In this age of fast-paced communications, you're expected to respond to E-mail as quickly as you do to voice mail. But what if you're heading abroad, where hotel phone systems are often antiquated, ornery, or not the plug-in-and-play variety you use at home?Here's what you need to know:

1. The major Internet service providers maintain local access numbers around the world, so you can go on-line without making an international call. Get them before you leave home-- they're available on-line or by calling an 800 number.

2. Learn how to activate your modem's ignore dial tone" command so it will bypass a strange foreign dial tone.

3. Pack an additional phone cord-- you'll need one to hook up to an airplane phone and, often, in your hotel room.

4. Call or fax the hotel before you leave home and ask: Are the rooms equipped with dataports?If not, is there someplace in the hotel where I can go on-line?Are the room phones modern, modular ones or are they the old-fashioned, hardwired types?Have guests had problems using laptops from the rooms?Is the phone system analog or digital?

5. If the phone system is digital, buy a digital-compatible modem, or you may damage your equipment.

6. If the system isn't compatible with the U.S. standard ("RJ-11" in phonespeak), bring phone adapters to the countries you're visiting. They're available from TeleAdapt (408/370-5105) or Laptop Travel (888/527-8728).

7. Take an extra modem with you. They're lightweight, and it's always good to have a backup. As extra insurance, carry an acoustic coupler (also available from TeleAdapt). One end hooks into the laptop, the other goes over the phone's mouthpiece and earpiece. This is the only way to hook up to most pay phones. And don't forget an electrical adapter (available at Radio Shack). While your computer should be able to handle other countries' currents, the plug still has to fit the socket.

8. If you're having problems connecting at a hotel, don't call the front desk. Ask to speak to the person who maintains the computer systems.

9.If all else fails, try the hotel's office fax machine. It's almost always RJ-11 compatible.

10. Before you go, get the latest news and ask specific questions in the discussion forum at, a super-handy site specializing in laptop travel.