I have had voice plans with Verizon, and a Blackberry plan with AT&T in the past years, and I was always stunned at the monthly costs. $60 minimum plus all the taxes.
After much research, I've been using Net10 phones to keep my cell phone costs down.
Since using Net10 for voice, I pay $30 every two months for 300 minutes. This is enough minutes for me. You can now even buy web-enabled phones from Net10 that have web browsers, which let you check your email (however, these kind of suck, nowhere near as good as a Blackberry for email). I've gotten all my phones basically for free from Net10 through promotions that have gotten less generous. One of the things I've noticed is that when you buy more airtime through Net10, you don't get killed with so many more taxes and surcharges. Net10 uses the T-Mobile network and is a division of Tracfone. I've found the coverage to be just fine. The plans are month-to-month. You aren't locked into a 2-year plan.
I've been using a Virgin Mobile USB modem that lets me use my laptop in most areas that I've been, to get my emails, browse the web, etc. If you buy the USB modem at Walmart, then you can buy a special Walmart plan for $20 per month that gives you 1 Gb of data downloading. I've been very impressed with this. I have cable internet at home, but everywhere else such as airports or while driving, I use this USB modem.
Walmart is also selling a Blackberry for $169 for use with Virgin Mobile. You'd need a voice plan at $25 and a Blackberry data plan for another $10 per month, and that will give you voice and Blackberry email for $35 per month. And if you are traveling for a month or two out of the US, you won't get dinged since the plan is month-to-month. You aren't locked into a 2-year plan. The only downside to this is that I doubt the Virgin Mobile Blackberry will work outside of the US. My AT&T Blackberry worked just about EVERYWHERE for sending and receiving emails. I am talking everywhere -- even off Komodo Island, Indonesia. Of course the data costs were very high.
Lastly, if I really need my emails while traveling in the US, I have Gmail forward my emails to my Net10 phone. Any cell phone that allows texting can get emails sent as text. In my case, Gmail forwards my emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org. I never get complete emails, but I can see the gist of things. And I also admit that my current phone doesn't work with this. I am going through Net10 phones that were basically free and this one doesn't work, but my last one did; and I have about 12 more phones to go through. After that, I am going to get a Virgin Mobile Blackberry.