Given the horrendous weather recently, and with huge swathes of the country still resembling a scene from Waterworld (though fortunately, minus Kevin Costner), it's natural that large numbers of people are already dreaming about a summer getaway – or maybe even something a little sooner to escape the permanently-soggy feet and windswept hair look that seems to be all the UK has to offer right now.
But for the tech-obsessed traveller, heading to warmer climes does pose a challenge – namely how on earth do you keep in touch with friends and family back home without it ending up costing more than the flight and hotel combined?
By now, we should all know just how badly roaming charges for using data abroad can sting. So if you're hoping to instil jealousy in those left to huddle in the cold back home by uploading frequent snaps to Facebook, you might want to have to think very carefully about whether it's worth it.
A change is coming
This is a situation that's set to improve in the coming years – at least for those who are limiting their overseas adventures to the EU. The European Commission (EC) has been putting in place several measures over the last few years to cut the cost of calling, texting and browsing when in other member state – with the goal of eliminating roaming fees entirely by 2016.
But before you head out and start downloading high-definition episodes of Breaking Bad on the beach, you need to remember we're not there yet. While the EU claims data roaming is now up to 91 per cent cheaper than before the price caps were introduced in 2008 – with calls and texts 80 per cent less expensive – the costs are still likely to be higher than in the UK.
And whatever you do, make sure you know if the country you're going to is affected. While the EU rules obviously can't protect you if you're headed to America or Africa, for instance, many people might not know whether some countries like Switzerland or Turkey are covered (they aren't).
Shut it all down
In fact, such are the worries that many folks are taking the heart-wrenching decision to leave their mobile phone stuffed in the bottom of their suitcase for all the time they're away. Recent research by the EC found 28 per cent of people from across the 28-member bloc switch off their phone completely when travelling abroad. In the UK, this was even higher, with almost four out of ten travellers (37 per cent) more willing to be incommunicado when on holiday, rather than risking a large bill.
A further 36 per cent of Brits – and a quarter of Europeans overall – keep their phone on, but make sure they turn off its roaming capabilities when travelling. This can be a smart step, as even if you resist the urge to load up Facebook or do a quick Google search, your phone could still be downloading updates and the like without your knowledge if you leave this option enabled.
And if people do have to contact home for any reason, they're finding the cheapest option. Almost half of Europeans would never consider using mobile internet in another country, while millions of people will shun costly voice calls in favour of cheap and simple SMS messages.
So what's to be done?
Of course, for most people, being out of touch for a week or two will be almost as unbearable as the thought of coming back home again at the end of a break, so there are steps that people can take to stay connected and make sure they don't have a nasty surprise waiting for them when they do return to the UK.
Taking advantage of free Wi-Fi hotspots is one of the best ways that users can keep their costs down – and as these have become so prolific over the last few years, it shouldn't require too long a trek in order to find one. In fact, most hotels now offer free (or at least comparatively cheap) Wi-Fi connectivity, so you should be able to update your status to 'sitting by the pool' without lying (though if you're doing this, some protection like one of our BeachBuoy waterproof cases might be in order).
Alternatively, picking up a prepaid local SIM card when you get to your destination is a good way to keep costs down – though you'll have to make sure your phone is unlocked before doing this. All the major UK mobile operators also offer fixed-cost data bundles that can be bought in advance before you take off. Just make sure you know how much you're using so you don't go over the limit.