Saving Money in Europe: Calling Home
Since I’ve been writing the First Impressions posts (so far, I have posts about London, Paris, Barcelona, Rome, Dublin, Prague, Munich, and Venice), I’ve been going through pictures, which has got me thinking about visiting Europe again. So I thought I would share with you some of the money-saving tips that have helped us to travel cheaply when we travel in Europe.
Like a lot of things in Europe, calling home is super expensive, even if you do have a cell phone plan that works. I know people who have travelled in Europe and used their working cell phones to call home, and even though they felt they used it “sparingly,” their cell phone bill that month was several hundreds of dollars more than it normally was. The first two times we travelled to Europe, neither of our cell phones worked, so we just turned them off and rebooted them once we arrived back in the states. The last time we went, we bought a service that was supposed to make my husband’s Iphone work (I still had a regular caveman-like phone and still do at the time of this writing). Unfortunately it didn’t work, so we ended up cancelling it and getting a refund after a long phone call with the company. So we have done 3 European trips without cell phones. Some of you are probably thinking “How?!”
First, let me just say how wonderful it is to actually turn off our cell phones for 16 days at a time. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. We didn’t have people calling us who didn’t know we were on vacation or people asking questions about work. We didn’t have people who knew we were on vacation calling to see how it was going when we were trying to run to catch the train or figure out how to order dinner in French or German. We could simply do what we wanted with our day without interruption, and it is so nice.
That being said, I know it is always scary for our families because they know they can’t reach us whenever they want. Rest assured that we always leave an itinerary with our lodging’s phone number and instructions on how to call to that particular country. If there was a true emergency, we would be notified. We also contacted family in the evenings when we got back from being out all day, and we did this in a number of ways.
If you have read any of my other posts about saving money in Europe, you would know that we typically book hotels and bed and breakfasts with internet, and this is key if you’re going to go without a cell phone. We always travel with our Ipad or some kind of laptop. At night, we were able to check our Facebook accounts and email (even though it’s nice not to be interrupted during the day, we still enjoyed seeing what was going on at home!) and post pictures if we had a chance. This let friends and family know that we were all still up and running. There was also email to contact family if we happened to be in our room at a time that wouldn’t have been convenient to call family, due to the time difference. But the best option, I’m convinced, is Skype.
We first started using Skype almost 7 years ago on our honeymoon, and it is a great service. From some countries, you can call using Skype (through internet) for free. From Europe to the US, it is only $0.02 a minute, which is super cheap. I can’t stress the convenience of this service enough. It is free to sign up and then you can go from there. I know there are even more features to the service than I even know about, but even if all you want to do is call home, it’s easy enough to use. Just be sure to let your friends and family know that the number will show up as a really long random number and not the one you normally call with. I’m not sure how much we actually spent on phone calls on our trips to Europe, but I doubt it was ever more than $10, and probably not even close to that.
Have you ever used anything else to call home when you’ve travelled overseas?