Best Travel Routers of 2020

A travel router helps you stay connected when you are on the road as effortlessly as you are at home. Our shopping guide is here to help you find the best travel router to keep you connected on your next adventure.

A Reliable Wi-Fi Signal Anytime, Anywhere

At home, you can flip open your laptop and connect to the internet effortlessly—working, playing, browsing, watching, learning, posting, and thriving. It's comfortable, familiar, and easy.

When you travel, it doesn't happen that way. You may find yourself limiting the majority of your activity to your phone because that's what is familiar. Even in a hotel, you may hesitate to use the free Wi-Fi or wired internet connection in your room. You need to get passwords and reconnect every device at every place you stay. The process is both burdensome and intimidating.

But it doesn't have to be that way. A travel router can eliminate all of your connectivity anxieties while you're away from home, and some cost as little as one week's worth of coffee.

A router is a network device that routes data packets from network-enabled devices— printers, computers, phones, and so on—to and from each other and to and from the internet.

What Is a Travel Router?

Back in the '90s, we envisioned the internet as an information superhighway. Although many scoff at that phrase today, it is an accurate analogy. The internet is a road, and every single device on that road has an address, just like people do.

When you move to a new location, you need a new address. No one can find you until they know that address. That's what makes connecting to the internet while traveling so onerous: at every hotel, you have to go through the process of moving in all over again because you have a new address.

If the internet is a highway, then a travel router is your RV.

Did you know that a router doesn't need to have access to the internet to create a network? If you want to exchange data beyond the confines of your private network, however, your router will need to access the internet.

A Convenient, Secure Way to Connect

When you travel in an RV, you have your office, kitchen, leisure space, and bedroom. All of your modern conveniences are out there on the road with you. You can work, cook, relax, sleep, and do anything else that you'd normally do at home.

Your travel router, like an RV, is your mobile home. Even when you take to the road and stay at different hotels, it lets all of your devices keep the same address they had when you were home. Just plug in and connect your travel router to the hotel internet service, and you're set. You don't have to individually connect each and every one of your Wi-Fi devices to the hotel service—and likely receive multiple charges on your bill. Just connect your travel router.

With a travel router you can work, stream movies, play games, watch workout videos, look up restaurants, post to your social media accounts, and stay as effortlessly connected as you are at home.


A Travel Router Provides an Extra Layer of Security

A travel router can even offer you some security because it is your travel router that connects to the internet, not your devices. Your tablet can hide behind a portable firewall to help protect sensitive information and your identity.

Travel Router Features to Consider

There are a few factors you need to consider before purchasing a travel router.

When it comes to portability, size matters. Most travel routers fit easily into your pocket. If you're looking at one that's the size of your DVD player, it's too big. The best travel routers are about half the size of and just a little thicker than your phone.

Your travel router is going to need power. You could get a travel router that plugs directly into an outlet or has an adapter that plugs into an outlet. Alternatively, you could get a travel router that uses a USB port to plug into a computer, a portable charger, or an adapter. Some travel routers have multiple powering options.

The most important port for hotel use is an Ethernet port. If your travel router doesn't have one, you won't be able to take advantage of the hotel's wired service. A travel router featuring a USB port is highly recommended.

Having external antennas isn't ideal for travel routers. The unit will be larger and more fragile—plus, you don't want your wireless network to extend beyond your hotel room.

A big part of the reason why travel routers are worthy investments is the protection they provide. Look for one with a robust firewall that can keep your sensitive information and identity as safe as possible.

Wi-Fi standard
The wireless standard was created to keep the entire wireless industry on the same page. The current standard is 802.11ac. That is what you need to look for when purchasing a new travel router. The older you go, the more potential problems you invite.

Frequency band
A travel router works on the 2.4G band. If you want access to the less-crowded 5G band, you need to purchase a dual-band router. The 5G band will offer less range, but if you're only using it in the confines of a hotel room, that shouldn't be much of a problem.

Routers transmit equally well in all directions. The best place to set up your router is in the middle of your coverage area.

The Different Modes

The best travel routers can function in several different modes. Here's a list of possible working modes your unit can have.

Router mode
This is the mode that you will most likely use when staying in a hotel. It allows you to connect to a hotel's wired modem via the Ethernet port in your room to create a private wireless network. All of your wireless devices will be able to connect, and you should not incur multiple device usage fees.

AP mode
This is the other mode you will most likely use when traveling. It turns your portable router into an internet access point.

Range extender mode
When your travel router has an extender mode or a repeater mode, you can use that to extend the coverage of your Wi-Fi network. If you have dead spots in your home, for instance, a strategically placed unit could eliminate that problem.

Bridge mode
If your travel router has a bridge mode, it allows you to connect one wired network to another wired network via Wi-Fi, thus creating a wireless bridge between the two wired networks.

Client mode
In client mode, you can connect a wired device, such as a computer without wireless capabilities, to your portable router via a cable. The router will then allow the computer to function as a wireless device.