Stay In Touch From Abroad

Not joining the throngs headed “home for the holidays” on planes, trains, and automobiles? No fear. We’ve outlined some tips and tricks for those of you have don’t have data plans, those of you who do, and those of you who have none of the above, so that you can easily stay in touch with your family and loved ones—without actually being there. Step 1? Don’t worry.

If you don’t have a data plan

Here’s the key: access WiFi when you can. Use internet cafes, hotels, stores, libraries, and other “hot spots” where you know you’ll be able to access the internet.

A trick and an App…

1. Type your emails whenever you want and save them as drafts. When you get to WiFi, all you have to do is hit “send.” Huge timesaver. (That’s the trick).

2. Have you met Boingo? Boingo Wi-finder is an app that helps you find thousands of free WiFi and Boingo hotspots around the world. Easily. You don’t have to wait until the internet café opens or until you pass advertised WiFi. Boingo tells you where to go. It’s reasonably priced, and you don’t have to buy a plan for a year. You can buy one of their “AsYouGo” plans for an hour, a week, a day, a month if you want, and have access to free WiFi and Boingo hotspots to connect with your family and friends. (That’s the app).

If you do have a data plan

It’s a beautiful thing: you can send emails any time you want. That’s not a trick. That’s a reality.

Fun Apps to consider:

1. Skype

Probably the most well-known and it works well. It’s a free download for phones, tablets, and computers, and you can also call cell phones and land lines (what are those?!) for a small fee. Biggest plus? Lots of folks already have accounts and use it. It boasts free Skype-Skype video and voice calls. You can instant message, screen share, and operate from a Mac or PC phone, tablet, or computer.

2. Viber

For starters, the app is free. Everything is free if your family and friends have Viber, too. For a small fee, you can contact non-Viber users, too. You can call, text, and photo message, and you can use it from your phone, tablet, or computer. Mac or PC? Doesn’t matter.

3. WhatsApp

Avoid SMS fees by messaging friends and family for free. You can also talk internationally for free, and have free face-face conversations. You don’t use your cell plan’s voice minutes, but you may have to pay for data. Double check your plan if you don’t want the “hidden” data charges to show up on your bill.

4. Facetime

Make video or audio calls from an iOS device. Super easy to use—but the folks you contact also need to have iOS devices.

If you have none of the above…

Write a letter. Get out paper and your favorite pen and have at it. No, it’s not as “instant” as everything else. The act of writing is slower than typing and swiping. That can be a good thing. Writing a letter home will force you to pause and reflect, think before you write, share something truly thoughtful with your family and friends—and give them the benefit of having a physical thing. From you. Plus, there’s the added joy of finding an envelope in their mailbox—and it’s not a bill or an ad.