posted by
30932 posts

Kerry,

The cheapest method would be to leave the phone in "Airplane Mode" but with Wi-Fi switched on, and limit communications to locations where Wi-Fi is available. That should work reasonably well, but quality of service seems to vary between locations and you'll likely have to sign onto Wi-Fi each time you change hotels (and sometimes every day if in the same hotel).

An "unlimited international plan" will likely not be cheap, so you might have to take out a second mortgage on your house ;-)

I'll try to offer additional suggestions later when I'm on a "regular" computer.

A few additional comments......

You could have a look at oe of the travel SIM providers, such as these.....

I haven't checked in awhile, but all of them should provide reasonable rates for calls and texts. However you'll have to check with each to find out how much data is provided, and what the cost will be for topping this up.

Which country are you arriving in first? You could also buy a local SIM card in that country and use it for the duration of the trip. Be sure that you're clear on the method for topping up the card once you leave the country of purchase. I believe a new regulation will be taking effect in the near future eliminating the roaming costs between European countries, so this might be the best option.

Regardless of which method you choose, service may vary slightly from one country to the next. I've had issues in Croatia using a U.K. SIM, but it's been a few years so this may have improved.

Good luck!

Posted by
10892 posts

I have used TMobile with good results in Croatia, Montenegro and Italy from your list and a dozen other countries you didn't list. It's all I have ever needed.

Posted by
684 posts

An "unlimited international plan" will likely not be cheap, so you might have to take out a second mortgage on your house ;-)

Thanks for all your input; with regard to the above...what would that actually cost, say on T-Mobile for a month?

Posted by
10892 posts

TMobile, not perfect, but very good and texts are unlimited I believe. It's $10 last time I checked

Posted by
6146 posts

How old is your daughter? Why not have her do the research for something that is for her benefit? Perfect learning opportunity. If it were me, I'd leave the phone at home and experiment with having an electronics-free vacation...it's a great way to really unwind and be fully "present" in the moment. Last time I brought my laptop somewhere, I can honestly report that 1) I didn't need it and 2) it didn't make me any happier (instead, I just wasted hours online I could have been doing something more valuable...like going to bed on time so I could function the next day).

Posted by
684 posts

We are looking for technologic advice, not parenting tips. But, if you must know, my husband and I could care less if we never saw a cell phone again - in fact, we were both happier before they were invented. Our fifteen year old daughter, however, if a product of her generation. I can assure you, she knows exactly how lucky she is to be taking a five week trip to Europe; she is counting down the days until we leave, and she will be fully engaged in the trip. She is however, also worried about not being in the loop with her friends for five weeks. I'm just trying to see if there is a way for her to do that, without spending a fortune. If it's too expensive, she will survive.

Posted by
5287 posts

Actually, people have given you technological advice -- tell your daughter that she can use email, WhatsApp, Facebook as much as she likes FROM HOTEL FREE WIFI. As noted, put phone in Airplane mode and turn wifi ON. If you tell her how much each international minute will cost -- and that she will be expected to pay it -- Wi-Fi might look better.

Posted by
1308 posts

An unlimited international plan certainly is cheap, with Tmobile or Project Fi. I just go back from six months on the road all over the world normally my bill was around $50/mo with Project Fi. Free international texts, high speed data costs the same as it does at home (obviously don't stream movies through your cell phone), and calling is 20c/min on cell much less on wifi.

Posted by
684 posts

Kaeleku - thank you; that's what I wanted to know.

Posted by
622 posts

Sadly, Project Fi won't work for iPhones. I have it, and love it, and I'm also happy with my Nexus 5X phone. But it's a Google thing and there are only a few phones that are compatible with Project Fi, none of them iPhones.

Do check in to T-Mobile. But be careful that you (and the customer service rep you're talking with) understand which of their service plans are eligible for their international service.

A couple of years ago, I had a super duper, great value, no-contract monthly T-Mo plan. (With an unlocked phone.) I was very happy with it. Before traveling to the UK, I called T-Mo to ask about international coverage. Sadly, I learned that my nice no-contract plan wasn't eligible for their international coverage. I looked into what I'd have to do to get the international coverage, and IIRC it was to change to a plan with a two year contract that cost more per month than my no-contract deal. Rats. (I ended up getting a PAYG SIM in the UK for that trip. Now I have Project Fi so I'm set for my next trip.)

EDITED to add: I've benefited from participating in online discussions, especially about travel. I'm often amused, and sometimes annoyed, at how often the answers and advice given wander away from the actual question that was asked. One of my faves is on another travel forum when someone specifically asks for advice on hiring a car to get from Heathrow into London. Not "how should I travel from Heathrow to London?" but specifically about car or taxi services. I could settle down with a bowl of popcorn to enjoy the inevitable results. A handful of posters will start banging on about how the best and only sane way and also the cheapest is of course to take the Tube. Including complicated details like, "get off at St. James Park station and take the escalator up to the ticket office level, cross the floor and take the escalator down to the Platform for the X Line, be sure to avoid the trains for Turgid Gardens, you want the one for Splendid End. Then it's just a cross-platform change at the Murph Station to the Y Line, get off at the Jones Station, only 12 steps up to the exit and a five minute walk to your hotel." I swear, those people will only shut up about the Tube if someone actually says they are traveling in a group that includes a person with serious mobility problems. Fortunately sanity often prevails. My favorite response to one such thread was "FFS, it's a holiday, not an SAS survival exercise!" So yeah, I got no parenting tips to offer here. You're taking the kid on a wonderful adventure. Have a great trip!

Posted by
622 posts

Oh, I just thought about this.

If you can't find a satisfactory plan for your daughter's iPhone, what about a portable wi-fi device? I don't know how the numbers work out but I like the looks of Skyroam. https://www.skyroam.com/ I think it's a pay-per-day-of-use thing, maybe as a backup when your hotel doesn't have wi-fi or the wi-fi isn't very good. Just another idea.

Posted by
4438 posts

I will second the recommendation to check to see if T Mobile will work for you. They give you free texts, free data (slow) and 20 cent a minute phone calls. The data is slow, but it has worked fine for email and googlemaps for me.

They cover all the countries you are visiting
https://www.t-mobile.com/landing/simple-choice-international-plan-countries.html

They do not require a long term contract.

I should note that I have a simpe choice plan and there was no term commitment.

Posted by
7126 posts

My son switched service to TMobile for his 1 mo trip to Asia last Nov specifically for their international service. He's been very happy with TMobile here ever since, in Asia and in Paris in Feb. He texts, takes photos/videos and uses Apps constantly. TMobile would be my recommendation as other posters have said. I don't have cost details but it wasn't more than what he was paying monthly for AT&T or what I pay for Verizon.

Posted by
30932 posts

"If you can't find a satisfactory plan for your daughter's iPhone, what about a portable wi-fi device?"

There's still going to be a significant cost associated with a Wi-Fi hotspot, as it's still using cellular data. You'll have to decide which option you can best tolerate financially.

I don't live in the U.S. so can't offer any advice on switching to T-Mobile for the duration of the trip. Based on posts I've seen here on the forum, that seems to work well for many people. One point to note though is that data on the T-Mobile plan may be at 2G speeds.

Posted by
1308 posts

I'm not sure Tmobile is 2g. I don't use it, but I met someone in Vietnam with Tmobile and was mentioning that Fi has switched from 2g/3g to high-speed everywhere, she said that Tmobile had done the same as well. That was probably 5 months ago. The reason I always mention Fi and Tmobile together is they seem like very similar offerings.

Posted by
622 posts

Yep. It seems that mobile carriers are always changing their plans and upgrading their networks. So although what people experienced with T-Mo two years, or six months, ago, could be relevant, the most important info is what someone gets from contacting T-Mo now.

If the OP can get a T-Mo plan that doesn't bust their budget for their daughter's travel, that's great. I mentioned the Skyroam option in case they don't like their other options. People on this forum have praised their AT&T $10/day international plan, and IIRC Skyroam rents for about the same - and in each case you pay only for the days when you use the service. Meaning that on five week trip you could use it daily and rack up quite a bill, or use it in a more sparing way only as an alternative when other wifi isn't available. I'm not advocating for or against any of the options, just mentioning them.

Posted by
684 posts

Thanks everyone; I have checked into a lot of your advice. I have ended up getting the 'T-Mobile One' plan. Since my daughter has an i-phone, I purchased the 'BYOD unlimited (domestic) talk, text and high speed 4G LTE data plan' for $70 a month plus an additional $15 for the unlimited (international) talk, txt, and high speed 4G LTE data plan.' They will send us the SIM card and we activate the service when we want, a day or so before we leave. I am told there will be NO usage charges whatsoever, all I will pay is $85 per month. Since there is NO contract, we will cancel the service when we come back. So we will pay for five weeks of service. This is the way it should be - NO CONTRACT!

Posted by
7126 posts

Kerry, sounds really good and now you all can have a great trip! Enjoy!!

Posted by
1308 posts

Glad it worked out - I agree, no contract is great and if more people would vote with their feet would be the wave of the future.

Posted by
330 posts

Whatsapp and instagramy/snapchat was perfectly fine for our kids in ireland, scotland and iceland. Alot of times they were sending pics and messages while off line and then when they got a connection it would send it for them.

Seemed like we would run into wifi connections several times a day and then always in the evening whether at dinner or in our room we would have Wi-Fi. So I guess I don't see there being any problem.

Posted by
330 posts

It looks like you've already got it figured out but we use Verizon and what I did is put my kids in airplane mode and turned off their data and then just let them use what's app and the other social media apps when they're on Wi-Fi but I did set up the international calling plan through Verizon for one month for both my wife and I. It cost us $40 a piece. That includes 100 text 100 calling minutes and 100mb of data.

We ended up not exceeding this despite the fact that we went on a three-week vacation and I didn't tell anyone. (I am in sales and self-employed). No one even knew I was gone because I could always handle everything just like I would at home.

We got my wife the international plans so that if the kids wanted to go off on their own we would give them my wife's phone and that way we could always have a way of communicating even without having a Wi-Fi connection

Technology is so awesome. I'm at the point where I can travel just about anywhere in the world without even telling anyone and nobody knows any better. Love it