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Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

Toronto, Canada
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Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

We are both 67 years, retired and in good health. We are driving in early May to Florida for two weeks. We have never used or needed a moblile/cell phone. However for our safety and convenience on the road trip we wanted to invest as little as possible so that we could makea few calls for either emergency purposes or to contact our hotel and make urgent inquiries. When we return we will likely have no use for it, until we take some other significant trip.

Can a TA member recommend an inexpensive solution for the cell phone and a SIM card solution for use in the US? I have no clue on the possibilities. Even an unlocked used phone that works is fine and a SIM card solution for calling within the US or US and Canada at a discounted price would be appreciated.

Thanks

Thanks

Park City, Utah
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1. Re: Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

Simply go into any big box store like Walmart, Target, Best Buy etc. and buy a pre-paid phone. You'll spend around $50 including basic usage (you can add more by phone or online with credit card). It will serve you pretty much anywhere along major roads. And you can dump it when you're finished. Very easy process. And a good tool to have with you.

Have a great trip.

Marina, California
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2. Re: Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

You're better off getting one in the US just because the US phones do not charge long distance within the country while Canadian phones do, and you won't see any roaming charges typically while in the US. Calls to Canada are typically about $0.40 per minute, unless you get an international calling plan. I found this one for T-Mobile: …t-mobile.com/prepaid-additional-services

Note, on that page, the "International Roaming Rates," which includes Canada for $0.59 per minute. That's a very good price, as I get charged about $4 per minute roaming when I go up there.

Toronto, Canada
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3. Re: Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

Thank you so much.

Let me see if I get it!. When I cross the border I need to head to the nearest Walmart or Best Buy. They will for around $50 supply me a phone that includes a certain amount of calling time. There is a time count but the cents per minute are the same to any point in the US. (not sure how to quantify it) I saw something like this on Walmart.com offering it on line for store pick up. It was advertised as "Straight Talk Refurbished Motorola 418 GSM Phone Plus $30 All You Need Plan" all for $30. While this was online, I am assuming you can get this done in minutes at the store.

I'm a duffer on this stuff so I have a dumb question. Is this a disposable phone? Or is this a basic unlocked phone that I could use on our next trip to the US, by just adding more talk time by phone or whatever other means? I say unlocked, because I am assuming that in the future I could use any service provider's prepaid talk plan with this phone? I expect to be making 4 trips a year some 2 weeks but mostly 2 to 3 days. For these shorter duration trips it would be cost effective to retain the phone and buy more time no?

Thanks again

Cleveland
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4. Re: Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

You might get a better deal online and a larger selection. Wal-Mart likely is much cheaper than Best Buy or anyone else, but (Sam Walton would beat his heirs with a baseball bat) Wal-Marts now often have low inventories and stock-outs. Wal-Mart delivers goods to stores for free for pick-up. It's a great way to buy things if you an identify a Wal-Mart along your route.

I'm partial to Tracfone. I use them, and so do many friends. They have excellent network connections everywhere. They offer great deals on online minutes, and are easy to use. As with any phone, there is a learning curve.

BTW, you likely will want a decent cooler. Use hotel ice to keep beverages/water cold while driving around Florida.

Cleveland
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5. Re: Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

In the U.S., phones generally are locked into networks (ridiculous, I know).

Perhaps buy the phone online directly from Tracfone.com, likely cheaper than even Wal-Mart with more options, if they ship to Canada. Then activate it when you get to the U.S. (perhaps you can activate it from Canada as the networks are so integrated). Or buy the phone from Wal-Mart with minimum service and minutes, and upgrade service and minutes online, in order to avoid shipping charges.

If you're going to be coming to the U.S. so frequently, buy a cheap Tracfone with two years of service and a double or triple minutes card. For around $200 U.S., you'll get the phone, two years of service, and likely 1,000 minutes of usage or more. Phone calls are the same everywhere in the U.S. I don't know how they handle calls to Canada.

If you don't renew the service before expiration, you lose unused minutes. However, I'm pretty certain you can reactivate the phone, but check that if you believe it's your best option.

I've never checked to see whether you can use a Tracfone inside Canada.... Reading through the Tracfone.com website, or calling them, you likely can get all of your questions answered.

Let us know if you can use Tracfones in Canada. I would like to know that!

Edited: 23 March 2013, 19:05
Cleveland
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6. Re: Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

One thought, if you order a Tracfone for delivery in Canada, it may operate differently than a Tracfone purchased in the U.S., as Colinaz warned.

Toronto, Canada
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7. Re: Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

Thanks once again. I hope I am not frustrating you with my ignorance as a non cell phone user. Seems like it is not possible to buy a cheap unlocked phone ready for a prepaid SIM card with talk time to fire it up for voice only communication. I'm not even sure if that is possible in Canada. I know when we travelled thru' S E Asia, it was the way a lot of travellers met their needs.

The other part that I have heard about is the possible risk of incompatibility of the phone with the network that serves it.

I am still not sure I am getting one thing. Let's say I acquired a prepaid inexpensive phone from Walmart and when I return home most or all of the "talk time" is consumed, Does the deal expire at a predetermined date if I do not subscribe for more talk time before the expiry date? Or can I call anytime in the future and buy talk time and I am good to go?

Cleveland
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8. Re: Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

I've always renewed my Tracfone time prior to expiration, so I don't know the answer about what happens if you let service expire. My understanding always has been that you lose all unused minutes if you let service expire. I think you can reestablish service just by buying more minutes/service time, but I'm not 100 percent certain.

Have you read through the Tracfone.com website or called them?

I am certain the U.S. cell phone market is archaic compared to Europe, Asia and much of the world. Tracfone phones work everywhere, using the networks of other cell phone providers.

I know nothing about other prepaid phone services.

Marina, California
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9. Re: Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

> Seems like it is not possible to buy a cheap unlocked phone ready for a prepaid SIM card with talk time to fire it up for voice only communication

No, it's possible. Not sure where you're getting that idea. If you go into a retailer, they're always going to try to sell you phone + plan, because they make a ton of money off of the plan and you end up paying for the phone via the plan. Buy an "unlocked" phone and then get the SIM card from a vendor. You can do prepaid or you can do short-term. Prepaid is probably slightly cheaper. Here's one option for a short-term plan: …t-mobile.com/pay-by-the-day-cell-phone-plans

Once you buy the cell phone, it's yours, and you can use it again at another time. Same goes for the SIM card: when you cancel the service it doesn't turn into a pumpkin, it just won't work (except to dial 911) while you do not have service. In the US, you can buy older cell phones at thrift stores even, but not all of them will necessarily work with modern SIM cards. You'll have to consult the provider where from you acquire the SIM.

My only question relates to whether an unlocked Canadian cell phone will work with a US SIM card. You'd have to look this up, but it may be best to just buy the phone in the US or from a US vendor.

The US is more restrictive with phones than other countries, particularly in Asia. There are many international visitors that are able to do what you're trying to do though.

To answer your last question, prepaid minutes typically do eventually expire. This will be outlined when you purchase them.

Seattle, Washington
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10. Re: Advice on Cell phone for the driving trip Toronto to Florida

Walmart has smart phones with no contract. You are able to use map to navigate your route. You can also download a Trip Advisor App, that will assist with hotel and restaurant reviews. I would also suggest downloading news apps for metro areas during the trip that would assist you with current news for that location. A small fee, and safe travel.