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No Phone…am I the only one?

As I, again, read posts, I'm wondering if I made the wrong decision about not having a phone for my solo trip to sweden. I leave Tuesday. My only technology…besides my camera…is an iPod. If I have wifi, I can speak to my DH if he's in wifi service in the US, in other words, when he is at home. There is one step son with an iPhone who I can call any time I am in wifi. Not sure why I'd call him. I can't think of who I'd be talking to in Sweden on the phone. I've had phones before, but because I'm meeting up with people in the country. I'm not a phone talker in the US so don't know why I would be in Sweden. As far as confirming reservations, I'd rather they tell this gray haired woman to her face there is no reservation and try to get me out of their lobby rather than in an impersonal manner on the phone. Certainly, someone around me would have a phone in an emergency. However, everyone on this forum seems to have a phone while traveling. Why do you bring a phone? And I want to know if anyone travels without a phone. Do I need one? Just resolving some last minute nerve issues… LOL Wray

Posted by
4956 posts

I have T-Mobile, so my phone costs little or nothing to use in many countries. On my recent trip, it worked in Croatia - free data, free texting, free WiFi calls home, 20 cents/minute regular calls. So it wasn't costing me much of anything to bring the phone along. My SIM card in Bosnia cost me about $3 USD.

I usually don't need a real phone unless I'm driving when I travel. It's nice to know (also driving solo) that I have a phone in the car for emergencies. And if I stop off to take a break while driving, it's nice to know I can check email briefly etc.

Having a phone to communicate with the hotel or lodging owner isn't just for confirming reservations. What if you arrive late or early? (If you are taking a train - what if you miss the train or it breaks down and you are five hours late?) What if you can't find the place? I often stay at non-hotel types of lodging - say a B&B that doesn't always have someone on-site. Even though you say you will arrive at 3PM, what if they aren't there? (All of these have happened to me before, more or less.) If you will always stay at a conventional hotel with a 24 hour front desk, I guess it doesn't matter so much.

What if you are renting a car and there's no one there at the rental car return office? That has happened to me twice now. Without a phone to call them - what would I have done? Probably flag someone down I guess, hope they speak English, and try to convince them to call the car company for me. Having my own phone made it easy.

I don't talk much on my phone either when I travel, but traveling alone, in a country where I probably don't speak the language, it's nice to be able to call someone back home and chat once in a while. I also bring a small laptop and can make voice calls home that way (for free) as well, but if I'm in a T-Mobile roaming country, I can just use my phone and call home free via WiFi anyway - so because it doesn't cost much, why not bring it?

Posted by
10344 posts

I've had a phone on earlier European trips but on the recent one no phone. I was glad to get away from it, since I'm tethered to it here and it was a refreshing change of pace to be free of it. Didn't need it. I do have a lap top back at the hotel, for trip research.

Posted by
6511 posts

I always travel without a phone. Maybe one of these days I'll break down, but so far I haven't needed one. I also don't bring an iPod/Pad either. I travel with a netbook computer so I can confirm reservations or contact my hotels by email and I use it to connect with my family through email or fb and sometimes Skype. My last two trips to Europe were 9 wks and 5 wks respectively and there were only 2 times that I needed to find a phone to use and was able to do that. Like you I'm not a phone person here at home so don't need to be one when I'm traveling.

Posted by
1834 posts

We have never taken a phone and I can't understand why anyone would. We used to take an iPod Touch and use WiFi where it was available, and it is available nearly everywhere. Now we use an iPad Mini the same way. Its easy to keep in touch, if you have to, using internet through the WiFi, and its free.

Posted by
9918 posts

I've never had phone service in Europe. I did have my phone with me for wifi and camera plus being able to text via What'sApp (wifi) if needed and then using it when I was going thru the US airports.

HOWEVER, at the end of my 21 Day BOE last fall, the Air France strike started so everyone who was flying out on that Monday had to scramble to re-do reservations. The people with phones had the easiest time. That made me pause and think that some kind of service might be necessary for that reason. I'm retired so no big deal if I don't get home when planned but it would be easier to work that out via phone with my airline than any other way. I have not decided what I will do for my trip in the Fall but am considering some kind of phone service.

Posted by
18378 posts

I've never had a phone with me in Europe. Making calls to the US, with the time difference, is inconvenient, and there is no one over there I want to call. For communication to the US, email works fine. I once needed to call an accommodation because I was going to arrive late, but I found a pay phone at the station.

Posted by
2927 posts

Thanks All. I feel better. @Andrew: If I were driving alone, I agree, I would have a phone. Now, I'm sure I'll come up with something else to worry about before I leave… Wray

Posted by
4956 posts

At this point, not having a phone with me overseas would be silly, at least for me. On this last trip, having one cost me about $10 USD total, including the purchase of two SIM cards and a few T-Mobile calls at 20 cents a minute. On my first trips to Europe I used pay phones and calling cards, but pay phones are getting harder to find anywhere these days as more and more people have cell phones.

Posted by
31521 posts

Wray,

I've been travelling with a phone for many years, and have found it to be a very useful "travel accessory" on a number of occasions. As I travel solo much of the time, I like to be able to keep in touch with family back home and text messages every day or so are a good way to let them know that I'm OK. I also need a means of keeping in touch with my home and pet care provider, in case of any emergencies or whatever.

I've also used it several times to notify hotels that my arrival would be later than expected. Especially on longer rail trips, there can sometimes be unexpected delays and since some hotels will cancel reservations if the guest doesn't show up before a set time, being able to call them is essential (IMO). I can't use a pay phone or whatever if I'm sitting on a train, but a cell phone works well.

I can't imagine not travelling with a cell phone, but YMMV.

Posted by
3428 posts

My phone isn't just a phone. It replaces my watch, travel alarm clock, has all my books and music on it, and games to play if I want. I can check email, text, use it as a decent camera, Skype, get maps and directions.... you get the idea. One device, one charger, one adapter.

Posted by
2927 posts

@Ken ymmv?
Everyone: My iPod has imessenger and FaceTime, etc. Anyone who has an apple product, I can call when I'm in wifi so I can easily keep in touch with people at home. @andrew: I use my computers for communication so my telephone is an ancient flip phone so it is not just a matter of changing the sim card or even the plan. Essentially my iPod touch does everything a smart phone does in wifi except phone non apple products without wifi. That being said I have thought about getting a google number so I can call anyone if I'm on wifi…so I'll think about that some more...I just found it confusing as it seemed to want to route all my phone numbers to it. Or, I can see what a cheap phone and top up plan costs in Sweden…that's something I was thinking about. We have loved our English top up phone in England and it cost very little. …oh, I'm confused again. I also was thinking what kind person wouldn't call my hotel for me from the train if needed…apparently in Sweden perhaps many as they allegedly want to keep to themselves…LOL…kind of like me. Thanks for all your feedback. Wray

Posted by
80 posts

A cell phone is a safety net for me. Most times, you don't need it. However, with an elderly parent and young adult son at home, I just feel better knowing they can reach me at any time. I stay in touch with them via texting/calling. If my husband and I get separated or have made separate plans, it is a way for us to stay in touch (he got lost in the Paris Metro and I was able to find him). The phone is an alarm clock, and can be used to make last minute calls regarding travel and lodging. I try not to use data on my cell and carry my tablet for email/internet. My husband uses his cell as his camera. If there is a crisis at work (rare) he can be reached. In a pinch I could use it for data, as I don't lug the tablet around.

Posted by
2743 posts

I don't use my phone as a phone in Europe. That is, I use wifi and all sorts of apps, but no data or phone service. Sure, occasionally I will need to call an air b&b host or a restaurant for a reservation. Otherwise it's rare.

I keep all my travel info and paperwork on my phone, use a kindle for reading books - guidebooks and fiction. I use an offline map app, get info online with wifi, and am pretty technologically adept without using the phone function. Basically my iPhone is an iPod while in europe.

Posted by
4956 posts

Wray: " I use my computers for communication so my telephone is an ancient flip phone so it is not just a matter of changing the sim card or even the plan."

GSM flip phones have had SIM cards forever. My 10 year old Motorola flip phone (looks even older) works fine in Europe with a local SIM card, though with my Android I don't need the flip phone anymore. So I assume what you mean is that you have Sprint or Verizon, which use CDMA technology in the US not GSM (like AT&T and T-Mobile). CDMA phones don't use SIM cards, but newer smart phones have SIM card slots in case you want to use your smart phone with GSM (e.g. overseas).

I've had a Google Voice number for years and I highly recommend getting one (it's free). I have used it with my laptop (which I always travel with) for years overseas to make calls home; sometimes that's still easier than using my Android phone.) Google Voice doesn't force you to replace any existing phone number - it is not a "phone service." They expect you to have an existing phone number and phone service but also give you a new Google phone number. When you receive a call on your Google number, it rings whatever phone you have attached to the Google account (plus, also, Gmail if you have it set that way). When you receive a call on that phone's original number it still rings the original phone, not Google. Only when making calls via Google or when you have given your Google number out for someone to call will it come into play at all. If you decide to stop using your Google number one day you just stop using it - nothing has to change with your original phone service, it will still work as before.

I don't even use Google Hangouts (Google Voice) on my Android phone - it's too slow. The phone cost only $30 new, but it works well for basic phone stuff and checking email and Facebook. Anyone with a decent phone could use Google Hangouts without issue I believe, but I still use it mainly via my laptop. I have no idea how it would work with an iPod.

Posted by
2927 posts

@andrew: is there a way I can look at my British phone and see if it is compatible to a sim card, do you think? It is about 7 years old. Also, I'll revisit Google voice tomorrow. I didn't understand that only someone calling the google number would ring the number I chose to attach to it. I thought all phones would go to the google number. Thanks. This has been helpful if not a bit confusing.

Posted by
914 posts

I don't carry one. I leave a list of all hotel/tour operator numbers (if applicable) and a copy of my train/flight info with family. One time I had a transport issue (BA had cancelled a bunch of flights) I used the PC at the hotel to buy a Eurostar ticket and reserve a different hotel. I can see perhaps if you're driving by yourself it could be for a feeling of security or it could be fun for listening to RS's audio tours but for now I like being away from the phone while on vacation.

Posted by
15051 posts

I've traveled solo for years in many places in Europe and elsewhere, including 3 times with a rental car, and never had a phone. Twice that I can remember, I've needed one, and a kindly local made the call for me. In the U.S. I wouldn't be without one so I always get a burner.

Posted by
2927 posts

I'm back to no cellular telephone. I'll call my Apple people only when I'm in wifi if I have the need. I have all my books, music and documents(paper, too), alarm clock on my iPod. All my hotels have wifi. My train has wifi. If I can figure out the google voice, fine, but it is not looking good(calls but never gets there). Swedes have cell phones. And I'm back to not feeling a need. I'm winging it. I spent 2/3 of my life without a cell phone and managed fine. My one potential late arrival knows I'm coming regardless of time and has already provided after hours access codes, just in case. I think I can't stress about details any longer. I'm done. I just wish my body was done with its aches and pains for this trip! I need to be able to keep up with myself. LOL

Posted by
4956 posts

I probably wouldn't fuss with bringing a phone this late in the game, either. You can always buy one over there if absolutely necessary, but it sounds like you can live without one.

Posted by
2949 posts

I've just returned from a 20-day trip to France, England, and Scotland. I used my phone a lot as a GPS with the Google Maps app because the first car we rented (France) didn't have a GPS and in the second car (UK) the Avis guy couldn't figure it out well enough to show us how to operate it.

I get what you're saying about hotel confirmations. But consider this. Our ferry from France to England was canceled and we would not have known this had it not been for the phone. We would have arrived late in the evening at Caen/Ouistreham intending to take the overnight ferry and only then would we have found out we were stuck in France for at least one more day -- with no car to get to another ferry port, as we would have already turned in our rental car several miles away from the ferry terminal! This would have thrown us at least one day behind in our itinerary, and could have screwed up (among other things) our highly coveted Stonehenge stone circle access booking, which was paid for many months in advance. We would have had to beg the use of someone else's phone to call our UK hotel and our car rental company to modify our UK bookings. It was bad enough with a phone; without one it would have really been horrible.

I'd say you're probably OK without a phone if and only if you are not depending on advance bookings to carry out a specific itinerary that means a lot to you.

Posted by
2927 posts

Result: I ended up buying a top up phone in Sweden about 4 days into my trip on a very rainy day because I would be heading off with strangers. As it turns out, it was good to have as the people I met would not have been able to follow up with me if I had not had a phone. I did not use it for any other purpose. But, allegedly, as I spoke with someone in Sweden for greater than 5 minutes, I can use this phone anywhere in the world… I won't know if this is true unless I travel around the world. Hmmm… Had I not had a phone, I would have missed some very serendipitous moments…or hours. Wray

Posted by
9 posts

It's like insurance for me. I hope I never need it but when I do I'm thankful I have it. Of course I have T-Mobile so I don't have to worry about excessive charges in most countries. Other than th 20 cents a minute for out of country calls it's no different from using the phone here. Plus it's my camera, computer, GPS, translater, converter, news source, games, weather, etc. All in one.

Posted by
21857 posts

We don't take phone and have never missed them. We do use an ipad and internet for what contact we need.

Posted by
158 posts

I'm glad Wray had a good use for the phone she bought in Sweden. Here is another reason to consider buying a cheap pay as you go local phone in Europe - to reduce anxiety. My wife and I like to explore different things, and in her country, Croatia, I used to be lost for words and a tad anxious. Slavic languages did not compute for me initially. Getting a cheap VIPme local phone each, which we topped up as needed, let me wander off happily knowing I could call for a translation or help, and could find her later, just as I do at the local mall when our grasp of time differs. We now use VIpme's SIM card in her IPhone, natch, but I still keep my trusty Nokia in my pocket, with more and more numbers of Croatian friends I can call - and even speak with now! No smartphone, but a smart choice.

Posted by
371 posts

I download city maps to my phone so I can use the GPS when I am out and about. I also have all my travel info on my phone (and paper copies in my suitcase) so I can reference them quickly if needed. For example, I have my travel insurance numbers on my phone. After all if I need them, I probably can't go back to my hotel to look them up.

If I travel with a companion and we might do separate things, then having the phone helps. If we get separated on one of us gets lost we can cal the other for help. But, traveling alone, that is obviously not an issue. No, you don't need a phone. But, it can make the trip easier, if something goes wrong. Maybe.

Posted by
5669 posts

it was interesting to read the results and see that you ended up buying a phone. I remember when I realized that I really needed to have a phone for my trips to the UK. On that particular trip a couple of things happened. First, every B&B wanted our phone number for follow up. The car rental people wanted it too. And then there was the lack of public phones! Everyone in the UK seemed to have a mobile phone and to not have one put you in a distinct rather backward minority. I now cannot imagine traveling without it!