On this year’s inaugural Spanish Exchange we splurged a little in the budget— upon our arrival we went out and purchased disposable phones for every kid and each chaperone – a total of €30 apiece, wich included €10 of talk time already loaded on. They were not easy to get (because of increased security around disposable phones in Spain, we had to present the kids’ passports and register them one by one at the store), nor are they particularly fancy or fun to use (texting on the number-pad is truly annoying, especially for all those members of the trip used to texting keyboards). They have, however, been indispensable.
When kids have gotten sick, or stuck, or lost, help is just a quick call away. When parents absolutely had to get in touch with their kids, they had a (very expensive, but at least available) private number to reach them on (incoming calls are free on Spanish cell phones). For taxis, information, and being able to give locals (such as the student’s host families and school personnel) contact details: perfect. When we three chaperones, each staying in a different corner of the city, had to coordinate plans… nothing simpler.
For anyone traveling with a pack of kids (or for anyone traveling at all who doesn’t want to pay enormous data charges on their home-country cell phone) I highly recommend the local, pre-paid cell phone option. Though it only works for in-country calling, it was so useful I don’t think I’ll ever travel for any extended period of time without one again.