Portable mini wifi routers are a fantastic way to set up a small wireless network when you're away from home. From setting up a wifi network in a hotel to help you get your work done, to allowing your kids to watch movies on a trip, there are tons of uses for portable wifi routers.
Top Travel Routers (at a glance):
The links above will take you straight over to Amazon. Please read on to find out how you can use a travel wifi router, as well as some of the features to look out for and a deeper look at the above routers.
What Is A Wireless Travel Router And Why Use One?
Wireless travel routers are quite simply mini wireless routers. As such they allow you to do most things that a normal router would, only they are easier to carry around. This size difference makes them very useful when you are traveling.
Here are some of the typical uses of a travel router.
Share An Ethernet Connection
If you are staying in a hotel when traveling, you may only get an Ethernet connection to connect to the internet with. By connecting a travel router up to this Ethernet point, you will be able to share the internet connection with all your wireless devices.
This means things like smartphones and tablets will be able to connect to the network. It will also allow you to do things like watch movies via a wireless device like Chromecast on your hotel TV.
Share Files On A USB
If you are traveling with other people (say family members), it can be great to connect a USB with a load of movies on it and let people on your network stream these movies on their devices.
For example, if you have a long car journey, you can put some movies on a USB and let your kids watch movies in the back of your car. This is sure to keep them quiet throughout the journey.
Of course, they could all watch from the one screen, without needing a router. But you just know the kids will start screaming if they don't get to watch exactly what they want! Using a travel router is a great workaround.
Bridge A Wireless Connection
If you are staying in a hotel that does have wifi, it can still be a pain to connect all your devices to this network every time you move to a new hotel. By bridging the network using a portable travel router, you simply have to connect the router to the network and all your existing network settings will stay the same.
Make sure you check that the router can first of all 'bridge'. If it does, then investigate further upon your needs. Some routers bridge wirelessly, but don't actually broadcast wireless to clients at the same time - only Ethernet or USB can be used for the clients. So be careful, if full wifi (for bridging and clients simultaneously) is what you want.
Use As A Wireless Repeater
If you are staying somewhere, and the signal is fairly poor in certain places, you can use your portable wireless router as a wireless repeater. Simply setup the router in a place in your room with the best signal, and the router will repeat the existing network’s wireless signal. This should give you a better signal throughout more of the area.
Of course, this can also be done in your home or office network to increase your signal strength.
This method won't work everywhere, ?as oftentimes, you will need to have admin access to the source AP to allow the Wireless Repeater function to 'pair'.
Different Travel Router Features
Travel routers come with a number of different features that can differentiate themselves from each other. If any of these seem useful, make sure the router you buy has the feature as not all of them do.
SIM Card Slot
Having a sim card slot is a really useful feature that allows you to share a data connection over your wireless router. Normally a travel router you will only be able to use the internet if you connect to another network (with internet access). If you buy a router with a SIM card slot you will be able to connect your devices to the card’s data connection.
A word of warning, however, data plans can be expensive, so make sure your SIM card both supports this feature and also check out the cost that you could incur before using your SIM card in your wireless travel router.
USB For Shared Storage & Internet
Having a USB slot on your travel router means it is possible to share files from your USB throughout your network. This can be used for anything from backing up travel pictures you have just taken to streaming movies for the family.
For the fastest possible USB experience, make sure to buy a USB 3.0 device. USB 3.0 devices offer much faster transfer speeds than the older USB 2.0 devices while still being backward compatible.
Note though that the benefits of USB 3.0 (over USB 2.0) aren't quite so obvious with travel routers, as they are all Wireless N, making the router the bottleneck, rather than the USB standard.
And it's possible to share out access to the internet by plugging in a USB dongle. Again, make sure the travel router supports it. Some routers have a USB slot, but don't access the internet. Also make sure the firmware is up to date! Manufacturers occasionally release gear without internet functionality, only to correct in a firmware update.
Having a battery will allow your device to be truly portable as without a battery you will be relying on a mains or a USB connection to keep your device on.
As well as checking if the device you want to buy has a battery, you should also check that the battery life available is suitable for your needs.
Top 5 Best Portable Routers For Traveling
TP-Link TL-MR3020 N150 Wireless 3G/4G Portable Router
- Router uses the Wireless N standard.
- 2 year warranty.
- Simple setup.
This is a small router with many features that can work as a router, an access point or a bridge. Its setup is simple, simply plug an Ethernet cable into the WAN/LAN port and you will be able to share the internet over wireless.
All in all, it is a good router and an excellent way to get a wireless connection on the go.
HooToo HT-TM05 Wireless Travel Router With Battery
- Unique and stylish design.
- Can be used as a phone charger.
- Excellent battery life.
The most striking thing about this portable router is its design. Its shape and color are unique and yet still pretty small given all the features.
Its battery life is excellent, so much so that it can be used as a router for hours at a time (on battery), or can be used to charge your phone. In fact, HooToo claim it has enough battery to charge the average phone three times! This gives you an idea about the power of its battery.
It can be used in a variety of ways, as a bridge, access point, router etc and it allows up to five devices to connect at once.
All in all, this is an excellent portable router, especially for those that will be on the go for a while and may need the extra battery life.
Satechi ST-STAW Smart Travel Router With USB
- Uses the Wireless N standard.
- Comes with both an AC power port and a USB port for simultaneous charging.
- Also works as a travel power adapter.
This is a great product for travel that combines a travel router with a universal power adapter (not that it does not convert electrical voltage!). It can be used in over 150 countries throughout the world. It can also be used to charge your phone via USB or AC power port.
As well as these travel related features, it has all the features you would expect from a travel router including the ability to work as a router, repeater and bridge. It is also more than small enough to be placed in a bag and forgotten about until needed.
This router will be perfect for people who frequently travel abroad and need wifi access while they are away.
HooToo HT-TM02 TripMate Wireless Travel Router
- Tiny travel router that weighs only one ounce.
- Very reasonably priced.
- Very easy setup using HooToo app.
This is a basic travel router that does the simple things very well. While it doesn’t come with some of the extra features other routers have, it covers the basics required of a travel router at a reasonable price.
It also comes with an app designed to make it very simple to get photos or other media from your phone onto an external drive. This is incredibly useful for people who have used all their phone memory and don’t have the option to buy an extra card memory card.
It is also very small and light which makes it very easy to carry around. If you were traveling somewhere you needed to take a lot of pictures and were worried about running out of memory, you would have no problem taking this router with you.
RAVPower RP-WD03 FileHub Plus Travel Router
- SD card slot easily allows you to share, backup or view photos.
- Works as a router, bridge or extender.
- Strong signal for a travel router
The SD card on this router sets it apart as it allows you to share, backup or store files from your camera easily. This is especially useful if you are traveling or going somewhere where you are likely to take a lot of photos.
It has all the standard router features such as USB support, the ability to be used as a router, bridge or an access point and it is also very nicely designed.
The one downside is that the software used to control the app can sometimes be a little confusing which can make transferring files for the first time a bit of a struggle.
However, if you really need a travel router that comes with an SD card slot, then this could be the travel for you!