What is a Wireless Travel Router and Why Should You Own One?

Getting some well-deserved R&R shouldn’t completely disconnect one from the real world, especially when there are so many things that could enhance your experience. From news, TV series and social media interactions, having the ability to enjoy high-speed internet during one’s travels is pretty clear. One can use a wireless travel router to bring high-speed internet networks to hotels and retreats. However, some may not be aware what is a wireless travel router?

Routers are used for distributing the internet connection between two or more users, without them having to compromise any decrease in traffic speed. The way they work is pretty simple; they act as a bridge between data packets and the receivers on laptops, smartphones, and desktops. Working with both ethernet cables and wireless signals, single or dual-band connections—routers come in many shapes and sizes.

Common Types of Wireless Connectivities for Travellers

Traditionally, routers are connected to a high-speed internet cable, and the data packets are distributed to the machine that requested the set information. The thing is, how can one experience the comfort of a router while on-the-go? Well, there are plenty of choices, but only a few viable ones.

Hotel, Cafe, and Restaurant WiFi

Businesses all around the globe are providing their clients with internet connectivity for obvious reasons. While on a trip, the traveler can enjoy catching up on the latest news and trends to stay connected with current events. The sad reality is that these WiFi connections are limited and rather slow, not to mention, the privacy factor, which is completely out of the question in these types of scenarios.


Most mobile devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones) have the ability to act as a mobile hotspot. A hotspot is, basically, a wireless network where the mobile device uses its adapter to act as a router. While hotspots can be a great solution for short-term applications, like modifying that important document from the cloud drive or replying to a critical email, they’re generally not very efficient.

The thing with mobile hotspots is that phones usually heat up, potentially having harmful, long-term effects on the battery and the components themselves. Furthermore, the fact that the user isn’t able to use the device itself for browsing just adds to the reasons why this isn’t a very good, long-term solution.

What is a Wireless Travel Router and How Does it Work?

The wireless travel router might be a bit of a foreign concept for the casual internet user, but it’s basically a router that can streamline data from a USB network adapter. Typically, service providers will offer their clients data “dongles” (not dongles in the traditional way, but USB sticks that act as antennas). These mini internet boards can receive different types of signals, giving the user the ability to access data packets at different speeds.

The sticks themselves come in 3G or 4G versions, which are mainstream. They function exactly like any other smartphone that supports these types of connections. The antennas communicate with radio towers and are able to read the different frequencies of the 3G or 4G networks.

What is a wireless travel router? one might ask themselves. Well, it’s pretty easy. They’re routers that come with USB ports in which the dongles can be placed, allowing the users to create WiFi networks using their internet dongles. This allows the user to access the internet using multiple devices, or devices that don’t come with a full-size USB port (like smartphones and tablets).

Setting It Up

Its setup is usually pretty straightforward. The device must be configured before use with the help of a PC to access the setup webpage. Typically, there’s an IP address which corresponds to the device. Simply type the address in the browser and configure the future network settings. Sure, one can do this from a smartphone, but it’s a bit more challenging since navigation is pretty much PC optimized.

Compatibility isn’t an issue since most of the mainstream models work with  2.4 GHz WiFi networks. These networks have some advantages and drawbacks. That is the coverage is pretty great because they give a more powerful signal, but provide slower transfer speeds than 5.0 GHz or dual-band routers.

Where Do They Work?

Here’s the coolest feature that these small, portable routers rock: they work virtually everywhere where there’s a cell phone signal. This means that the user can control the speed and quality of their connection during trips. They work on trains, in the car, at the cabin, in the hotel—virtually everywhere there’s civilization.

The Pros and Cons

There are some pretty big advantages and disadvantages when it comes to using a portable router, and you have to be 100% aware of them before making a choice.

  • They’re very portable devices, which is undoubtedly a good thing. Having access to a small network while vacating can enhance one’s experience by a lot, making the small portable router a pretty big upgrade in terms of data transfers.
  • Most models have the ability to function as a traditional router, working with the most type of connections. Some models are even able to run using sim cards, but this is a rather expensive and inefficient option which needs to be used strictly as a last resort
  • They’re not that great in terms of download and upload speeds because of their factory limitations.
  • A lot of them are very cheaply made, having a poor build quality which translates into a lack of reliability of the product, especially while under heavy transfer loads.
  • They won’t be able to compete with adequate WiFi network when it comes to transfer speeds, although they do provide quite a bit more privacy in terms of how secure the network is

Bottom Line

Having a wireless travel router is undoubtedly a pretty big upgrade for the packing bags. While not as potent as a classic ethernet-based router, they still provide plenty of speeds for light content consumption and productivity. Hence, it is a perfect choice for filling in the gaps while on vacation, having a viable backup for hotel WiFi on business trips, or just using as an alternative for a failing home connection.

When picking one out, it’s best to stay away from the really cheap stuff, as they will often underperform in comparison to the advertised speeds and are more unstable. That is because of the lack of quality in the choice of materials used in building the unit.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Hey there, i liked your info you provided about a wireless traveling router. In fact it was great convincing that people nee this because it’s very handy and has the possibility of being the next big thing in this world. Your content was not too long and not too short which was great and easy enough to read without getting bored. Great post and website. Keep up the great work!

    1. thanks Cameron

  2. I love how you explain so many of the mysteries of technology and uses for some products that are out there. For someone like me, where so much of the internet is a mystery, this is very helpful. It has been a concern when I travel, that a hotel or motel connection is not secure. I have typically jumped on, did what I had to, then jumped off quickly, with hopes for safety. This may be a better solution for me! Thank you.

    1. You’re welcome Annie!

  3. Hi Linda what an interesting article on wireless travel routers, I didn’t know they existed.
    I often worry about using public wi-fi and hotspots can cause large battery drains and overheating as you stated.
    I think I’ve found the solution thanks a lot for this awesome article. Knowing that you can have a private connection even while on a public wi-fi network brings some peace of mind not having to worry about hackers and cyber criminals.

    1. Glad to help Earl!

  4. I travel a lot and on my last trip, I was in an area where they didn’t have WiFi so had to go to an internet cafe.
    With the travel wireless router, will I need a WiFi signal?

    Also, I’ve been caught out once where I was in another country and I pick up the local Wi-Fi signal. I called home using the Whatsapp application and I was charged. So now, any gadget that I have when I go overseas, I automatically switch off as I’m not sure whether I will be charged or not.

    You have mentioned that this is for travellers. Will I be charged when I connect via this in another country?
    (I’m still uncertain of why I would use this)


    1. Jacqueline, you might benefit from reading some of my other articles as I go a little more in depth on specific uses of the travel router and on how to use one.

      Firstly, WiFi should always be free. Your 3G/4G however will be charged, so it sounds like you weren’t connected to WiFi properly and therefor placed the Whatsapp call through your 3G/4G which can be very pricey.

      This type of router is for anyone who is on the go a lot. So (international) travelers for instance. In order to use this gizmo, you either need a existing WiFi network to pick up on and enhance/secure OR you need a data sim card to get you internet on your devices. When in your own country you can use a plan with your provider/telecom or a prepaid data sim card. When traveling abroad you can purchase a local data sim to be able to use the internet at local rates.

      Hope this helps.

  5. The last response answered the sole question I had after reading the article. Nicely done.

    1. Awesome Gregory! Great to hear that your found my information usefull.

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