“Spending money to show people how much money you have is the fastest way to have less money.”― Morgan Housel, The Psychology of Money
If you're happy with your cell phone carrier provider because maybe you don't often travel anyway, please disregard this post and read something else. Some people only need service in their home country, which is fine. This is for people who travel often and don't want to worry about getting stranded because their cell phone service sucks or, worse yet, finding that their phone isn't set up for travel. I'm here to tell you that you can travel the world stress-free with T-Mobile, a reliable network for travelers.
This was initially going to be an Instagram post, but now more than 450 characters are too long for the caption. I don't get it. Let me preface this by saying I am not associated with T-Mobile. I don't work for them, but I have a referral link that I will sprinkle throughout this blog post. Still, all of these opinions are my own. Whenever I come across a piece of information that can help you, I share it. It helps all of us. Also, this is my experience. And as with experiences, they vary.
How I decided T-Mobile For Travel Was Right For Me
This scenario played out for me at the worst possible time in 2014. My father had just died, and I had to make the trip to México to finish funeral arrangements. I had about 24 hours to get things together here in the States, from booking flights for other family members and crossing the border to getting into Tijuana for the trip's second leg. The last thing I needed on my plate was figuring out if my cell phone service would work.
Here's the initial Instagram post with extended commentary in italics:
Listen. I know that over the years, people have had their issues with cell phone carriers, BUT I’ve got to say @tmobile has always had my back.
I went from Cingular (remember that), which turned to @att, then they briefly went back to Cingular only to come back as AT&T (whew!).
Then to Sprint, which at that time meant my iPhone 5 only worked in the States unless I wanted to pay up the ass to unlock it 🙄
FYI: They were on CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), and so was Verizon. That’s just shorthand for an older radio system used in cell phones. GSM (Global System for Mobiles) is the other used by AT&T and T-Mobile. We know them collectively as 2G and 3G.
Remember, this was when you had to know which radio system your cell phone was using. My Sprint phone was a beautiful brick outside of the U.S. If I remember correctly, they quoted me $200 to unlock the phone and then be subjected to their outrageous roaming fees. The data was laughable. The second option was to unlock the phone, buy a SIM card at my destination, and hope it would work. No, thank you. I ended up using my iPhone 5 as a point-and-shoot camera.
So I ended up back at the AT&T store for a cheap Alcatel Go Phone that I could recharge online to have a phone on me while traveling to México 🇲🇽.
Telcel (Mexican cell phone carrier) ate those recharge cards UP!! 😡 And at the time, the rural parts of México barely got internet access. So I had to use my cousin’s phone to log into my account to recharge this damn phone! I can’t even begin to explain how exposed you are when you do this.
FYI: Put a VPN on your 💩. 💻 📱
So I ended up with a basic Alcatel bar phone from AT&T. The phone itself was no more than $35 bucks which should tell you about the quality and features. I could call and text. I liked that it looked like such a crappy phone that nobody would want to steal. I created a GoPhone account and was able to recharge it online. Well, that's fine when you have consistent access to Wi-Fi/internet. That wasn't the case for me. When I mean remote/rural part of México, what I mean is that. Middle-of-nowhere ranchitos that are tightly controlled by c*rtels.
To make matters worse, I had no choice but to use my cousin's cell phone for pretty much anything. He was happy to let me use his phone, but he had to leave at some point during the day, leaving me with this Alcatel dumb bar phone. I had to plan when I would recharge my phone, keep tabs on funeral arrangements, and do everything I could think of that I might be doing if I had a smartphone.
And more importantly, I was leaving myself open had I forgotten to log out of websites I was using. I have no reason to distrust my cousin, BUT I firmly believe in using a VPN on the internet. At home or abroad, just do it. We use ExpressVPN.
I told myself that the next device had to be on a network that would work EVERYWHERE. None of this is buying extra phones just for travel bullshit for me.
When the iPhone 6 📱 came out, I knew this was it. So I signed up with T-Mobile. At the time, I had no idea I would be heading to Germany 🇩🇪 and the Netherlands 🇳🇱 months later. This became a great stress test.
…and it passed my tests.
And if you’ve been following me anywhere or you’d know I don’t sugarcoat 💩, so if this didn’t work, you would’ve heard about it too. Instead, what happened was the rest of my family decided to give T-Mobile a try. Now I know this all sounds like an ad, but I’m not getting paid to talk about this, although T-Mobile, let me know if you’d like to do a partnership. 🤝
As soon as I landed and went between countries, I received a text with the details of my plan. I found this informative since costs vary by country—nothing like coming home to a bill you didn't expect.
I'm not streaming live or updating everyone on social media after each photo I take, but I use data for Apple Maps, Waze, Citymapper, and Transit. If I needed to look something up, I wasn't afraid to do so. I'm taking and making calls and texting. I'm using my phone the same way I would back home.
I just wanted to pass on what I’ve learned in this experience. We often travel for business in this household as part of our jobs. The last thing we must worry about is if our cell service will work in a foreign country 🙄 or if we will collapse at the sight of our cell bill when we get home. 💸💸💸
🎉 So far, it's been great on four continents (10+ countries)! 🎉
Maybe 🤔 I should get rid of those old phones now ☎️ 😝
Continents: North America, South America, Europe, and Asia.
Countries: Canada, México, U.S.A., Argentina, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, France, Belgium, Spain, Hong Kong, China, and Japan.
Those are the countries and continents we have battle-tested T-Mobile's service. We are still on a grandfathered plan, but their newer plans are affordable for all they offer. All of us have iPhones. My husband and I are on the iPhone 14 Pro Max. I'm not sure what Samsung and other Android phones provide, but a quick search on Apple will give you all the answers you need about eSIMs and setting up dual SIMs. Neither of us has tried this since we have yet to stay in one location outside of the U.S. for more than two weeks, and our usage is minimal. We may look into it in the future, but for now, this setup works for us. The moment it doesn't, there will be a follow-up to this blog post.
- Use Wi-Fi as much as possible, and don't forget to use a VPN!
- We wait to post on social media, if at all. This has two purposes: it doesn't ruin the flow of our trip, and secondly, for safety reasons, we post pictures and videos after we've left. This also allows us to curate a collection of photos and videos to post later because nobody needs to see EVERYTHING.
- GPS apps: Waze, Apple or Google Maps, and my favorites, Citymapper and Transit. Citymapper is how I accidentally discovered Picasso's atelier in Paris.
- Browsing for research on the go.
- We text more than we call.
- We are not checking our email or social media all the time.
I'm glad I found a cell service with T-Mobile that works for my family and me when we travel abroad. It's provided us the peace of mind and flexibility to stay connected without breaking the bank. We've tested it in multiple countries across four continents, and it has served us well so far. The fact that we can use the same device and network without worrying about inconsistent service is a huge plus. I'm excited to explore new countries and know that T-Mobile has my back while I'm there.
Thanks for reading! Now go out there and explore the world with T-Mobile! 🌎😊
*Hey, this page contains affiliate links. There’s no extra cost to you, but I receive a small commission when you decide to use them. They help me keep this party going.