Author Topic: Internet while traveling  (Read 7340 times)

SunnyMoney

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Internet while traveling
« on: December 28, 2015, 01:42:00 PM »
What do you do for good quality internet access while traveling?  My DH and I value good quality internet access A LOT.  At home we buy the best internet service available and we have measured our download speed at about 30 Mbps.  Often the wifi at hotels is pretty bad (spotty, slow).   We have tried 3 different mifi devices from different manufactures and data network providers and the best we've seen is about 1 Mbps download speed.  This is passable for a few days but if we want to travel for 2+ weeks we would go bonkers without better internet.  The internet access also has to be portable, by which I mean it has to be available from wherever we are staying in the evenings (i.e. going to the library would not be a solution for us).

Daley

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2015, 02:29:13 PM »
First off, broadband at 1/10th of what you're using currently is perfectly serviceable for a wired connection. Plenty of folks around here happily run 3-6Mbps (or slower) and quite enjoy the savings without great sacrifice. What sacrifice there is? Suck it up, sparky. We're talking about hedonic adaptation here. Internet access isn't a necessity of life, it's a convenience, and given the way you talk about it? It might do you some good to unplug and detox.

Regarding reliable mobile service specifically? I noticed you mentioned you used three carriers for mobile hotspot access so far and have been displeased with all, yet you didn't say who.

The two best coverage networks for travel are going to be AT&T and Verizon, with Verizon edging out overall. Prepaid directly from the carrier is going to yield the cheapest mobile data per GB, especially for bandwidth hogs, but it's still going to run pretty close to $10/GB no matter how you slice it. Mobile broadband is friggin' expensive and uneven in quality at best while you travel. You would be best served lowering your expectations from your experiences with wired network access first, and then learning to unplug more. You're traveling, enjoy the location instead of your LCD screen.

arebelspy

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #2 on: December 28, 2015, 02:51:17 PM »
Do the hotels have a wired connection besides wireless?  If so, try a portable router to turn the wired connection into wireless one that's reliable (strong signal instead of spotty).
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ketchup

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #3 on: December 28, 2015, 03:32:27 PM »
I'm not sure what you're using the mobile internet access for on the road, but even a steady 1Mbps should be usable for anything short of video streaming and large file downloading.  These days though with LTE, unless you're off in the middle of nowhere, you should be seeing more than that plenty of the time.  I haven't had an issue hitting LTE 99% of the time with my T-mobile smartphone this year, with a fair amount of domestic car travel.  It's also been way faster than 1Mbps (not that I really need that).  ATT/Verizon should have even better coverage.

Did you make sure the mifi devices you used were completely compatible with the network you were on (including LTE)?

And yes, mobile data is very expensive so cutting back as much as possible is the best first step.  Even on 1000+ mile road trips I only really ever use data for e-mail, SMS, or navigation.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2015, 03:34:06 PM by ketchup »

StetsTerhune

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #4 on: December 28, 2015, 03:52:55 PM »
I've been on the road for over a year now. For work I value reliability above all and have an at&t hotspot and a Verizon phone I can tether to --there are places where one works and not the other. They're both plenty fast to stream HD video if I actually want to, though it's way too expensive for me to do that much.

I've probably stayed at 150 hotels in they last year and a half and  I'd guess 5 of them had unreliable WiFi. Though probably double that were quite slow.

Real curious to hear what you're doing that needs internet that fast. It sounds (from your use of the word "bonkers") that this is purely entertainment usage. You're traveling, it's a different life. Learn to value different things, or stay home.

deborah

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2015, 04:59:13 PM »
I recently traveled for two months in the US and Ecuador. I didn't take a phone, and used WiFi whereever I was. Some places didn't have it, but those places didn't have phone coverage either, so I wasn't missing anything (one didn't have electricity). Everywhere else, connectivity was about as good in the US as in Ecuador. Some hotels only had centralised WiFi, and told me my room might be too far away for it to work. It also appeared that places where there were a lot of tourists had some problems at certain times. Maybe because everyone was loading their pictures from their camera onto the cloud as soon as they came back from seeing something. Maybe because EVERYONE was trying to use it, and the server was configured for less devices being attached, especially as people now have several devices each.

I used a device called "My Passport" to put all my photos onto, and this device is also a WiFi hub. As a result, it acted as a repeater, and I was able to access the internet in rooms that didn't have strong signals. I found this very valuable during my travels, not just for the purpose I had originally intended. If I had had more than one WiFi device, I could have also used the "My Passport" to have just one connection to the WiFi supplied at the hotel.

Tyler

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #6 on: December 29, 2015, 11:36:20 AM »
Do the hotels have a wired connection besides wireless?  If so, try a portable router to turn the wired connection into wireless one that's reliable (strong signal instead of spotty).

+1

One of the most indispensable items I always take with me when traveling is an Apple Airport Express.  It's compact and lightweight and provides reliable wireless anywhere there's an ethernet jack available.  Also, you know those hotels that charge you per device for internet access?  Many of them will recognize the Airport Express as a single device no matter how many devices are connected to it. 

Rubic

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #7 on: December 29, 2015, 03:30:10 PM »
One of the most indispensable items I always take with me when traveling is an Apple Airport Express.  It's compact and lightweight and provides reliable wireless anywhere there's an ethernet jack available.  Also, you know those hotels that charge you per device for internet access?  Many of them will recognize the Airport Express as a single device no matter how many devices are connected to it.

Is the Apple Airport Express compatible with non-Apple products?  (e.g. Linux laptops, Android phones/tablets, Kindle, etc.)

arebelspy

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #8 on: December 29, 2015, 03:51:16 PM »
One of the most indispensable items I always take with me when traveling is an Apple Airport Express.  It's compact and lightweight and provides reliable wireless anywhere there's an ethernet jack available.  Also, you know those hotels that charge you per device for internet access?  Many of them will recognize the Airport Express as a single device no matter how many devices are connected to it.

Is the Apple Airport Express compatible with non-Apple products?  (e.g. Linux laptops, Android phones/tablets, Kindle, etc.)

Yes.

There are other cheap, good ones too though.  I wouldn't use the Apple Airport Express personally.

This should get you started: http://lifehacker.com/five-best-travel-routers-1452441479
I am a former teacher who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and am now settled with three kids.
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Tyler

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #9 on: December 29, 2015, 04:03:25 PM »
Yes, the Airport Express works with anything that connects to Wifi.  It doesn't have to be an Apple product.  I've had it for years and it's traveled around the world with me many times.

Arebelspy's list is also great.  IMHO the new Airport Express isn't as nice as the old (discontinued) version for travelers, so one of the many other options may actually be preferable these days.


SunnyMoney

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2015, 08:37:06 PM »
Great suggestions everyone!  I'll ask the hotel if it has wired connections available and investigate some of these router options you describe.  I'll also try out an AT&T and a Verizon hot spot to see what kind of speeds they get.

We live in a different state than our parents and siblings.  To keep in touch we video chat several times a week.  (The moms especially like seeing our faces)  And we play multiplayer online games with our young nephews.  It keeps us connected to our families and a few times a week we can give our nephews' parents a breather while we entertain the kids.  We're the "cool" aunt and uncle :)  Every once in a while the nephews open up to us and I don't think that would happen if we weren't so involved in their lives.  This is why good quality internet is important to us.


Daley

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2015, 08:48:21 PM »
Great suggestions everyone!  I'll ask the hotel if it has wired connections available and investigate some of these router options you describe.  I'll also try out an AT&T and a Verizon hot spot to see what kind of speeds they get.

If you go this route, there's a few really cheap, useful TP-Link portable router/hotspots such as the TL-MR3040, but you're still limited by practical issues such as available bandwidth on over-saturated public networks that aren't really provided for the uses that you're intending.

We live in a different state than our parents and siblings.  To keep in touch we video chat several times a week.  (The moms especially like seeing our faces)  And we play multiplayer online games with our young nephews.  It keeps us connected to our families and a few times a week we can give our nephews' parents a breather while we entertain the kids.  We're the "cool" aunt and uncle :)  Every once in a while the nephews open up to us and I don't think that would happen if we weren't so involved in their lives.  This is why good quality internet is important to us.

Online gaming isn't about bandwidth, it's about effective ping time/latency. Even a 56kbps connection will be perfectly fine for online gaming so long as the latency is low enough. Even with LTE data, mobile internet access has some bad latency. You're going to have to accept that you just can't really game on it effectively, especially for any fast twitch stuff. Unfortunately, mandatory patching on modern games could also get expensive fast, as the actual gaming may not need much speed and data, but the patches if mandatory to connect could blow through a half gigabyte of data or more at a whack.

Streaming duplex video is also just going to eat bandwidth, again, something you don't want to do with mobile broadband because mobile broadband is expensive because you're metered.

You're going to have to accept that living on the road really isn't going to be compatible with these two major habits. Either change your habits to voice only communications (you don't need to see someone's face to talk with them) and find other ways to connect with the nephews, or preserve these habits and give up on traveling as these things are best done on a wired connection.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2015, 08:53:00 PM by I.P. Daley »

nawhite

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2016, 03:38:30 PM »
I'm in the process of moving into an RV and working from the road so mobile internet was really important to get set up. The community at http://www.rvmobileinternet.com/ is absolutely astounding for information in this area. They do reviews of hardware and carriers and keep up to date on all the most recent developments. I pay for their membership and it was worth every penny.

Personally I did the leg work to get a grandfathered unlimited Verizon data plan. You can read about my experience here http://therecklesschoice.com/2015/12/07/mobile-internet-and-unicorns/. It cost a lot up front ($700) but now is only ~$50/month. I popped the SIM in a MiFi hotspot and have replaced my home cable connection with it. I routinely getting 20+ Mbps down and 5+ Mbps up. Last month I used about 70GB of data which includes a fair bit of streaming. Let me know if you have any questions.

FrugalKube

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2016, 11:32:36 PM »
Do the hotels have a wired connection besides wireless?  If so, try a portable router to turn the wired connection into wireless one that's reliable (strong signal instead of spotty).

One of these has come in handy so many times

thef0x

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2016, 09:52:11 AM »
If you are staying in a place long enough to play video games, you can invest the 10 minutes it takes to make a free google hangouts call and ask about their wifi speed, including asking them to run a speedtest.net test while on the phone.

I've never had this be a real problem when staying in locations for more than 3 days (as you can ask! see above) and if you're under 3 days in a place, odds are high you are spending a lot of your time out and about. 

I agree strongly with the sentiment that you should soak up the environment and not the screen. 

5 Mbps down is more than fast enough to stream 720p movies, do any work you'd need, play video games that aren't an FPS (probably), skype, etc.

I use GoogleFi for data and even on 3g speeds (when not on wifi) it handles calls perfectly. 

You are making a false choice ahead of a decision you don't need to make:  life will be terrible without ultra fast internet.  It won't.  Bad internet will improve the quality of your life. 

BFGirl

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #15 on: January 26, 2016, 07:37:21 AM »
Check out karma go.  You buy gb and they often run a bogo. The data you purchase does not expire. The hotspot is open security and others can use your connection.  When they sign up, they get 100 mb free and so do you.  I would just make sure that no one is connected to your device before you use it for financial transactions as there is no way to implement security because it is about sharing.  I think it runs on the sprint network.  I'm trying to remember to keep mine on when I am out and about so that I can earn data.

Daley

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2016, 08:24:44 AM »
Check out karma go.

For the record, Karma is a Sprint only mobile broadband MVNO, with all the same coverage limitations. They've also had some schizophrenic data cap, policy and billing changes post WiMAX. YMMV.

arebelspy

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #17 on: November 01, 2016, 04:02:51 AM »
Was funny to see this thread title pop up after being dormant for 9 months, since just today we got Internet access after waiting 3 days for the DSL people to come install it in our apartment. 

Free WiFi at the public library ftw the last few days.  :)
I am a former teacher who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and am now settled with three kids.
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ketchup

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #18 on: November 01, 2016, 07:48:22 AM »
Was funny to see this thread title pop up after being dormant for 9 months, since just today we got Internet access after waiting 3 days for the DSL people to come install it in our apartment. 

Free WiFi at the public library ftw the last few days.  :)
Pft, amateur.  :)

Two houses ago when we had a week and a half without internet after moving in, I borrowed a hilariously large USB wifi antenna from my dad and scanned the neighborhood's 63 wifi networks until I found one my roommates and I could get into.  He had done the same thing in his apartment with it, "borrowing" wifi from the church a quarter mile away until Comcast got around to hooking him up.

arebelspy

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #19 on: November 01, 2016, 09:14:17 AM »
Wasn't worth the money or time to search down a pringles can.  ;)
I am a former teacher who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and am now settled with three kids.
If you want to know more about me, this Business Insider profile tells the story pretty well.
I (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out the Now page to see what I'm up to currently.

bigalsmith101

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #20 on: November 11, 2016, 03:43:20 PM »
Was funny to see this thread title pop up after being dormant for 9 months, since just today we got Internet access after waiting 3 days for the DSL people to come install it in our apartment. 

Free WiFi at the public library ftw the last few days.  :)
Pft, amateur.  :)

Two houses ago when we had a week and a half without internet after moving in, I borrowed a hilariously large USB wifi antenna from my dad and scanned the neighborhood's 63 wifi networks until I found one my roommates and I could get into.  He had done the same thing in his apartment with it, "borrowing" wifi from the church a quarter mile away until Comcast got around to hooking him up.

While I was in college, securing wifi networks wasn't as common as it is now. I planted USD wifi antenna in my front yard and didn't pay for internet for an entire year.

ketchup

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Re: Internet while traveling
« Reply #21 on: November 12, 2016, 06:16:55 AM »
Was funny to see this thread title pop up after being dormant for 9 months, since just today we got Internet access after waiting 3 days for the DSL people to come install it in our apartment. 

Free WiFi at the public library ftw the last few days.  :)
Pft, amateur.  :)

Two houses ago when we had a week and a half without internet after moving in, I borrowed a hilariously large USB wifi antenna from my dad and scanned the neighborhood's 63 wifi networks until I found one my roommates and I could get into.  He had done the same thing in his apartment with it, "borrowing" wifi from the church a quarter mile away until Comcast got around to hooking him up.

While I was in college, securing wifi networks wasn't as common as it is now. I planted USD wifi antenna in my front yard and didn't pay for internet for an entire year.
Yeah nearly every network is secured now.  I think of those 63 networks, three were open (or WEP, which might as well be...).