I have a rather complicated travel phone situation, and am feeling over my head, so I'm looking to the Forum for expert advice. We plan to be in Europe for about 4 weeks this summer, in many different countries (details below). I have an elderly mother with dementia in an assisted living facility in the US. I need a way for her caregivers to be able to contact us in case of emergency. I would also like to have the capability of calling the US in the event that I need to be involved in lots of emergency planning for her (she has had 3 falls with broken bones in the past 2 years, so sadly this is a real possibility). If possible, I would prefer not to use my US phone number, because I don't need to answer everyday calls, nor do I want to pay for receiving them. Our carrier is Verizon, and unfortunately because of where we live, switching carriers isn't a good option, in terms of coverage. I am seeking a reliable and not overly complicated strategy, without having to spend a ton of money.
We will be flying into Vienna, then traveling to the Czech Republic. From there we will be joining the RS Best of Eastern Europe tour, which visits a number of countries with very short stays (Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia). At the end of the tour we will be spending time in Venice.
Because of the short amounts of time we will be spending everywhere other than Austria, the Czech Republic, and Italy, it doesn't seem feasible to be able to purchase SIM cards in each country we visit (Also, I am a complete newbie to all of this....I've never purchased or used a SIM card ever, and it all seems rather daunting!!) I expect to be able to correspond via email from hotels most evenings. It is also possible to ask people to contact us via the hotels we are staying at (although that could be a challenge, since most people don't have international calling plans). But this combination might not be sufficient in case of emergency.
What do you suggest???
One other thing which is a "like to have" rather than a "need to have." There will be a total of 5 of us on our trip (2 families) and there is a probability we will split up at various times. It would be ideal to have a means of occasionally contacting one another to check in and/or make plans to meet up. So having a phone -- or 2 phones -- we could use in this capacity would also be great....but is not a necessity.
If you respond, please assume I know absolutely nothing about how any of this works!