What Does a Travel Router Do?

Do you want to know exactly what a travel router does? Then you’ve found the right page. Here you will learn everything you need to know about this device and why you should invest in one.

Suppose you are traveling to a foreign country. Of course, you have to book a hotel room where you can stay for days. While most hotels offer WiFi, some still use a wired connection that can only accommodate one device at a time. What if you don’t have a laptop but only a tablet? Or what if you forgot to buy a data plan for your phone? How can you get online? The answer is to use a travel router.

What is a travel router?

Travel routers fall under the category of broadband routers that are designed for connecting mobile devices to the internet. They are sometimes called mobile routers as they are portable, compact and easy to carry.

Travel routers work in the same way as other WiFi routers. If you have a router at home or at your office, you will have an idea of how it works. The only difference is that a travel router is smaller and more suitable for traveling. But in terms of the basic features, they are the same.

How do you distinguish a travel router?

There are a lot of ways to tell if what you got is a travel router. First, look at its size. Is it compact? Travel routers should be less than 10 cm in width and height, and should also be thin and sleek enough to fit into the pocket. This way, they are more convenient to bring anywhere you go and don’t occupy too much space in your luggage.

A travel router should also have a built-in battery so that you can use it without having to worry about finding an electrical outlet. Although there are some models that have to be plugged into a socket to be used, most are battery powered. Other travel routers have USB ports, allowing users to charge their other devices via a USB cable.

A travel router should also have a tethering capability, allowing for an internet connection or sharing via 3G or 4G data. It should have a slot for a SIM card too. This way, when there aren’t any Ethernet or WiFi hotspots available you can still get online. In some models the manufacturers have incorporated something called a cellular modem, which enables the router to work without tethering.

Travel routers also work as access points by default. This means they convert a wired connection to a wireless one so that multiple devices can share one connection at the same time. Some of them even have options or modes like a media bridge and range extender, eliminating the dead spots in your area.

What does a travel router do?

They might look so small, but travel routers can accomplish big things. They let you connect wirelessly to public WiFi networks such as in hotels, airports and cafes. They also simplify the management of devices connected to the same network. Whether you have an iPad, smartphone or laptop, a travel router is sure to help you stay connected wherever you go.

What brand of travel router should you choose?

A lot of home WiFi router manufacturers have made their own versions of travel routers. This includes big companies such as Netgear, Huawei and D-Link. One of the smallest models is the Nano Router made by TP-Link. Routers in the Nano Router range are as small as candy bars or portable phone chargers.

What are the benefits of having a travel router?

The obvious benefit of travel routers is that you can stay connected to your family and friends even while you are away. And the process is not too difficult since your devices do not need to add new WiFi networks every time you visit coffee shops, airports and hotels. You can keep your smartphone or laptop connected to the router and just connect the router to the different networks.

You know the risk of connecting to public WiFi networks that can be easily hacked. With a travel router, you also get a more secure WiFi hotspot for your family. Aside from this, it can also make your vacations cheaper as you can just pay for one internet connection which can be shared by everyone.

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Linda,
    Never heard of travel routers before. This is such a great idea as I spend at least a month on the road during the summer months living in motel rooms.
    What is the range on a travel router, it does not have to be very large if you are in a room. If two people are using it and not in the same space, maybe by the pool, I would not have to sit side by side if not needed.

    1. You wouldn’t need to sit shoulder to shoulder. The range is good enough in most models to be used in the same room while you are at opposite ends. The range will be different per router though, as the range is different with regular routers.

      Though I would say a basic router would propably not make the pool from your motel room. (unless your room is pool side)

  2. Linda, I also have never of travel router before, can you enlighten me on how do I get data plan necessary for me to use the router? Do I get it from the router manufacturer when I bought it? Or I can get it with a mobile company like our mobile devices?

    1. Sure Jason, you can buy a router with SIM card slot online. In which case you’d have to get the data plan separately. Some mobile telecom companies also sell them, in which case you can immediately get a data plan.

      On a slightly different, though related topic. You may not exactly need a data plan. Many telecom companies offer a pay as you go prepaid type 3G or 4G sim. Which of course is ideal when traveling to different countries.

  3. Linda, I also have never of travel router before, can you enlighten me on how do I get data plan necessary for me to use the router? Do I get it from the router manufacturer? Or I can get it with a mobile company like our mobile devices?

  4. Hi Linda

    Last year I was visiting a friend for a couple of weeks and she does not have a computer at all. I ended up buying something through my service provider so I could acess the internet while there. I had to purchase a plan from them which was quite expensive. I am going back there soon but for a month now. I am wondering would this router work? Would I still need to buy a plan to use a travel router? Is there any type of activation fee involved? She lives in the country so there is no available internet close by.
    Thanks for the info.

    1. There are different types of travel routers. Enhancers and MiFi. From your comments, you definitely need a MiFi travel router. Meaning you need one with a SIM card slot. Sadly I am no expert on plans for 3G or 4G around the world. I know that most countries also have pay as you go plans, those usually have no activation fee. You could also get a monthly internet usage plan, in which case I would also be very surprised if they charge an activation fee.

      You may also be interested in my post with tips on buying portable WiFi.

  5. Thanks for the info Linda. It was quite helpful.

    1. You are very welcome!

  6. This is a very interesting article on travel routers. Not only would it be nice to use it away, but home as well. I currently have a router with the cable company. Do you know what the average price or speed a travel modem would have? It would be great to return the modem to the cable company.

    1. So happy you found this article interesting. Prices and speeds vary hugely per travel modem, so I cannot give you averages on that. Perhaps that browsing through the reviews will help you decide which would be best for you.

  7. I have not seen this before but am quite intrigued as I travel a lot and always run into this problem. Will this work in any location or country? And is a service plan required for this type of WiFi? I am very interested in this, but am always nervous about jumping in due to security concerns. Those hackers are getting better and better.

    1. I will not say it will work in every country, as I am sure there are exceptions, but it will probably work in 95% of the countries. You will need some source for your data. Whether that is an existing WiFi network you are amplifying or securing or an (prepaid) data sim. So you don’t need a service plan, but at the very least you need a prepaid data sim card.

      For security purposes, a lot of the routers can set up really secure, so not open, WiFi.

  8. Hi Linda, I am glad to have come upon your site, as this portable router is new to me. I already know I will be getting one as I can see how useful this would be on out of town trips with the kids, where we all need internet access from hotel rooms. Can also take this anywhere in the world which makes it even better. Thank you for the extensive write-up including setting it up, this is certainly very useful to me. I even bookmarked your site already.

    1. That’s awesome Sarah. I’m really glad you found it useful. 

  9. I am pretty impressed by the fact that these travel routers do not require for one to add additional wi-fi networks. That is something good to know.

    Even more amazing is the fact, as you had mentioned that Travel Router creates a secure hotspot. For me, that is a big plus.
    Thanks for the awesome and helpful information.

    1. Glad you find it useful Rupesh! They are nifty little gizmo’s 🙂 Creating a secure hotspot is a must, it should be a requirement for everyone buying a travel router.

  10. Travel router is interesting. I guess you would use it for a laptop or a tablet because smartphones already have the WIFI router / network built into them from the carrier or cellular provider. They auto-link to the nearest hotspot.

    My next question then becomes how does the TRAVEL WIFI get encrypted if we want it to be a safer connection?
    Thank you.

    1. Thanks for commenting Monique, it’s ideal for tablets and laptops, but also for phones. Imagine traveling to another country, with a travel router you could insert a local SIM card and connect your phone to that WiFi. This will save you heaps of money and you can connect multiple devices. This is especially great if you are in an area without WiFi or hotspots to pick up. Or if you just want to make the available WiFi connection for use on your phone more secure.

      I’m not sure how the encryption works exactly, I imagine it’s much the same as a regular router does it, but the router will set-up the safety protocols with password protection, so you can surf the web securely.

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