Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Be frugal. Use Skype. Save money.

My Skype account has become an invaluable traveling companion. I have driven to Alaska twice since writing the original article below. The service has proved itself time and time again. Not only could I access voicemail from the road, but I was able to phone home over any wifi connection - whether cell service was available or not.

It was on the second Alaska trip that I learned the value of Skype. There were long expanses where phone service was unavailable. Even in the cities it was difficult to find a signal with my provider. Skype made it possible to go into a Starbucks or other wifi spot and phone home. This and email were the primary way that we could keep in touch.

One of the most important moments came after our dog was attacked by another husky. We were near Whitehorse, Yukon when the dog came out of nowhere and went after Tomlin. Our vet was over 3,000 miles away. We didn't even have cell phone service in Yukon and I really needed to talk with someone who could give me some advice. He didn't seem to be hurt (and he wasn't), but dogs can't speak for themselves and I was upset.

Thank goodness that Hubby the a Starbucks in Whitehorse. I Skyped my daughter while he went in for coffee and tea. She works in a vets office and was able to tell us what to look for. Tomlin was okay, but talking to her helped me feel better.

I also have it set up to go to my cell phone. Friends in other countries simply connect to me through my membername. It rings on my computer and, after a ring or two, it goes to my cell phone when I am in the U.S.  How convenient is that?

It's not possible for me to list the instances where the kids have successfully Skyped me. My younger daughter went to school in Grenada once, there are the Alaska trips and a couple drives across the country. I kept my original number when we moved and got a number through the service that also rings to my cell phone. One of my daughter's was able to contact me when lines were jammed after a storm... The list is endless.

The caveat is that you need a decent wifi signal. It doesn't have to be great, but it has to be pretty good. Pictures pixelate when the signal is wobbly. However, there are times when the picture goes and the audio is still clear. Broadband is needed. I wouldn't even try it with dial-up.

It's been a good product for me. We originally set-up the account in 2009 and it's doubtful that I discontinue it anytime soon.
 
Updated December 2015

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Skype looks like it saves you money and works over any wifi connection. As you know, I'm getting ready to take a trip to Alaska in June. Hubby and I are looking for a way to make calls from the US and Canada inexpensively. It looks like we may have found our answer with Skype.

With Skype, you can make calls from PC to PC for free. If your computer has a microphone you don't have to buy any other equipment. All you do is download the software, pick out a user name and start calling.

You can call to landlines and cell phones too. They are .021 per minute. These calls are pretty cheap when compared to traditional phone company charges. Options are to pay as you go or to pay monthly. The credit is good for 180 days. Voice mail services are extra.

It looks like Skype may be what I need to communicate from Canada to the US inexpensively. Look at it at www.skype.com to see if it's right for you.