For the last 15 months I have used google voice as my sole cell phone carrier. It is pretty easy to set up. We have been on 6 different trips throughout the west (Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California) and back east (New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Vermont). I have shopped, traveled locally, explored, and generally lived my life like normal. I am a new mom so that shapes my needs and usage demands but these are similar to when I was working and going to school full time. Below I will share with you my connectivity using google voice this past year.
Using Google Voice as your main carrier means that in order for you to get texts or phone calls you need to be connected to WiFi. I have found that this isn’t really a problem. I’m actually surprised at how often I am connected. Part of me, okay most of me, kind of wishes that I did this years ago and saved myself enough to pay off some of my student debt. I am a home economist (SAHM) so this list might not represent all the places you would be but it is pretty comprehensive. Previously I never thought about looking for free wifi and as I have looked more I have realized how frequently institutions offer it.
These are the places I normally am and my level of connectivity using google voice:
At home we have the basic internet package from Xfinity. This means that while I am at home and (this is important for a sleeping baby) around the yard and in the driveway I am connected. So unless the power is out or the wifi is down I am usually connected when it matters most.
This is actually a good thing, because then I am acutely aware of when the internet is out and can harass the internet for credits. 😀
I had been worried though that in an emergency I couldn’t call out if for some reason the power was also out but I reasoned with myself that I could go to a neighbors to make a phone call.
Why are you trying to text or call during church you sinner! Ha ha ha ha. Biggest joke ever, em I right. No but in addition to texting there is also surfing the net….for material…for your lesson…that you are preparing last …minute. Okay okay, big sinner here. Anyway. At my church, and all the churches in my religion there is free wifi and the password is the same at every building so it automatically connects regardless of the building. (Another reason why you should convert to be a Mormon….so you can watch cat videos while….okay never mind scratch that one.)
This one is good though because where I am at (Utah) there are churches everywhere. It feels like they are everywhere so if I am out walking or driving and need a sure wifi connection I just look for a steeple and pull into the parking lot. Often the signal can be received in the parking lot.
My usual spot for grocery shopping doesn’t have wifi. This is a problem for me, I actually thought about going to another grocery store that I know has free wifi but it is further away (I’m lazy). But many stores have free wifi now and malls too. These are stores that I know have free wifi and that I frequently use. I know that there are a lot of other places with wifi and there are other websites (like this one) that go over them.
Home Depot (but the name is like AT&T or something)
South Town Mall
Fashion Place Mall
Places that Don’t
Random yard sales
We have home internet from xfinity which allows you to also connect to wifi spots that they have throughout the area. I was surprised at how often I could connect to this. It does it automatically and I can count on getting texts and calls at certain stop lights around where I live.
Also, I have downloaded my area or different areas that I know I am going to be (like for vacations) in google maps and it lets me use gps without being connected. I’ve was quite surprised that I have been able to see my location very accurately without wifi. For some reason I thought that it updated via wifi.
Traveling Using Public Transportation
In my area buses and trax (light rail) don’t have WiFi but the Frontrunner (commuter train) does have free WiFi. I don’t use public transportation much anymore but I can see this being more of a problem. When relied heavily on public transportation I used internet a lot from the bus or train tracking apps to surfing the internet or streaming music.
My county (Salt Lake County) offers free wifi in many places. All of the libraries in the county have free Wifi. Even though it will automatically connect I have to go to the terms page every time. Sometimes it is a little slow to connect but once connected it works very well.
The rec centers also have free wifi.
There are two free wifi options, one for guests and one for students.
More spotty but usually hotels (or family) have wifi. Surprisingly I got free WiFi through Xfinity a lot more places than I thought, even back east. Also good to remember that even on vacation look for public places to get free wifi like libraries and city buildings.
Vacationing can be a little more tricky especially if you are only with one person and want to split up. If you are with more than one person you just go with someone who does have a cell phone with dependable service. Or you live like I lived growing up and you communicate and plan on where you want to meet up and when. I know, old school. We have traveled quite a bit this last year and it wasn’t that big of a problem.
We have one child and while driving long distances at times I would have liked to have data (without wifi) to distract him. To combat this I simply planed ahead and downloaded things to a tablet or my phone and then distracted him with that. Once again, with a little planning, it’s not even that big of a deal.
One of the tools that I think makes traveling around without a carrier work well for me is that I have a smart watch. I have a fitbit blaze and it is awesome because I’ll have my phone in my bag or in my stroller or somewhere else and as I go my watch will get a text or show an incoming call. Then I’m not checking my phone all the time but I become aware of places that I can rely on to get a signal.
You get pretty good connectivity using google voice in this day and age. I’ve had this setup for over a year and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It works for me and I have only rarely thought “ahh…this is inconvenient”. Before you do this though please read through my pros and cons to see if this would work for you or if this is $30 a month you want to see going toward a cell phone plan.
Also as a side note always remember that there are people out there who are nefarious who will try to hack into your phone using unprotected or fake wifi sites so always remember internet safety.