by Rob Hard
Monday May 25 2009

My luggage is lost. My airline doesn’t have a baggage desk at my destination airport. And I’m in Germany. But I finally took the time to establish a Skype account prior to this trip and have had conversations with representatives on 800 numbers back in the U.S. at no cost and a three minute call with a hotel in town that only cost me pennies.

When I travel internationally, I usually rely on my cell phone to make international phone calls, keeping in touch with clients and my work back home. And this is probably the most practical way to be accessible at anytime; I’m sure that this is what many other business travelers do.

But Skype has grown tremendously in popularity these last couple of years, and while millions of people have an account, million more still do not. I’m sure that many of you may have been considering it for a while, just like I have, but haven’t yet taken the time to figure it out or asked yourself when/how you would use it to make phone calls. Don’t worry: I think you’re in reasonably good company. Of course, for the millions of others who already have an account, you probably have your own stories as to how this helps you save money. I’m glad to join your ranks.

So what seems to be the best use of Skype on the road? Well, in my limited experience with less than a week’s use, anywhere there’s an Internet connection, I can simply go to my Skype account, put on the headphones, and make a call. The quality is pretty good, and I’m told by people on the other end that I sound as if I’m on a regular telephone to them (which is what really matters more than the sound quality of my modestly priced headset at USD 40 — I should have purchased a wireless headset). To be sure, I know there are many other ways that people use Skype, including something related to cell phone technology, but I am still a newbie at this.

Other practical uses I can envision is to save money when calling internationally from my home office. While I may have the option for some favorable rates on my land line, Skype is clearly the price winner at two to three cents a call with their basic plan. Overall, I can see this as an excellent option for small business executives.

And, by the way, just noticed that eBay is having a Skype IPO in 2010.

The amount of time I spent on the phone so far today with representatives would have clearly cost at least USD 60 or more. Avoiding this expense is helpful because I flew with an airline that may have a policy that avoids any liability for covering the real cost of clothing and other travel items needed while on the road if bags are lost (who knew…). Let’s hope the bag arrives tomorrow.