My wife and I and 23y/o son will be going to Italy in May. Since he has different interests then we do, I was thinking of getting a pair of 2-way radios, one for him and one for us so we can keep in touch. Anyone do this? Pros - Cons?
The 'cons' would be that it's probably illegal, and that it could even interfere with emergency services there and endanger someone. It probably depends on the specific brand and model, and what country you'll be in, but radios/walkie talkies sold here in the US use frequencies that are used for other things there. Investigate the detals very carefully before proceeding with this plan - don't just assume that anything you buy at Wal-Mart or Costco will be OK in Italy.
Honestly, you're probably better off just using cell phones.
The FRS system radios commonly sold here are not legal for use in Europe. There are radios available online and elsewhere that are legal there (sorry, I can't remember the acronym off the top of my head but you can use the search box above to find prior discussions about this topic). I think they would be much easier and cheaper to use than cellphones.
And what if the two radios are outside their range? They don't go that far.
You'd be better off picking up a couple of cellphones while you're there.
Prosecution of using FRS and GPRS radios from North America in Europe is rare, however the bottom line is they are illegal. Leave them at home or risk causing problems or a potentially massive fine (it can be thousands of Euros).
If you really want two-way radios, either buy a set in Europe or get you Amateur radio licenses and bring along a set of legal UHF.
I most definitely agree with the others on this point, in that Cell Phones would be a far better option. Using text / SMS is very inexpensive and they are also a good method for keeping in touch with family back home.
Some of the disadvantages of FRS Radios have been mentioned. First (and most important) is the fact that European and North American models use different frequencies and as another post mentioned, you may interfere with emergency services or other users that are legally licensed for those frequencies. The second big disadvantage is limited range (which is related to the limited transmit power), which will be especially important in an urban environment. Manufacturers typically state "ideal" line-of-sight range without any obstructions, and these are usually not possible in actual use.
It's certainly possible that some travellers have used two-way Radios in Italy or other locations in Europe and haven't been "caught". However it's not something I would ever recommend.
Oh, yes, just buy 2 cheap phones (20-30 € each) to use and SMS each other. 5 euros should get you through a couple of weeks as an SMS usually costs .19 €.
Thanks for your replies! I guess that solves that problem! It's not essential that we are able to keep in touch, but it would be a convenience. Who knows, maybe he WILL be interested in the same things.