Mobile data without a monthly plan?

If I buy an iPad with AT&T 4G, does that mean I'm required to sign up for a data plan from AT&T, with a monthly fee, no matter how infrequently I will actually use any cellular data?

At least 98% of the time I'd be using it on WiFi at home or work, and would want to just turn the cellular connection off. But when I travel, I would like to have the option of using cellular data. I'm willing to buy prepaid data service of some kind, but I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out how that works. Would I have to swap out a SIM card? Is this the same as jailbreaking?

And just to further complicate things, I would be buying the iPad in the US, where I live, but one place I may travel and want to use it is western Europe (mainly the UK, Germany, and Italy). Would a solution that works in the US also work there?

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