Staying Connected Abroad

I haven’t traveled out of the country extensively, but when I have, it’s always been pretty much entirely disconnected. My eighth grade class traveled to Italy and we used calling cards (ha) and payphones (HA) to reach our parents. When I was in London training for Henley, we bought prepaid basic mobile phones for emergencies and relied on slow/spotty wifi in cafes. And then in Mexico with my family, well we took it as an opportunity to totally unplug!
Traveling to Scotland though? It was technically a work trip (albeit an awesome one!) and I knew I would need to have access to email throughout the trip… and, you know, the occasional Instagram. My friend Hallie went on this incredible trip to Asia and she tweeted about XCom Global keeping her connected.
I researched the company a bit, knowing that I was soon making a trip abroad, and asked her all sorts of questions. She put me in contact with XCom and they offered to let me use a device for free while traveling.
Let’s just say… I will never take a trip abroad without it.
XCom provides mobile hotspot devices for your travels and it ensures that you will always have a wifi connection. I kept the little hotspot in my coat pocket and turned it on when I needed it. You can keep it on all the time, but I personally liked being able to disconnect and connect whenever I wanted. I kept the spare battery and charger in my tote bag, but I honestly never even needed it…. The charge lasted all day.
I think I kind of expected the connection to be slow or weak, but I was really surprised at how fast the wifi was. In fact, I didn’t notice any difference than when I’m connected at home. 
Seriously, it was such a relief to know that I could look up directions (you know, for when I’m lost in an unfamiliar city….) or read reviews of a restaurant that looked good or to research attractions when we had a spare afternoon of. I answered urgent emails, Snapchatted my friends, and uploaded Instagrams on the go.
(Not kidding… I actually got lost….)
Our hotels had wifi, but when a bunch of people were signed on, it would get super slow and I could power on my own private wifi. Hello, productivity.
So thankful XCom Global let me test it out!! If you’re traveling abroad, you can choose the country you’re going to and they send you the device right before your trip. When you land in the new country, you can turn it on and access the wifi right away! Super easy and highly recommended!
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These days, if you're abroad (at least in Asia), it's not difficult to just buy a new SIM card with a data plan if you want and drop it in your phone.

When I was in China with my boyfriend and his family staying with his grandparents for a month in May, we all brought our smart phones, took out the American SIM cards, bought new SIM cards for the Chinese network and put them in. I think they were the equivalent of about $20-30 USD each and had enough minutes and texts to last the entire trip.

If we had wanted to spend more money or were going to be staying longer, we could have purchased SIM cards with data allowances. But, there was fairly reliable wifi at least once a day at the hotels, and since we were traveling as a group it just made more sense to focus on being able to text and call one another instead of go online. We could also get on wifi in a coffee shop or the hotel, download something like the bus schedule or a map and then just save it on our phones instead of looking at it in real-time using data.

Part of the fun of travel, to me, is disconnecting a little if possible so that you can be present where you are. Obviously a work trip is different from a family vacation, and I suppose the XCom service would pay for itself if you were strictly on business while traveling or needed really fast internet for work (the wifi in China was generally pretty slow), but, there are definitely alternatives out there for staying connected.

Alexandra Aimee

Thank you so much for sharing this! Great information. I was surprised and delighted to be able to connect my cell phone up to a lot of wifi on my last trip abroad (Paris) so I was actually much more connected than I expected to be… Buuut, I'm sure it won't be like that everywhere! My husband and I are hoping to go to Japan this year, and this will totally be useful information then!

— Alex at Brainy Girls Beauty


This is a great idea. Saw this once on the news I believe. Much easier to throw this in a bag than buying a sim card in a new country.


That's pretty cool. I unplugged when I went to Hawaii in October and it was glorious, but going abroad, I'd definitely want my phone and wi-fi, especially since I'm doing a lot more freelance work these days.


Love this since I travel a bunch, but it would be really helpful if there was info on pricing and how it works logistically…ya know, for those of us who don't get gifted things. Obviously I can easily look it up myself, but it would be useful to give this info if you're recommending a product.