I just wanted to touch base after my month-long trip to Europe, and to give a big Thank You to Andrew H for all his advice (and patience in answering all my questions!) about ways to stay in touch with the US while in Europe. I was concerned because I have an elderly parent with dementia, and wanted to be able to connect with caregivers in the event of an emergency -- which could have meant a lot of calls. At the same time, I was trying to give myself a vacation from caregiving, so didn't want to keep my US phone number/Verizon SIM, because I didn't want to be inundated with the small stuff, especially all hours of day and night.
Andrew walked me through getting Google Hangouts and Google Voice on my phone, and how to use them via wi fi. It worked like a charm! Not only was I able to make occasional calls to my mom (who didn't know we were far away), I was also able to contact my bank after a weird ATM incident. I am still using Hangouts to call Canada -- it's fantastic.
I also bought the prepaid Vodafone SIM and signed up for a 30 day plan. That worked well, too. I had a few challenges, and couldn't translate their texts, but I was able to contact them via live chat on my ipad and they were extremely helpful, with excellent English skills. Fortunately I didn't face a crisis situation where I would have needed to use Google Hangouts in combination with the Vodafone card, but I'm really glad I had them. It was also great to be able to use data for walking directions in various locales.
This forum is fantastic! The additional advice I got, about Verizon's $10/day plan, was an excellent backup strategy, that fortunately I didn't need to use. Thanks again!