February 13th, 2018
Travel Better: 7 Tools for Staying in Touch While Traveling
Is there free wifi here? No longer do you need to depend on free wifi at cafes and hotels in order to get online while traveling. From pocket wifi devices to free internet calling apps, these practical tips will help you stay connected while on the road.
Staying connected while traveling abroad hasn’t always been as simple as it should be. As technology has improved, however, the number of options to get online has increased. While this gives travelers more choices it can make it more confusing. The trick is figuring out which are the most reliable and economical.
I recently took a cruise that sailed to five European countries in just eight days. During that time I knew I would need to be connected and the idea of swapping out SIM cards in each country seemed burdensome and costly. Traditionally most ships do offer WiFi packages but they can be pricey at upwards of $250 for an unlimited package. Instead, during this trip I tested out some alternate methods for staying online.
Whether you are working while traveling or just want to share vacation selfies with your friends back home, I found these to be some of the best options to stay connected while on the road.
Portable Wifi Hotspots
Purchasing or renting a mobile hotspot prior to your trip can be one of the most cost-effective ways to maintain an internet connection while you are away. Because they allow multiple users to connect at once, these palm sized pocket gadgets get you online at affordable prices and are easy to use.
Skyroam Solis (buy or rent)
This 4G LTE global WiFi hotspot fits easily into the pocket of a daypack. It promises unlimited WiFi in more than one hundred countries. For under $10 per day you can connect up to five devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops) at time. You pay only for the days you use. With 16-hour battery life, take it with you for a full day of exploring and never worry about it running out of juice. Plus it acts as a power bank to keeps your devices charged wherever you go.
This compact device takes up next to no room in the zippered compartment of your waistpack. Hippocket allows you to enjoy you high-speed internet connections over 4G LTE network in forty European countries. It has six hours of operating time, and you can choose from plans that include either 1GB per day or unlimited data. With this device, everyone in your group and then some will have WiFi because you can connect up to 10 devices at the same time. Prior to departure they will ship it to any personal or business address in the USA or Canada. When you are done with it, simply place it in the provided pre-paid return envelope and pop it in the mail. Great for group travel!
Phone, Video and Messaging Apps
Gone are the days that require you to purchase an expensive international calling plan from your cell phone provider, because voice calls over IP (VoIP) technology has come all long way. The market has now grown to include dozens of options. You can even have face-to-face video conversations using your internet connection without worrying about expensive calling charge. Say goodbye to expensive cell service and hello free phone calls.
This app makes it simple to keep in touch with family and friends all over the world for free. It is available for iPhone, Android, Mac and Windows. Third parties cannot listen your to calls or see your messages because the app has end-to-end encryptions.
This is a great alternative to cellular phone calls for Apple users. Use it to make free phone voice calls over any WiFi network using FaceTime Audio. Add in the video component when your signal is strongest so you can see your friends.
This free Microsoft telecommunication app provides an option for video and audio calls between users on a wide range of platforms. It can also be used for conference calls or up to five users. Coupled with Skype Translator, which is currently available in ten languages, this powerful tool is great for business travelers.
Did you know that you can make VoIP or voice calls from your Facebook Messenger app? In addition to the instant messaging feature that most people are familiar with, these voice and video calls are free over WiFi.
Location Sharing Apps
These handy apps are great for sharing your GPS location for planning meet ups as well as for safety reasons. Unlike many social media apps, you won’t be sending that information out to the entire world.
This app offers travelers a free location sharing solution. With Wave you can temporarily share your location with others on a private map. Additionally it has a chat feature, with voice or text messages, and you can create groups with up to ten people. Lastly it allows you to set up meeting points making easy to find friends at your favorite restaurants or cafes.
To stay connected and safe, charge your devices every evening. Pack a universal travel adapter to make sure your chargers work wherever you travel.
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