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Verizon lets you pack your smartphone plan for trips abroad

TravelPass, which gives customers access to high-speed data, is Verizon's spin on providing customers with more affordable access outside the US.

Verizon's TravelPass lets you take your existing smartphone plan abroad.
Lexy Savvides/CNET

Verizon Wireless is giving its globetrotting customers a break.

The nation's largest wireless carrier on Thursday introduced TravelPass, an option that lets subscribers use the call minutes, texts and data from their existing phone plans while traveling. Even customers with unlimited voice and text messages will get that capability when abroad.

TravelPass, which is available now, costs $2 a day per line in Canada and Mexico, and $10 a day per line in more than 65 other countries.

It's the latest shot in what's turning into a new front in the wireless wars: giving customers better and more affordable access to their smartphones outside the United States. The days of sky-high and unpredictable roaming charges for a phone call or text message are starting to fade as carriers step up their international game.

T-Mobile, for instance, offers free text messages and data overseas, although the network connection is a slower 2G one. (Customers can pay for higher speeds.) The company also said in July that many of its customers can use their smartphones in Canada and Mexico without roaming charges. AT&T, meanwhile, lets you call and text message people in Mexico for an extra $5 per month.

Customers of New York-based Verizon previously had to buy a pricey new plan when going overseas. A typical plan for Mexico and Canada for 500 minutes, 500 sent text messages and 1 gigabyte of data would cost $25. The plans for other countries were even more expensive and offered less data. Without a plan, a phone call would cost as much as $2.99 a minute and data would cost more than $2 per megabyte.

Verizon subscribers can activate TravelPass by enabling international services on their account on Verizon's website or through its smartphone app. Once a customer makes a phone call, sends or receives a text message or uses data abroad, the daily TravelPass kicks in for the next 24 hours and the fee is charged.

The plan provides a greater measure of predictability, and customers can use their smartphone as they would normally based on their existing plans. Verizon said TravelPass allows the smartphone to connect to the fastest available network, with no extra fee.

If you don't want TravelPass to automatically activate, you can disable the service through the app or website, or put your smartphone on airplane mode and just use Wi-Fi.