It’s rare for me to travel without my laptop. Even on family vacations, I need to work — a freelancer writer’s life knows few boundaries! My work revolves around the Web these days, and it’s key I can keep up with emails, troubleshoot this blog’s technical issues, and otherwise stay connected to clients. My husband, who owns his own business, is the same way.
We despise paying steep prices for hotel-provided Internet wen we travel. We avoid paying that $9.95/day fee (or more!) as often as possible, choosing to book a hotel with complimentary wi-fi whenever we can. Or, in a pinch, we’ll use our cell phones to surf the Web and answer emails.
However, on international trips, we flip our phones to airport mode to avoid expensive roaming charges. We rarely purchase an international data plan, so we take care not to allow usage on local 3G or 4G networks! Still, it’s a bummer not to be able to use apps on my phone while on the go in foreign countries (unless free wi-fi is handy). That’s where Tep Wireless comes in.
I borrowed a Tep Wireless pocket wi-fi for my romantic getaway to Cabo last month. It’s a small, hand-held device that allows up to five internet-enabled devices (phone, laptop, tablets) to use it as a wi-fi hotspot within about 45 feet. Access to the Internet is enabled with a password so random poachers can’t steal your wi-fi.
Though I enjoyed the Tep Wireless as a complimentary perk in exchange for reviewing it, the cost for us in Mexico would have been $7/day for 150 MB of data allowance per day; $10.95/day for 250 MB of data allowance per day; and $12.95/day for unlimited Internet.
Now, some of those higher prices rival what one might pay for hotel Internet, so you may think, “Why bother with the wi-fi hotspot?” Well, I’ll tell you: We carried the Tep Wireless in my purse, so I could use my phone’s applications — such as Yelp restaurant reviews and Google Maps — when navigating around the streets of Cabo. Super convenient. The battery lasts about five hours, enough for a half-day’s excursion before you’ll need to charge it up again (the traveling case comes with a wall charger.)
And, remember, we don’t typically use our cell phones out of airport mode when traveling internationally; we rely on wi-fi to communicate with family back home. It was great to have the Tep Wireless when we were out to dinner — away from our hotel — and I could answer my children’s Tango texts immediately, rather than waiting until we got back to our hotel to use the Internet there.
Of course, I used the wi-fi on the go to check Facebook and upload photos to Instagram, too!
Tep Wireless can be used on every continent but South America and Antarctica. The company is based in London, and that’s the cheapest way to pick up your Tep Wireless — at one of the pick-up (and drop-off) points at Heathrow Airport or London’s Paddington Station. Otherwise, you can have the device mailed to you in Europe or North America (for $19.95 FedEx). Return the device via a pre-paid envelope (price depends on where you’re mailing it back from; in the United States it’s $7.50).
I recommend renting a Tep Wireless pocket wi-fi with a couple of important caveats:
1) Check the wireless network coverage area of the locale you’re visiting. I did that with my trip to Cabo, and found that Telcel, Tep Wireless’ partner in that country, had good coverage around the Grand Solmar Land’s End, where we were staying. If you have any questions, customer service reps at Tep Wireless will let you know if you are venturing in to areas of a country where wireless coverage is not that great and where you may have some hiccups with the portable wi-fi unit. (For the record, the Tep Wireless unit worked flawlessly for us in Cabo; we never had any trouble with lost connection.)
2) Note that some software programs use up a lot of data quickly. For example, if you paid for limited data allowance (say, 150 MB per day), you do not want to be downloading or streaming audio/video through apps like Spotify or Netflix. This can easily result in data usage of over 100MB in 15 minutes. Backup software (such as iCloud, Dropbox and GoogleDrive) will continuously use data throughout the day. Other programs such as Skype and other chat apps will also contribute to data usage if kept on continuously. Finally, you should be wary of email clients such as Outlook and Entourage, which constantly download both emails and attachments. If you’re concerned you might run out of data allowance on any given day, you are able to check how much data you’ve used by entering your pocket device’s code on a certain website Tep Wireless will provide to you. Bottom line: If you rent a Tep Wireless with limited data allowance, be aware of programs you may be running that may suck up your data!
Thanks to Tep Wireless for providing me with a a pocket wi-fi to use on my trip to Cabo San Lucas.