Late last year, I started traveling with just a tablet and smartphone. Getting rid of the ball-and-chain weight of my netbook was liberating for my back. Unfortunately, there was a tradeoff: Lack of hotel options. Almost all of the hotel rooms I stay in have wired Internet in the rooms, but not all of them have wireless in the rooms. And I don’t have a data plan for my tablet. No wifi, no Internet. (My smartphone doesn’t count; it’s too small for me to effectively do anything online other than tweet.)
Personally, I don’t want to have to hang out for hours in the local Starbucks or McDonalds, or even in the hotel lobby–where there usually is free wifi–just to check my email and social media accounts. I like to get online at the end of a hard day of traveling while I’m snuggled in my hotel room bed. So what’s a tablet user to do if the hotel room doesn’t have wireless Internet?
Get yourself a mobile router, that’s what.
How is it I never heard of this little marvel of technology until a few months ago? I would give a shout-out to the Vegas message forum where I read about this tip, but sadly, I can’t remember now which one it was. I’d never heard of a “mobile router,” but as soon as I read those magical words, I logged into my Amazon account and started researching routers.
For $33.40 (including shipping), I wound up purchasing the ZyXEL Wireless N Pocket Travel Router and Access Point. Is it the best mobile router out there? I’ve only tried one, so I have no idea. All I know is it got great reviews on Amazon, is light-weight, and is small enough to fit in my pocket—meaning it doesn’t take up a lot of space in my carry-on bag.
As soon as the ZyXEL arrived, I set it up at home to make sure it worked. I have to say that the manufacturer could have done a better job at including step-by-step instructions. To call the print materials that come with it “instructions” is laughable.
When I couldn’t get it to work, I wound up Googling better instructions online. Turns out I was putting the Internet cord into the LAN slot instead of the WAN slot (hey, the tiny print on the router is hard to read!). In any case, if I could get it to work, anyone can.
This past week, I had the opportunity to actually use it on the road. I had booked the Luxor Las Vegas because it’s a budget resort, and I was on a budget. Unfortunately, the Luxor is pretty dated when it comes to technology. Not only is there no in-room wifi there, but the wired Internet is plugged in behind the flat screen TV. So if you did bring a laptop, you’d have to stretch the cord all the way across the room in order to use your laptop in bed or at one of the chairs at the little table in front of the window. How 1990s.
ZyXEL to the rescue! I plugged it in, turned it on, and logged into my tablet using my security key and voila! Instant in-room wifi. (And once I logged in once, I didn’t have to log in again, it just automatically connected after that.) Am I pleased with my purchase? You bet I am. Now, I am no longer limited to booking hotel rooms based on whether they have in-room wifi. All I need is wired Internet and my mobile router.
The only drawbacks to the ZyXEL are the lack of quality step-by-step instructions for setting it up and the fact that the charger doesn’t fit in the pouch that the router itself comes in—but to me, that’s a non-issue, since I have to carry a ziploc bag full of chargers (for my cameras, tablet, and cell phone) with me anyway. Now if only I could find a universal electronics charger that doubles as a universal camera battery charger, my life would be complete. Until then, this will do.