traveling to USA for 8 weeks- best options for a prepaid cell phone

Discussion in 'Campsite Electronics' started by wantingapup, Apr 30, 2014.

  1. wantingapup

    wantingapup New Member

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    We will be travelling through the american west for 8 weeks pulling the "princess palace" and mostly camping in national parks. I am trying to figure out the best carrier for a prepaid plan I can pick up once we cross the border that will give a good balance between price and actual usability (gotta pay those gas bills online sometime...) . Has anyone used the Walmart plan Straight Talk? I think we won't use phone too much, but probably use text and data to keep in touch with the kids back home etc. Any suggestions? This is just one item on my long list of stuff for the trip along with solar panel, new tires etc
     
  2. PNW Family

    PNW Family New Member

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    Whatever phone/carrier you get should run off of the Verizon network, as it's far and away the largest, and has the best coverage.

    Which means Boost and Virgin Mobile are out.

    I don't know who the others use.
     
  3. Doyle

    Doyle Member

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    You may be able to get a reasonable roaming package from your current provider. I believe I read somewhere recently that both major carriers introduced new roaming prices.


    Sent from my iPhone
     
  4. jab2181

    jab2181 New Member

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    I would go verizon as well, best coverage both voice and data
     
  5. PopUpSteve

    PopUpSteve Administrator

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    That was my first thought too. Some companies will give you a good rate on a temparay oversees plan on your current phone plan.
     
  6. wantingapup

    wantingapup New Member

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    my phone is unlocked so the idea of getting a unlimited plan with sim card for less than the roaming is appealing
     
  7. Snow

    Snow Well-Known Member

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    I'll give you two different scenarios and then my suggestion ...

    Scenario 1 - Last year when we were doing our 16 night trip through Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee we decided it would be cheaper buying an inexpensive pay as you go phone (just as so many of our friends have done) and add time as needed.. So that is what we did.. we went with Tracfone due to them offering 3x minutes for life .. so every $40 card = $120 .. (everything with these phones is done by dollar amount, not time amount like here) Phone did what we wanted it to do, yes it was an older LG phone, didn't have a keyboard touch screen, but had to do the old abc, def, ghi etc while typing anything in .. While the phone claimed it could do email, I never was able to get it setup to receive it, sent mail no problems... Think in total we spent $60 for the phone (including the first $20 time card) and spent another $80 for time cards, $140 total ... IIRC Bell wanted (even on their roaming plan last year) something like $160 plus Data ...

    Scenario 2 - Friends of ours who regularly camp in the US have gone out and bought a Verizon Mifi unit and use that instead of cell phones now.. they set up a hotspot where ever they are and I believe the cost is $90 for 5GB ...

    Now here is what my plan is for the next time we go off campering around the USA .. Add time back onto our current Tracfone and buy a straight talk hotspot hub and add time to that as well so then we'll have the phone and hotspot device.. Now saying that, we might just turn and buy a straigh talk phone as well, just to make it easier..

    I would look at either straight talk (specially if you want to get the wifi hotspot) or Tracfone since they offer 3X the money added ...
     
  8. wantingapup

    wantingapup New Member

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    thanks - will look into the mifi - I will data access so I can do online banking etc.
     
  9. blondedriver

    blondedriver Member

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    and some times you can go to a public place for WiFI like McDonalds and or some rest areas have access.
     
  10. wantingapup

    wantingapup New Member

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    So after some more investigation - verizon phone is cdma which means it doesnt use sim cards. My phone is a GSM (sim card) phone. If you want to be on verizon network you have to buy a verizon phone (cdma is basically hard wired to a particular network). The Mifi also looks expensive by the time you buy the box and then buy data, and won't have talk time. Looks like I will be on AT&T or t-mobile network while on the trip. I think I will likely go with the straight talk from walmart.
     
  11. Snow

    Snow Well-Known Member

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    Not sure how important it is for you to stay "in tough" with work via interweb while your away, but in speaking with a few friends who use the mifi (Verizon) is they get better coverage with it, then they did with AT&T or T-Mobile ...

    I didn't find the Verizon mifi that badly priced ... $99 for the unit (think it may even be on sale right now) and $90 for 5GB of data ... Mind you IIRC the Straight Talk unit is $80 plus $80 for 4GB of data .. so comparable ..

    Another thing... if your looking at buying the phone/data at a store once you cross, make sure the store does stock the one you want... many time walmart doesn't carry them in a given store, but have them in the warehouse and will ship to any store ..
     
  12. rabird

    rabird Howdy!

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    my emergency t-mobile pay as I go cost $10 a year for my limited usage, minutes last a year and roll over. This year I refilled early so that $20/year!

    They also have a daily rate plan of $3/day on the days you use it.

    PAY BY THE DAY PLANS
    With Pay by the Day plans, you pay only when you use your phone.

    TALK TEXT WEB PRICE
    Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited MB $3.00/day
    Select this plan
    Hide plan details
    Plan details : $3/Day Unlimited Talk, Text & Web (200 MB per day at up to 4G speed)
    Great for email, Facebook, web surfing, GPS navigation, downloading apps/music/games, and more.
     
  13. chefaleslie

    chefaleslie Always looking for a great MOD

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    Boost mobile has worked great for me. Unlimited plan for $55 a month includes 3-4g unlimited text and talk. Phones with Droid start around $80. Plans with no droid are $35 and flip phones start at $35 Best buy sells em.
     
  14. mckeapc67

    mckeapc67 New Member

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    There are a number of options that I see:

    Since you already have an unlocked GSM phone, you may also be able to just get a SIM card for one of the US carriers. One way to do that would be to buy the cheapest "go phone" type of device, activate the device, then swap the SIM to your phone. I may be in the minority, but we've had good luck with AT&T coverage.

    Or, you could possibly sign up for a "no contract" account with a regular GSM carrier with your current device. You could then cancel your plan after the 2 months. You could visit a carrier store or kiosk to do that.

    Another option would be, if you have friends or family in the US, you could see about joining onto their family/friends plan. I know that I can add a line to my current AT&T plan for $10 a month with an existing device. Of course, data would be extra.

    You could also consider one of the "Text over IP" type apps that are available. For example, my kids used to have an app that let them use their iPod touch as a phone over wireless internet. They were able to send unlimited text messages and could purchase minutes for voice. The drawback would be you would have to be near a hotspot to use it.
     
  15. Doyle

    Doyle Member

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    CoolDad makes a good point - it is something we do all the time when travelling to the States. We bring the iPhone and turn off roaming - then when we are connected via wifi we use the text plus app to text family to let them know we arrived safely, etc. and also via wifi we can use our ooma app that allows us to make phone calls via wifi. It is a little off topic, but if you guys haven't heard of ooma (voice over IP) I highly recommend it. My telephone bill went from about $75 a month with my standard phone company to $14 with Ooma - with free long distance, this online app that allows you to check voicemail and make calls on your phone. Also, all voicemails are emailed to me which means I don't even have to open the app to know if I get a message at home.


    Sent from my iPhone
     
  16. wantingapup

    wantingapup New Member

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    I don't expect we will have wi-fi access very often expect at the very beginning and very end of the trip as we will use hotels for the first few and last few days of "get there" driving. There are just so many options. I think I will head to Niagara/Buffalo for a day before we leave and get myself set up, and just maybe have to stop at the casino for a spell.
     
  17. CaliforniaPoppy

    CaliforniaPoppy California and beyond!

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    I have had no coverage issues with Virgin Mobile. (They use the Sprint network.) $35/mo. gets 350 minutes, with unlimited text and data. (Data usage over a certain amount does get the speed ramped down, but I've never hit the limit.)
     
  18. tsc

    tsc Member

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    Depending on how much you are going to use your phone, The Peace Bridge Duty free shop sells US Sim Cards (can't remember which the carrier is).

    But you may want to look into roam mobility or Telgo
     
  19. RotnMom

    RotnMom Am I there yet?

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    A friend of mine from England is in the states right now. We did Merlefest together and then she hung with DH & I for this past week. When she hit CA, she bought a pay as you go AT&T phone. She was able to use it fine from CA to VA, and will now be roaming around a bunch of state parks with a few new friends. We keep texting her to make sure she's not been sold into slavery!! [LOL]

    She said the phone was cheap and working fine. [A]

    [:D]
     
  20. turborich

    turborich Active Member

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    Walmart family mobile.

    $30 bucks a month for unlimited text and voice calls
    $40 bucks a month for unlimited text, voice and data

    The phones are cheap and it's through T mobile (uses a SIM card) You can shut it off at any time and there's no contract. I wouldn't believe all the hype about Verizion. There are far better options with much better pricing.

    Trac phone or similar pre paid phones are available just about everywhere. They have pretty good service and you just buy a card with the minutes you need. Very simple and inexpensive. No contract. Wal-Greens has a bunch of these.
     

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