Roaming charges, and then some

A $20,000 cellphone bill — what do you expect when you travel with kids?

Carolyn Grant

An 11-year old Burnaby boy has racked up $22,000 in roaming fees on his dad’s cellphone during a Mexican vacation, CBC News reports.

Now, I’m guessing that’s not part of the all-inclusive package offered by the resort.

The boy’s father is appalled and fighting the cellphone company with everything he’s got and he has managed to get the charges down to about $500.

Still, $22,000. The shock could have given the poor man a coronary.

It seems the family was enjoying a winter vacation in sunny Mexico and the boy got too much sun. He was advised to spend a day indoors. He used Dad’s phone and streamed video off You Tube for some 12 hours.

Dad is protesting, saying Canadian cell phone companies are gouging customers on roaming fees, and his company is apparently charging more than any other Canadian company. The boy downloaded 700 MB of data, which would cost a Mexican user $20. That same amount cost the Canadian customer $22,000.

It does seem a little extreme.

I think we have all learned a lesson here. There are some things you just don’t need to take with you on vacation.

No, not cellphones — kids.

Now before you get all indignant on your child’s behalf, tell me how much fun it is to sit in an airport, waiting for your inevitably delayed flight, with a couple of whiney kids.

“Why aren’t we leaving yet?”

“I’m bored.”

“Eric is making mean faces at me.”

“Mooooooooom, when is the plane going to get heeeeeeeere?”

Good times.

When my kids were younger, we didn’t go south in the winter, but we did take summer vacations which involved driving great distances. At that time we lived in Northern Ontario, so one summer we’d go west to British Columbia, the next we’d go to Southern Ontario. Any of you who have driven across Ontario will know that it’s a good two and a half days from the western border to the south.

My point is, long trips with kids. Looooooong trips.

It was our intent to teach our children about their own country, to give them an idea of the vastness that is Canada, the great lakes, the mountains, the endless prairies. Let me tell you, there is nothing more endless than a prairie when you have three young children sharing the back seat of a Honda Civic.

I recall one particular incident on a drive to the west coast. We were on day three of the drive, tootling along past Revelstoke, near the Enchanted Forest tourist attraction. I remember our exact location because I found the word Enchanted somewhat ironic. The kids were tired, cranky and out of sorts. And bugging me. I was driving. My husband was snoozing. The kids were complaining, fighting, arguing. My husband woke up and barked at the kids. Crying and yelling ensued.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I stopped the car on the side of the road. Yes, they made me stop that car.

I got out, slammed the door and started walking down the highway. My husband got out, slammed his door and walked in the other direction. We each walked a good ways trying to get a grip.

Finally, we both walked back to the car. The kids were silent. We were silent. On we went. The next day in Chilliwack, we did what any sensible parent would do — we bought a bigger vehicle. So in a sense, our children cost us at least $22,000 on that trip and we didn’t even have a cellphone with us.

We bought a lovely Toyota 4-Runner. Nice car. Nice and big.

But not big enough.

The next summer, on our trip to Southern Ontario, we bought a Suburban.

Talk about roaming charges.

Carolyn Grant is the Editor of the Kimberley Daily Bulletin