Studying abroad, volunteering internationally, WWOOFing, gap-year, missionaries, travel occupations — they all result in extended periods of time away from family and friends. However, sometimes simple text conversations aren’t always practical depending on where in the world you’re traveling.
Here we’ve listed a few tips you may find helpful when trying to keep in touch with friends and family abroad.
The Best Ways to Stay in Touch While Traveling Abroad
Set a Schedule
For your closest loved ones or significant others, setting a consistent schedule — whether it be in the evenings before you go to bed or early mornings before you go about your day — makes things much easier for everyone.
If you live in the U.S., I recommend T-Mobile for its free international data plan. Other options include setting up an international calling/data plan with your current cell phone carrier. For those of you who don’t have an international cell phone plan, you can get a local SIM card at your destination and swap it for your regular SIM card. (You must have an unlocked, SIM-compatible phone.)
Remember: be sure to consider time zone differences when planning your calls or Facetime dates! Which leads me to my next advice…
Use International-Friendly Apps
Remember when you had to find a phone booth to make an international call while traveling abroad? No? Okay, maybe I’m aging myself by admitting this was the only way to call home when I first started traveling. Luckily, the options are MUCH easier these days.
Finding coffee shops or hotels with free, TRUSTWORTHY WiFi should be a given, so as to not charge up your cell phone bills with extra data usage or roaming international calls. Once you’ve found a place where you connect on a regular basis, Facetime your partner, kids, or close friends to see them face-to-face. Skype isn’t as user-friendly, but can easily be used for those who have Android phones rather than iPhones.
I find video chatting to be a more fun and personal way to communicate, but if texting or calling is more convenient you can use the international WhatsApp or Viber messenger apps, or Facebook Messenger. If I have data or strong enough wifi, I prefer using the Google Hangouts App to call home. It’s much more reliable than the Skype app.
Social media doesn’t appeal to everyone, but for most it’s an easy way to keep up with friends — and for them to keep up with you! I’ve found trying to utilize EVERY social media app on the market can get overwhelming (and time consuming), so choosing one to update consistently will likely prove to be most successful.
Instagram is the perfect platform for eye-catching travel photos, and can reach a wide range of people you might not otherwise connect with. Snapchat might reach a smaller audience, but sending individual pictures and videos to those who matter most is a bit more intimate and can be personalized for each person you “snap” with.
Whatever your outlet, be sure to set your profile settings to “private” to ensure the safety of your belongings and home while you’re away.
Send Mass Emails
Have friends or family that aren’t social media-savvy? Sending a mass email to a group of contacts once a week cuts out the hassle of making sure you’ve reached everyone important on you travels, and it’s simple enough that you can even reach distant or older relatives.
Attach photos or short videos for a little personalization if you WiFi is fast enough.
If you’re a frequent traveler or just feeling a bit ambitious on your travels, you may consider keeping a personal blog to document your travels. There are plenty of free blog platforms out there, Blogger being one of the most popular. Standard free blogs like Blogspot are uncomplicated and easy to navigate.
Not only can you share your website with friends and family personally, but you can put your link on your social media sites and publicize your individual posts after they have gone live. Keeping up with a blog is a great idea for those who don’t mind spending an extra few minutes making their travel documentation eloquent and eye-appealing. Plus, you can think of you blog as a long-lasting digital scrapbook!
If you’re not sure how to get started, check out our post with tips on how to start a travel blog.