The Perfect Tech Accessory for Travel (and Covering Your Butt When the WiFi Goes Out at Home)

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

The best thing you bring on vacation this summer might not be the sunblock. In today’s uber-connected era, getting online is pretty much a necessity. But in certain places (and certain situations) it’s either difficult or downright impossible to get connected easily and cheaply. But there’s another solution…

What is a Mobile WiFi Hotspot?

It’s a compact, battery-powered gadget that creates a wifi network around you almost anywhere, without needing an outlet or wiring into a wall like at home. That means you can get online with a laptop almost anywhere in the same way you connect to the web with your phone over a cellular network.

(Image credit: Hayley Lawrence)

5 Times You’ll Wish You Had a Hotspot

Vacation Homes

If you own a vacation home (or know someone who does and want to pass on a tip that might make that person want to let you stay there), a mobile hotspot is perfect. Instead of paying for internet access year-round for a (mostly empty) house, you can just bring the hotspot with you when you need it.

But maybe you’re just renting an AirBNB for the weekend. You might want to think about getting hotspot, too. The internet in rental homes can be hella unreliable. If you know you’ll need to get online while you’re away, a mobile hotspot is the answer.

Working Outside

The weather’s nice, why not enjoy it? With a hotspot, you can move your office outdoors to the park, the beach or anywhere else.

Road Trips (and Airports and All Kinds of Travel)

Some airports have good WiFi, and some don’t. The only way to really know you have consistent, reliable access is to bring it with you. And as a passenger on a long road trip, having a hotspot in the car means that you can pass the time by getting some real work done on a laptop instead of playing games on your phone (or maybe in addition to the phone games – whatever).


I swear somebody needs to start a petition to make wifi free at hotels (it’s a basic human need at this point, yeah?). Until then, you’re stuck paying $15 per night, unless, that is, you have your own hotspot to connect to.

When the WiFi Goes Out at Home

If you work from home, a signal interruption can be catastrophic. Instead of racing to the nearest coffee shop, a mobile hotspot can save the day in an instant.

What’s the Best Hotspot for Casual or Backup Use?

Your Smartphone

Yep, the phone in your hand right now can probably be used as a tethering device, meaning that you can connect laptops and other non-mobile devices to your phone’s existing data stream whenever you want (PC Mag has instructions for many different models). But beware: Most carriers will charge you extra for tethering, so it’s best to research your specific data plan before you’re unknowingly hit with a lofty bill.

And here’s another concern: Using your smartphone as a hotspot will wear heavily on your battery life. If you’re going to want to stay connected for hours at a time, you might want to invest in a dedicated device.

Karma Go

As far as standalone devices go, I like Karma because it’s one device that offers two different plan structures, so you can choose which one suits your situation. Karma Go with Pulse is a monthly subscription where you pay a set rate each month for a certain amount of data (a lot like your phone plan), while Karma Go with Refuel lets you pay upfront for data, a la carte. When you “Refuel,” that data never goes away or expires.

Do you have a mobile hotspot? Tell us how you use it!