A Few Methods to Stay in Touch While Traveling

A Few Methods to Stay in Touch While Traveling

Posted May 16, 2016

An old adage has it that traveling is good for the soul:  visiting far-flung destinations; coming face-to-face with famous landmarks; and discovering unknown cities, streets, and people all become part of your life’s story. In fact, recent research from Cornell University suggests that people derive more lasting happiness from experiences (like travel) than they do from material things. But while you’re out there exploring the world, remember to check in with your loved ones from time to time, if only to share the latest photos from your excursion to Machu Picchu or sunset camel ride on the Sahara.

Here are some of the best methods (whether new or tried and true) for staying in touch while traveling. 

New-age methods

With the proliferation of “smart” devices, the rapid expansion of the internet, and the ease of international travel, the world is smaller today than ever.  Some of the services making it so include:

  • Skype:  The godfather of internet-based communication, Skype can do it all:  video chat, phone calls, instant messaging, and file sharing. Most of Skype’s services are free and available on a wide range of internet-enabled devices. Users need only to install Skype on their device and find a working internet connection in order to communicate with other Skype users. Note that voice calls to mobile phones from Skype carry a fee. 
  • Google Hangouts:  Google users get a break here, as Google Hangouts enable free video chats and instant messaging between Google accounts, as well as free voice calls to the U.S. and Canada. These features work from anywhere you can access your Google account – laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
  • Facebook:  You can’t discuss global online connectivity without including Facebook. Video chat and instant messaging are both freely available between Facebook users, and Facebook’s Messenger mobile application streamlines this process for tablets and smartphones.
  • WhatsApp:  The most popular global messaging platform with 900 million monthly active users, WhatsApp uses the internet to send text messages, photos, and videos from one user to another. The service is available for download on smartphones and tablets, and is free to use for a year, then costs $0.99 per year after that. 
  • Instagram:  This simple photo-sharing application allows users to upload photos and videos (or shoot your own from the app’s camera function), apply filters and photo effects to jazz up the aesthetics, and then post it for the world to see. Launched in 2010 and purchased by Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, Instagram now has over 300 million users. Friends and family can either follow your account through the application, or enter your user name after the slash on Instagram’s webpage (www.instagram.com/) in order to find your photos.
  • Rebtel:  A revelation in international phone calls, Rebtel wins the award for lowest barrier to entry.  There’s no need to install anything, simply fill out the sign-up form, enter the names and international phone numbers of the parties you’ll want to call, and Rebtel takes care of the rest. They give you and the parties you entered a specific new phone number that’s local to the country in which you’re traveling. Call that number, and Rebtel patches your call over the internet, so all you pay is a small fee to Rebtel plus any fees your mobile carrier charges for local calls in that country.

Tried and true

But sometimes, the more traditional methods of contact are all you need.

  • Email:  Practically a required mode of communication these days, email is perfect for sending trip updates, photos, and links to places you’ve visited. For best results, use an internet-based email service like Gmail or Yahoo which can be accessed in most locations worldwide.
  • Cell phone:  Using your mobile phone for international phone calls can be a tricky (and sometimes expensive) business.  Rates and policies depend on your mobile carrier, with T-Mobile standing out as the leader in terms of lowest price and international coverage. Your best bet is to contact your mobile carrier, tell them what services you’ll need from your phone while abroad (whether it’s phone calls, text messages, and/or data), and discuss your options.
  • Postcards:  You didn’t think we’d forget about the oldest method of all, did you? First sent in 1840, postcards remain a timeless way to reach out to your family and friends from any spot on the globe.

As usual when visiting other countries, it’s always wisest to find reliable internet connections (which will mainly come in the form of Wi-Fi) rather than use your device’s data plan. This will save you money and provide a more reliable connection. Hopefully, these tips help you stay in touch with your loved ones while enjoying all the benefits that traveling has to offer.

Smartphone image via Flickr