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T-mobile and a month in Europe

My wife and I are currently on a one month trip in Europe. We are using T-Mobile, as we have for years. This year however it’s the first time that we ran out of fast data. Two weeks into our trip. I got a text from T-Mobile saying that I had used up four of my 5 GB of data, and that my data would be throttled when the 5 GB was used up.
My wife got a similar message after three weeks. In both cases, we waited until we had used all of our included data, before buying a 10 day 5 GB add-on pass.
When our data was throttled, we could still text, but most of the Internet was unusable. We had to wait until we got to Wi-Fi to even use the T-Mobile app to increase our data. Email, maps, and Google search, did not really work at all with the reduced speed.
Looking at my data usage records on my iPhone, I see that about 2 GB have been used for Google Maps, about one and a half gigabytes used for Chrome (Web browsing), about a gigabyte used for Google photos, and everything else less than a gigabyte. Looking at my wife’s phone I see that she has used about a gigabyte and a half for Instagram, and about a gigabyte for solitaire, which I didn’t even realize used data.

Posted by
7453 posts

Thanks for the reminder, Stephen. I have T-Mobile and your post reminded me that I received that notice last year towards the end of the month-long trip. I usually do most of my data search just with my iPad connected to the wifi when I’m back at the hotel at night. But, I will be in 15 locations during my longer trip next year, so this is a good reminder.

Great topic, Stephen. Thanks for the reminder. Be sure to post about your travels. My family and I are planning a Christmas vacation to Europe. Any problems with bedbugs? There has been all kinds of negative reports in the states about an infestation there.

Posted by
5687 posts

A gigabyte for Google Photos? Do you have Google Photos set to back up your photos not just on WiFi but also on mobile data? If you can wait until you get to WiFi, that would save you a lot right there.

Posted by
15690 posts

Wow.....that's a lot of data. I've been using T-Mobile for years and usually spend three months at a time in my travels. I have never come that close to using up my data. And I rely on my phone a great deal.

Andrew gives good advice....are there things you can wait to do until you get to wifi? Game playing perhaps? Download Google Maps ahead of time? Instagram wait until wifi?

When you sit down at a restaurant or inside any place, do you check for free wifi?

Posted by
2765 posts

One of the first things I do is turn off cellular data for things like "solitaire" or anything else I won't need in Europe. I also disable some of the "background" refresh options.

I do agree with others you probably could just wait to upload photos until you were in your hotel to cut way back.

Posted by
11487 posts

FWIW, we always get the 15GB add-on for $50 per phone. I don’t want to run the risk of running out of data and $50 per person per month seems like a good deal versus what we spent on SIMs and temporary plans (one year we had to buy them in 3 places!) in the past. The convenience alone is worth $50/month.

Posted by
7013 posts

I agree with Carol. I use T-Mobile in Europe and turn off cellular data for as many apps as possible (including solitaire). Most of the things you do on your phone can be done using wifi if you're patient. And if you're not near or in your hotel, stop in a cafe and see if wifi is available there.

If you don't want to limit your cellular data, then just buy the extra add-on pass.

Posted by
180 posts

I think it must be some settings on your phone. My husband and I just spent a month in Europe (Aug-Sept 23). We have T-Mobile and used our phones for GPS, web browsing, lots of photos, sharing photos on Facebook, Instagram and some game playing as well as reading through the Kindle app. We did not come close to using our 5 GB.

Posted by
5688 posts

FWIW, we always get the 15GB add-on for $50 per phone.

I’ve also done this the past 2 years on my month long trips. I have the cheaper T-Mobile plan that gives you slow data so I upgrade to get higher speed data; I doubt that I even use 5GB of data but I want the faster speeds. Plus this gives you unlimited calling.

Posted by
3073 posts

We switched to T-mobile in 2022 for an Italy trip. We upgraded to unlimited data. It was not expensive. This is magenta+.

In addition, we took the T-mobile mobile hot-spot, which enabled us to use navigation in cities. That's an addition $10/m.

In Sept-Oct 2022, we were in Italy. I used to depend on Wifi in cafes during the day. We found very few cafes now offer this, since consumers in Italy mostly purchase their own roaming plan. So I would not count on this option. Hotels offered wifi, and I did heavy transactions there. I also do Wordle, quordle, etc in the morning but in the hotel.

But I do agree with many - there is something going on with your phone that is very unusual. Have you gone to a T-mobile store to ask why your data is going so fast? Do you have some app which is always on which is using data?

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks for all the suggestions. I don’t automatically back up my photos to google photos. I do that manually, but I should probably wait for Wi-Fi. That would’ve saved me almost 1.5 GB now. I also saw that I used almost a gigabyte as a hotspot, when the Wi-Fi in my room was inadequate and I needed to use my computer. I did try turning off cellular data for Instagram and Facebook, but found it frustrating. I would need to reply to a post, only to find out, wasn’t connected to the Internet.
If I had to do this over again, I would have just purchased the $50 add-on plan.

Posted by
27417 posts

I use data constantly when I travel, primarily because Google's MyMaps no longer allows you to download a map and avoid using data as you move around the city. Still, I usually don't tally much more than 1 GB per week--probably because I don't stream videos and don't back up photos.

I have an Android phone with Google Fi service. My usage dropped noticeably when I went into Settings > Connections > Data usage > Allowed networks for apps and set most of my apps to Wi-Fi only. Among other things, I don't want to pay for updates to apps when I don't have Wi-Fi available. You have to deal with each app separately, so doing this takes a few minutes. Afterwards, you can simply scroll the list and see which apps are set as "Wi-Fi only" and which as "Mobile data or Wi-Fi".

Posted by
18 posts

I’ve used T-mobile for 10 years and have never used all of my data. Calls to the US are 25 cents a minute.
T- Mobile is a good value.

Posted by
350 posts

Also, why no consider using offline maps?

If you're on an iPhone on the latest iOS software, Apple Maps can download offline maps so it doesn't depend on online connectivity. I imagine Google maps or other third-party map apps offer something similar? That would mean saving 2GB.

Posted by
27417 posts

I'm not aware of an offline-map app that allows use of a variety of icons and many different colors to mark places saved. Not having everything (museums, historical sites, restaurants, markets, stores, etc.) marked the same way is essential to me in cities of size. I have hundreds of points plotted in large cities; if they were all the same shape and color, they'd be pretty useless.

Posted by
18783 posts

I love TMobile when traveling too. I work a bit on my computer so I generally buy the $50 extension.

This time I arrived in Europe on 6 August. I now have a European TMobile phone but I still used my US phone sporadically. A little netflix and at times paying bills online as a number of the companies had their websites blocked to all but US connections and the US phone no matter where it is looks like it is in the US. As I said my phone and data service worked flawlessly even my last day in Europe.

On 27 October I returned to the US and walaaaa !!!!!!! No data service. Went to TMobile on my way home from the airport and they thought they fixed it but when I got home, no service again. Next morning I returned to TMobile and this time when they called their help desk I told them to specifically ask if I had been blocked because I was out of the country for too long. Answer came back yes. Took 20 seconds to unblock and I went home. The good news is that apparently the block is at the network level and not at the phone. So, since in Europe I was not on a US TMobile network, my data worked fine. Thats a bit of conjecture. I am no nerd. But it worked in Europe, just not in the US. All fine, but you would think they would send some sort of notice before or even after they do this.

Posted by
5687 posts

If have a European T-Mobile phone anyway, then you don't need T-Mobile service in the US. Unless you are using their other perks e.g. free Netflix and find them a good value, you could save a lot of money by dumping T-Mobile for a cheaper MVNO like Mint Mobile or Tello. You could save $30 or $40/month. No, those don't roam outside the US...but it seems like the only reason you would need to would be to access US websites.

One solution to the "Need to be in the US" problem is a VPN. It's possible some of these sites block paid VPN services, but you could always set up a VPN at home. This is easy for a tech savvy person to do. All you need is an old spare router of the right type - doesn't even have to be that fast. One it is set up, there is no cost to use it - you would use VPN to connect to your home network. So Netflix etc. would think you are home, not in Europe.

You could also get a Google Voice number so you have a US phone number you can use in Europe without needing your T-Mobile US phone.

Posted by
27417 posts

I have Google Fi service, which has a policy somewhat like T-Mobile's: You're supposed to use the service mainly in the US. Fi blocked me on about Day 85 of my recently-ended trip to Europe. I flew home on October 9. I was still blocked a day or two ago, but I see that I now have data access, so we'll call it 2-1/2 weeks that I remained blocked after returning home. However, that's without my having called Google Fi; maybe that would have sped things up. Fi has a different pricing model: I pay for data even at home, so you'd think Fi would want me to have access instantaneously once I returned home.