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!