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data only esim calls to US landline

I'm not very tech savvy so please bear with me. We're planning our first international trip (Italy, Switzerland, UK) for next summer. I need to be able to be contacted by my elderly, non-tech using parents. They are both disabled and in their 80s and we are their go-to caregivers so they become extremely anxious if I cannot be reached. I have a Verizon flip phone and an unlocked smart phone with esim capability that I use with a physical Tracfone sim normally since I limit the smart phone use to when I absolutely need an ap or internet to do something.

What I would ideally like to do is have them be able to call me in an emergency AND be able to call them every couple of days to check in. Super ideal, the emergency calls from them to me in Europe would use my Verizon flip phone. I think I can just use it on a pay-per-go plan if I just turn it on there but will check with Verizon before doing that. This should handle the they-need-to-call-me-in-an-emergency part.

The part I'm having trouble figuring out is: can I call a US land line from Europe using a data-only esim at a reasonable rate (less than the $100/month for the Verizon international calling which allows for 250 min of calls)?

Posted by
109 posts

can I call a US land line from Europe using a data-only esim at a
reasonable rate (less than the $100/month for the Verizon
international calling which allows for 250 min of calls)?

With data, both parties need to have the software to call. (Whatsapp, Google Voice, etc.)

You don't mention how long your trip is. If it is 10 days or less, the $10/day plan might work, as there are an unlimited number of minutes. Or if you don't think that they will need to be in contact every day then this might work. This you can turn on with your Verizon account and you are only charged if you use it.

The $100 plan charges 25¢/minute after the 250 minutes. Do you think you will go over that number on the trip? You can turn on this one after you leave if you need to.

I don't recommend what Verizon calls the pay-as-you-go plan. That is very expensive. Especially if you already plan on calling regularly.

What I suggest doing is to figure out how much you can expect to talk with them and for how long. What is normal when it is a non-emergency? What is normal when there is an emergency? And when I say *emergency, I mean what they may classify as an emergency and feel like they need to talk with you at length or repeatedly.

Posted by
32 posts

Thank you!

We plan on being gone 18 days. We haven't traveled internationally since they have needed more help and I'm finding this aspect of planning stressful.

What I suggest doing is to figure out how much you can expect to talk with them and for how long. What is normal when it is a non-emergency? What is normal when there is an emergency? And when I say *emergency, I mean what they may classify as an emergency and feel like they need to talk with you at length or repeatedly.

The "normal" emergencies (they call me so I can clarify some confusion with their health care) are 5-10 minutes sporadically. But I talk to them about every other day so most issues get handled during those calls. I hadn't seen the $10/day plan but that is interesting. It would still work out to $90 keeping the every other day but wouldn't exceed $180 if there is some sort of unusual event that requires daily contact if I'm reading this correctly. It looks like that one has unlimited talk/text so a longer call would be possible without racking up enormous charges. The 250 minute call allowance on the $100/month plan has me a little worried. It will definitely help for budgeting if we can have a maximum amount.

I've never used a cell phone internationally as we haven't traveled since the days of payphones and calling cards. I assume it works decently (I'm frequently in very rural parts of the US so I'm familiar with coverage gaps)?

Posted by
5687 posts

Hi Jimbo. i have a cheap Android phone that I use for regular phone service in the US. I have the Google Voice app installed. This gives me a second US phone number associated with the Google Voice app, I can make free calls to US numbers, including landlines. It will work to make or receive calls even if I have only WiFi and no phone service, though I first needed service with this phone in order for Google to let me use the Google Voice app to make or receive calls.

I use Google Voice for almost all of my regular calls even in the US and for texting too. When I got to Europe, I use a Dutch Vodafone SIM for data, and I make and receive calls with my phone just as in the US. No one calling me would know whether I am in Europe or in the room next to them when they call my Google number.

So your situation is a bit complicated since your phone with regular service is a flip phone (can't install the Google Voice app), and your smart phone doesn't have regular phone service. I don't think you'll be able to set up Google Voice on it without service, and Google may not work well with a Tracfone device at least while trying to set up the app the first time.

If your smart phone will work on Verizon's network, you could move your Verizon SIM over to the smart phone temporarily, install Google Voice on the smart phone, let it associate your Google account with your Verizon number...and then move the Verizon SIM back to the flip phone. Google Voice should continue to work for making and receiving calls after that. I'm not sure how it will continue to work after you put the Tracfone SIM back in, but you can try this - it won't cost you anything. If you can put the smart phone in airplane mode, then turn on WiFi, then call your parents with the Google Voice app, then it should work that way in Europe, too. Your parents should be able to call you also.

If this sounds too complicated, you could set up Skype on the smart phone and buy some credit - $10 blocks I think. This would let you make cheap calls to US numbers for a cents a minute. You could also buy a US phone number with Skype for a few months, just before you go to Europe, to receive calls in Skype too. But...the smart phone would need some sort of internet service - WiFi, a SIM for mobile data, whatever - while in Europe to be able to make or receive calls. If it's OK just to use Skype to call home (parents can receive calls from it on their landline) say when you are at your hotel or at a restaurant with WiFi, then that might work OK and not cost much. You wouldn't have to mess with SIM cards or even remove the Tracfone SIM, though I don't think it would work in Europe.

If you are able to get an eSIM to work with your smart phone to have service in Europe, so you can use it even without WiFi, then either Skype or Google Voice might work.

Of course, you could just pay Verizon's international roaming fee and use the flip phone in Europe...assuming your PHONE itself will work in Europe. Have you used it there before? Don't assume it has all of the necessary frequencies to work in Europe - some phones don't even if they work fine in the US.

Posted by
879 posts

With data, both parties need to have the software to call. (Whatsapp, Google Voice, etc.)

I believe that with Google Voice, you only need to access it on your phone - you should be able to call any US number from a foreign location.

You can get a Google Voice number for free, then forward it to your phone with the data plan. Your parents should then be able to call you from their home phone You may have to load $10 or so to your Google Voice account.

But how much is your smartphone costing per month? You can get an unlimited calling plan on Consumer Cellular, with I believe one GB of data, for approx. $25 per month. Then ditch the flip phone. I just used their international roaming plan for two weeks in Italy - the charges were approximately $20, including data. If this is your first international trip, you may learn that a smartphone is now indispensable for international travel - navigation, buying transportation tickets, e-mail, etc. Please think about your overall needs for connectivity while traveling beyond just communicating with your parents.

Posted by
301 posts

Using the Viber app is an option. You can call any landline in the country you choose by using Viber Out. Scroll down to the bottom where it talks about calling others who don't have a Viber account. You'd need to load some credit onto your account. I have no idea how the rates compare to Google Voice. The thing I like about Viber is that it imports your contacts so you can see everyone's name and number in a contacts list in the Viber app.

Posted by
2528 posts

If I am understanding your situation correctly, you want your parents to be able to use their land line to call you while you're in Europe, at any time of day, and you would prefer that the cost for them to call you be minimal/not expensive? And you want them to call you on a flip phone (not your smart phone)? Plus you want to be able to call and check on them every few days for a reasonable cost?

If that's correct, then I think the phone you take with you needs to be "on" all the time, unless your folks are ok with leaving a voice mail knowing that you might not check it right away. That doesn't seem like a good fit for the anxiety situation. The most straightforward solution for that is to set up Verizon's $100 plan on your smart phone (ditch the flip phone, just take one device). You'd have one US-based cell phone number that your parents can call from their land line, the cost is whatever land line charges for calls currently. You can leave the smart phone on all the time, and not worry too much while you're traveling (unless the Verizon plan has a data limit/cap). I believe the $10/day plan won't be ideal for your situation, as typically to prevent getting the daily charge you should keep the phone turned off - the charges start the moment someone calls you, you call/text, or your phone uses data (like an app running in the background).

Another option is to get a Google Fi e-sim for your smartphone and set it up a couple months before you leave - you get a US phone number (your parents can call from land line) and it works in all the countries you're visiting with reasonable data and phone rates to call USA. Or try any of the suggestions made above, though some do require some time to sort out, and possibly more tech work than you're wanting to do (including parental training if you go with an option that affects how they call you).

I also suggest that a smartphone may be a new essential tool for your travel besides calling your family. As has been noted, use of technology has changed substantially since you last used a calling card overseas. This thread from awhile back has some interesting points about traveling with (or without) a smart phone that you might want to think about.

Best of luck, it is admirable you're sorting this out ahead of time to make your parents (and you) more comfortable while you are away.

Posted by
432 posts

Some great suggestions here. I agree that voice over IP applications like Skype, Google Voice or Viber (Viber Out) would be a cost effective way of communicating. They use Internet Protocol to connect to the normal phone network, so basically you only need data to make and receive phone calls hence they can be used with a daya-only eSIM. Buying a local physical SIM would be another option, but as pointed out, you'd need to find one with good international voice rates.

Posted by
2857 posts

I use the Verizon $100 international plan on my trips. Yes, it is expensive, but for me it is well worth the cost. I make calls just as I do in the US by clicking on the name/number in my contact list. My parents back home can reach me any time by calling me like normal.

I have recently used the plan in Italy, Switzerland, and the UK with no problems.

I would want to reduce the stress and keep things easy. You can make up that $100 somewhere else.

Posted by
679 posts

In order to call the United States using an eSIM you will need one that includes calls. Orange (travel.orange.com/en) provides a data, text and call eSIM. I used it seamlessly last month in Europe. However I paired that with the Verizon $100 a month travel plan which provides better control than Verizon’s $10 a day Travelpass.

Posted by
32 posts

Wow. Thank you all so much for the kind and helpful the replies!! I really appreciate the insights and ideas. I forget how odd my phone situation is here at home in the US. Sorry for not being more clear.

...assuming your PHONE itself will work in Europe. Have you used it there before? Don't assume it has all of the necessary frequencies to work in Europe - some phones don't even if they work fine in the US.

No. I haven't been to Europe since the days of pay phones and calling cards. I did ask Verizon and they said that it should work in Europe. I will double check the frequencies as well.

If this is your first international trip, you may learn that a smartphone is now indispensable for international travel - navigation, buying transportation tickets, e-mail, etc. Please think about your overall needs for connectivity while traveling beyond just communicating with your parents.

I haven't traveled internationally with a phone before but I do realize that data and a smart phone will make things easier. I'm not averse to smart phone use but technology doesn't interest me so I use it only when there is a clear benefit. I use it for domestic travel but not during my day-to-day life. I travel with both phones in the US so I can use airline apps etc. I mainly use wifi and my 20GB allotment of data when I need a more secure connection or can't get wifi. Basically, I treat my smart phone like a very tiny tablet with some travel apps. Tracfone is the cheapest way I've found to get the amount of data I use and signal in US rural areas.

(including parental training if you go with an option that affects how they call you).

This is the crux of my dilemma. Parental training is probably not an option. I'm fairly certain that trying to even get them to call me using a different number will be an issue.

My Phones

flip phone: $0/month through work on Verizon, NO data/unlimited talk&text. It's my go-to option because of the "cost" and it being a small phone that fits in the front pocket of my jeans. Perfect for me here in the US. I have no data allotment in the plan so I have data roaming disabled and mobile data off all the time. It definitely is not using data. It is the only way my parents have contacted me for years. I am allowed to pay myself to add on international to this phone for my trip and it sounds like I can easily do that to receive calls if someone needs to reach me. I'm not sure the consequences if I put this Verizon sim in my smart phone and it uses data. I know doing that while I'm in the US is a no on this plan. I realize it's not the usual situation, but I am totally okay with carrying a second cell phone if it means they can probably contact me without having to do anything new.

smart phone: $10/month. 20 GB of data/year. I've never used my allotment in a year but its a Tracfone plan with no option for adding any international usage. Unlocked esim compatible phone though so a data-only esim should work fine.

Our trip is planned for July 2024 so I have time to figure this out and test it. I am currently thinking about an Airalo esim for data. I'm excited about the possibility of me being able to call them from a VOIP. We've only used Whatsapp and that doesn't seem to be able to call land lines. I would just rather not have to navigate getting a physical sim in Europe and would like to limit the costs as much as possible. And the back-up of them calling me could use the familiar Verizon number with limited costs for both of us. They honestly probably won't use it unless it's a real emergency but it will be helpful for peace of mind to have that option.

Again, thanks for the helpful ideas and information.

Posted by
432 posts

WhatsApp doesn't support PSTN (public telephone network) calls, only app-to-app, and I gather this isn't a technology your parents have or are familiar with. It sounds to me like the best option for you would be a VOIP technology that supports PSTN calling, such as Google Voice, and the paid versions of Skype and Viber. You will then receive a new US number which you can either give to your parents, or you can redirect your existing US number to that new number if that makes it easier for them. This will also allow you to call them on their normal phone using an app on your smartphone. All running across data which you can get via an eSIM. Just double check your smartphone supports eSIM.

Posted by
4604 posts

I'm a firm believer in the KISS rule. You've got to pay someone, might as well pay Verizon.

Posted by
2528 posts

Jimbo, thanks for more information about your phone situation. I'd suggest first of all getting a definitive answer to whether your flip phone will operate overseas - try Googling "will [insert type of phone] work on GSM network in Italy/Switzerland/United Kingdom" and see what comes up. For your situation, I'd want more than one answer besides Verizon's "it should work" analysis. Depending on how old your flip phone is, it simply might not be an option. If it isn't compatible, and since you have until July, you have time to set up an alternative and start the slow process of getting your folks used to calling a different number well before departure date.

Posted by
206 posts

Jimbo,
So much good advice here. I empathize. My Mom would not be able to call a different phone number now, with her dementia. In fact, her caregivers now have to help her call us kids.

Like you, this will be our first time bringing a smartphone as our international phone. Last time, we had our flip phone for domestic use and we had brought a cheap international phone with pay as you go rates. Before that it was hotel phones to call parents.

I have a few questions.
1) Will your overseas phone plan allow you to forward your calls from the flip phone to the smartphone? If so, you can leave the flip phone off while overseas and use it while in the U.S. at the airport and such. Your parents wouldn’t have to learn a new phone number.
2) is it possible for you to set up a definite time each day (or whatever time period works for you all) that you will call your parents? You might not want to do this, but it might give them peace of mind to hear from you at a regular time(keeping in mind the time difference and their schedule, this idea may not work),
3) Is it possible for you to ask a family member or friend to visit your parents regularly for brief visits just to help them call you(in case they need help calling your other phone number)? There may be local volunteer agencies to help with this, or maybe one of their neighbors would be willing to do it?
4) Can you ask their physician to recommend a visiting nurse or caregiving agency in case of need until you get back home? If you don’t have other family to cover, setting up something like this might give you peace of mind-if they really do have an emergency while you are away. Would they accept this help, if they really needed it?

Good luck! Hope you have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
32 posts

Love the ideas! I've never tried forwarding from my flip to my smart phone but I can do that well before the trip as well.

I can definitely set up a time to call. I think we have me calling them figured out but want to test it sometime in the next few months to see if it works as expected. We have 6 months to fit that in so it should be easy, even if we need multiple attempts to get a workable solution.

For super-duper emergencies that need someone in-person, it's likely my sibling can step in. It doesn't happen on a regular basis because we're 2 hours closer and said sibling's spouse has multiple health issues. But, for a trip, I'm pretty sure I can deputize him.

Posted by
5687 posts

I'd still try to find a way to get Google Voice set up with a Google phone number on that smart phone, especially if you can do it for free. Even if you never use it, you have it. It's handy having an app that lets you call US landlines for free from anywhere in the world as long as you have at least WiFi.