How we communicate with family and friends while we travel

us in xcalak - how Mexico changed me for the better

Last Updated on June 3, 2023 by Ellen

Communication with family and friends while we travel without a dedicated phone number has been interesting since August 2015, when I became free from overpriced U.S. cell providers.

I have not yet found a consistent and cheap communication method for everyone in our lives. Maybe you know of something I don’t.

Here’s what my husband Tedly and I have pieced together since I ditched ‘Ma Bell.’


Our phone number will usually change a few times a year, when we actually have a working phone.

I have an old iPhone that can use different SIM cards depending on the country we’re in, or, we can buy a cheap phone with a pay-as-you-go plan, which is what we did during our last three months in Mexico earlier this year.

For three months – in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico – we didn’t have a working phone.

We really only use the phone for things where we need to give a number for a call back. Otherwise, we’re using internet calls.

Not having a dedicated phone number saves money, but it does come at a price. I’ve had two family emergencies when news was slow to reach me, especially in one case where it took a day for me to know the details of my mother’s breast cancer situation.

Video calls & Voice memos

Microsoft’s Skype is my first choice for video calls because the quality is superb compared to Facebook’s Messenger and Apple’s FaceTime.

That said, most family members don’t have Skype accounts (hint, hint), so I’ve used Messenger most often. FaceTime only works if the person I’m calling has an Apple device and can use iCloud.

We also use the Voice Memo app on my iPhone to record messages to send via email to my husband’s mother. She plays the ‘voice mail’ for her mother – my husband’s grandmother – who is nearly 105 years old!

Text messages

Messenger is the bomb for text messaging, especially with people who don’t use Apple devices. I do text with iCloud if the recipient has an Apple, but when I’m connected to WiFi, I’m always on Messenger anyway. Messenger is my favorite for now, but if Facebook’s app starts pushing products on me, I may wander away…

WhatsApp is huge in Latin America, but, you need a phone number to start an account, so I’ve avoided it so far.


One day email might be as old fashioned as the hand-written letter. The irony is, the email account I’ve had for nearly two decades is gone, and I now use a (relatively) new account.

I haven’t used my old Yahoo! email account since I got locked out of it while in Belize earlier this year. I couldn’t reset the password because I don’t have the same phone number. I tried everything I could think of to retrieve that account – even Twitter slams against Yahoo’s customer service. Nothing worked. Buh-bye Yahoo!

Social media

Maybe you got here through a Twitter link, or through Facebook or Instagram. I use those quite a bit, and can always be reached through those apps.

I generally keep Facebook friends to people I’ve met in ‘real life’. That said, I do have a few ‘strangers’ as friends because they are awesome people I can learn from (and I did some homework on them).

Do you have suggestions?

I read a lot of blogs by expats who live in other countries, and fellow Americans who make continuous travel their full-time reality. But – there are thousands of people who blog about travel methods, tips and tricks, and I may not have discovered other ways to communicate yet.

For example, I know there are ways to set up a number that can be used within most countries, but that can get expensive, and we are serious budget travelers.

If you have any suggestions – phone/SIM cards especially – I’d love to hear them!

In the end, as long as I’m on wifi, or have a disposable phone or temporary SIM card, I can always be reached.

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