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King Sims' intriguing packaging (Jeff Li/IBTimes)

Remaining connected while being a frequent business flyer is one of the most essential yet unsettling tasks. If you rely on WIFI, you never know whether the next airport or caf? will have a stable open WIFI connection; and if you rely on roaming from your regular service provider, there is always an uncertainty of how hard that end of the month bill will hit. This is why Travel SIM cards are relevant: they offer the stability of a local network, plus they are a one-off payment that covers a predetermined amount of use, both made known clearly with certainty.

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SimsDirect pack at the airport (Jeff Li/IBTimes)

On my recent trip to the US, I gave two Travel SIM card companies a try: King Sims and SimsDirect - one with unlimited data usage over 15 days and another with a 5 GB allowance over 30 days (Both with unlimited call and text). They are different plans with both similarities and differences, but what's for sure is that as a business travelers, travel SIMs are a great investment to make, as the convenience and productivity far outweighs the cost. 

Getting the SIM cards

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Even more intriguing when unpacked (Jeff Li/IBTimes)

For King Sims and SimsDirect (available for purchase from kingsims.com and simsdirect.com.au), both required me to provide my length of stay in the US, as the cards will be activated by their team during the period of my stay. Both companies got their SIM cards to me within 2 days, but this may vary depending on what country you are in. Since SIM cards are not bulky, the postage is not a great hassle, but you do want to order it early to make sure that you have plenty of time to receive them before you depart.

Activating the SIM cards

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King Sims activation was as easy as it gets (Jeff Li/IBTimes)

Once landing in the US, I first took out the King Sims while the flight was taxiing. I swapped out my SIM card using the included SIM tool - which I greatly appreciate as I have gone from shop to shop for a SIM ejection tool in an airport before! After installing the new SIM, immediately I was prompted to choose a carrier - which I chose T-Mobile (as it says on the SIM card). I expected the need to restart my phone (Which is an 3 year old HTC mind you, so I did not expect intuitiveness), but to my surprise, I received a message from Google letting me know my new number, and I've got full bar reception and LTE Internet in the States! All before my feet touch the US soil! (Yes, the plane was still taxiing)

When I got onto my ride to the hotel, I went ahead to activate my second SIM card, which was from SimsDirect. The activation process took a few more steps, but was by no means difficult. After installing the SIM (SIM tool also included, thanks!), I had two choices: either to text 'GOGO' to the number 6700, or to use WIFI and activate the SIM using the my.ultramobile.com/activation link. Since I had the data running on the other phone, I tried it out and activated it from the website. 

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Sims Direct activation by WIFI was a little more involved, but we got there in 9 minutes flat (Jeff Li/IBTimes)

At first, I hit a hiccup, where the website gave me an error message. Just when I struggled through trying to run through the process again, I gave restarting the phone a try, which actually did the trick. I received a text welcoming me to Ultra Mobile and letting me know my new US number.

In retrospect I probably should have just gone with the SMS activation for SimsDirect, which sounds much easier than going through the website.

Other than the activation process, and the data cap difference - the experience with both of these Travel SIMs were the same for the remainder of my trip. (I never did hit that 5 GB cap)

Convenience of a Travel SIM

Having the Travel SIMs completely changed my trip. It was much easier to contact my local contacts (And for them to contact me with a US number) as well as not needing to search for any sort of WIFI wherever I was. Neither did I need to worry about racking up a roaming fee with my service provider at home.

Since both travel SIM companies uses the T-Mobile network, the reception were great in metro areas and fair in more rural area. I did experience a few signal drop outs while on my way to Boston, but that is to be expected for any non-Verizon carrier in the States. 

Who is the Travel SIMs for?

If you're expecting to contact multiple parties by phone while in the States, Travel SIMs are a convenient and cost effective solution. Most of them have unlimited calls and text, which will be sufficient for your 'traditional' contacts.

As for data, it really depends on your need. SimsDirect offers a reasonably priced package with a generous data pack of 5 GB, which was more than enough for my instant messaging, social media and the occasional music streaming (Just make sure you opt for SMS activation, it's much easier). 

But if you're hungry for data and you need an all-you-can-eat plan, King Sims is the way to go. If there's such a thing as a royal treatment in travel SIMs, this is it. You don't need to activate anything as everything is done for you, and no one will tell you how much you can use, the world is your oyster!

Sam is a production engineer turned tech writer who specializes in seeking out gadgets that enhances productivity while still looking sharp. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travelers.