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Best phone options for people in the US to be able to phone or text us in case of an emergency?

We hope to be in Italy for 3 weeks in September. First time traveling to Europe without my son, and I want him to be able to reach us in case of emergency. Will he need to set up an international plan to send/receive calls and texts?
Last time we were in Europe I used a Vodafone SIM card, and also had google hangouts which allowed me to forward calls to my US number. That’s no longer available. This time around I think it will be simpler to keep my phone number and get the Verizon month long international plan. (I want others to be able to reach me in case of emergency, and keeping my own number seems to be the best plan for that) I’ll use wi fi from hotels in the evenings for most things that aren’t urgent.
If you have set up a plan for someone in the US to be able to contact you while in Europe, what specifically have you done? I’d like to explore my options here. Thanks!

Posted by
8548 posts

When my parents were still alive I simply used my phone plan’s International Plan. I wanted to make calling me as easy as usual for them. Worth every penny for peace of mind.

Posted by
693 posts

Thanks, Carol. But how were your parents able to call you or receive calls from you? Did the fact that you had an international plan automatically mean they could make and get international calls to your number? For what it’s worth both my son and I have only cell phones and they’re on the Sam Verizon master account.

Posted by
892 posts

Since you have Verizon, in your online account you can register each phone for the daily international calling plan. It costs nothing to register. Then, when in Europe, if you need to use your phone to call home, you turn on cellular service and the plan will activate for 24 hour periods. I don't know the price for this service today, but pre pandemic it was $10 per day per phone. But it only is charged if you turn on your phone in Europe and activate cellular service. If you never do that, there will be no charges.

Edit: a quick look at Verizon plans indicates there are more and better priced options today than when I last traveled.

As for your son calling or texting you from the US, he should be able to text you for free (I know this is true through the Apple Iphone network - meaning all phones are Apple).

Final thought: we all have WhatsApp on our phones, a free texting and international calling app. I find it works it better than the Apple texting FWIW. The person in Europe will need to have access to wi-fi to use it - just turn off the cellular service on your phones before you land in Europe to avoid any unwanted access charges.

Finally, remember you can use email via wi-fi, too. No cost...

Posted by
2768 posts

If you are keeping your US number then your son should be able to call you with no difficulty. It’s not an international call from the perspective of his phone. You, of course, will be paying for international service through Verizon in one way or another.
If you have international service on your phone number, all calls will come through as though you are home and the caller won’t know the difference.

I’ve done this many times myself, I don’t mess with SIM cards or international phone numbers, I need to stay in contact with home, which means I need my phone number. Which means I get my important calls and texts, but also all the annoying ones.

Posted by
892 posts

If you have international service on your phone number, all calls will come through as though you are home and the caller won’t know the difference.

I do this, too. But I know that people are looking for the best deal, and I don't blame them for that. I like the peace of mind in having my phone available to anyone who calls or texts my number, but keep in mind that you will also be subjected to the spam calls and texts you currently get in the US, and worse yet is those will happen in the middle of the night if you leave your ringer on.

From my prior post, I would emphasize the value of having WhatsApp on all family phones. It is a free service, and it is used extensively in Europe, too - it will make it easy for you to text or call tour guides or other people you need to contact in Europe.

And it works great - I have made video calls to home from Europe via wi-fi that worked flawlessly, better than any other app or service I have ever tried (like Apple or Facetime). With WhatsApp, you can leave your ringer on and you should not be bothered with spam calls and texts, either. Only users on WhatsApp can ring through to you. I can recall getting just one spam text on WhatsApp in the last 5 years, and have never gotten a spam call, unlike my US cell phone on which I am pestered with spam every day, the last thing I want to deal with in Europe.

Posted by
8548 posts

My parents only had to dial the phone as they usually did. There was no difference for the person calling you.

Posted by
69 posts

I have verizon. Last time i did the $10 per day. This time We are gone for 20 days. They now have a one month option for $100. I set it to start the day we fly. It drops off after 1 month.

Posted by
442 posts

I recommend WhatsApp. When I'm in Europe (often solo) I text or video call home via What'sApp all the time. Nothing required except for a regular cell connection or wifi on either end. I have t-Mobile, my plan includes international text and data, so I can use What'sApp wherever I have a signal.

Posted by
11403 posts

It may be more useful if he had a friend/family more local he could contact.

You would be at least a 10hr flight away; not sure how having an instantaneous phone connection provides a benefit.

Definitely have a way to communicate, but do not go to extremes to have 'instant access'

Posted by
1152 posts

Just a note that there are other options besides using WhatsApp. Google Duo, for example, or the Line App (big in Asia). Having said that, WhatsApp is used a lot in Europe and Africa, including by some businesses such as restaurants and hotels.

The main limitation of these services is that the recipient has to be using the same app. To connect with a phone number, but avoid making an expensive call through your phone connection, you have to use Skype or Google Voice or other similar service. You would need to set up an account and load some credit on the account before using it.