You may not have a “travel router” on your vacation packing list, but after reading this article, you might. This is why I always carry my router with me when heading to hotels.
What is a travel router?
Travel routers are small network routers designed for portability and field use. In theory, you could use your travel router as your home internet router, but it’s not meant to be.
Instead, travel routers are meant to link together a handful of devices, all clustered fairly close together. Please give me. On top of all that, heaps of computers and smart devices aren’t scattered all over the house.
The form factor is typically very small, about the size of a portable battery pack or smaller. Speaking of which, there are many portable battery packs, so in addition to router functions, they can also be used to charge mobile phones while traveling.
What’s more, unlike routers you have at home, travel routers have UI elements and even physical toggles that allow you to quickly and easily switch between features like router mode, hotspot mode, repeater mode, and more.
That last part is important. You need a travel router that allows you to easily connect to your hotel’s internet in a variety of reliable ways. Some hotels allow you to plug your travel router directly into your room’s free Ethernet connection. This is easy.
Other hotels do not have a physical internet connection and require a travel router to be connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi and used in hotspot mode to capture the Wi-Fi connection. All local devices will then connect to the travel network. A router instead of a hotel Wi-Fi system.
Why hotels use travel routers
“Well, it’s all very tempting, but you don’t know why I bother?” And if you’ve never considered packing a router with toiletries and a phone charger, that’s certainly a fair question that comes to mind.
Historically, one of the best reasons to pack a travel router was that many hotels didn’t have Wi-Fi (there was only an Ethernet port in the room for business travelers to plug in their laptops). There was no).
Then, when hotels started using Wi-Fi, there were frustrating policies such as only allowing one or two devices per guest per room on the network. Even today, his Wi-Fi systems in some hotels still have such rules.
If you use a travel router, only the travel router can be “logged into” the hotel system, so as far as they are concerned, there is only one device in the room. All traffic for other devices goes through the travel router.
When it comes to device traffic, travel routers can also be leveraged for added privacy. Most travel routers support basic VPN protocols such as PPTP and L2TP, while more advanced routers support OpenVPN and WireGuard.
This makes it easy to tunnel directly from your room to a 3rd party VPN, or directly to your corporate or home VPN server. , you can easily transfer files securely between devices as they never pass through the hotel infrastructure.
It also makes it much easier to use your device in a familiar way. For example, you can set her Wi-Fi credentials on your travel router to match her Wi-Fi credentials on your home network. Not only does this make it super easy to log in when you get to your hotel (because your phone and laptop already know the way to “home”), but it also packs a Chromecast or your favorite streaming stick. You can even throw it in your hotel room. Forget about the silly “smart” TV interfaces that hotels have and enjoy your streaming service the way you want without lag.
Which travel router should I get?
Above all, when buying a travel router (whether you choose one of our suggestions or do your own research to find out), you should have a feature called captive portal connectivity.
The first time you connect to a hotel’s Wi-Fi, you’ll usually see a pop-up page asking you to agree to terms and conditions or log in with your name and room number. That’s the portal. You need a “capturing” router that replaces and mimics your initial login device (such as an iPhone).
All of the recommendations below support easy captive portal replacement, making setup easy when you first arrive at your hotel room. Without that feature, you would be manually cloning the MAC address of the original login device. This usually works, but it can be hit or miss.
One of the most popular options on the market is the TP-Link N300 Nano Router. At around $30, it’s starting to look dated.
Only supports 802.11n (Wi-Fi 4) on the 2.4 GHz band. But for just $10 more, you can switch from the N300 Nano Router to the TP-Link AC750 Nano Router.
TP-Link TL-WR902AC AC750
It’s small, it’s cheap, and it’s our overall top pick for the best travel routers. This is the easiest solution for most people.
The upgraded model features dual-band Wi-Fi, 802.11AC (Wi-Fi 5), and a very handy switch on the side that lets you easily change modes without logging into the router.
While we love the TP-Link Nano lineup, especially the latest model, and think it’s great for just about everyone, there are some other options to consider.
If you want a more advanced VPN solution, you should look beyond TP-Link’s offerings to something like the GL.iNet GLMT300N. It’s almost identical to the TP-Link N300 Nano Router, but runs and supports the popular OpenWRT router firmware. Both OpenVPN and WireGuard.
And if you want a big upgrade for your TP-Link AC750 Nano router, consider the GL.iNet GL-A1300.
This travel router is perfect for power users who need pass-through connectivity for Ethernet devices and advanced VPN services like WireGuard.
It also runs OpenWRT firmware and robust VPN support like its smaller siblings, but with two extra Ethernet ports, support for more Wi-Fi devices, and more.
But no matter which of our products you choose, you’ll be able to forge your Wi-Fi destiny on the go. Forget his dirty hotel Wi-Fi and frustrating Wi-Fi rules. Plug in your router and go. If you’re in the mood for an upgrade, there are other notable travel gadget upgrades.