Six Money Saving Tech Tips for Tourists

By Juliette Fairley

NEW YORK ( MainStreet)--When Ann Murray traveled to Chile in July 2011, she quickly checked her email on numerous occasions and made two business calls to Los Angeles from her cellphone. Because her phone was only turned on five minutes at a time, Murray thought her charges would be limited to $20 dollars at the most. Instead, she discovered a $400 cellphone bill within 2 weeks of returning home stateside. McMurray's average monthly bill previously had only been $80.

"My heart sank," she said. "I immediately dialed T-Mobile for an explanation. They required me to pay, because they said the charges were legitimate. I learned to always keep my cellphone off abroad even when my carrier promises special rates."

Murray ended up making monthly payments until the unexpected $400 was paid off.

"Had I used an app, I would not have had incurred so many charges," Murray said.

A vacation is much more enjoyable when the traveler avoids the hidden costs that lurk on every summer trip by preparing technically in advance with travel apps , wi-fi and specialized websites.

"It's great to come back from vacation with several hundred photos to share with friends but not hundreds of dollars in extra charges," said Hans Osnabrugge, CEO of RingCredible.com. "So many tourists are devastated to come home to a colossal phone bill after barely using their mobile abroad. This can be avoided with smart planning."

Smart planning includes:

  • 1) Replace text messaging with internet and mobile alternatives that friends and family can use to avoid being charged excessively. Try Voice over internet phone (VoIP). "The price to call over the internet is cheaper for international calls," Osnabrugge said. "Due to smart phones, you can turn your tablet, laptop, blackberry or iPhone into a VoIP. The difference in cost is ridiculous. You will pay 1 cent a minute." For $10 after downloading the complimentary ringcredible app, you'll receive 800 to 900 minutes depending on where you call.
  • 2) Sign up for free internet outside the hotel before departure with Boingo and iPass, a wifi finder with a million hotspots worldwide. "You can save $200 to $300 on a trip or $10 to $20 every time you get online at the hotel or resort," Osnabrugge said.
  • 3) Get around the city more securely with the SaferTaxi app. "Most foreign countries have official cab companies that are licensed and registered," Osnabrugge said. "You'll save $30 by locating an official taxi that won't take you for a ride along the scenic route with the app, which helps you differentiate between official taxi drivers and those drivers who merely place a taxi sign on top of their cars and then charge double."
  • 4) Use Yelp to find deals and steals for restaurants and download the app called TippingBird. "Yelp can help you research restaurants that have good deals in advance and the tipping app will help travelers to avoid over tipping," said Osnabrugge.
  • 5) Track and save all your expenses by photographing receipts then uploading on either mint.com or expensify.com. "These websites will send you a pdf of your spending history on each trip," said Osnabrugge.
  • 6) Visit Publictransportation.org, where the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has issued a series of insider tip guides for vacationers traveling to some of the top city destinations. These guides will provide insight into local public transit idiosyncracies, unspoken protocols and tips. "With the economy on the rebound, cities are becoming a more attractive destination for the summer because they are close by and have a wide array of amenities," said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy.

--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet