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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 www.skype.com.
  • 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 http://beta.skype.com/en/rates/. 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 www.skype.com.

  • 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.

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