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Tech Thursday: Roaming Tips

Roaming Tips

Even sending a short e-mail while traveling internationally can cost $10 or more. Below are three ways to keep data costs low while staying connected.

1. Purchase a roaming plan. If you want to use your U.S. phone abroad, get an international plan with discounted by-the-minute rates on phone calls and the ability to use data without extra charges. AT&T and Verizon Wireless offer monthly roaming packages, which are prorated and start at $4.99 for calls and $25 for 100MB of data (most phones will let you monitor the amount you’ve used). Be sure to shut off auto-sync when you are roaming.

2. Maximize your Wi-Fi. Unless you have a roaming plan, put your phone on airplane mode and turn on your Wi-Fi. If free hot spots are scarce, try Boingo Wireless (from $7.95 per month) or a router from FON ($49) to access thousands of free and paid Wi-Fi zones worldwide. JiWire’s WiFi Finder points you to hot spots. You can also buy or rent a portable hot-spot device such as Verizon Jetpack (from $49) and XCom Global (from $14.95 per day).

3. Get a local phone or SIM card. Need a local number so friends don’t have to dial the United States? Buy a SIM card at your destination for about $20 and insert it into an unlocked GSM phone (you can rent one for $40 on cellhut.com). Or buy a simple local phone with prepaid credit (around $30; $3 per day for data plans). You can also rent a phone with a data plan before you go at fonerent.com (starting at $9 per week; $5 per 100MB).

Photo by iStockphoto

The Race is On at Vail Resorts

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We love it when celebrities drop by the T+L offices. And on Wednesday, Olympic and World Cup Champion skier Lindsey Vonn stopped in to tell us about how many pairs of skis she travels with (150), how many days a week she trains in the off-season (6, for several hours each day), and how many eggs she eats to fuel her workouts (a lot).

But the gold medalist didn’t come to the snowless east coast just to talk training. Lindsey’s also involved in a cool new program with Vail Resorts, and she brought along the company’s CEO, Rob Katz, to announce EpicMix Racing.

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Tech Thursday: Top New Smartphones

Top New Smartphones: Samsung Galaxy SIII

Time to upgrade your mobile device? Here, four state-of-the-art models that will keep you connected, wherever you may roam.

Apple iPhone 4S: The iPhone 4S (and the upcoming iPhone 5) is unbeatable when it comes to apps—more than 675,000 at press time—but international perks vary by carrier. AT&T and Verizon Wireless offer roaming plans, and Sprint and Verizon let you use a local SIM card. $199; AT&T, Sprint, Verizon Wireless.

Samsung Galaxy SIII (pictured): This sleek phone operates on networks at home and abroad (though Sprint and Verizon only work in 48 countries). Its technologies are impressive: one tracks your eye so the screen stays on when you look at it; another switches from text message to call mode when you put the phone to your ear. $199; all major carriers.

HTC One S: Slim, light, and with long-lasting battery power (up to a day and a half), this Android avoids roaming charges by automatically switching to an Internet phone setting when you call from a wireless hot spot. Camera functions include a “burst mode” that can take 99 continuous shots. $149; T-Mobile.

Nokia Lumia 800: Travel apps are a breeze on this tiny phone, which uses the new Windows Phone system. The Lumia 800 also lets you use a locally purchased SIM card abroad. When you include data in your prepaid SIM plan, you’ll have access to your apps on the road. $900; amazon.com.

Photo courtesy of Samsung

Tech Thursday: Medium, a New Content-Sharing Site

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Being the social media editor for Travel + Leisure, I like to think I’m pretty plugged in. I’m on Twitter, Pinterest, Foodspotting, Foursquare, and, of course, Facebook—sorry, the last one’s a friends-only profile. But yesterday, yet another social platform was announced, and I’m interested to see where it will go. (Admittedly, the owners of the site aren’t exactly sure of it either, but it could very well end up being, at least in part, a great home for travel-inspiring words and images.)

Medium is the name, and so far, it appears to be a little bit Tumblr and a little bit Blogger. How are the posts curated? Unlike Facebook, the posts are divvied up into a series of themed “collections,” the idea being that everything within that section sticks to the theme. Once the site fully launches—right now it’s just the creators that are able to post—anyone can contribute. And it seems to be, so far, that the contribution can be anything: photos, links, essays, videos. The idea is to post things that are compelling, because other users will be able to vote for the posts that they like. The more votes, the higher up your post will surface in that collection.

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Tech Thursday: App for New Music Recommendations

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I have a problem. When I find a song I really enjoy, I listen to it to death. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. Sometimes I’ll play it two or three times on a single 30-minute commute home. For serious. And then, of course, after a bit of time passes, I inevitably get bored with it and need to give it a rest until it feels like new again. As a result—and my friends can attest—I regularly post, both to my Facebook and Twitter accounts, pleading for my friends to send me new music suggestions.

So I was excited to hear about a new free app called MusicBunk (Android; iOS) Basically, it’s a simple way to get music recommendations from your friends, but without having to bother them. (Or have them send you a bunch of songs you already have.) Not to mention, if you're on the road, you might just not have the time to sit around and wait for responses. So it's a perfect way to time manage while traveling, without having to give up on that desire for new tunes.

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Money-Saving Hotel Booking Sites

Money-Saving Hotel Booking Sites

Priceline’s Name Your Own Price bidding system was once the most novel way to find a discounted hotel room online, but a slew of innovative new booking websites and apps make it easier than ever to prevent buyer’s remorse. The seven-month-old website BackBid turns the Name Your Own Price approach on its head: instead of guests bidding on hotel rooms, hotels bid on guests. After you submit your existing hotel reservation and travel preferences to BackBid, the site invites hotels in the same area to make you offers for less expensive rooms or upgraded ones at the same price. (A five-star hotel was recently offered in place of a three-star property in Washington, D.C.) As long as you have a refundable reservation, you can cancel and book the new room.

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Tech Thursday: How to Avoid Travel Scams

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The first time I ever flew into JFK was during a flight back to NYC from Los Angeles. I hadn't gone to bed until the sun came up earlier that day, was running on just a couple hours of sleep, and I was ready to get home and collapse onto my bed. So when faced with the decision to wait in the long taxi line or take up some guy on his car service option, my foggy brain decided the latter was a sound decision. I followed the guy to his “taxi” which was a rusty old pick-up truck, but thankfully had enough sense to stop, say “Absolutely not,” and turn back around to deal with the line for a legit cab.

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Tech Thursday: Must-Have Apps For the 2012 London Olympics

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If you’re one of the lucky ones to be attending the Olympics this year in London, but are a little nervous about navigating a foreign city—particularly during what will very likely become a rather chaotic time with the huge influx of travelers and athletes—there are a few apps out there that can help you out. (And most of them will still be useful outside of London, after the Games are long over.)

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Tech Thursday: Three New Technologies to Make Travel Easier

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I love to travel. Obviously. I wouldn’t work here if I didn’t. And I love when I hear about advances in technology that can help make traveling easier. So you can imagine how excited I was when I saw our friends over at sister mag Executive Travel reported three new improvements that are underway that’ll help speed things up while you get to your destination, so you have more time to enjoy that beachside mojito.

The first will help you speed through the baggage check a little faster. How? By printing out your baggage tag at home, while you’re checking into your flight online. The technology was created by Unisys Corporation, and is currently being tested at Billund Airport in Denmark. When passengers show up at the airport, they simply drop their bags off at a special counter and head on over to security.

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Free Restaurant Recs on the Go from Google+ Local and Zagat

Google+ Local

Don't you hate it when you get to a new city and have no idea where to find a great restaurant? More often than not, unfortunately, a lack of knowledge leads to mediocre meals and a poor understanding of local cuisine. Google is out to fix that.

Google has added a new feature to their Google+ social network: Local. Like its competitor, Yelp, Google+ Local will show you recommended businesses, museums, and even—yes—restaurants that are nearby.

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