If your travel plans are taking you abroad this winter, you'll most certainly be making calls during the holidays. Traditionally speaking, international calling can be costly and connections can be shaky. However, these days there are more options for international calling including those that won't cost you a dime. Here are the top ways to stay in touch while abroad:
Use a phonebooth like they did in the good-old-days.
1. Purchase a temporary phone
Rent a cell phone or purchase an inexpensive throwaway phone during your trip. These phones can be found online or your regular carrier may offer overseas rentals. This can cost you less than $50, but be warned, these phones don't typically have all smartphone capabilities. They work better for travelers who need phone and texting capabilities more than they need data while abroad.
2. Use your cell phone
If you don't want to part with your cell phone, this option is the easiest for you. Check with your carrier to see if they provide international roaming packages and ask for the fees. If you are going to communicate a lot during your trip, these fees can add up quickly. Also, avoid extra data charges by disabling all notifications from your apps and automatic e-mail pushes.
3. Connect to a hotspot
Today, a majority of the hotels abroad offer free Wi-Fi (especially in Europe). Before you travel, contact the hotel, ask if they have Wi-Fi and if there are charges involved. This is the perfect option for you if you don't want to be connected 24/7, but want to call or check in on social media when you are at the hotel. Don't forget to pack your cell phone for emergencies - just keep it off unless you need it. You can also bring your own hotspot with you, by renting or purchasing a personal hotspot.
4. Download apps before you go
If you're taking your smartphone or tablet, Skype is a great way to stay in touch. It is available for download on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry. You can register for Skype with a unique U.S. number so people can reach you at no cost while you're abroad.
5. Buy the cards
If you don't feel like messing with "Wi-Fi", cellphones and hotspots, you can buy a local calling card. To call out, you dial a local or toll-free access number, then enter your account ID plus the number you want to call. The big U.S. telecoms offer calling-card systems for international use, but if you really want a deal - buy local and you can find lower rates.
For this option, you'll have to rely on your hotel for contacting you with an emergency calling, and it might not be easy to find a pay phone if you're wanting to make a call outside of the hotel.
Whether you use the latest technology or go old school, staying in touch with family and friends during the holiday season is important.