It’s hard to imagine traveling these days without using our smartphones. Navigating a new city, looking up places to eat, Instagramming trip highlights; our mobile devices are opening up a world of possibilities that make travel cheaper, easier and more fun—all from the palm of our hands.
Yet, sometimes this reliance on our phones while on the road turns into an unexpected travel cost itself, if we’re not careful. We’ve all come back from a holiday to an absurd 3G bill because we weren’t disciplined or even aware of the cellular data we were using.
Cutting back on mobile data usage is surprisingly easy, though, if you know a few key tricks. Next time you’re traveling, try these 5 tips to save on data charges and enjoy the savings to come!
1) Discover & connect to public WiFi
In most cities around the world, public WiFi is becoming increasingly common, whether at cafes & restaurants, transportation hubs or other public areas. When you first arrive in a new city, it can be tough to find these reliable hotspots, unless you know where to look.
For one, most large franchises like Starbucks, McDonalds and KFC now pride themselves in offering free WiFi to customers in all of their locations. Also, several smaller coffeeshops and restaurants have begun to offer WiFi in order to stay competitive; most will list this on their website or their profiles in directories like Yelp and Zomato.
If you want to make this discovery process as easy as possible, check out the WiFire mobile app. The app allows you to discover all public WiFi hotspots in a city and navigate to the closest ones. Better yet, thanks to its growing database of shared WiFi networks, it lets you connect to these WiFi networks without needing to enter a password or fill out a web form.
2) Use Google Maps offline
While traveling, navigation on your phone is incredibly useful, but can also be a major data-drainer. If you’re using Google Maps, there’s a quick and easy trick to solve this: offline maps.
Rather than burning through 3G data trying to find your way around a new place, download a map of the area while you’re on WiFi and then enjoy that map without using any data. While you can’t always do turn-by-turn directions on an offline map, it is still very useful for getting oriented in a new area without burning through your data (or draining your battery).
Watch the video above to find out how you can use offline maps in four quick steps.
3) Disable push notifications & auto syncing
When you’ve set up your phone to automatically send you notifications for new emails, news updates or weather reports, it uses up a lot of extra data. Outside of the obvious messaging and news apps, many people also have push notifications & auto syncing enabled for several other apps without even knowing it.
When traveling, you can easily disable these settings for some or all of your apps to significantly cut down on your data consumption. In Settings, go to the Notifications section and select/deselect the desired apps from sending push notifications. Alternatively, go into the settings of each individual app and change the notifications and syncing settings there.
4) Block apps from using 3G data
Even if notifications are disabled, many apps will still request to use cellular data even if you aren’t actively using them. WiFire’s new DataWall feature takes a simple approach to solving this common problem by allowing you to track and manage the data that your apps use.
DataWall, which is available for Android versions 5.0 and above, will show you a breakdown of your data usage via WiFi vs. 3G and then allow you to easily select which apps you would like to block from using data moving forward.
Note: when you’re on WiFi, DataWall automatically goes inactive, allowing all of your apps to access the Internet connection again.
5) Adjust settings of Google Chrome, Facebook & other popular apps
Lastly, many popular mobile apps have helpful data-saving settings that most people don’t know about.
In Google Chrome, for instance, you can turn on the Data Saver setting to optimize sites for mobile and minimize unnecessary data usage. This feature also allows you to track data savings over time through a sleak in-app graph. Pretty cool!
If you find yourself scrolling through social media while traveling, you’re probably using unnecessary data as well. On Facebook, you can stop videos in your news feed from automatically playing by going to Left navigation bar → Settings → Account Settings → Videos and Photos → Selecting ‘Auto-Play On Wi-Fi Connections Only’.
As you can see, it only takes a few quick tips and tricks to save a lot on data charges while traveling. We hope you enjoy the data savings and have a great trip, wherever that may be next!