Travel wifi? Free hotspots? Skyroam? Boingo?
Not sure how to stay connected when you travel?
Travelling is fun and enjoyable – and part of that fun is when you capture memories and scenic views and upload them to social networking sites. Sharing with your tribe is one of the best parts!
In terms of business travel – and especially when living the ‘laptop lifestyle‘ – you still need to keep in touch.
Staying Connected while you Travel
Planes, Trains and, well, let’s just stick with planes and trains for the moment…
Most major international airports offer free wifi (although it tends to run at a snail’s pace – but something is often better than nothing) – and even the ones that don’t, all have some form of wifi available, usually at a fee per hour.
Another work-around is that many provide computer stations that are free to use, so if you don’t need something that is saved locally on your laptop, you might be better served using one of their terminals.
Once in the air, many major airlines offer a pay-as-you-go wifi connection during flight.
Trains are similar – many major stations have free wifi and some of the more major journeys offer free or paid wifi onboard.
Wifi in my rental car?
Yes, you read that correctly. Many car rental companies now offer (at a price) the option of either having wifi in your vehicle or renting a portable wifi until that you can take with you.
Hotspots are places that provide free internet connection. These hotspots can be physical locations such as a Starbucks (public), or through someone’s existing internet connection (private). Let’s take them one at a time…
You will find free public wifi hotspots at places such as Starbuck (currently neck and neck with McDonalds for the fastest wifi speeds), McDonalds, Tim Horton’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Panera. In addition, a lot of hotels have free wifi in their lobby – and you might also be surprised at how many cool restaurants, bars and what I refer to as ‘watering holes’ have free wifi.
For instance, at this glorious Irish Pub… Free wifi!
An easy way to check is to do a search of available networks… Often they will have the name of the establishment listed and you simply click and connect.
Alternatively, just ask the staff – they are usually more than happy to help – and in some instances the wifi will be free and all you need is the password that they are then all to happy to give you!
A private hotspot is where you configure your device, for instance your phone, to allow your laptop to connect and share your data. While this is a great idea, if you are on an ‘unlimited data’ plan, many carriers do not allow you to turn your phone into a hotspot. In those instances, it’s worth getting a dongle.
What’s a dongle?
If you’re travelling in your home country, it’s a good idea to have an internet dongle from your existing data carrier. This is a gizmo that plugs into the USB port on your laptop and gives you a private wifi connection.
Or, my favorite solution = Skyroam!
I have written a separate post on it here, but in short, Skyroam is a global wifi mobile hotspot that gives you unlimited data, you can connect up to five devices, it is pay-as-you-go, and it gives you SIM-card free coverage in Europe, North and South America, Asia, Africa, Australia.
International roaming is using your existing phone carrier’s data while away from your native country. While certainly useful, international roaming can be ghastly expensive.
Here are some other helpful tips on how to stay connected while travelling:
1. Check the service provider of your mobile phone – CDMA vs GSM? Rather than me explaining the differences and why they matter, here is the lowdown from the experts: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407896,00.asp
2. Is your phone unlocked? – If you want to use a local SIM card overseas, make sure that your phone is not tied with any mobile carrier, this might create major problems in connecting with other people while you are on a trip. Get your phone unlocked, or purchased an international roaming packages, they might be expensive but it is worth it.
3. How much data do you intend to use? – Try calculating texts, calls and data you might consume during your trip. This will be a big help in budgeting your money.
4. Use some applications for calling or texting rather than using SMS and voice-calls – There are so many applications that will provide free instant messages (IM) and calls and other applications that are pay-per-use. Facebook, Skype, and Twitter are just some of the free applications where you can place free IMs and calls.
5. Seek free Wi-Fi networks – As listed above, there are many options for obtaining free wifi, however always consider the fact that there are other people using the same free Wi-Fi you are using.
6. Get your own Wi-Fi hotspot – Getting your own Wi-Fi hotspot is very convenient, although the fact that purchasing your own portable Wi-Fi hotspot may be a bit expensive, it is more convenient.
What on earth is a boingo, I hear you ask? It’s a lifesaver! 🙂
I go into more detail in this article on Boingo, but the short version is that Boingo is a monthly subscription service that provides wifi hotspots all over the world.
Is my information secure?
Any time you use a public network, there is always a risk – however I’ve never had an issue and as long as you take precautions (like not logging into your bank account when you are on the public network at a fast-food restaurant) the likelihood of an issue in my experience is minimal.
It’s all about being aware, mindful and sensible.
If I can answer any of your specific questions, please let me know!
By Leigh (Bella) St John, aka the Luxurious Nomad
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