What's the best way to call home? Skype? or calling cards? I'll email mostly, but in case of emergency and needing to talk to the people staying at my house...what is the best way? thanks!
Skype is free calling person to person as long as both parties have Skype. Free to enroll. You can cam up to if you like - I guess similar to face time.
Calling cards will eat up minutes quickly. So not really a great deal.
There's also WhatsApp - free to sign up contacts. Both parties must join. You can phone, Mic up and "face time" too, or just message text.
You may also consider getting 'Google Voice', or 'Google Hangouts'.
I used 'Google Hangouts' to keep in touch with my mom (calling her on her landline phone) on my most recent trip this year.
Enjoy your trip!
It depends on a few things, such as who your cell carrier is in the US, if you plan to use their international plan, if you anticipate buying a SIM in England, or if you plan to use only wi-fi. We used WhatsApp on our last trip and called home frequently using wi-fi most of the time. We also purchased SIM cards with data for our iPhones so we could call or receive calls any time regardless of the availability of wi-fi.
Does your phone plan have an international option for $10 a day ? You can set this up in advance, only pay for the days you actually make calls.
Google Hangouts worked great for years, but Google is retiring it later this year.
They have (sort of) replaced it with Google Voice, but it's a little different.
Still, Google Voice works great for calling the US for free - even to landlines - from overseas. (So the other person doesn't need to have Google -they won't even know how you are calling them.) It will work when you have just WiFi.
You have to setup Google Voice on your smart phone before you leave the US. Try it out from home before you leave - put your phone in Airplane Mode, then turn on WiFi (assuming you are at a place with WiFi). Then call a US landline with Google Voice. (You don't need to use WiFi or Airplane Mode while overseas, but Airplane Mode is an easy way to test it out.)
From overseas, you may need to add a +1 in front of the US phone number to dial it. (The + is obtained by holding down the 0 key.)
If you will be bringing your home cell phone, ask the carrier about costs to use it in Europe. Even if you don’t plan to use data, you should be able turn it on and make calls paying per minute. Ask if this is possible (it is with the big carriers and phones, at least) and how much it costs. If all you want is to make a 2 minute check in call, or in case of emergency, this can work. If you want to use it more then you can buy international plans.
If you'll be making the calls from a wifi location, with a phone capable of wifi calling, you can call US phone numbers for free over wifi. No data plan. No charges for minutes. I'm not sure if your carrier has to support it. My domestic Verizon plan does.
Edit: reading my Verizon plan does make it seem that your carrier must support it.
Make sure you're calling over wifi - leave the phone in airplane mode, with wifi on, even during the calls - so you don't get charged for international calls!
WiFi calling is definitely an option for many if your phone supports it - and the carrier supports it. (This doesn't mean simply "making a call while connected to WiFi" - it's a feature called "WiFi Calling.") It may not work with every phone or every carrier. I'd be sure you understand how this feature works and that you are using it correctly before assuming the calls you are making are free.
When on Wi-Fi, I use FaceTime and WhatsApp. Very easy.
Are you calling to a land line? I had fairly good luck calling from Italy home using Google Voice. A few times it didn’t work and then I racked up the $10/dayVerizon charges.
I’ve never had to call the U.S., but I video chat using Skype or FaceTime. If absolutely necessary, I’ll just call. With Sprint, it’s only 29 cents a minute from overseas.
facetime and WhatsApp over wifi or if you have unlimited data
the other person must have them installed to work
if you need to run a business then neither of these are a great option and would look into a travelling plan
I have been slowly training my friends not to text (as I switch out sims when travelling) and use WhatsApp or messenger. this way I always get their message
on a side note I find WhatsApp is widely used around the world except here in north America
On my recent trips, I've been travelling with international roaming on my home cell plan, and that's worked well. That option is a bit expensive but in the grand scheme of a European trip it's not a problem. If I want to call home, I just dial +1 and the number. Couldn't be easier!
You can also buy a few dollars in Skype credit which allows you to call any phone number with very reasonable rates . I used it both calling overseas from US and vice versa and it worked well overall: sometimes you may have to redial to get connected .
I just texted with Skype support, and they have a US Plan for a month, for $2.99 that lets you call any phone in the US from anywhere. I had used it before...and it was great. The other person does not have to have skype with this plan. And it's free for 30 days, so you can always try it out first and you can stop it any time . I start it up when I leave, and stop it when I get home.
Skype works well for calling US phone numbers (or any phone numbers - per-minute rate differs per country). I used to use it before I found Google Hangouts / Google Voice. I still have some Skype credit left from a few years back, but because Google calls are free, I haven't needed to use Skype in years. $2.99/month is cheap, but $0/month is cheaper! Google Voice calls are only free to US numbers, though.
thanks everyone! looks like I'll be trying out Skype. :-)