We touched slightly on how to communicate with your loved ones in our Before You Go International blog post but phone bills can sometimes be one of the most expensive purchases when traveling internationally so we wanted to go a little more in depth on how to keep that bill low while still staying in touch with the important people in your life that are back home.
First you need to find out what your current international phone plan is and how it works.
We have Verizon and the way our plan with them works is that we can receive international calls and texts but cannot put out either without turning on and paying for international calling and texting. We decided to leave it that way – with our international calling and texting off.
Second, make sure you have Wifi. We can’t say that enough. Wifi Wifi Wifi.
You won’t be able to do squat without Wifi. This entire “no international phone plan” thing DOES NOT WORK WITHOUT THE INTERNET. The internet is the base of this entire thing (and makes the whole wide world spin).
We suggest renting a Pocket Wifi from the airport you’re landing at. Connect the wifi to your phone and you have all the regular internet functions you normally have which means mostly regular communication. Depending on the country you’re in, there may be restrictions on the apps and forms of communication you can use.
Here is a list of apps we used to communicate with everyone back in the States:
- Gmail: Email! We decided that if we received any calls or texts from clients, it would be okay for us to just shoot them a quick email immediately saying “Hey! I got your text/phone call! We’re in Tokyo and have international calling and texting turned off. Hope email is okay! What’s up?!” – and of course email is okay! No one was bothered by this.
- Google Hangouts: This was our best communication tool. It allows international communication with anyone else who has the app. We had everyone in our company download this app while we were away. It has texting, video, AND voice calls which meant we were able to answer important business calls that needed our attention without actually using international calling. Seriously, this app is just like a phone.
- Kik: Schellie used Kik because that’s what her little brother uses regularly to text.
- Instagram: This is only good for messaging and doesn’t have calling capabilities but we used it because duh!
There are sooooo many more apps and internet programs you can use but we used the apps that were the most acceptable for our family and friends. Your Ma might not be on Instagram so you might need to hang out on Facebook for a few days – who knows.
Talk with your loved ones and find out what works for you and them. Whatever it is, our advice will forever be to ditch the crazy phone fees and use the internet in all it’s glory!