Wifi On the Go: How to Choose the Best Travel Router

As we continue to integrate more and more gadgets into our daily workflows--including smartphones, tablets and laptops--multiple devices often come with us while we're traveling. And in today's age where internet access is thought of as a necessary ingredient for getting anything done, one of the first questions we ask while traveling is "where's the wifi?"

Why do I need a travel router for my wifi?

Whether you're in hotel on business, away on a personal vacation, or anything in between, it's likely you'll be provided with some form of internet access. But for a couple of reasons the default might not be your best choice. First, in many hotels the connection you get will be wired, so cell phones or other mobile devices can't get in on the fun and you're limited to one device. In other cases, you'll have access to a public wifi hotspot, but this can leave you and your devices vulnerable. Still other arrangements will give you a wireless network with the security you crave, but at a cost, usually a non-negligible fee for each device. Instead of dealing with these headaches, a mini router is a great way to bring all of your traveling devices online while making sure they stay safe.

How exactly does a travel router work?

The device will connect to the internet that is available to you, whether it be a wired broadband connection or a public wifi hotspot. The router will then create a secure network you can use to connect all of your devices, and those of anyone else traveling with you. If there is a fee associated with your internet service, you'll only pay for the since device even though all will enjoy the benefit. Keep in mind, however, that if you're connecting to an open public wifi hotspot, your connection to the internet outside of your own network will still be unsecured if that's the case with the main connection. Within the network, for purposes of communication between your devices, file sharing, etc., your firewall will keep you protected from unauthorized snooping from outside parties.

What should I look for in a portable wireless router?

While functionally, a travel router is not much different from the router you might buy for your home, there are some special physical considerations you'll want to keep in mind. A good travel router will have a light and compact design which allows you to easily carry it around in your bag. On the usability side, it will let you get up and running with your network without much hassle or headache. And finally, some travel routers offer features that can add even more convenience such as charging your devices while they are connected, USB ports that allow you to share files across your network, and battery power so you don’t need to deal with cords. Keeping these principles in mind, let's now take a look at a few specific routers that have earned top marks in their category.

Top Travel Routers for Wifi Wherever You Are

1. D-Link Systems Wi-Fi AC750 Portable Router and Charger (DIR-510L)

This router delivers high-level performance (Wireless AC750 dual band performance--300Mbps + 433Mbps) as well as great range. It also supports the IEEE 802.11ac standard.

It runs on a Lithium ion battery, which is included, and can sustain itself for several hours just on battery power while charging up your devices too. The router also has two USB ports, one for phones and the other intended for tablets.

2. Satechi Smart Travel Router

satechi smart travel router

This router is ideal for those who frequently travel internationally, as its wall charger can adapt to all common plug configurations used worldwide: they boast support in 150 countries. It can charge two devices at once: one using AC power and one via USB.

It supports the IEEE 802.11n/g/b standard up to 150 Mbps. Users have reported issues connecting to networks where the SSID includes a space, and the manufacturer also says that it cannot support passwords containing special characters. Other than that, consensus is overwhelmingly positive.

3. ZyXEL Wireless Pocket Travel Router

ZYZEL 3 in 1 wireless pocket travel router

This ZyXEL model is small enough to slip in your pocket but potent enough to function as a router, access point or client bridge, just like devices that cost significantly more.

Although it's a very inexpensive choice, don't think that you're sacrificing much, as the speed is good at up to 150 Mbps and it supports both USB and AC power. All in all a good decision if you need fast and easy wifi and don't want to break the bank.

4. HooToo Wireless Travel Router

hootoo wireless travel router

This HooToo travel router is one of the most positively reviewed options on Amazon, and the consensus is that it's a breeze to set up and delivers a ton of value beyond its travel router capabilities. For one, you can easily stream music and videos to connected TVs, media players, phones or other devices. You can free up phone space by backing up photos, videos or other files to any connected USB or hard drive. The 10400mAh power bank gives you so much juice that you can charge a standard smartphone 3 times.

All in all, there are quite a few options when you're looking for a good travel router to give you wireless access on the go. The more you know about the connectivity situations you're likely to face on the road, and what additional features you might need, the better you can narrow down your options. We hope the top routers mentioned in this piece give you a good start; just let us know in the comments below if you have any additional questions.


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