Jessica, a program coordinator for REI Adventures, offers the following helpful advice:
This is a common question for travelers, and the answer has changed quite a bit since I first set off to backpack across Europe on my own. In those days, your wallet overflowed with calling cards. You’d sit crammed into a payphone booth and pray your call went through, or you’d pay ridiculous rates to have some hotel or hostel’s front desk place the call for you.
Today, getting in touch with home is much simpler—even in some of the most far-flung corners of the globe. Depending on your provider, the easiest way for friends to reach you might be to call or text your cell phone. With networks becoming more sophisticated, odds are that your cell phone will work where you’re going—whether you’re sitting in a Parisian café or speeding in a safari truck across the savannah. It blew my mind that I had a better signal in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania than back home in my Seattle apartment.
Such convenience does come at a price however. Depending on your plan, even texting charges can run up quickly, so be sure to call your cell phone provider to get the details before you leave.
A cheaper option is to stay in touch by email, especially if you are going to Europe, larger cities in South America or Southeast Asia. Rates are typically low, and access is widespread. Drop into an internet café or use a PC terminal at your hotel to update Facebook or check in on Foursquare. If you miss seeing your loved ones’ faces, set up a Skype account to video conference while you’re away. While wi-fi hasn’t reached the steppes of Mongolia or the jungles of the Amazon just yet, the internet has easily become the favorite way to keep tabs on home while you’re traveling.
Just don’t get so caught up in staying in touch that you lose touch with your journey. Remember that one of the rewards of travel is dropping out of the day-to-day grind for a while, so some days it might be best to shut your laptop and send an old-fashioned postcard instead.