Eli5: What is a travel router and how does it work?



I hear about people using travel routers to connect devices to hotel wifi or in dorm rooms. What is a travel router and what does it do differently than just connecting to the provided wifi? TIA!

In: Technology

I think the thing with a travel router is that built to be more portable and maybe provide easier access than a regular router. Like maybe if you tap your phone in it, it will connect automatically with NFC. Maybe it had USB ports so it can help charge your devices.

The most important feature though is that you get an ethernet cable, plug it into your travel router, and now you have a wifi connection that only you know the password to. No one has touched settings or gotten through your security in the wifi because it’s yours and it’s new.

An example of how this is more secure is if some bad guy made a hotel-guest wifi connection, might be able to send you to a fake banking website when you’re trying to pay for things.

The only way you can be compromised is if the hotel wiring ethernet has been compromised.

I have one that I flashed DD-WRT on that runs a constant VPN so all my devices run through that. Hotel WiFi’s are notoriously unsafe.

As someone that has used these here are the scenarios for where I bring my own router and its configuration:


* The Router can connect to an available WiFi network or connect to a wired network.
* It then makes a VPN connection back to my office
* It then provides its own private “to me” wifi network and/or wired network where the network is secured through the VPN.


The use cases:

* Restrictive network access in the hotel.

This is worst in Vegas, probably bad in San Francisco/New York/Seattle

Particularly during conferences, hotels will have “Free wifi”. that “Free” is with the compulsory “amenity charge” that grants you access to a fitness facility, business office, and room wifi. However, it is very often limited to 2 devices/room. If you are going to Vegas to gamble, well, fine, that probably works. But going to a technology conference? We will have 3 people in the room, each will have a minimum of 3 devices (phone, computer, tablets, whatever we are evaluating from the show, or working on for our demonstrations, or maybe some analytics devices for determining show success, etc.) Anyhow, we can expect to need 12 devices/room to be operating. At $15/day/device for a typical “amenity” change, that’s a lot of cell phones going to the gym that can be avoided by using a single “travel router” connection, now our room can tunnel all that data securely out.


* Travel to locations where your data can be expected to be scraped, spied upon, or filtered/censored

From the above, this should be obvious. But maybe you aren’t thinking about it when you go into that meeting room in a customer or supplier’s building. They have the whiteboard setup, or the first slide of the powerpoint is the WiFi network access information. You have been traveling for 20 hours and want to get a quick message back to the kids so you connect and do that facetime meeting or whatevs. Then halfway through the meeting, you check your email…

If instead you just connect your travel router to this network you can be sure your communications are a bit more secured.