Surfing On Lake Ontario: $16,000 of Data

When Steve Jobs said the iPhone was more than a phone, but a way to explore the world, he instantly made the phone companies rich.  It seems all so easy: step off the plane in Toronto, having purchased a data plan,  checking emails, checking in on FourSquare, tweeting to friends, and updating Facebook.  All so innocent,  until the text from AT&T comes: “you have exceeded your data.” What?

International Data plans are available, but often people have no idea  how much data that they use- so here are a few tips to help you avoid a large bill when you get  home from your trip out of the country. This is what happened in Canada – just across the lake from Rochester, NY. But  it can happen anywhere. Here was our experience in Canada:

One week on Lake Ontario- where the 3G comes in only a few times a day, depending on the wind and whatever else controls those packets of information, and I had over 3000 megabytes of data.

What did we learn:

  1. If you surf on Lake Ontario, the water is cold and you need something local to keep you warm.  Rogers (a Canadian carrier) has a data stick that is prepaid, and less expensive than any data plan.
  2. Turn off the “location” feature on your smart-phone—it is nice to take the photo and have it automatically located for you- another hundred megabytes of data.  You know where you took  the photo.
  3. Companies will rent you a MiFi unit – good for 40 countries all for $14 bucks a day—you can wifi almost anywhere and be less than any data plan. It is unlimited data – so if you must tweet, or facebook, or google – it is all inclusive.
  4. Get a pre-paid smart phone, or MiFi – and use your phone for calling only- if you must, but better to leave it at home and bring your pre-paid phone
  5. Do you use “DropBox” – if it syncs you can use lots of data. Don’t do it. Instead- update as you might and don’t sync. Another reason to rent a MiFi plan.

Altogether- the amount of data used over nine days — checking emails, push notifications, twitter, Facebook- and taking photos with the location on- and updating a manuscript twice using DropBox– over $16,000.  Yes– $16,000! Well, that is how much it would have cost us if we had paid for a routine data.

The Netgear Trek: Our Saving Grace

After that debacle, the next time we visited we used Netgear’s Trek Travel Router and Range Extender. With this awesome tool we were able to instantly share an internet connection with our neighbors on the lake (with permission, of course).  All we had to do is flip out the antenna, plug it in midway between our locations – and BAM! The small, compact device extended our web range and we were able to let our toddler watch his favourite cartoons without using any cell phone data!

The Trek Travel Router will save your sanity when you need wifi while traveling!

The Trek Travel Router will save your sanity and wallet when you need wifi while traveling.

In the end, our Trek Router has joined us on trips around the world. We’ve used it in London, Ireland, Alaska, Canada and Mexico. Pretty much anywhere you can find a public wifi connection – you can use this router. And if like us, you’ve found that your hotel’s “free” wifi is weak, this will give you the extra boost you need.