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Travel wifi-good idea?  

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Hi! I will be traveling to another state and staying in hotels for about 10 days. I was wondering if buying a travel wifi is a good idea. What about one of those vs a vpn? Which would be better? My husband will be with me-can he hook up to my travel wifi or vpn? I wouldn't have a need for either very often so I really don't want to pay for a yearly subscription-I just want it when I need it. I have a 2014 MBP and an iPhoneXS. My husband has a 5C iPhone. We both have older iPads. I am running the latest Mojave. Thank you for your help! Judy

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I can't comment on what services are applicable where you are and where you are travelling to but I would note that "travel wifi" and "vpn" are two completely different services.

Travel wifi (if I've understood you correctly) is essentially a small device that has a SIM card in it to connect to a 4G cell phone network. The SIM card can be provisioned in various ways to make data available via different cell phone networks in different countries. The device then uses that cell phone signal to create a wifi access point (WAP) that allows your own devices to connect to it via normal wifi and hence use the data plan on the travel SIM rather than, say, the data plan on the SIM in the phone.  (This is in essence the same as what your phone does when you turn on personal hotspot.)

A VPN does not provide any internet connectivity. This is a service that runs over whatever internet connectivity you have already established to protect & route your data.

In some cases you may wish to utilise BOTH an independent 4G SIM and a VPN.

Another interpretation for travel WiFi could be where a hotel has an Ethernet port in the room, and you can plug in your own WiFi access point.

In some hotels, not all rooms get equal WiFi access, and if you get a room with a weak signal, or there are too many other guests saturating the WiFi bandwidth, connecting to an Ethernet port bypasses the hotel WiFi. You still have to authenticate to the hotel, but you can often get better networking service using an in-room Ethernet connection.

Using a VPN when traveling is more a question of whether you are going to access sensitive websites. For example, your bank vs these forums. That is to say, if you are just surfing the web, reading the news, and not accessing any sites where you keep sensitive information, you may need a VPN.

Many sites use secure TLS (formally called SSL) https connections, and for the most part, the only thing the hotel can see is where you are going, but not what you are doing at the website.

Personally, I do not use a VPN generally (such as writing this reply from a Panera cafe), and if I'm going to something where I want a stronger level of security, I'll wait until I get to work or home. If I absolutely have to access my bank (or similar sensitive website), I'll VPN into work, and make my access via the company's network. But generally, I can wait until I get to a more secure network and do not bother with the VPN.

Thank you! This explanation also helps me to make a decision on what would work best for me.

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Thank you for that clear explanation. I am going to think about which I want but you are right, maybe I want both. Judy

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