Even if you are all grown up, or live away from home and think you are completely independent, your parents, friends and family will still worry about you when you go travelling. Keeping in touch is important because it makes the people back home feel at ease, knowing that you're safe and being kept updated on your travels. However, while it is important to keep friends and family in the loop, making promises like 'I'll call you every night, mum' are unrealistic, because there will inevitably be periods when you're out of reach.
As a travel company, we are used to getting calls from parents who are concerned because they have not heard from their children. Some call the emergency contact phone and say something like 'Laura should have landed in Sydney at 5:45pm and it's now 6pm and I haven't heard from her', or 'Ben is not the best at staying in touch, but I haven't heard from him in three months. Do you know where he is?' In reality, there is every chance that Laura is still in the baggage area waiting for her luggage and Ben is probably having so much fun that he has lost track of time! Most people will get in contact with home given time.
There are a few simple things you can do to help keep your family calm and worry free. Below is a list of some of the things it is helpful to talk to your family about before you go away:
Tell your family that you will call them as soon as you can when you arrive in a new destination. Don't give them a definite time and tell them not to expect a call from you the moment you are expected to touch down from your flight. Hold-ups can and do happen. For example, your flight may be delayed or it could take a while for you to collect your bags and clear immigration and customs. The arrival area may be manic and you'll probably feel like jumping straight into a cab and getting to your accommodation. Maybe make an agreement to call once you have reached your accommodation. It might also be an idea to leave them with the phone number of the place where you are planning on staying on your first night.
If you know you are going to be travelling in an area that doesn't have phone or Internet access, remember to tell them. That way they won't expect a call from you and they won't freak out each time they try to call your mobile and receive an automated message telling them your mobile is out of service. Try to give them an estimated date when you will be able to contact them again. There is an important element to consider about staying in touch to bear in mind, and that is keeping safe. Letting at least one other person know where you're planning to go and what you're planning to do means that if something does go wrong then someone knows where to start looking, or which authorities to call.
Depending on your situation, destination and relationship with your family, it's a good idea to agree how often you will try to call them. Sometimes your call may only be a minute long, but it is enough time for you to tell them that you are safe and well and having a good time.
Many parents like to hear your voice and emails are just not the same! However, emails are a great means of keeping in contact with other family and friends. Set up a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo e-mail account which you can then access from internet cafes in any major town or city. Most hostels also have Internet facilities and often they are open 24-hours especially in hostel accommodation. Even if it's just a few lines to say you are okay and having a good time, emails are always appreciated.
Skype is also a good way to stay in touch, and most Internet cafes and hostels around the world now have computers with headsets, microphones and webcams so you can see and hear your family and friends back home.
More and more travellers are choosing to take their own laptops and tablets with them on their travels. Many hotels, hostels, bars and cafes in the major cities around the world have Wi-Fi available and in many cases, this is free of charge. If you do decide to take your own laptop or notebook, remember to check that it is covered in your travel insurance policy.
Avoid causing your family unnecessary worry. For example, if something out of the ordinary happens to you but you are absolutely fine, then consider if your family really need to know about it. If you do want to tell them, consider whether it might be better to wait until you get home so they don't start panicking about your safety.
Travel blogs are a great way of keeping your family and friends informed of your whereabouts, so long as you don't mind them reading the content of your blog. These blogs are good because you can say where you've been and what you've been up to without having to send lots of separate emails. Everything is in one place for everyone you care about to read. It's a quick and cheap way to stay in touch, plus your travel tales will be of great interest to everyone back home and will no doubt make your friends insanely jealous!
And, of course, there's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, easy and quick ways to keep people informed of where you are and what you are up to. Plus, social media is a great way to share embarrassing photos and fun stories from your journeys.
If you make sure you keep in touch regularly you will make important connections with people back home which can be reassuring for you when you are away in a new location. It also gives your friends and family peace of mind. If your parents are still worrying, why not point them in the direction of our comprehensive advice for parents pages to put any last minute worries to rest.