So your heading Disney World with the herd you call family! What if uncle Rick and aunt Linda want to go off on their own and meet up later? I bet your thinking "well, I'll just pickup my handy cell phone and give them call" but there is another option.
Answer: Cheap FRS radios!
Q. What is FRS?
A. Family Radio Service (FRS) is one of the Citizens Band Radio Services. It is used by family, friends and associates to communicate within a neighborhood and while on group outings and has a communications range of less than one mile. You can not make a telephone call with an FRS unit. You may use your FRS unit for business-related communications.
License documents are neither needed nor issued. You are provided authority to operate a FRS unit in places where the FCC regulates radio communications as long as you use only an unmodified FCC certified FRS unit. An FCC certified FRS unit has an identifying label placed on it by the manufacturer. There is no age or citizenship requirement.
You may operate your FRS unit within the territorial limits of the fifty United States, the District of Columbia, and the Caribbean and Pacific Insular areas ("U.S."). You may also operate your FRS unit on or over any other area of the world, except within the territorial limits of areas where radio- communications are regulated by another agency of the U.S. or within the territorial limits of any foreign government.
Q. So what is the new system I'm hearing about GMRS?
A. Some manufacturers have received approval to market radios that are certified for use in both the Family Radio Service (FRS) and the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). Other manufacturers have received approval of their radios under the GMRS rules, but market them as FRS/GMRS radios on the basis that:
Radios marketed as "FRS/GMRS" or "dual-service radios" are available from many manufacturers and many retail or discount stores. The manual that comes with the radio, or the label placed on it by the manufacturer, should indicate the service the unit is certified for. If you cannot determine what service the unit may be used in, contact the manufacturer.
If you operate a radio that has been approved exclusively under the rules that apply to FRS, you are not required to have a license. FRS radios have a maximum power of Ѕ watt (500 milliwatt) effective radiated power and integral (non-detachable) antennas. If you operate a radio under the rules that apply to GMRS, you must have a GMRS license. GMRS radios generally transmit at higher power levels (1 to 5 watts is typical) and may have detachable antennas.
Ut O, I was operating without a license... who know! Anyone want to donate the $80 license fee?!
You can obtain your GMRS license or additional information from the FCC:
Roger that... your family members may share in the use of your GMRS license:
"The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a land-mobile radio service available for short-distance two-way communications to facilitate the activities of an adult individual and his or her immediate family members, including a spouse, children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and in-laws (47 CFR 95.179). Normally, as a GMRS system licensee, you and your family members would communicate among yourselves over the general area of your residence or during recreational group outings, such as camping or hiking."*
Q. FRS vs. GMRS * What's the Difference?
A. FRS or Family Radio Service radios are a 1/2 watt power system with an operating range of up to 2 miles. They are designed for cost free, personal and family direct communication.
GMRS or General Mobile Radio Service radios have a 2 watt power output with an operating range of up to 5 miles or even greater with a repeater station. They are also designed for personal and family direct communications, however, because of the greater power output, GMRS radios require a FCC license to operate.
Both FRS and GMRS share channels 1-7, however their frequencies differ from there. Both have an excellent signal and sound quality that should make family communication easy and enjoyable.
Q. BRS vs. FRS and GMRS 2-Way Radios
A. With 1 watt or more of output power for up to a 5-mile range* Business Radio Service (BRS) radios are perfect for job-site radio-to radio communication, such as constriction sites, retail stores, schools and warehouses, where clear radio communications are a priority, BRS radios are factory-programmed with pre-stored UHF or VHF frequencies within the "Star or Dot" marking systems. The Star or Dot system feature frequencies for local BRS communication use, making it easier to find an open, clear channel to speak with your co-workers.
Q. What are "privacy codes"
A. Privacy codes are a nice feature to have because they effectively expand the number of channels you can use by adding 38 CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System) codes. For example, in the case of FRS radios, instead of having just 14 channels from which to choose, with these sub-channels you are effectively provided with 14 x 38 CTCSS codes, or 532 available channels. This makes it much easier to find a free channel in crowded areas such as stadiums, amusement parks or shopping malls. The term "privacy code," however, is a bit misleading because choosing a given code does not block or scramble that channel or in any way prevent others from listening in.
My testing results:
I purchased a nice package of Audiovox GMRS6000's from my local Wal-Mart for around $50. I choose these radios based on the fact that they support both FRS and GMRS and they came with a great accessory pack including rechargeable batteries, charging base, car charge, headsets and protective pouches. Something I figured out rather quickly was how nice the belt clip was, some of the cheaper radios have a very awkward belt clip that can simply wiggle loose on your belt! My radios have a nearly impossible to remove belt clip and I know what you're thinking: "well, then, how do you remove it from your belt to talk?". Very easy, these radios have spring loaded button for which you can release the radio from it's belt clip, very nice indeed!
The radios have a range of approx 6 miles in GMRS mode which tested nicely between Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot with no interference but be reminded that GMRS mode requires more battery power so use it sparingly as not to kill your batteries before the end of the day and always carry backup batteries. Something else I learned was to always place your thumb along side of the antenna which will turn your body into a human antenna... not sure if it's scientifically correct but it seems to help.
Setting the radio channel and privacy code was a snap and it was not hard at all to find a combination that was not being used by another group.