Sometimes it’s not that easy keeping in touch with people back home when you travel, and if you travel for work, then it is imperative that you don’t lose touch. We have compiled a list of how we have learned to keep in touch with those back home, from our primary and on down the line, so no matter what, there is always a plan B. You can take your cell phone with you from home, but often the roaming charges would buy you a new plane ticket, so best we just leave that one off the list.
Google voice is an amazing value. When you sign up for a Gmail account, you can get a Google voice account for free. This includes a phone number that people can call you on with a normal phone. You can also call normal cellphones and landlines with it. Most other services will charge you for the privilege (we are looking at you skype) but Google doesn’t. This is definitely one you want in your toolbox for keeping in touch. As a bonus, you can also forward your home number to Google voice and it will ring on your computer, so you can answer your home number anywhere in the world.
This has been one of the old standards for traveling for a long time. As long as you have your magic jack with you, or install the softphone on your computer, you can make and receive calls anywhere in the world. If you call to anywhere outside of the USA or Canada though, you will have to buy minutes, so its best used for calling back into the United States.
Skype is the old standby, though they keep changing it so much you almost never recognize it year to year. It has lost a lot of popularity over the years due to many changes, but it is still a solid program to connect with other people. It has the bonus of also being video enabled, so you can see who you are talking to. You can also purchase a Skype number, as well as a skype out subscription and make and receive calls to and from standard phones.
We have grown to love Viber over the years, the quality of the audio quality is great, the video quality is as good as it gets. It’s funny really, but if you make a phone call overseas using a normal phone, half the time you can barely understand what people are saying, but with Viber, you would swear they are in the next room.
This is another program similar to Viber, a competitor, they both do the same thing and they both do it well. Line has great audio and great video. Line was started by a Korean company and achieved over 200 million members within the first 2 years.
Buy a local phone
Wherever you travel you can buy a local phone and a sim card. It’s much cheaper than trying to use your roaming on your regular phone (at least if you are from the United States). You can check to see if your phone will allow you to use a foreign sim and if the frequency is acceptable to the country you are in. If not, for 50$ you can buy a phone, a local number and credits to make calls and send texts. A bonus is if your phone allows tethering you can connect your laptop to the internet at the same time.
If you can’t get online always, it’s a good idea to get a pocket WiFi, and then you can control your own connection. You can pick up a pocket WiFi for less cost than a cellphone. We wouldn’t try to run a video chat off a pocket WiFi, but we have managed to have a clear as a bell conversation in a moving taxi with no problems using the app LINE with the WiFi of the phone we brought with us.
Well, pretty much everyone knows this one. We often use Facebook messenger with family as they always have that on their systems. You can do a video call, though we have found the reliability and quality to be less than the other programs suggested here. It is a good standby though for those used to social media.
For the diehards
ok, if you really, really, have to stay in touch, you can always get a satellite phone. You might be paying for it with your kid’s college fund if you use it too much, but if you are stranded on Gilligan’s Island, you will still be able to make a call home for a pickup. You can find some satellite phones that are not much bigger than a regular cellphone these days, so it can make a nice emergency phone that you can pack away if you so choose.
There are many other social apps you can keep in touch with, WhatsApp, IMO, Wechat, Snapchat and many others, but we have found we are almost overloaded with what we have in our list already. If you add the apps we have talked about to your phone and to your laptop and make sure you can connect to the internet, we believe that you will never have to worry about being out of contact again. Of course, if you are on vacation, we suggest you tell everyone that you lost your laptop, phone, and forgot where you are staying, even before you go. Vacations are to be enjoyed, but for work? You can’t get lost. Stay in touch.