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The 5 Best Wireless Travel Routers of 2023

Sep 27, 2023Sep 27, 2023

Pocket routers for Wi-Fi networking on the road

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Frequent travelers battling poor cell service, dubious security, and excessive hotel and airport Wi-Fi fees can benefit from a good travel router when working away from home.

The best wireless travel routers avoid these hassles by letting you set up a private bubble of Wi-Fi anywhere you happen to land, whether in a conference center, hotel room, or airport lounge.

Most people should buy the TP-Link TL-WR902AC - it's small enough to chuck in a backpack and can even double as a Wi-Fi range extender. If you also want a cellular connection as backup, the Netgear Nighthawk M1 is for you, as it doubles as a mobile hotspot for your hotel room or car.


Compact size is ideal for frequent travelers

Doubles as a Wi-Fi extender


Included cables are short

TP-Link's TL-WR902AC is one of the fastest travel routers we've seen, which is especially impressive at this size and price. Measuring 2.64 x 2.91 x 0.9 inches and weighing in at only 8 ounces, it's small enough to carry in a pocket, briefcase, or backpack, so you'll be ready to set up your own bubble of Wi-Fi pretty much anywhere you go.

For such a small device, the TL-WR902AC offers impressive dual-band Wi-Fi performance. It's also really versatile since it can be not only be used as a router or access point to create a wireless network but also as a range extender, private Wi-FI hotspot, or even as a bridge to connect a wired device to a Wi-Fi network by using its built-in Ethernet port in the opposite direction.

A built-in USB port lets you share files and media from a removable USB storage device, and it can also provide up to 2A of passthrough power to charge your smartphone or tablet. The only real downside is that the port layout can be a bit awkward since the USB and microUSB power ports are on the opposite side from the Ethernet port.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC750 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: No | Wired Ports: 1

The small size and light weight of the TP-Link TL-WR902AC is a definite boon to frequent travelers. It's so small that it easily fits in my pants pocket, making it diminutive enough to go with you wherever you go and however little you’re able to carry. The TL-WR902AC works effortlessly as a travel router; it's basically plug and play. It took me less than ten minutes to get it up and running the first time in router mode, and subsequent installations were of truly inconsequential length. I never experienced any issues with speed or reliability when using this router. I also appreciated that this router packs in dual-band capability despite its small size. Range was just OK, but by no means terrible for such a diminutive device. I was able to use it throughout a medium-sized house and around the yard beyond up to about 100 feet. — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Lifewire / Andy Zahn


Great choice for heavy internet users

Supports up to 20 Wi-Fi devices at once

Long battery life

Doubles as a mobile hotspot

Very expensive

Can occasionally overheat

While it's not the most affordable option on our list, it's well worth the splurge if you need to get several devices onto the internet from just about anywhere at blazing-fast speeds.

With support for up to 20 simultaneous devices, Netgear's Nighthawk MR1100 can easily handle your whole family or project team, and unlike most travel routers on this list, the one works as a 4G LTE mobile hotspot too. This means you'll be able to connect to its Wi-Fi network and get online even when there's no other Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection around. It's also the first mobile hotspot to support Gigabit LTE, with 4X4 MIMO and four-band Carrier Aggregation, so it's capable of providing internet speeds that can rival your home broadband connection.

It's not just about LTE, though—the MR1100 works as a traditional portable router too. Just plug a normal internet connection into the Ethernet port, and you can share access from it to your Wi-Fi devices. A large 2.4-inch color LCD screen also ensures that you can keep track of the router's status and how much data you're using. The rechargeable battery can keep you going for up to 24 hours before you need to charge it, and in a pinch, you can also use some of that capacity to charge your smartphone or other mobile devices.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac / 4G LTE | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC750 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: No | Wired Ports: 1

"While mobile hotspots go above and beyond most travel routers by letting you get online from just about anywhere, you’ll want to be careful about how much data you’re using. LTE data doesn't usually come cheap, and unlike smartphones your laptop will still think it's using a Wi-Fi connection so it won't limit its data usage. Plus, with Gigabit LTE it won't take long to rack up a huge data bill." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer


Fast single-band Wi-Fi performance

Low price

Easy setup

No USB port

Not the fastest internet speeds when connected to multiple devices

TP-Link's TL-WR802N is an older single-band router that sets itself apart by offering surprisingly great range in its small package. While the single-band N300 rating won't break any speed records, it still offers more than enough performance for lag-free 4K Netflix streaming and uninterrupted video conferences on Zoom.

Like most travel routers, the TL-WR802N is designed for use by one or two users when you’re on the go, and the 300Mbps 802.11n speeds will likely be faster than the internet connection at most hotels and conference centers you find yourself in. This little pocket-sized router offers exceptional coverage, so you won't need to worry about staying connected while you’re roaming around the boardroom.

The N300 draws its power via a micro USB port that can connect directly to a wall charger or even a laptop, so you won't have to worry about how to power it, and it can also function as a repeater, Wi-Fi client, or even an extender for a public WISP hotspot. The only downside is that, unlike its dual-band sibling, the TL-WR902AC, it lacks a USB port, so you won't be able to use it for sharing files.

Wireless Spec: 802.11n | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: N300 | Bands: Single-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: No | Wired Ports: 1

"Choosing a travel router that can be powered over a micro USB connection will greatly simplify things when you’re on the go as you’ll be able to power it straight from your laptop without having to pack an extra power adapter." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer


Fast download speeds

Multiple connectivity options

Excellent VPN support

Can be complicated to set up

Finicky in certain configurations

GL.iNet's GL-AR750S is a travel router that offers a surprising amount of power and flexibility for power users while remaining reasonably easy to use. Out of the box, you get a straightforward router with dual-band Wi-Fi, plus no less than three Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be used to plug in wired devices.

Advanced users will appreciate how much more this one offers, however, since it uses the versatile OpenWrt firmware, with both OpenVPN and WireGuard pre-installed. This means it's ready to go as a VPN gateway to protect your online privacy—something that's essential when you’re surfing from insecure hotel rooms and airport lounges. It even has 25 popular VPN service providers pre-configured, plus it automatically uses Cloudflare's encrypted DNS servers for additional security, whether you’re using a VPN service or not.

As if the three Ethernet ports weren't enough, there's also a built-in USB 2.0 port and a microSD card slot for connecting external storage devices or adding up to 128GB of storage directly to the router to use as a portable file server.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC750 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: No | Wired Ports: 3


Works as a 4G LTE mobile hotspot

Open source

Excellent VPN support


No external antenna

A great choice for road warriors who need to stay connected securely and reliably no matter where they happen to land.

With WireGuard encryption, support for multiple Open Source VPN protocols, and even Tor anonymous network routing, this router ensures that you can always have a secure and private connection to the internet if you're a relatively advanced user. Whether that's over your hotel's shared network or your carrier's LTE network, all your traffic will be encrypted, and you can even have an always-on tunnel back into your home or office network.

It's not just for mobile LTE access, however; it's also a capable Wi-Fi access point, with dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz support with 733Mbps throughput across both bands, along with a built-in battery that offers up to eight hours of use and a USB port and microSD card slots that can be used for sharing files with your connected devices. Since it's designed to be used from anywhere, it also features a built-in rechargeable battery that promises up to eight hours of use on a single charge.

Wireless Spec: 802.11ac / 4G LTE | Security: WPA2 | Standard/Speed: AC750 | Bands: Dual-band | MU-MIMO: No | Beamforming: No | Wired Ports: 1

"If you need a powerhouse for running your business from the road, this 4G hotspot will easily give you fast download speeds and plenty of security." — Katie Dundas, Tech Writer

TP-Link's TL-WR902AC offers the best bang for your buck, checking all the right boxes when it comes to ease of use, performance, range, and features. If you’re looking for something more versatile to secure your internet traffic against prying eyes when using public hotspots, the GL.iNet GL-AR750S is hard to beat, as it comes ready to use as a VPN gateway right out of the box.

Even though most hotels already offer free Wi-Fi, it's often struggling under the load of many people using it, so having your own travel router can offer better performance, especially if you can plug it into a wired connection in your room. Plus, most public Wi-Fi hotspots are completely insecure, allowing your traffic to be easily intercepted by anybody else on the same Wi-Fi network. Using a router plugged into ethernet will also often save you money as you won't have to pay for the actually usable 'premium' internet package.

The best travel routers offer industry-standard WPA2 encryption—the same type of security used by your home router—which means that all of your wireless traffic is safe from prying eyes. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are open networks that use no encryption at all, but just keep in mind that if you’re using a travel router as a wireless extender for a public Wi-Fi hotspot, your traffic will still be unencrypted between your travel router and the hotspot. For the best security, be sure to use a wired connection wherever possible, or better yet, a VPN.

Even if you’re using your own travel router in your hotel room, your internet traffic still travels over the hotel's network. While most sensitive sites and services like email and online banking use SSL encryption, this won't prevent the hotel or other public hotspot provider from seeing where you’re going, they just won't be able to see what you’re doing. If you want to make sure your connection is as private and secure as possible, we recommend using a travel router that offers built-in VPN support.

Let's face it, most of the routers on the market are pretty big and bulky devices. This isn't a huge problem if you're parking them in a corner at home, but they're definitely not suited for taking on the road with you.

This has given rise to a whole new category of travel routers: devices that are specifically designed to be extremely portable—often small enough to be carried in a pocket—and run from internal batteries or a simple USB-powered connection that lets you plug them into a laptop or portable battery pack to create your own personal Wi-Fi network.

Most importantly, since public Wi-Fi hotspots are usually insecure, a good travel router can also offer additional peace of mind by offering a private, encrypted Wi-Fi network for your traffic, securing the connections not only between your devices and the router but making sure the traffic leaving the router is also encrypted.

This means that you can take them just about anywhere you happen to land, whether it's between your home and the office, to a coffee shop where you might want to have more secure Wi-Fi, or on the road with you to use in hotels, conference centers, and airport lounges.

When shopping for a primary router for your home, you're looking for enough range to blanket your home with the kind of strong Wi-Fi signal you need to support streaming and gaming from multiple devices.

This is not the case with travel routers. In fact, you may find that even a basic router—one that offers 802.11n support at 150Mbps speeds—is more than enough.

Like other wireless routers, travel routers come in single or multi-band versions, which basically refers to the frequencies they use. A single-band router works only on the 2.4GHz frequency, while a dual-band router offers both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies on two separate bands.

As a bare minimum, every modern wireless travel router should include support for the Wireless Protected Access 2 (WPA2) encryption standard. This is even more important in a travel router you'll use in more public spaces.

While this probably isn't such a big deal if all you want to do is stream movies from Netflix, if confidentiality is important, we strongly recommend using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when connecting through a travel router. While you can do this directly from your devices, you'll probably find it even simpler to pick up a travel router with built-in VPN support so that your connection is automatically encrypted as soon as you plug it in.

Almost all travel routers offer the same type of connectivity that your home router does—turning a wired connection into a Wi-Fi network. However, as more hotels offer guest Wi-Fi networks instead of Ethernet jacks, you'll probably find it more useful to get a travel router that can also connect to a public Wi-Fi network.

There's also a category of travel routers that can act as mobile hotspots to offer internet access for your mobile devices over an LTE cellular network.

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