How do you stay connected when you travel internationally?
Keeping in touch with family, friends, and business associates in the past was very simple; however, the options were severely limited!
Now, we are in constant contact and we count on staying connected when traveling. In fact, as a travel blogger, it’s especially important as we keep as active as possible on social media and the blog.
Perhaps you’ve seen me in action in the past.
Before heading off to France in December, Mr. TWS and I considered the options for staying connected while we were away. We signed up for a minimum level international voice plan with our U.S. carrier in the event we needed to make calls to each other’s cell phones, but we never needed to use it. More than needing phone coverage, we’d need plenty of internet access for browsing the web and posting to social media. Of course, data coverage offered by U.S. cell phone carriers are astronomical when traveling internationally. We decided to try the XCOM Global Mobile Hotspot for the 10 days we’d be in Paris and Provence.
What is the XCOM Global Mobile Hotspot?
The XCOM Mobile Hotspot provides wireless connectivity with unlimited data access for up to 10 devices (laptops, smartphones, and tablets). XCOM offers rental hotspots for over 175 countries and various plans depending upon your needs and what countries you’ll be visiting. For a daily flat fee of $14.95, you can get coverage for two countries, but we only required the hotspot to work in France.
Why we liked it
Size: The device is small, slim and light and can easily fit in any pocket, purse, or small case. I carried it (as well as an extra battery) in a zipped pocket of my purse. With this unobtrusiveness, we forgot we had it except for the fact we were always connected.
Multiple Devices: We had four devices on the trip — two laptops, two smartphones.
Ease of use: As soon as we landed in Paris, we quickly installed the battery, powered it on, located the device as an available wi-fi network, entered the password and got connected. It was easy and took only a few minutes. Operating the device was as simple as power on/power off and charging the batteries at night.
Coverage: Whether strolling along the Champs-Elysées in Paris or driving the roads of Provence, we had very good 3G coverage (provided by Orange France). The only place where we had any issues with connectivity was on the TGV train from Paris to Marseille because of the high speeds at which we were traveling through coverage areas.
In Provence, we were so busy admiring the scenery as we left Arles for Aubagne that we realized much too late that we were going in the wrong direction. Thanks to having the XCOM Global Mobile Hotspot and a Skype account, we were able to call the person we were scheduled to meet and also get accurate directions using Google Maps when we turned the car around. We actually had several situations where we needed to make Skype calls while in Provence on the road, and we were glad that we were never out of touch.
Unlimited data: No need to worry about too much web usage as far as the hotspot is concerned. However, note that you are still subject to each carrier’s Fair Usage Policies if their networks get overloaded.
Advantages over using SIM cards: We’ve purchased SIM cards in other European countries and they are good options. However, there are several reasons that a mobile hotspot may be a better option.
- SIM cards only provide coverage for smartphones, not laptops and tablets.
- It’s time-consuming to research how and where to get a SIM card for a specific region and then to purchase one in the phone store (those places are always busy).
- Short-term data plans are not available everywhere for SIM cards.
- SIM card plans can be complex, possibly magnified with language barriers in the stores.
- SIM card fees are for specific data amounts so the cards may need to be recharged; this can be costly and time-consuming.
Advantages over using Wi-Fi only: Instead of looking for free Wi-Fi hotspots in cafés, we always had our hotspot on hand. Although our hotels had Wi-Fi access, it was not always reliable. The hotspot makes for a great backup in cases where you don’t have internet availability in your room or if the premium access is not affordable. We also felt more secure with our own password-protected wireless network than with public networks.
Battery life: With four hours of battery life, an extra battery, and keeping the hotspot off when not needed, we didn’t have any incidents of running out of battery power. We charged them both at night and we were set to go in the morning.
Simple return procedure: As soon as we got back to the U.S., we returned the hotspot in a prepaid envelope that had been provided in the original shipment. It couldn’t be easier.
Support: XCOM offers 24 hour support. However, we never had a need to use it so I can’t comment directly about their customer service.
Coverage areas: Check out the XCOM Global website to see countries where their plans are available and specific coverage areas of the local internet service providers.
Plans: We were on a daily rental plan for France only, but there are other plans available, including a monthly package and a special Europe Travel Plan option that covers 40 European countries.
Cost: It may not be the lowest-cost option in some circumstances, but is definitely an affordable option for many travelers. Consider how many (and what type) of devices you have, and how long and where you’ll be traveling to determine the value. The more devices you have accessing the hotspot, the more economical it becomes, too.
Would we consider an XCOM Global Mobile Hotspot again?
Absolutely! For all of the reasons I mentioned above, we were very happy with our XCOM Global Mobile Hotspot and will certainly consider it for future international travel.
Disclosure: The XCOM Global Mobile Hotspot was provided for us to review in France by XCOM Global, but our opinions and perspectives are our own — as always!
Wonderful review! In fact, I think it is useful to all people who travel a lot or to those who travel less but need to be online. I personally thought about it million times! Especially before my RTW. Eventually, I relied on wi-fi only and it was often a challenge. Not to mention poor connection in remote locations. Or getting lost in Kyoto just because I had no connection and google maps did not work. Even though it is possible to connect all devices to your phone (using it as wi-fi provider) I think your global hotspot is much more convenient. I think I would love to have it during my next travel! Thanks Cathy for this and for checking it for us!
Great review, will certainly be checking this out for my future travel within Europe. We do depend on the wifi etc of the hotels, but as you said, often times it is not reliable or overloaded. This is a great option to have – especially if you are travelling by car and need to have access to GPS.
You do NOT need data connection to use your smart phone as a GPS! There are numerous apps around which allow for offline navigation. The GPS of your phone is separate from the data connection and receives its positioning via global positioning satellites (acronym GPS). I wrote a lengthy review about apps we’re using to navigate: http://dare2go.com/review-road-test-android-navigation-apps/
Juergen – thanks for sharing your post. We’re always interested in helpful resources.
This certainly sounds all very tempting – until you come to the price and check the coverage they are offering. This company seems to favor mostly the Spanish Telefonica and affiliates as their carrier, and in the countries I checked (Germany, Argentina, and Chile) they are always the third best option when it come to network coverage an reliability. We’re currently long-term in Chile, where I use Entel for mobile data (a USB stick, basically free to purchase as the price is refunded in data) and I get good to excellent reception even in many remote locations. My wife uses Claro, second largest mobile network, and often doesn’t even get voice connections, hardly ever mobile data in the same places. Now: I pay for this 16,000 Pesos for 15 days, that’s US$25.50 or $1.70/day – please compare to $15/day! 2013 we spent a lot of time in Germany and paid with T-Mobile €20/month for mobile data, that’s under $0.75/day…
I guess this might be worthwhile for some people with high data needs on a short trip, like day traders on the stock market or other business people who can claim it of tax. The device itself is not worth it either, we own a similar MiFi modem made by Huawei e584; I paid for this $60 on eBay.
For people with lower data requirements data roaming might come cheaper, and you can set up your smart phone as a wifi hotspot.
Thanks for the in-depth info based on your personal experiences. Very helpful to get as much information as possible when making decisions. As your comment indicates, there are considerations for everyone to take into account, based on where they are and what their needs are going to be.
Your post was timely as we’ve been debating about getting a mobile hotspot or a quad-band phone for our travels. Your list of pros and cons was helpful; we’ll be checking into the XCOM global device further. Thanks for your very useful post!
Great review! We’ve used Xcom Global several times while traveling and it worked extremely well. We would also highly recommend it if you need constant access to the internet especially for multiple devices.
This looks like valuable information, but I am so not willing to do anything even remotely challenging to keep in touch while traveling. It is e-mail only. I do hope you’ll submit your toes in the pose shot to, http://berkeleyandbeyond.com/Way-Beyond/Photo-Galleries/Photos-of-Toes/photos-of-toes.html
Thanks for the invitation to show my toes on your site. 🙂 I’ll check it out.
Interesting information, I’ll bookmark this post for future reference. Thanks!
Great information. I’ve wondered how this worked and would definitely consider using it. Hunting for reliable wifi can really be a pain.
Hi – I read this review with great interest. We’ve most recently found it economical to buy data via SIM for our iPhones in Oceania. In the event we need to get online with other devices on a remote basis, we tether those using our iPhones as a hotspot. We spent a lot of money last year in Europe roaming with Verizon’s international plan and that is definitely never happening again. 🙂
Ouch on the Verizon international plan. Super expensive. I know from personal experience, too.
Read with interest as we had a very good one that we purchased in London and it worked throughout France and Switzerland, when it wasn’t supposed to. We have, in the past, also used our mobiles/cells as our server if that is the correct word. Actually, I just leave it to Gordon to make sure I am online or I have a melt down.
I do find traveling expensive with phones – not computers so much. I decided not to get coverage for my 10 day trip to the US for my phone so I’ve put Instagram on hold – which is not ideal and it would be nice not to save up and have to look at emails at night once I’m finally back at the hotel.
The price still seems high for this – and I’d be curious what it would be for just the phone.
We’ve been using T-Mobile’s international data plan for about a year now and have found it to be pretty good almost everywhere we’ve gone. Sometimes (in Northern Europe) it works better than in the USA.
Such helpful information. I will definitely check them out for my upcoming trip to Barcelona.
This is a great review and answered all my questions, Cathy. We’ve always relied on SIM Cards and free wi-fi so I’m so glad there is an option. Suddenly road trips won’t be so bad with having this hotspot. This could be the saving grace for many parents on international road trips – iPads with Internet connections. I will definitely check them out for future trips.
Great review, Cathy. It’s a bit expensive esp when I compare it to similar deals I could get in Jamaica, for example. But I understand the convenience. If you’re going someplace for a short visit, when you land, you want to hit the ground running, not waste precious time trying to figure out how to stay connected.
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