In our hyper-connected world, it’s hard to imagine how we might live where wifi access is not available. As a blogger, it’s important to me to have internet access while I’m traveling. For this reason, I’ve been researching mobile hotspots–devices that let you connect to the internet wherever you may roam, without…you know, roaming fees.
What does a Mobile Hotspot Do?
A mobile hotspot uses LTE Data to create a wireless broadband signal for you on the go, so that you can stay connected even when there are no public wifi options (or when you don’t want to rely on public wifi. The data costs for such devices are more expensive than your home broadband internet connection, so a mobile hotspot isn’t something you’d want to use all the time, but they are great for occasional use while traveling.
What are my Mobile Hotspot Options?
Mobile hotspots vary greatly in terms of both price and capability. Personally, I need one that will reliably connect my Apple iPad Mini, my Nikon D3400, and my Macbook Air . Luckily, almost all mobile hotspots on the market will support at least 10 devices, so this shouldn’t be a problem. I will likely also use it to make wifi calls when calling home to avoid international calling charges. Since this can eat up data, I’m going to need to pick something that will provide a generous amount of connectivity.
Can I Take Them Anywhere?
So…this is the catch for travelers. If you’re currently with one of the four major cell phone carriers, you probably know that your carrier sells a mobile hotspot that you can activate on your cell phone plan for a monthly fee. At T-Mobile, for instance, two mobile hotspot models are offered at the moment, the Alcatel LINKZONE, the ZTE Falcon Z-917 , both of which are priced at $72, plus the $25 SIM activation fee. All reviews I’ve read on these devices say that they are solid and reliable machines. However, the plans that T-Mobile offers (prepaid: from $20/ 2GB to $95/ 22 GB) only roam freely to Canada and Mexico. In Europe and other places around the world, the data for the device is more expensive, and the speed is significantly slowed down, which can impede your connection. Other carriers have similar policies.
There are a handful of prepaid devices that are available to those traveling overseas. The Skyroam Hotspot (click picture at right for more info) is $100, and then each day of unlimited service is $8 after that. The device is not tethered to one carrier, but instead connects you to local carrier data as you travel from country to country, allowing for smooth transitioning from one area to the next without losing connectivity. It also supports up to 5 devices, making it a perfect tool for a busy traveler.
Similarly, the Keepgo Lifetime 4G Hotspot is priced at $119, and comes with 1GB of data, but refilling the data could be a bit more expensive, as it is priced by the amount, not by the day. 1 GB of international mobile hotspot use from Keepgo will set you back $45, whereas 10GB is a whopping $299. At those rates, I would have to force myself to use the internet VERY sparingly on all of my devices while I travel.
The bottom line is that traveling isn’t about having your nose stuck in a screen anyway, and while I’m traveling, I actively try to avoid constantly looking at my phone by keeping it on silent and out of sight. But because I’m a writer, I like to be able to connect when I choose to–settling in to write and check social media after a long day of exploring a new city, or Skyping family to show them my beautiful view. For this, i think something minimal like the Skyroam Hotspot would be perfect.