Seven Sneaky Smartphone Hacks You Should Be Using
(Photo: Luke Ma via flickr/CC Attribution)

Find out how to text and talk for free on your phone while traveling! Plus: Don't get blindsided by surprise charges. These simple tips will keep you connected when you're on the go.

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Swap Your SIM
Swap Your SIM
(Photo: Richard Eriksson via Shutterstock)

Using your regular phone plan abroad can hit you hard with data- and voice-roaming charges. Avoid all that by buying a local SIM card at your destination or by buying an international SIM card online before you go. You can buy data allowances, minutes, and texts, allowing you to use your phone abroad the same way you do at home.

The cheapest option, generally speaking, is to buy a prepaid SIM card at any mobile-phone outlet once you get off the plane. Most phone stores and even convenience stores abroad sell SIM cards, and an associate should be able to help you put one in your phone. If you'd rather know your phone number before you go and have the ability to use your phone in multiple countries without changing cards, you may want to look into an international SIM card, sold by companies such as OneSimCard, WorldSIM, and Brightroam—but this is usually more expensive than a prepaid local SIM.

Note that you'll need to unlock your phone before you go. Call your service provider and ask if they will let you unlock it. If not, you can buy an unlocked phone online or abroad.

Turn Off Data
Turn Off Data
(Photo: Sean MacEntee via Shutterstock)

To avoid getting blindsided by unexpected data charges, turn off your push notifications (the automatic notifications that tell you when you have new emails, Facebook messages, and the like). Mashable has published a very good guide outlining how to do this on Android and iPhone devices.

Put your phone in airplane mode if you're not using a new SIM card. This turns off cellular and data usage but still allows you to use your phone via Wi-Fi. If you're really paranoid, most cell-phone companies let you call and turn off data usage for a designated period of time without canceling your plan.

Download Offline Maps
Download Offline Maps
(Photo: Sean MacEntee via Shutterstock)

Do all of your downloading before you leave your home country. Go for apps that don't need data to be usable, such as TripAdvisor's Offline City Guides, MetrO, and PocketEarth.

Switch To Wi-Fi Calling
Switch to Wi-Fi Calling
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Apps such as Skype, Facebook's Video Calling, and Google Voice will let you make unlimited calls for free as long as you're connected to Wi-Fi.

Change Your Phone's Lock Screen
Change Your Phone's Lock Screen
(Photo: Dara Continenza)

Concerned about losing your phone while on the road? Change your phone's lock screen to an image that displays your emergency contact information, including your email address and an alternate phone number. If your phone is lost or stolen and a Good Samaritan finds it, he or she will easily be able to get in touch with you to return it, even if your phone is locked.

Reset Cellular Usage To Zero
Reset Cellular Usage to Zero
(Photo: Cult of Mac)

Did you know that your phone keeps track of how much cellular data you've used? If you reset it to zero at the beginning of your trip (here's how), you can easily monitor your usage and see if your phone is sneakily using any data while you're abroad.

Download Mobile-Messaging Apps
Download Mobile-Messaging Apps
(Photo: WhatsApp)

Before you go, download mobile-messaging apps such as WhatsApp, HeyWire, and Kik so you can easily text back and forth with friends at home and new acquaintances abroad for free. You just need to be connected to Wi-Fi to send and receive messages.

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