Staying in Touch When You Travel


Many times nowadays your exchange home will have not only broadband internet access, but also a computer with Skype or other means to make international calls cheaply or free.

If you have a wireless internet connection either in the home you’re staying in, or at an internet café, it is very advantageous to have an Apple Ipod touch, also know as Itouch.  The Itouch is similar to an Iphone but without a cellular contract.  So after you buy one for about $230, there are no other costs. However you will need access to a wireless network to make telephone calls, check your email, surf the internet or play online games.  The beauty of this device is that you can do all those things free when you do have access to a wireless network.  Nowadays, every McDonald’s has free wireless, and most hotels and thousands of coffee shops and other businesses provide it.  The Itouch is also very portable.  It fits into a shirt pocket.  So if you stop at McDonald’s, for example, it is convenient to be able to check your email while you’re there.   When we stayed in an exchange home in Italy that did not have an internet connection, we simply took our Itouch to a nearby internet café to check our email and do internet searches.  Using the Itouch app FaceToFace we could make voice and video calls to friends and family back home or we could use Skype to do that.  To find out more about the Itouch, click here. (Amazon)

So, we love it when it happens that an exchange home has wireless, but we don’t depend on it, and even if we can make calls from our exchange or rental home, we still want to be able to make calls from wherever we happen to be when we really need to.  For that we need a cell phone.   We have found two inexpensive solutions for that, one for use in the United States and another for use overseas.

For a cell phone in the United States, we use Tracfone .   We have been using it for years and are very satisfied with both its cost and performance.  We especially like that there is no contract and no monthly bill or fee.

We have found that Tracfone provides good nationwide coverage, including in Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  You can buy a reconditioned phone from Tracfone for as little as $5 which comes with triple minutes.  That means that if you buy 800 minutes and a year’s service time for $119.99, you will receive 2400 minutes and a year’s time to use them.  At the end of a year you will need to add service time but any unused minutes will not be lost.   When you buy a Tracfone you can transfer your existing number or get a new one.

We have been using between 1000 and 1500 minutes per year, so our annual cost for a cell phone is $119.99 or less, depending on how many minutes we have accumulated in our account.

In the last few years, Tracfone has added the capability to use your regular minutes to make international calls to many countries.  You only need to call an access number and then enter the number you want to call.

To find out more about Tracfone service click here.

Since Tracfone  service is not available overseas, we also have a cell phone which does work overseas.  You can buy the phone from Mobal, which comes with a permanent number, for as little as $29.  The Mobal phone works in over 190 countries and comes with a permanent international number.   After buying the phone, you only pay for actual usage.   The cost per minute is $1.50 or more depending on where calls are placed, so we really only plan to use it for emergencies or whenever else we consider it worth the $1.50 per minute charge.  But it is a great comfort to know that we can use it to deal with emergencies or to make or confirm a dinner reservation while you are on the road.  To find out more about Mobal phones click here.