Part 2: iPhone Preparations Before You Leave the USA

In Part 1, you set up a Google Voice account so that you can check your voicemail messages with a free internet connection when you are in a foreign country.  Now, we will set up an account so that you can use the internet to make video or voice calls to friends or family back home plus have the ability to call a telephone number anywhere in the world.

There are many apps for what I call internet calling. My favorite one for the iPhone is Skype. With a Skype account you can:

  1. call anyone for free as long as you are both online and both have Skype accounts and apps. It doesn’t matter if the other person is on a smartphone, iPhone, iPad, tablet or computer.
  2. call a phone number to anywhere in the world for pennies a minute

If you already have a Skype account, skip to #2.

1. Get a Skype Account

From your computer (either Mac or PC):

  • Go to
  • Click Join and fill out the Sign Up form completely
  • Follow Skype’s excellent instructions to download the software to your computer.
  • After you’ve installed Skype on your computer, sign in with your new account.
  • Follow the instructions to test your sound and video.
    ***Do not proceed until you have successfully tested your sound and video!

2. Buy a Little Skype Credit

Skype credit is necessary when you call a landline or cell phone number, and it’s very affordable.  Remember, this is for calling from your iPhone, iPad or computer with an internet connection to a phone number anywhere in the world. Skype offers three purchasing plans:

  • Pay As You Go – perfect for most travelers for returning the occasional important phone call back home or calling a restaurant for reservations while in a foreign country
  • Subscription – for the business traveler needing to make lots of phone calls when traveling internationally
  • Premium – not necessarily for a traveler but for someone who makes lots of phone calls to the same foreign country

From your computer, go to You may have to sign in before being directed to the rates page. I recommend that you click on Buy Skype Credit, select $10 of credit, enter your payment information and select Auto-Recharge. Unlike a Subscription or Premium plan, the Skype credit you purchase never expires! I used the same $10 Skype credit for a trip to England in 2011 and a trip to Austria in 2012.

3. Download the Skype App on Your iPhone

  • On your iPhone, touch the App-Store-icon.
  • Touch Search and type Skype in the search bar.
  • Choose the correct app with this icon: Skype-App-icon.
  • Install it and sign into your Skype account (it’s the same account you set up in #1 above).

4. Add Contacts to Your Skype Account

The easiest and quickest way to add contacts to your Skype account is to search for your friends and family through the Skype software you installed on your computer – not

  • Open Skype on your computer
  • At the very top of your computer screen, in the menu bar, click on Contacts.
  • Click on Add Contact.
  • Enter a name or email address (preferable) to search for the matching Skype account.
  • If more than one contact is offered as a match, select the correct one and click Add Contact.
  • Follow the instructions to send a request to your contact to add him/her to your Skype contacts.
  • Once your contact requests have been accepted, add phone numbers to your Skype contacts.
  • Click on Contacts in your Skype computer program.
  • Move your mouse over a contact, click the green down arrow that appears.
  • Click Add Contact Number.
  • Select the type of number and enter it in the field. You can enter multiple phone numbers for each contact.

If you cannot find some of your contacts on Skype or you know that they do not have an account, ask them to get an account before you leave on your trip. (Hint: Forward these instructions to them!)

5. Practice!

It is very important that you practice before you go on vacation to become comfortable with Skype-to-Skype and Skype-to-Phone calls.

  • Contact a friend or family member and set up a time to “skype” them from your iPhone to their computer. I recommend that you practice over a wifi connection (not cellular), just like you’ll do on your trip.
  • In a location with a strong wifi signal, temporarily turn off your iPhone’s cellular access. Touch Settings>>General>>Cellular>>Cellular Data OFF.
  • Touch the Home button.
  • TouchSkype-App-icon.
  • Touch Contacts>>Skype Contacts.
  • Select your contact.
  • Make a video call.
  • Hang up and make a voice call to your contact’s Skype account.
  • Hang up and make a voice call to your contact’s phone. ***This will use a few cents of your Skype credit.
  • Hang up.  Touch Skype-Call-Phones-icon. Dial a phone number that isn’t one of your contacts. ***Again, this will use a little of your Skype credit.

Congratulations! You’re pre-trip iPhone preparations are done. In the next article, I will tell you the settings you need to change in your iPhone just before you take off for your international destination. Don’t forget to turn your Cellular Data back on for now. Touch Settings>>General>>Cellular>>Cellular Data ON.

Part 1: iPhone Preparations Before You Leave the USA

In my previous article, I created a table with the free and nearly free ways you can use your iPhone internationally. The tips in this post and the next are meant to be done days before you leave, not when you’re scrambling around packing, stopping mail, etc. While you may find setting up these accounts a bit tedious, you won’t have to do this again the next time you go overseas.

1. Wifi Access

Many, many hotels in Europe, even modest 2-star ones, offer free Wifi.  If you are selecting your lodging yourself and making the reservations, always seek a hotel with free wifi.

2. FaceTime Settings

If you have not used FaceTime before, skip to #3 Getting a Google Voice Account.  This isn’t the article to teach you about FaceTime.  If you have used FaceTime on your iPhone and like it, you will need to turn off the cellular access setting like this before you leave the States:

  • Touch Settings.
  • Scroll down and touch FaceTime.
  • FaceTime should be ON
  • Turn Use Cellular Data OFF

3. Getting a Google Voice Account

Google Voice has lots of features that we will not be using. We are only setting it up to receive voicemails that come to your cell phone while you are out of the country. Why? Because you can check your cell phone voice messages online with a free internet connection. It’s not free in foreign countries if you access it through your iPhone the way you usually do in the States. **Check with your cellphone provider to make certain that call forwarding is included with your calling plan.  Even with call forwarding in your plan, each forwarded call will probably use a minute in your calling plan. This is still much cheaper and simpler than accessing voicemail the way you do in the US.

  • Log into your Google/Gmail account on your computer. (If you do not have a Google account yet, it’s free and click here for the instructions on getting one.)
  • Click on the small squares in the top right and click on More.
  • At the bottom of the drop down menu, click on Even More.
  • Scroll down the page of Google products to the Home & Office section.
  • Click on Voice.
  • Click on I want a new number.
  • Enter either your zip, area code or city.  Click Search numbers.
  • A list of local phone numbers appears. Select your favorite one. Click Continue.
  • Create and enter a 4-digit pin.  Read and accept Google’s terms. Click Continue.
  • Enter a forwarding phone number for your Google Voice phone number.  This can be changed later.  Click Continue.
  • Google Voice needs to verify your phone number that you entered.  When ready, click Call me now.
  • When Google Voice calls you, answer, enter the verification number and hang up. Click Finish in the popup box.

4. Compose the Voicemail Greeting You Want Callers to Hear While You’re Away

  • From your Google Voice screen click Google-Wheel-e1376931536996, then Settings.
  • With the Phones tab selected, uncheck ALL the boxes that you see. This turns off the Google Voice forwarding to your cell phone.
  • Next, click the Voicemail & Text tab at the top.
  • Click Record New Greeting.
  • Enter a name for your new greeting and click Continue.
  • Select your cell, work or home number that you previously entered. Click Connect. Google Voice will call that number and lead you through the steps to record your greeting.
  • When finished, click the X in the corner of the popup box.
  • Beside Voicemail Notifications, check the box “Email the message to: your gmail address.”
  • I recommend that you do not check Text Forwarding for now. It does not actually forward text messages sent to your iPhone’s phone number.
  • Do not enter a Voicemail PIN unless you want the extra security for accessing your Voicemail messages.
  • Beside Voicemail Transcripts check the box “Transcribe voicemails.”
  • Click Save changes.

5. Set up Call Forwarding on Your iPhone

  • Go to Contacts on your iPhone.
  • Click the + to enter a new contact.
  • In the Company field type: Call Forwarding On
  • In the Phone field, select Work and enter: *72 and your new Google Voice number with area code (for example, *72 xxx-xxx-xxxx).
  • Click Done.
  • Touch Add to Favorites.
  • Touch the phone number.
  • Press the Home button.

6. Test Your Call Forwarding to Google Voice

  • On your iPhone touch iPhone-phone-icon.
  • Touch Favorites.
  • Touch Call Forwarding On.  You’ll hear three beeps and the call will end.
  • Using a different phone, call your cell phone.
  • Your cell phone will not ring, and you should hear your new Google Voicemail greeting.
  • Leave some kind of test message on your Google Voicemail.
  • Hang up.
  • Go to your Google Voice account online. You will see a new message. Even if it couldn’t be transcribed, you can press the play arrow to listen to the message.
  • You will also receive an email notification to your Gmail address that you have a new voicemail.

7. Turn Off Call Forwarding on Your iPhone

Now that you’ve set up and tested forwarding your voicemail to Google Voice, you need to turn off the voicemail forwarding until you actually go overseas. *** These are instructions for a Verizon iPhone.  If you use a different carrier, your settings may be slightly different.

  • On your iPhone, touch Settings.
  • Scroll down and touch Phone.
  • Some cell phone providers provide a Call Forwarding Disable or Off from this screen. On Verizon, you need to touch Verizon Services.
  • Touch Call Forwarding Disable.
  • You will hear three beeps.
  • Now, try calling your cell phone one more time to make certain that Call Forwarding is off.

8. Install Google Voice App on Your iPhone

  • On your iPhone, touch the App-Store-icon App Store icon.
  • Search for Google Voice. The correct app should be the first one, which is by Google, Inc.
  • Touch Install.
  • Touch Open.
  • Sign in with your Gmail address and password.
  • Touch Don’t use for calls.
  • Exit from Google Voice by touching the Home key.

Next time, we’ll finish our iPhone preparations by setting up and/or tweaking a Skype account.

How to Avoid Charges on Your iPhone When Traveling Overseas

The more attached we are to our iPhones, the more we want them with us – even while on vacation out of the country. If you expect to use your iPhone the same way you use it in the States, then be prepared for a fairly large bill when you return home. If, however, you can plan when and how you want to use it, this article will show you how to avoid most or even all charges to your phone.

Free and Nearly Free iPhone Usability Overseas

Feature Free  $
Search the Internet via free Wifi X
Send and receive email via free Wifi X
Video chat using Facetime via free Wifi X
Voice/video call an online user with Skype via free Wifi X
Voice/video call an online user with Google via free Wifi X
Check your iPhone’s voice mail via free Wifi X
Call phone numbers anywhere in the world with Skype via free Wifi  X


I have separated what you need to know and do into three steps:

  1. Account preparations a few days before you go
  2. On the plane before you leave the United States
  3. Using your iPhone in a foreign country

One way to make certain that you don’t miss these upcoming articles is to click here to have them sent directly to your email as soon as I write them!

Fast Access to Your iPhone’s Camera

Have you ever learned a new shortcut, whether it’s for a task or a new driving route, and promptly forgotten to use it? We are creatures of habit and often cause ourselves unnecessary delays or frustration.

Take for example the camera on your iPhone. Do you ever grab the phone to hurriedly take a picture and go through the following steps? Press the Home button, slide the unlock and then scroll through your apps looking for the little camera icon?  Then, once you find the icon, you touch it to open the camera. By now, the moment you were trying to capture with a photo or video has passed!  The baby’s not smiling, the bear left your yard, whatever.

Thankfully, the folks at Apple have provided an awesome shortcut to the iPhone’s camera. If you’ve already been using it, kudos to you!

Press the Home or the Sleep/Wake button if your phone is dark and asleep. Right there on the Lock screen, beside the slide bar is a camera. Lightly rest one finger on the little camera, and slide your finger up the screen. The screen will lift and open to the camera on your iPhone, immediately ready for taking a picture. Remember this the next time you reach for your iPhone for a priceless shot!