If you must be in touch while on vacation, at least communication options have never been easier.
VENICE, Italy (MainStreet) -- In today's no-growth, going-nowhere, short-attention-span market, a vacation has become a concept. Nobody -- and I mean nobody -- has the luxury of putting their investing on hold. Let's just count up what can go wrong: There's Greece, Spain and Italy. (Or is it India, China and North Korea?) There's inflation. And jobs. Wait: There is the election. And deflation. Oh, and virtualization.
That means that as you finalize your summer travel plans, you are going to have to find a reliable way to stay in touch from anywhere ... if only to keep one's finger close to the panic button. As you finalize summer travel plans, you should also find a reliable way to stay in touch from anywhere -- just in case.
There is a silver lining I can report to you from here in a Venetian lagoon: At least for this global traveling business geek, communication options have never been easier.
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Staying connected around the world still requires a heart-to-heart chat with your cellphone provider. Remember, these operations live to overcharge for international cell and data service, and you can easily spend more on your global roaming than you do on airfare.
But if you do it right, there is real value these days in world communication options.
Here are my three cheapskate tips you can use this summer to stay in touch -- and keep the investing monsters under the bed where they belong.
Save oodles with prepaid international roaming from T-Mobile.
I am not sure why investors are treating this operation like carrion after the failed merger with AT&T(:T). T-Mobile is setting the bar when it comes to affordable pricing, coverage and devices for moving around the globe.
For contract customers, the operation offers not-bad $15 per MB for data access in most European countries and $1 or so per minute for voice. But here's where the value really is for the short-term trader: international prepaid roaming plans. Simply head down to one of the zillions of T-Mobile retail touchpoints, work with the rep there on the specific countries to which you plan to travel. T-Mobile should offer several excellent, low-cost options, some as low as 60 cents per minute for voice. And the true beauty is that you can pay in advance and top up as you travel overseas. This not only vaporizes the after-the-fact travel cellphone bill trauma, but lets you wheel and deal in-country when it comes to topping up your minutes.
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Billions of prepaid mobile users worldwide are not stupid -- paying before you call is the smart global roaming option.
Text from anywhere with Spot Connect.
I realize shopping for Spot Connect is going to feel like you are auditioning for Man vs. Wild. This thing is totally, squarely for the outdoor nutjob who loves nothing more than risking his life heaven knows where. But if you do your homework, Spot Connect can help you survive the trading wilds as well as the Andes. It really does let you turn your smartphone into a legit global satellite phone.
The Spot Connect is a separate device -- slightly smaller than an iPhone -- that pairs to your smartphone via Bluetooth and connects to a global satellite network. All very James Bond.
Although you can't make calls, you can use it to send texts or even update Facebook or Twitter from just about anywhere you can see the sky. The device is $169.99 and a year subscription. Individual messages start at 50 cents apiece, but package subscriptions are available. The number of characters you can send is extremely limited, so you'll need to keep messages short, such as a basic "buy" or "sell." But for staying connected no matter what or where, the Spot Connect is the trader's tool of choice.
Rent a low-cost satellite phone.
You know the inflation argument is overblown when something as pricey as satellite communications gets cheap. But it is true: With even a tiny bit of shopping a short-term, low-cost rental satellite phone is a real option, and I really like what New York-based Roadpost Satcom is doing with re-selling satellite service. Starting at $8 a day you can rent a very sophisticated Iridium satellite phone, and minutes are not a complete hose job. Some plans start at $1.79 per minute, but you can buy bundled plans starting at $79 for 50 minutes (although larger plans cost less per minute; $229 buys 200).
Florida-based SatellitePhoneStore.com offers similarly competitive rates, with rental plans starting at about $40 per week and bundled minutes starting at about $40 for 25 minutes.
But in all it's possible to have a go-anywhere mobile solution for less than $200, if you are reasonable with calling. And here is the kicker: Receiving texts is also free with most satellite plans.
Just make sure you keep the kids off this thing and you will be carrying just the right kind of insurance policy.