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how-much-data will I use overseas

How do I calculate how much data I will use when I travel?

Data transfer on pc tabletInternational Roaming Charges, Prepaid Packages…  How do I know which one to get and how much it will cost me?

Don’t worry – this used to stump me, too… and I’m a geek, and it still stumped me!

Here’s a relatively simple way to calculate how much data you will need on your trip.

For the amount of time you are going to be away, jot down in a notebook how much time you currently spend doing the following:

  • Steaming music
  • Streaming videos
  • Surfing the web
  • Posting to social media
  • Downloading games, apps or songs
  • Talking on the phone
  • …and how many emails you receive and send.

Now at least you have a benchmark for what you are using NOW.

OK, let’s see how that translates into Mb (megabytes) and Gb (gigabytes).  Please note, the following are broad generalizations but will at least give you a guide so you can have some idea of how much data you might use on your trip.

Data transfer

Emails:  For emails that do not have attachments, it takes around 500 emails to make 1Mb (but bear in mind, that includes all those nasty spam emails that you never see!  You may have 3 spam emails going to your junk folder for every 1 you actually read).

Emails with attachments depend on the size of the attachment, but generally speaking it takes 2 or 3 emails with attachments to reach 1Mb.

Social Media:  2-3 social media posts equal 1Mb.

Video:  Standard video is around 250Mb/hr while HD is close to 1Gb (1024Mb).

Music:  Streaming music is 30Mb/hr.

Downloads:  Every app, song, game you download average out at around 4Mb each.

Web Surfing:  Approximately 15Mb/hr.

Talking:  This, along with video, is a real data guzzler!  Around 360Mb/hr.

Now, it’s time to do your calculations.

Take the respective numbers from your notebook, multiply them by how much data they use and then do the same for the next item.  When you are finished, tally up the number of Mb.

In some cases your carrier will quote you prices in Mb, others will quote you in Gb.

1MB = 1,024KB
1GB = 1,024MB

Some people are surprised at just how much data they use in an average month!

At least this way you know where that data is going, and you can make smart choices about where to use your (more expensive) data when you are overseas.

By Leigh St John, aka the Luxurious Nomad

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stay connected when travelling

How to stay connected when you Travel?

Travel wifi?  Free hotspots?  Skyroam?  Boingo?

Wifi Free On Smartphone Showing WiFi Broadcasting Area And Signal ReceiverNot sure how to stay connected when you travel?

Travelling is fun and enjoyable – and part of that fun is when you capture memories and scenic views and upload them to social networking sites.  Sharing with your tribe is one of the best parts!

In terms of business travel – and especially when living the ‘laptop lifestyle‘ – you still need to keep in touch.

Staying Connected while you Travel

Planes, Trains and, well, let’s just stick with planes and trains for the moment…

Most major international airports offer free wifi (although it tends to run at a snail’s pace – but something is often better than nothing) – and even the ones that don’t, all have some form of wifi available, usually at a fee per hour.

Another work-around is that many provide computer stations that are free to use, so if you don’t need something that is saved locally on your laptop, you might be better served using one of their terminals.

Once in the air, many major airlines offer a pay-as-you-go wifi connection during flight.

Trains are similar – many major stations have free wifi and some of the more major journeys offer free or paid wifi onboard.

wifi in rental carWifi in my rental car?

Yes, you read that correctly.  Many car rental companies now offer (at a price) the option of either having wifi in your vehicle or renting a portable wifi until that you can take with you.


Hotspots are places that provide free internet connection.  These hotspots can be physical locations such as a Starbucks (public), or through someone’s existing internet connection (private).  Let’s take them one at a time…

Public Hotspots

You will find free public wifi hotspots at places such as Starbuck (currently neck and neck with McDonalds for the fastest wifi speeds), McDonalds, Tim Horton’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Panera.  In addition, a lot of hotels have free wifi in their lobby – and you might also be surprised at how many cool restaurants, bars and what I refer to as ‘watering holes’ have free wifi.

free wifi irish pubFor instance, at this glorious Irish Pub…  Free wifi!

An easy way to check is to do a search of available networks…  Often they will have the name of the establishment listed and you simply click and connect.

Alternatively, just ask the staff – they are usually more than happy to help – and in some instances the wifi will be free and all you need is the password that they are then all to happy to give you!

Private Hotspots

wifi when travellingA private hotspot is where you configure your device, for instance your phone, to allow your laptop to connect and share your data.  While this is a great idea, if you are on an ‘unlimited data’ plan, many carriers do not allow you to turn your phone into a hotspot.  In those instances, it’s worth getting a dongle.

What’s a dongle?

If you’re travelling in your home country, it’s a good idea to have an internet dongle from your existing data carrier.  This is a gizmo that plugs into the USB port on your laptop and gives you a private wifi connection.

Skyroam Mobile Hotspot: Global WiFi // Unlimited Data // Connect 5 Devices // Pay-as-you-go // SIM-Free Coverage in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa, AustraliaSkyroam

Or, my favorite solution = Skyroam!

I have written a separate post on it here, but in short, Skyroam is a global wifi mobile hotspot that gives you unlimited data, you can connect up to five devices, it is pay-as-you-go, and it gives you SIM-card free coverage in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa, Australia.

International Roaming

International roaming is using your existing phone carrier’s data while away from your native country.  While certainly useful, international roaming can be ghastly expensive.

Other tips…

Here are some other helpful tips on how to stay connected while travelling:

1. Check the service provider of your mobile phone – CDMA vs GSM?  Rather than me explaining the differences and why they matter, here is the lowdown from the experts:  http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407896,00.asp

2. Is your phone unlocked? – If you want to use a local SIM card overseas, make sure that your phone is not tied with any mobile carrier, this might create major problems in connecting with other people while you are on a trip. Get your phone unlocked, or purchased an international roaming packages, they might be expensive but it is worth it.

3. How much data do you intend to use? – Try calculating texts, calls and data you might consume during your trip. This will be a big help in budgeting your money.

4. Use some applications for calling or texting rather than using SMS and voice-calls – There are so many applications that will provide free instant messages (IM) and calls and other applications that are pay-per-use. Facebook, Skype, and Twitter are just some of the free applications where you can place free IMs and calls.

5. Seek free Wi-Fi networks – As listed above, there are many options for obtaining free wifi, however always consider the fact that there are other people using the same free Wi-Fi you are using.

6. Get your own Wi-Fi hotspot – Getting your own Wi-Fi hotspot is very convenient, although the fact that purchasing your own portable Wi-Fi hotspot may be a bit expensive, it is more convenient.


What on earth is a boingo, I hear you ask?  It’s a lifesaver!  🙂

I go into more detail in this article on Boingo, but the short version is that Boingo is a monthly subscription service that provides wifi hotspots all over the world.

Is my information secure?

is my data secure when travellingAny time you use a public network, there is always a risk – however I’ve never had an issue and as long as you take precautions (like not logging into your bank account when you are on the public network at a fast-food restaurant) the likelihood of an issue in my experience is minimal.

It’s all about being aware, mindful and sensible.

If I can answer any of your specific questions, please let me know!

By Leigh (Bella) St John, aka the Luxurious Nomad

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