Often, accessing the internet on the go can be a cumbersome process. Mobile data plans are not always cheap, especially while roaming internationally and hotel Wi-Fi connections come with their own speed and access limitations. This is where a good wireless travel router can help. Wireless travel routers are basically range extenders or access points that enable connecting multiple devices to public Wi-Fi or Ethernet, such as hotels and universities without much hassle.
A wireless travel router can perform multiple functions, the importance of which include —
- Range extension — Wireless travel routers can amplify weak signals via powerful antennas so that devices can easily connect.
- Security — Often, public hotspots are unsecured, which means anyone can eavesdrop on your communications while you are working at a cafe or in a public place. Most wireless travel routers come with built-in firewalls and authentication to secure an unsecured network.
- Multiple connections — Generally, most hotels, universities, and offices use a captive portal to authenticate guest logins, which means each of your devices needs to connect independently to the captive portal. A wireless travel router helps you to log in once to the captive portal, and other devices can just connect to the router in the normal way.
- Media hub — Most wireless travel routers come with some sort of media sharing ability. This enables you to connect storage devices either wirelessly or via USB ports to the router, and multiple connected clients can then share the media from the storage device at once.
Manufacturers also include a few other extra goodies such as a power bank, Wi-Fi bridge, and more. Modern wireless travel routers are not just for travelers and can easily replace your existing router setup at home as well.
While wireless travel routers can prove to be highly valuable, there are a few points to be kept in mind. Not all wireless travel routers have hotspot functionality, so you need to have some sort of internet connection in the first place before you can use such a router. Also, some routers are known not to play well with captive portals. More importantly, it is always recommended to avoid sharing sensitive information over public Wi-Fi as much as possible even though the router itself offers good security.
For this list, we have narrowed down some of the best wireless travel routers available in the market today. Emphasis was given more on the compactness, speeds, and operation modes. Routers that offered media sharing and power bank features were considered as well.
With that information, here are the 8 best wireless travel routers available in 2020.
1. TP-Link N300 Nano
- Features: Single-band (2.4); Chromecast compatible; small form factor; Router/AP/Client/Repeater/WISP Operation modes
- Wireless Protocols: 802.11n
- Data Transfer Rate: 300 Mbps
- No. of Ethernet / USB Ports:1 / 1 (1x micro USB)
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 2.2 x 2.2 x 0.7 in
The TP-Link N300 offers an easy way to create a compact wireless hotspot quickly. It offers flexibility for travelers as it can be powered using an external power adapter or just with a USB connection. The maximum throughput offered is 300 Mbps over the 802.11n band, which should be sufficient for most purposes while on the go. The device can also be used as a hotspot, router, or a Wi-Fi range extender.
While the software UI is not the most advanced there is, it is more than enough to get the job done for those who require a no-fuss solution for hooking up to hotel or university ethernet. It does take some time to latch on to a network, but once done, there’s nothing the user would need to do to get online. If you are looking for the best travel router for hotels, the TP-Link N300 Nano should be high on your list.
- Pros: Works in multiple modes; Good speeds; Easy setup
- Cons: Not the most feature-rich UI
2. GL.iNet GL-AR300M
The GL.iNet dons many hats as a Wi-Fi hotspot, repeater, and as a programmable gateway for DIY hobbyists. As a Wi-Fi hotspot and converter, it is one of the best travel routers available, offering a maximum throughput of up to 300 Mbps. With the included USB ports, you can simply plug in your existing 3G/4G internet dongle and create a Wi-Fi access point. Like other wireless travel routers, it can run off your laptop’s USB port or the bundled 5V DC power adapter. The presence of UART and GPIO ports allows for acting as a portable gateway for IoT development.
The best part about this sub-$50 router is its OpenWRT firmware. The software allows you to use it as an OpenVPN router, Tor router, or even as your personal firewall between a public Wi-Fi hotspot and your computer. If you are an advanced user, you can also perform load balancing between multiple internet sources such as an internet dongle or a tethered device.
- Pros: Multiple configuration options; Great for IoT development on the go
- Cons: None as such
3. HooToo Wireless Travel Router
The HooToo Wireless Travel Router is a very popular travel router and makes for an excellent travel companion despite lacking some of the bells and whistles of slightly more expensive options. The HooToo can be used as a hotspot or to wirelessly share files with the connected clients. The included USB port is just USB 2.0 but supports all storage devices.
The HooToo is not without its share of quirks, though. For instance, the included USB port cannot power an external hard disk if you are already powering the device via USB. Also, the software can recognize only one drive at a time if you connect two drives in a bridge.
- Pros: Affordable; Good media sharing features
- Cons: USB port alone will not be able to power external drives; Software can recognize only one connected drive at a time
4. HooToo TripMate Titan
The HooToo TripMate Titan aims to be your all-in-one travel companion by combining a capable wireless travel router and a huge 10,400 mAh battery. So you can charge devices on the go and simultaneously use the device in the access point, bridge, or router modes for staying connected on the go. The standout feature of the TripMate Titan is the FileHub. FileHub makes the Titan into a full-fledged media sharing, streaming, and file management tool. You can share and stream media with up to 5 connected clients and also use your Chromecast for streaming videos to the big screen.
The HooToo TripMate Titan is not without its shortcomings, however. It cannot work as a wireless hotspot and does not support any OpenVPN clients. It also cannot bridge an iPhone hotspot or stream DRM-enabled media. The software, while a great file server, has a few security issues and has been reported to be easily ‘hackable’.
- Pros: Multiple wireless functions; Media sharing; Large capacity power bank
- Cons: No support for wireless hotspot and VPN; Bundled software does not focus on security
5. TRENDnet TEW-817DTR
- Features: Dual-band (2.4 + 5); Router, WISP, Access Point, and Repeater modes; Pre-encrypted Wi-Fi; Interchangeable power plugs
- Wireless Protocols: 802.11ac
- Data Transfer Rate: 750 Mbps
- No. of Ethernet / USB Ports: 1 / 0
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 6 x 5 x 6 in
The TRENDnet TEW-817DTR is a capable and fast wireless travel router. It is one of the few travel routers to offer wireless AC speeds up to 750 Mbps and can function as a router, WISP, access point, or a repeater. A neat addition is that power plugs for North America, European, and UK sockets come bundled with the package. Therefore, if you are a busy professional whose job involves a lot of international travel, this router is for you.
The TEW-817DTR offers an easy setup, and the Wi-Fi settings come pre-configured. However, this router suffers from a major disadvantage that it cannot be used with captive portals. Most hotels and universities require logging into a captive portal before getting internet access. This router is not compatible with such networks. We hope TRENDnet addresses this in a firmware update soon. The device, as such, performs flawlessly once configured properly.
- Pros: Designed for the international traveler; Easy setup; Wireless AC speeds
- Cons: Not compatible with a captive portal
6. GL.iNet GL-B1300
The GL.iNet GL-B1300 is one of the best travel routers you can get in 2020 and if offers nearly everything you’d get from a conventional wireless router at a very reasonable price. There is dual-band wireless AC support with speeds up to 1.3 Gbps — more than what most hotels, offices, or universities all over the world provide. Right off the bat, the GL-B1300 comes with OpenWRT installed, which means powerful customization options along with OpenVPN support for up to 20+ VPN clients. The quad-core 717 MHz ARM CPU ensures things move around without bottlenecks. The cool thing is that you can also swap the antennas for more powerful ones if you wish to.
GL.iNet says that the router has been tested for using storage devices up to 64 GB. But given the USB 3.0 port, using higher capacity drives shouldn’t be a problem, but we’d suggest avoiding external hard drives as those are power-hungry. Also, some users have reported that GL.iNet is yet to update the firmware to more recent versions. You can use vanilla OpenWRT as well, but you might have to configure a lot of options yourself.
- Pros: Good assortment of features; Good speeds and coverage; OpenWRT compatible
- Cons: Stock firmware needs upgrading; VPN speeds are reportedly slow
7. RAVPower FileHub Plus
The RAVPower FileHub is geared towards being a worthy travel companion by integrating a file server, wireless router, and a power bank in a compact chassis that is easy to carry. Using the FileHub interface, you can easily share media with up to 5 connected clients or use it as a portable router in the access point, bridge, and router modes. There are a dedicated SD card slot and a microUSB port in addition to the full-size USB port for seamlessly connecting all your devices. The RAVPower is Chromecast friendly as well.
The RAVPower performs most functions as advertised, but it can only do wireless file sharing and cannot use the USB port for transferring data. This might be a deterrent for using the device on a flight. Hopefully, a future firmware update will address this. The built-in battery comes extremely handy when a quick battery top-up is needed to revive a dying device.
- Pros: Media sharing and streaming capabilities; Dedicated SD card slot
- Cons: Streaming videos wirelessly can get laggy; Only wireless file-sharing possible
8. TP-Link TL-WR902AC
- Features: Dual-band (2.4 + 5); Client, AP, Router, Hotspot, and Range extender modes; multi-functional USB port
- Wireless Protocols: 802.11ac
- Data Transfer Rate: 750 Mbps
- No. of Ethernet / USB Ports: 1 / 1 (1x USB 2.0)
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 2.64 x 2.91 x 0.87 in
The TP-Link TL-WR902AC performs as well as it looks. It sports dual-band wireless AC with speeds up to 750 Mbps making it easily suitable for most hotel networks on the go. As a wireless device, it can work as a range extender, access point, and also as a hotspot. The software UI is fairly easy to set up and also offers advanced features such as DHCP reservation, port forwarding, DMZ, etc.
The device, as such, performs well, but experienced users might find the software a bit lacking. For example, there is no provision to configure the same MAC address at once for both the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. Users have also reported that the microUSB port is further recessed, impeding a tight connection.
- Pros: Multiple wireless modes; Good speeds
- Cons: Software is not particularly pro-user friendly; Design flaw in microUSB port placement
9. TP-Link TL-MR3040
- Features: Dual-band (2.4); Travel Router (AP), 3G/4G Router, WISP Client, and wireless router modes; multi-functional USB port;
- Wireless Protocols: 802.11n
- Data Transfer Rate: 150 Mbps
- No. of Ethernet / USB Ports: 1 / 2 (1x USB 2.0, 1x microUSB)
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.6 in
The TP-Link TL-MR3040 is a small wireless travel router that slips into any pocket and can operate on both battery power as well as mains. The 2,000 mAh battery is also removable, which is great as you can simply replace the battery instead of having to wait for it to charge. The TL-MR3040 supports the wireless N protocol so you can speed up to 150 Mbps, which should suffice for most purposes. The MR3040 features a USB 2.0 that you can use to connect 3G or 4G modems. However, you cannot use that to host a file server, so if you are looking to streaming media from USB storage, you’re out of luck.
The performance of the MR3040 is fine as long as you are well within range, and there are no obstructions. Even within range, the speeds tend to drop as you move farther away from the router. Also, there is no facility for activating guest networks. If you can work with those limitations, the TP-Link TL-MR3040 makes for a great portable router at an effective price.
- Pros: Multiple wireless modes; Highly portable
- Cons: No support for guest networks; Speed drops
10. GL.iNet GL-AR750S
- Features: Dual-band (2.4 + 5); OpenWRT pre-installed; Pre-configured Cloudflare DNS; Travel Router (AP), 3G/4G Router, WISP Client, and wireless router modes; multi-functional USB port;
- Wireless Protocols: 802.11n
- Data Transfer Rate: 150 Mbps
- No. of Ethernet / USB Ports: 3 / 2 (1x USB 2.0)
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 3.94 x 2.68 x 0.94 in
The GL.iNet GL-AR750S is a new travel router that was nominated for the innovation award at CES 2019. The AR750S has a good range and even works as a conventional router for most homes. The best part about the AR750S is that it comes pre-installed with OpenWrt firmware that offers a lot more configuration options and flexibility compared to other firmware. The GL.iNet GL-AR750S offers a dual-band connection but supports only the wireless-N protocol. However, due to backward compatibility, connecting wireless-AC devices should not be a problem. This travel router also offers 128 MB of RAM and comes with three Ethernet ports so you can also hook up your wired devices if needed. The firmware also supports OpenVPN that can connect to many VPN service providers out of the box.
Security-conscious users will appreciate the fact that it comes with Cloudflare DNS over TLS enabled. This provides an additional layer of security by routing IP requests over Cloudflare’s service instead of the ISP’s DNS registry. Price-wise, the AR750S seems to be slightly on the higher side, but you are getting a lot of features in a compact body, making it one of the best travel routers to consider.
- Pros: Feature-rich, Supports OpenVPN and OpenWrt
- Cons: No support for wireless-AC
Dear readers that would be all for our list of the best wireless travel routers to consider buying today. If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to post them in the comments below, and we will do our best to provide a timely response.