A hundred years ago, travelers relied on slow mail service to get news from back home. If they were lucky, they might be able to share news in a hurry through an expensive telegram.
Today, though, you can be halfway around the globe and still see exactly what’s going on back home — and for free.
Skype is the favorite software among many travelers — and the folks at home keeping track of them.
In addition to its price (free, with a few exceptions) and its innate ease of use, with these few tools, Skype can be even easier to use.
While Skype is a great tool overall, it’s not uncommon to get some major sound feedback if you’re using the microphone and speakers built into your computer.
Using a headset can eliminate this issue.
Skype has actually gone so far as to certify headsets they feel work best with their software and it happens that one in particular has become a favorite for travelers planning to spend a lot of time talking online: The Logitech ClearChat Pro.
This headset is compatible with both Windows and Mac and requires minimal set up. The ClearChat Pro comes with a whole list of features but two stand out when you’re relying on a headset for making calls — especially if you’re working on the go.
It offers a noise-canceling microphone and easy mute controls — two necessities when you’re not always sure where you’ll be able to get internet.
If you’re concerned about a cord tethering you to your laptop, there is one wireless headset that works well with Skype. The Freetalk Wireless Stereo Headset provides a quality connection without the issue of a cord. It works with both Windows and Mac, and promises no change in audio quality whether you’re next to your computer or standing 100 feet away.
The headset does require charging, but can last up to eight hours on a single charge.
One of the chief appeals of Skype is its video conferencing options. But to ensure that a video chat goes well, you’ll want a reliable webcam.
There are thousands of webcams on the market: you can narrow down your options to the four that Skype has certified, but truthfully, there are some great options beyond that list.
The Logitech QuickCam Chat provides a good video solution without breaking the bank.
It clips to any kind of monitor and is easy to install on either Windows or Mac. It’s a relatively basic webcam but offers high quality video for a low price.
If carrying a laptop on your travels is a little much, there is a much smaller option. Phones like the Belkin WiFi Phone allow you to make calls through Skype from anywhere with WiFi — no computer needed.
Video isn’t an option, but this phone can act just like a cell phone anywhere you can find a WiFi network.
If you use SkypeIn to receive phone calls, you may be able to eliminate your regular cell phone: you’ll be able to receive in-bound calls to your Skype account almost anywhere.
The Belkin WiFi Phone comes pre-loaded with Skype software, complete with the Skype interface users are familiar with.
In addition to Belkin’s Skype phone, there are a wide variety of phones that you can hook up to your computer: you’ll still be tethered to your computer but you can use a more traditional handset for your conversations.
If having a phone connected to your laptop works well for you, it’s easy to find a USB internet phone. There are thousands of brands that promise you can just plug in the phone’s cord and start making calls.
However, it can be worth the added expense to pick up something along the lines of Logitech’s Cordless Internet Handset: it’s a simple telephone handset, designed with Skype and other VoIP systems in mind.
Logitech’s phone automatically interfaces with your Skype account, while other systems require installing drivers and setting up a connection with Skype.
You can use Skype without any fancy gear. If you plan to rely on the service as your main method of communication — especially if you need to get some work done during your travels — it’s worthwhile to have at least some basic gear to make using Skype more efficient.
They can also provide a little added comfort if you plan to spend a lot of time chatting through Skype.