What's the best way to keep in touch with friends & family while abroad? Ask a college student.

Have you ever been welcomed home from a relaxing vacation abroad with a bombshell $300 or $400 mobile phone bill? Unfortunately, it can taint your memories of the whole experience. And we’ve all heard horror stories of some hapless friend getting spanked with $1000+ of international roaming charges.

What then to do for extended trips abroad? Take, for example, the situation of an exchange student. Obviously, mom still wants to hear from them on a regular basis to be sure they’re getting enough sleep and actually studying. And what about that college boyfriend/girlfriend back home? When a person is used to communicating instantaneously with loved ones from a mobile device, it is hard to go cold-turkey for months on end.

We reached out to Chris, a student from Chicago who is spending the next half-year in London, to find out how he is coping. Fortunately, Skype has a number of options that are perfect for Chris and other travelers abroad.

Upon arrival in London, Chris got a local SIM card so he could use his phone in-country. But the new card didn’t help him to maintain contact with friends and family back home. Sure he could use Skype on his laptop, but Chris says, “Because of the hectic pace of life here in London, I don’t have much time to sit in front of my PC or find a good Wi-Fi signal on campus.” The best times for him to talk are those fleeting moments while riding the bus to class or walking to the gym.

Therefore, Chris needed a good way to connect with home from his mobile without risking bankruptcy over international calling prices. He resolved his conundrum with Skype To Go. As he puts it, “I call a local number in London but it connects me directly to my parents’ landline in US or a friend’s cell. I only have to pay Skype’s affordable pay-as-you-go rates.”

But what about receiving calls? It’s not fair to ask parents and friends to pay those hefty international rates in order to get in touch with you. Chris overcame this challenge with Skype’s Online Numbers. He explains, “I purchased an online number in Chicago. Now my friends and family can call me is if they’re calling a local number and it transfers their calls to my Skype. And when I am not on Skype, the call is forwarded right to my UK mobile.”

It’s as easy as that. While college students may be the most in touch with new technology, these Skype solutions work just as well for everyone from expats to businesspeople on an international consulting project to retirees finally enjoying that long-awaited summer in the south of France.

So enjoy your time abroad, keep in touch with the people who are important to you, and don’t come home to any unfortunate (and unnecessary) surprises.