I've been travelling quite a bit over the past month, including a couple of trips to both the US and Madrid for events like VON and the NMS Communications Connect events, where I've been moderating panel sessions.
I've tried an experiment - a complete ban on myself using data roaming on my normal email & web device (an HTC handheld courtesy of T-Mobile Web'n'Walk). While I like the T-Mo flatrate for use in the UK, the £7.50 per MB roaming charges are a joke. It's been costing me quite a bit of money over the past year - and it's even encouraged me to switch off images in my browser (back to 1996, eh? try advertising at me now....).
When I get a free day I'll churn to another more roaming-friendly network as the contract's now finished, but in the meantime I'm still using it. Or I may get the device unlocked & get hold of one of these Voda Germany pre-pay data SIMs I've heard about.
Instead, I've been relying on laptop+WiFi for my email everywhere - not too tricky as I've been mostly staying at hotels and at conferences which have had free or inexpensive WiFi.
Of course, this means I've been unable to do the traditional email-check in airport baggage halls while waiting for my bags, or in the cab on the way to the hotel.
And you know what? The extra 20 minutes I have to wait makes absolutely no difference whatsoever to my productivity, my responsiveness to clients or my life in general. If I'm in a different timezone, and I'm taking 8-hour flights, my email often has a long latency anyway. An extra few minutes is irrelevant - except for my personal sense of instant gratification ("Must have email NOW"). I'm not even wasting the 20 minutes - there's plenty of other stuff I have to read on paper anyway.
Now clearly this won't work for everyone. There are some people for whom email & data connectivity always needs to be as realtime as possible. But it does highlight how much money is wasted on an illusion: that full mobility is always necessary.
It isn't. For me, data roaming is a nice-to-have rather than a must-have.
With one exception. I cheated once - to Google the address of the hotel, because a cab driver was clueless. That's got a clear ROI - 100kb of data (the first page of results showed the address without even clicking on a link) vs. an extra few pounds for the cab driving in circles. Although now I think about it, it probably would have been cheaper to just phone someone I knew was in front of a PC....