How to Safely Stay Connected When You Travel

Apps like RoadTrippers and The Dyrt can help you find spots to camp, while Reserve America caters to the RV and camper crowd. Also, don’t forget, the official database and trip planner from several federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, NOAA, and the Department of Transportation.

My husband, J.P., a film noir buff, can’t live without streaming his favorite flicks. But we recently bought a 1986 Chevy Champion LaSalle motor home, which was built during the VHS era. To make this vintage, pink-carpeted beauty road-ready and cinema-worthy, we’ll need a serious retrofit in the form of a mobile hot spot from our cellular company.

Not much bigger than a coaster, these devices operate by tapping into a 4G LTE connection and turning it into a Wi-Fi signal for the streaming device on our TV. The good news is that the cost usually includes unlimited usage; however, you may need to purchase additional plan upgrades for speed if buffering delays add unwanted suspense to your thrillers.

By Plane

Data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) show that air travel is surging, with checkpoint numbers climbing toward pre-pandemic levels. People are catching up with family and friends they haven’t seen outside of Zoom, and they’re willing to fly to do it.

Twing Fields, a mainline flight attendant for United Airlines, encourages everyone to follow instructions provided by their gate agent and download the airline’s app before boarding the plane. Doing so enables passengers to watch free movies or listen to music from their phones or tablets during the flight through a special entertainment portal. “Prior to the safety demonstration, all devices must be placed in airplane mode,” Fields says. “Once the plane reaches cruising altitude, customers seeking internet access may log in to the plane’s Wi-Fi system for a nominal fee and use the internet or text during flight.”

Don’t forget to grab the TSA’s official app, which you can use to check airport security wait times before you leave home, and consider Loungebuddy if you want access to those sweet airport lounges before you depart. For more tips, check out our whole guide to skipping lines and breezing through the airport.

By Public Transportation

Interested in reducing your carbon footprint? Walking and bicycling aren’t the only environmentally-friendly ways to explore and relax.

“We’re seeing an uptick in bookings during the summer months,” says Kimberly Woods, Public Relations Manager for Amtrak, which is restoring daily service for 12 long-distance routes following pandemic-related schedule reductions. “To ensure you stay connected while traveling, we offer free basic Wi-Fi service in select trains and stations throughout the country.”

Tarot reader and communications consultant Emily McGill recently caught a train from New York to visit a friend in New Hampshire. “I took Amtrak from New York to Boston, and we drove the rest of the way.  Along the trip I used my phone as a hot spot and spent the time working on some projects that I’d procrastinated about for some time.”

“I traveled via bus on vacation last year, when I was looking to visit family,” says Jeremy Scott Foster, CEO of Travel Freak in Los Angeles. “I figured a bus would be safer than a plane because you can get off if it gets too crowded. I used a phone during my trip to listen to some audiobooks, and within a 10-hour trip I ended up listening to two complete books.”

On all routes, Greyhound Lines offers access to a special entertainment channel for free movies, TV shows, and games, plus three options for direct internet access, one that offers 100 MB of data at no cost and two premium options, one for 150 MB ($3.99) and one for 300 MB ($6.99). But if you’re working while playing, since reception can be spotty on both rail and bus routes, you may want to download your to-do list and finish it offline.

Never Too Far

“Due to advances in technology, it’s almost indefensible to lose touch while traveling,” says Harris. “In fact, with just the internet and GPS, you’ve got the crème de la crème of communication.” So unless you’re actually trying to go off the grid, you don’t have to.

But this isn’t all. One day we’ll be doing far more than checking in with each other while away from home. We may be sharing our experiences at the same time, no matter where we are.

“In the near future, with the increased availability of 5G next-generation wireless, staying connected will be easier than it ever has before,” says Harris. “With wireless throughput unlike anything seen today, sharing [ultra-high-definition] video or even live-streaming epic adventures becomes possible, allowing others to share and virtually participate in the outdoor experience.”

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