Tech Best Practices When Advisors Go Abroad

Not planning before going abroad could result in a big bill or a big problem if you're hacked. Not planning before going abroad could result in a big bill or a big problem if you're hacked.

How often do you think about your technology tools before you take off on a vacation? When you are traveling domestically, you might not think about it at all. However, when you are traveling internationally, you should plan for how you will stay connected during the trip. Not only are there best practices for you to consider, but you could also save some money if you plan carefully. This list isn't just for advisors; you can share these ideas with your clients, too.

Before traveling internationally, make sure you understand your mobile phone plan. The larger mobile providers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, etc.) offer several options depending on your wireless and data needs. Several companies now offer an “International Daily Pass” in some countries; you pay about $10 each day you use your mobile device overseas. This daily fee essentially offers you the ability to use your regular monthly plan allotment (minutes, data, text, etc.) without other additional charges. Keep in mind that this is a per-device daily fee.

Depending on the length of your international trip and your wireless and data needs, it might be more cost effective to add a real international plan. This is generally a monthly charge and can sometimes be purchased based on the specific country that you are visiting. However, don't expect the same level of minutes or data that you have on your domestic plan.

(Related: Balance Is Key to Advisor Tech, Client Service: Kitces)

If you don't do anything, your mobile device will probably still work during your trip, but you will likely be charged for each minute, megabyte, text, etc., that you use.

Another option for using your mobile device abroad is to replace the SIM card with one specifically for the areas you are visiting. This can be very cost effective and is not hard to do. The new SIM card will have a different phone number, but other credentials should work fine, such as those for email, social media, etc.

We have discussed many times the risks of using unsecured (often free) Wi-Fi networks. For sure, this is the same risky situation when traveling internationally. However, the larger mobile providers and several independent companies do offer their own Wi-Fi hotspots in some locations in various countries.

Prior to your trip, you can review which providers have Wi-Fi hotspot locations for where you are traveling. This is a much better way to go than using a random free Wi-Fi network. When you subscribe to an international plan as mentioned previously, access to these Wi-Fi hotspots is generally included in the service plan as well.

When at home, there are processes, updates and backups that happen automatically on your mobile devices. In general, these events occur whenever your device is plugged in and connected to a Wi-Fi network. Before traveling internationally, it is a good idea to review your device settings and disable many of these events (if not all of them). Otherwise, you might wake-up one morning and wonder how you used so much data from your international plan, especially if you only purchased a limited amount of data.

It is very simple to temporarily turn off backups and automatic updates. This feature is often located under the “Settings” function on your device. You might have to do this for each app and anything that automatically syncs with the cloud. Once you return home, don't forget to reactivate automatic backups and updates on your devices.

After your trip, it is a good idea to change your passwords on any account that you accessed while overseas. Better yet, make sure you have two-factor authentication turned on as well, which adds an extra layer of protection. Consider doing a full security check on your devices before you leave, and be alert to any odd activity or behavior that begins to occur (running slow, processes that you don't recognize, etc.).

The good news is that you have a variety of choices and tools to consider when travelling internationally. The bad news is that if your goal is to disconnect while on the trip, you have to make a conscious decision to do so because technology does not make it easy to be far away from work and home.

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