(+) The Advantages of VoIP Telephones When Traveling

The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman. 

This article has almost nothing to do with genealogy. However, it reflects my recent experiences when traveling overseas and at home. I find it interesting and hope that a few others also may be interested in this method of saving money.

I have been on the road for nearly four weeks. I left Orlando, flew to London, traveled by train to Ashford, Kent and then spent several days at the annual conference of the Guild of One-Name Studies (GOONS). I had the honor of making two presentations at the conference. I can tell you they are a great organization! I stayed in Ashford for an extra day after the conference, then took the train back to London and became a tourist for a few days. I then flew to from London to Seattle and made presentations at a conference at the Tacoma-Pierce County Genealogical Society in Tacoma, Washington, another great group. Finally, I flew back to Orlando twelve days after I had left.

Four days later, I flew to Detroit and gave presentations in Ann Arbor. Two days later, I returned to Orlando, stayed five days, then flew to Richmond, Virginia to attend the annual conference of the National Genealogical Society. (whew!) I am still in Richmond as I write these words but will return to Orlando on Sunday. A few days later, I will drive to Massachusetts.

I am usually impressed with numerous things when traveling but one thing that made me stop and think in the past few weeks was the ease of staying in touch, even when overseas. The five hotels where I stayed all had rather fast and very reliable wi-fi connections. I carried a Macbook Air laptop computer, an iPad tablet computer, and an Android smartphone. Staying connected by email and social networking was easy, as easy as doing the same thing from home. Of course, surfing the web, writing newsletter articles, and posting those articles online also was a simple process. I have done all that many times before. What was different this time was the ease of making essentially free telephone calls back home.

I talked via telephone calls with family members most every day during the trip. I used my cell phone to make and receive calls, not the computer. Some of those conversations lasted for an hour or more. A side benefit is that I always was “reachable.” Anyone who called my normal telephone number was able to reach me even when I was walking along the streets of Ashford, Kent, England. If I didn’t tell them, my callers never knew that I was overseas.

The cost to me? Almost zero. Well, I had earlier purchased some hardware that I used for other purposes so I guess the correct words are “at almost no extra charge.” I remember only a few years ago when a long-distance telephone call to the U.S. from a hotel in England would cost about a dollar for the call plus additional charges for every minute I talked. A ten-minute call to the United States often cost ten or twenty dollars and I never dared to talk longer than a very few minutes. Last year, I carried a cell phone to England and ended up paying more than $300 in roaming fees and toll calls for the very few telephone calls, text messages, and emails I made and received during a four-day stay!

This time the experience was different. I talked for as long as I wanted at no extra charge. I sent and received text messages. I read my email messages and sent a few new messages. The bottom-line cost to me? Nearly zero, using computers and a cell phone I already owned.

Using today’s technologies, anyone can find dozens of ways of accomplishing all this. I will describe what I did but will quickly add that it is not the only method. It might not even be the best method but it worked well for me and cost very little. I will use this again and again on all future trips, both domestic and overseas.

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