Android: International Travel with Wifi Only

international travel wifi onlyI’m about to head off for some international travel to the “land down under” (Australia) and I want to make sure I don’t get pummeled with a huge phone bill upon my return. Why would I have a huge bill? Well, the Galaxy S4 (and any smartphone for that matter) all use quite a bit of data.

Even when you aren’t actively using the phone, there is a lot of chatter taking place in the background such as software updates, “phoning home”, cloud-syncs, weather applications, stock widgets, pushes, pulls, email, text messages, phone calls, etc. If you are not within range of a Wifi hotspot, then all that data is transmitted and received across the mobile network(s) and each Kb of data downloaded or uploaded costs a lot of money, especially if on international travel and your data plan does not support it. Roaming charges for phone calls are also ridiculously expensive, so I want to turn that capability off so I don’t accidentally “butt-dial” someone.

You might be thinking, why not leave the phone at home? Well, I need it while I’m at the airports in the United States so I can call family to come pick me up, or to kill some time during layovers. I also want it while abroad so I can use it in Wifi hotspots to send email (with photos) back home or call family with Skype/Tango. And as a last resort, I do want the capability to make emergency calls should I need to.

So, how can I turn off the mobile data and only use wifi on my phone while on international travel? In other words, how do I turn my Galaxy S4 into a simple Wifi only device? I can think of three options, all listed below:

International Travel Option #1

Airplane Mode (On): This will turn off everything (all radios) including data, phone and Wifi. Not exactly what I want, because I do want Wifi. So this won’t work.

International Travel Option #2

Data Roaming (unchecked) + Mobile Data (unchecked): This will turn off all mobile data, but leave Wifi on and allow phone calls to be placed. Not exactly what I want because if someone calls and I answer, I will get charged a nasty per minute rate. But, this would work. I just have to make sure I don’t accept or place any calls on accident (Ever receive one those 5 minute voice mails from someone that sounds like their phone is in their pocket — I’ve done it).

International Travel Option #3

Airplane Mode (On) + Wifi (On): I can activate Airplane Mode and then also turn Wifi on. I think this will work. This will prevent data networks and also prevent phone calls, but it will allow a Wifi connection. I’m going with this option. I hope it works, because I’ll be a bit peeved if I get charged a ton of money.

Update: I’ve returned from my trip and Option #3 worked like a charm. I had no additional fees and was able to Skype/Tango with family back home.

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