So, the vacation plans are set. Tickets are booked, packing is done, dog has been left with the neighbours. All the vaccinations have been injected (ouch), visas are arranged and there’s no sign of political unrest on the television. What have you forgotten?
Oh, that’s right – you’re leaving Mum behind, and she’s worried that you’ll never come back. And all your friends keep asking you to let them know about your adventures. How are you going to keep everyone updated?
You may be escaping the country for a well-earned vacation, but you’ll probably still need to send word back home. Here are 6 options for keeping in contact when travelling, no matter if you’re a iWhiz or you have trouble finding the on-switch on a computer.
…low-tech options for staying in contact while travelling Get confused working a microwave? These are for you…
Ahhh, postcards; the classic option. Who really needs more than a couple of sentences to say that you’re still alive and wishing that the recipient was there? You should be able to find postcards all over the place on your travels, but you can always take some with you just in case. If you’re really organized, you can even pre-fill the addresses.
Another option is to get a couple of your travel photos printed as a postcard alternative – try taking the memory card of your digital camera to a printing shop, and then scribble a message and a sending address on the back with a postage stamp!
Remember that in most places it costs more to send something in an envelope; postcards are your cheapest option.
2) Pay phones/Call centres
A long time ago in a galaxy far away, people used landlines to talk to each other. Believe it or not, this still happens and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a payphone.
To get the best possible deal with land line calls, you should probably buy an international calling-card. Post offices, call centres or even your hotel will sell cards that give you a better rate when phoning home.
…medium-tech options for staying in contact while travelling You’re not afraid of a couple of gadgets. Bring it on!
3) Cell phones
Most of us know how to work a cell phone these days, and probably have our own. You’ve got a couple of options for using it abroad; get an international talk plan from your current network provider, or pick up a SIM card in your destination country.
If you go down the talk-plan route, be wary of excessive call fees, and find out if you can get a tariff that allows you to call a limited selection of numbers for cheap. Also check out other network providers – now might be a good time to switch for a better deal.
To get a calling plan in your destination country, you’ll have much cheaper options for calls within the country that you’re visiting, and quite possibly when calling home. You can even use your current cell phone in some cases, but most likely you’ll need to get it unblocked. Ask your tour operator for advice on this, or any local vacation friends that you make.
Either way, text messaging will cost you a lot less than calls, so get those thumbs warmed up and practise communicating in 140 characters!
If you don’t have an email account already, it’s easy and free to open one with companies like Hotmail, Yahoo or Gmail; a Google search will give you the link to get started.
Gather email addresses from friends and family to get your mailing list ready and send them all a test message before you leave to check that all the addresses work.
If you really want to make life easier for yourself, try making a group on your email program to avoid typing all the addresses in every time; the program help files should provide instructions on how to do this.
…high-tech options for staying in contact while travelling You’re reading this on the internet after running a search for it – these options should be no problem!
Blogging is an alternative to email. Instead of sending a message to someone, you post stories, photos and videos on a unique page on the internet and your friends and family can visit it to see what you’re up to.
Here are the simplest options to get a travel blog set up. All these options are free. If you’d like to be handed a travel blogging program on a plate, try websites like Matador.com or TravelBlog.org.
If you’d rather choose a more personal looking blog but don’t feel like writing an essay every time you post, Tumblr is an attractive, simple option for short posting. If you’d like the whole shebang for longer posting in an easy to setup format, try Blogger.
You want to make free calls to anyone anywhere in the world. So what’s stopping you?
Skype is a revolutionary program that allows users to make calls over the internet completely free between computers, or very cheaply to landlines or cell phones internationally. You’ll find the program installed in most computers in Internet cafes around the globe.
You can register for a free account on the website http://www.skype.com but to be able to make completely free calls the person that you want to contact must have a computer with the program installed as well. Clear, simple instructions are on Skype’s website to help get you started.
What do you think is the best way to stay in touch with friends and family from abroad? What are your experiences with these options? Are there any options missing from this list?