I wrote recently about 3 things dumbphones still do very well, and one of those things was travel to other countries more easily than smartphones. It's not too hard to get talk minutes in other countries. Getting data plans for smartphones, though, is something else entirely.
That something else, though, is the subject of a very good wiki site I need to point you to. It is named, like many useful things, for what it is: Pay as you go sim with data wiki. The front page is just an alphabetical list of links to advice for each country, followed by a whole bunch of explanatory and warning text. It is one of my favorite things on the internet right now.
You certainly can travel without any kind of data plan on your phone, and rely on Wi-Fi spots, maps, hotel desk staffers, and the ferromagnetic material in the bridge of your nose to get around. But after discussing it with a coworker, we both realized that on our last data-less visits to Toronto and Quebec with our spouses, we individually can recall tense and overheated arguments about where things were, which way to go, whose fault it was for not anticipating things, and perhaps generalizations about the distribution of responsibilities across the entire marriage. So, you know what? Maybe I'll check out this wiki's page on Canadian pay-as-you-go data plans before the next trip up North.
What I love about this wiki (besides the unsparingly non-modern design) is the infusion of personal experiences and tiny details. When you're traveling abroad, the last thing you want are unexpected hitches and outages that require phone calls in another language to resolve. So when heading to Italy, and considering a "Super Internet" package from H3g, you should know, for example:
Purchase from a 3 Mobile store for €8 which includes €5 credit and the first month of data for free. It's renewed automatically after 30 days unless you disable the auto-renew. Also check the for another option (Gente di 3) that's free for the first month and renewed automatically for €5. Going to more official stores you will have to provide some documentation about yourself and a local address in order to buy a SIM card.
Using the Wind service in Rome instead? Note that you can text "Saldo" to 4155 to get your balance. You could have figured that out using Google Translate when you had reached Italy, but, oh, wait—you don't have data. This modern age, am I right?
So bookmark or save this quietly brilliant little guide to no-contract international smartphone packages, and never ask your U.S. carrier just how many children or limbs you'll need to hand over to get international roaming again.
Also, never have to tell your significant other that you had no idea that a Blue Jays game would let out right at this moment, and that, no, you have no idea what road other than the Gardiner Expressway can get you back onto the QEW, and, yes, of course you wanted to ruin an otherwise perfect anniversary weekend in Toronto. Great wiki, huh?