It’s true. Most of us have a hard time getting through the day without checking our voicemails, updating our Facebook statuses, tweeting about our daily activities, or checking email.
Media and communication have become an integral part of our daily lives, and that doesn’t change when you are miles away. In order to stay on budget, frugal travelers don’t have to forgo these “necessities,” they just have to be savvier about how they approach them. Here are some tips for continuing to indulge in your daily communication rituals while traveling without breaking the bank.
Cell Phones (and alternatives)
No doubt you’ve heard horror stories about traveler’s who’ve been hit with roaming fees while making calls abroad and come home to find a massive phone bill waiting for them (Internet fees can be even heftier). Be sure to read the fine print on your cell phone contract (or contact your carrier) before embarking on a trip.
If you’re planning on traveling or working abroad, I suggest looking into a pay-as-you-go cell phone. Buy the cheapest phone you can (you’ll only be using it for a while) and simply load it with more minutes as you need them. This will provide you with the flexibility to make calls in the country you’re visiting (to confirm reservations, make plans with friends, etc.). Of course, calling abroad (to friends and family back home) will cause you to fly through those minutes, but it’s better to know how much you’re spending as you go rather than waiting for the killer bill when you get back home.
If you can stand the “inconvenience” of using a stationary phone, I highly suggest using phone cards (these can be purchased at convenience stores and magazine stands). Typically, this will be your cheapest option. To avoid hidden fees sometimes charged by international hotels, either ask for clarification up-front from a hotel employee (“Will I be charged extra if I make a call from my room using this calling card?”) or, to be on the safe side, always use a phone booth. I almost always opt for calling cards when I’m traveling abroad. I know I’ll save money this way (and it’s a nostalgic trip back to my pre-cell phone days as a student gallivanting around Europe).
If you are able to secure an Internet connection, Skype is also a great option for communicating with friends and family in other countries for free. Simply create an account at www.skype.com and start talking for free.
Free wi-fi is so common in most parts of the world (especially touristy parts) that one can conceivably never have to pay for Internet while traveling. The most convenient thing is if your hotel has free wi-fi (either in each room or in the lobby). If it doesn’t, it’s time think creatively. Perhaps there is a coffee shop in the area with free wi-fi for customers (some hotel concierges will have a list of free wi-fi spots). Is there a public library nearby? Maybe you could hop on their wi-fi. I always bring my iPad with me while traveling. It’s light and portable (I also have it loaded with useful travel iPhone apps to help me save money and time) and I’m always ready to hop on free wi-fi if the opportunity presents itself. I recently read an article about a frugal traveler who was able to get free Internet access on his Kindle — worth a try!
If worse comes to worst, Internet cafés are ubiquitous in most cities. You can pay to hop on (or sometimes access is free with a purchase) for enough time to do what you need to get done. Another option is to purchase a wi-fi plan through a site like http://www.wi-free.com/.