The 6 Best Wireless Travel Routers of 2021

Pocket routers for Wi-Fi networking on the road

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The Rundown
TP-Link’s TL-WR902AC is an impressive little travel router that offers lightning-fast performance despite its small size.
This device can support up to 20 devices at once, giving you fast, powerful, and secure internet speeds.
Despite the device’s small size, it has a powerful range, letting you extend your Wi-Fi’s reach across a wide area.
Best for Power Users:
GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext at Amazon
It offers dual-band Wi-Fi with fast speeds of up to 733MB per second and full 5GHz 802.11ac support.
Best for Road Warriors:
GL.iNet Mudi GL-E750 at Amazon
For business travel, where speed and security are paramount, the GL.iNet Mudi GL-E750 is an excellent choice.
This budget pick has a small price tag and a lot of features.

Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, having access to a secure internet connection is essential. Most public Wi-Fi networks aren’t completely safe, as they can be hacked by anyone, putting your data at risk. They can also be slow and unreliable, which is dangerous if you’re on a tight deadline.

Instead, many travelers carry a portable wireless travel router, giving them instant access to a secure wireless network. This way, you’ll never miss an important Zoom call, you can keep the kids occupied with Netflix, or you can send friends back home photos from your trip. 

When buying a travel router, you’ll want to consider factors such as price, data transfer speed, battery life, and security features. In addition to the cost of your router, you’ll probably pay a monthly or yearly fee for a set amount of data that you can access via your device. Some routers offer additional features like the ability to double as smartphone chargers or internal storage for files or data. 

If you’re new to wireless routers or are shopping for a new one, we’ve done the research for you—here are the best wireless travel routers currently on the market.

Best Overall: TP-Link TL-WR902AC AC750 Travel Router

TP-Link TL-WR902AC Portable Wireless Travel Router
What We Like
  • Compact size is ideal for frequent travelers

  • Fast performance

  • Affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Included cables are short

  • Older units have security issues

TP-Link’s TL-WR902AC is an impressive little travel router that offers lightning-fast performance despite its small size. This tiny device is ideal for travel too, since it takes up minimal space in any luggage or briefcase—it can literally fit in your pocket. 

Not only does the router offer impressive dual-band Wi-Fi performance—up to 433Mbps on the 5GHz 802.11ac side—but it’s also incredibly versatile. In addition to a router, it also functions as a range extender (if your home Wi-Fi is weak in certain areas), a private Wi-Fi hotspot for WISP networks, or even as a Wi-Fi client to allow you to connect a wired device to a Wi-Fi network via its built-in Ethernet port.

Use it to securely browse the web or work, no matter where you are. However, note that the included cables are on the shorter side, so you’ll have to position it accordingly. Overall, it’s a top choice for anyone looking for a secure, fast, and affordable travel router—just be sure to purchase the most recent model, as older units don't have up-to-date firmware and are no longer secure.

Data Transfer Rate: 300MB per second | Power Source: USB power adapter | Weight: 0.66 pounds

"Since power is supplied via a micro-USB port, this router could easily be powered via a portable battery pack, which means you don’t necessarily even need a wall outlet to use it." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

TP-Link TL-WR902AC Travel Router

Lifewire / Andy Zahn

Best Splurge: Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 Mobile Hotspot 4G LTE Router

Netgear Nighthawk MR1100
What We Like
  • Great choice for heavy internet users

  • Supports up to 20 Wi-Fi devices at once

  • Long battery life

What We Don't Like
  • Very expensive

  • Can occasionally overheat

Netgear is well known for its great home and business routers, so it shouldn't be surprising that it offers a premium mobile travel router as well. It’s worth splurging on if you need to do some serious online work, since this device can support up to 20 devices at once, giving you fast, powerful, and secure internet speeds. 

Unlike most of the other travel routers reviewed here, the Nighthawk M1 also works as a 4G LTE mobile hotspot, which means you'll be able to connect to its Wi-Fi network and get onto the internet even when there's no other Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection available. 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.

The Nighthawk M1 offers a decent 24 hours of battery life per charge and also allows for charging of other USB devices, like your smartphone. We also love the addition of an LCD screen, making it easy to monitor your data use and signal strength. If you’re looking to spend a bit more on a device, the Nighthawk M1 can easily handle large downloads and heavy internet use.

Data Transfer Rate: 1GB per second | Power Source: 1 Lithium Ion battery (included) | Weight: 240 grams

"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

Best Range: TP-Link TL-WR802N N300 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router

TP-Link N300
What We Like
  • Fast single-band Wi-Fi performance

  • Low price

  • Easy setup

What We Don't Like
  • No USB port

  • Not the fastest internet speeds when connected to multiple devices

The TP-Link TL-WR802N N300 Wireless Portable Nano Travel Router is a cute, compact, and pocket-sized router that can travel with you anywhere, delivering 300MB per second for gaming, fast downloads, or just browsing the web.

Despite the device’s small size, it has a powerful range, letting you extend your Wi-Fi’s reach across a wide area. It’s a single-band 2.4GHz network, rather than dual-band, but that should be adequate for one person as long as you’re not using it in very busy places. 

If you’re new to wireless routers, you’ll find the N300 easy to set up and use, making it simple to connect for all of your basic internet needs, like streaming, browsing social media, and checking email. Five useful modes are included as well, letting you use the N300 to create hotspots or extend the range of your home Wi-Fi. It can also be used as a wired network to connect to devices like printers that might not have wireless capability.

While it might not be the fastest router, especially if multiple users are logging in, the N300 is still an affordable and versatile wireless router for leisure or business travel.

Data Transfer Rate: 300MB per second | Power Source: 1 Lithium Ion battery | Weight: 7.2 ounces

"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

Best for Power Users: GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext Gigabit Travel Router

GL.iNet GL-AR750S Wi-Fi Travel Router
What We Like
  • Fast download speeds

  • Multiple connectivity options

  • Excellent VPN support

What We Don't Like
  • Can be complicated to set up

  • Finicky in certain configurations

If you’re an advanced user looking for a travel router that’s powerful and versatile, then the GL.iNet’s GL-AR750S has you covered. It offers dual-band Wi-Fi with fast speeds of up to 733MB per second and full 5GHz 802.11ac support, but there are also three Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be used to plug in wired devices, plus a Gigabit WAN port that ensures you get the fastest possible internet speeds.

In addition to its top-notch performance, the GL-AR750S uses OpenWRT firmware, making it highly configurable, and with OpenVPN and WireGuard pre-installed it can act as both a VPN client and a VPN server right out of the box. In fact, it’s ready to go with over 30 VPN service providers. Thanks to the OpenWRT firmware, it can also easily be set up to act as a repeater/extender, bridge, Wi-Fi client, hotspot, USB modem, or even do network checks. 

Not all travelers will need so many complex features in a router, so it might offer more than you need. Due to its many offerings, setting up this router can be complex, so it’s a good choice only if you’re already comfortable using routers and are shopping for one with advanced features.

Data Transfer Rate: 750MB per second | Power Source: USB | Weight: 3.03 ounces

Best for Road Warriors: GL.iNet Mudi GL-E750 Portable 4G LTE Router

GL.iNet Mudi GL-E750
What We Like
  • Works as a 4G LTE mobile hotspot

  • Open source

  • Fast internet from a durable device built to last

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

  • No external antenna

On the road constantly? If so, it’s worth investing in a high-quality router that can provide you with all the speed, security, and features you’d get from your office. The GL.iNet Mudi GL-E750 Portable 4G LTE Router is a top choice for frequent travelers, giving you a premium router from a brand known for its security.

This router is packed with useful features, including 4G LTE support, OpenVPN, OpenWRT support, 128GB of internal storage, and DNS encryption. Combined, these features mean users have a versatile router with plenty of security features, ideal for protecting trade secrets and confidential company data. 

The router itself is small, smooth, and compact, easily sliding into any briefcase or camera bag. Once you’re ready to work, the device provides up to eight hours of use and quick download speeds, letting you work efficiently.

Like the GL.iNet GL-AR750S-Ext reviewed above, this router contains plenty of complex features that might be above and beyond what the average traveler needs. But for business travel, where speed and security are paramount, the GL.iNet Mudi GL-E750 is an excellent choice.

Data Transfer Rate: 300MP per second (2.4GHz) + 433MP per second (5GHz) | Power Source: 1 Lithium Polymer battery (included) | Weight: 8.8 ounces

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

Best Budget: GL.iNet GL-AR150 Mini Travel Router

GL.iNet GL-AR150 Mini Wi-Fi Travel Router
What We Like
  • Built-in VPN support

  • Dual Ethernet ports

  • Versatile

What We Don't Like
  • Can be complicated to set up

  • Only supports 2.4GHz 802.11n

This budget pick has a small price tag and a lot of features, making the GL.iNet GL-AR150 a smart solution for travelers who want to quickly convert wired networks into wireless ones. Weighing only 1.41 ounces and measuring 2.28x2.28x0.98 inches, the AR150 comes with OpenVPN pre-installed for increased security.

Compatible with over 20 VPN service providers and with TOR firmware, the GL-AR150 provides maximum protection while surfing on insecure web networks. Powered by any laptop USB, power bank, or a 5V DC adapter, the GL-AR150 is perfectly sized for tucking into a carry on or backpack for use at a hotel, remote workplace, or in the office. Available with dual Ethernet ports, 64MB of RAM and 16MB of flash, the GL-AR150 can increase its memory with external USB sticks. With a top speed of 150Mbps and low power consumption, GL-AR150 can also be used to take a smartphone’s 3G or 4G connection and convert it into a private Wi-Fi network for your other devices.

"150Mbps may not sound especially fast, but it’s actually better than the speed you’ll get from most hotel networks, and should be more than sufficient for a single user—even for high-bandwidth tasks like video streaming and conferencing." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer

Final Verdict

Our pick for the best overall travel router is the TP-Link TL-WR902AC AC750 (view at Amazon). It’s fast, affordable, and secure, with all the features you could want in a portable router.

Or, if you’re on a tight budget, the GL.iNet GL-AR300M Mini Travel Router (view at Amazon) is a good choice too. It offers fast single-band Wi-Fi and is also open source, making it programmable. 

About Our Trusted Experts

Katie Dundas is a writer and journalist with a passion for technology. She has written for Business Insider, Travel Trend, Matador Network, and Much Better Adventures. Katie specializes in travel technology.

Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings.

Andy Zahn has been writing for Lifewire since April 2019. When he’s not obsessing over (and writing about) the latest gadgets and consumer technology, he can be found traveling and photographing the wild Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest, or tending to a herd of obnoxious goats on a small farm in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens.

FAQs

If your hotel already has Wi-Fi, why do you need your own travel router?
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. 

Are travel routers more secure?
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.

Can hotels see what websites you visit on Wi-Fi?
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.

What to Look For in a Travel Router

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, of course, 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 that 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.

Netgear Orbi
 Lifewire

Portability

Any wireless travel router should be portable enough to take on the road with you, but there's still a range of sizes and features here to consider.

For example, a travel router that includes an internal battery will naturally be a bit bulkier, but it can also save you the trouble of having to carry a separate power adapter. The larger the battery, the longer it will last. However, you will still need to charge it when the battery runs down, so leaving the power adapter behind might be fine for short jaunts to a coffee shop, but you're still going to need to pack it for business trips. 

Those that don't include built-in batteries will have to be plugged in somewhere before they can be used, but most can be powered over USB, so you can run them from a laptop. If you're going to need to tether your travel router to your laptop anyway, that might also defeat the purpose of having one, since you could just as easily plug your laptop straight into the wired Ethernet connection and use that as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Bandwidth and Performance

When shopping for a primary router for your home, some of the most important specs to look for are that it provides enough coverage to blanket your home with Wi-Fi, along with the kind of performance that 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 N150 router—that's one that offers 802.11n support at 150Mbps speeds—is more than enough. Remember that in many cases, a wireless travel router only needs to support one user. Even if you plan to use it with your laptop and smartphone and tablet while you're traveling, you probably won't be streaming movies or downloading large files on all of these devices at the same time.

If you plan on using a travel router for family road trips, it certainly doesn't hurt to move up to something faster, but even then an AC750 router, which offers dual-band performance at 750Mbps, should be more than adequate. To put things in perspective, streaming a 4K movie from Netflix requires a maximum throughput of 25Mbps.

Just keep in mind that there's a good chance that anywhere you plan to actually use a travel router isn't going to offer especially fast internet speeds. In most hotels, you'll be really lucky if you're sharing a Gigabit connection with every other guest in the hotel, which means that you're likely to be limited to around 20Mbps, and that's on a good day.

TP-Link TL-WR902AC Travel Router

Lifewire / Andy Zahn

Range and Coverage

In much the same way that you don't need your travel router to have the fastest speeds, you probably don't need to be too concerned with its range either. You'll notice that almost no travel routers include external antennas, simply because they don't need to cover much more than a single room. 

In fact, it can be a disadvantage to have too much range on your travel router, since you don't really want to be broadcasting your Wi-Fi network to everybody in the vicinity. If it can reach your own devices, that's really all you need, and in most cases that simply means getting to every corner of your hotel room. Most offer enough range to accomplish this even in a larger suite or condo.

Wireless Frequencies: Single-Band vs. Dual-Band

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. 

In practical terms, you'll get better performance on the 5GHz band and better range on the 2.4GHz side. Since as we already explained, range and speed aren't too critical in a travel router, these specs don't matter as much as they do when purchasing a home router.

That said, a dual-band router can offer one very important advantage if you plan to use it in busier places like hotels and airports, and that's the fact that the 2.4GHz frequency is usually a lot more congested, since not only do more people (and devices) use it for Wi-Fi, but many other devices like cordless phones, security systems, and even microwave ovens create interference on the 2.4GHz frequency. The 5GHz band, on the other hand, is usually pretty clear of anything except other 5GHz Wi-Fi devices, which are still considerably less common than those that use the 2.4GHz band.

Note that you won't find any tri-band travel routers—that is, those that offer a second 5GHz band—as there's really no need for this. The purpose of a tri-band router is to divvy up the 5GHz devices in busy homes and offices onto separate bands to minimize congestion and maximize performance. However, a given device can only use one Wi-Fi band at a time, so a second 5GHz band on a travel router would be a waste as it would sit there unused.

Security and Privacy

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 that you'll be using in more public spaces.

However, if you're concerned about security and privacy, there's also not much point in using WPA2 encryption if the signal that leaves the router on the other side is "in the clear," which it will be in most cases. 

If you're extending from a public Wi-Fi hotspot, in fact, WPA2 encryption is basically pointless, since a hacker can simply intercept your traffic between your travel router and the public hotspots, and while a wired connection is slightly more secure, you're still going through your hotel's wired network, with plenty of opportunities for somebody to monitor your traffic on the way out.

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, and 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.

Netgear Nighthawk C7000

Connectivity

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 move toward offering guest Wi-Fi networks instead of Ethernet jacks, you'll probably find it more useful to get a travel router that can connect to a public Wi-Fi network as well.

Since most hotel Wi-Fi networks aren't encrypted at all, this has the advantage of giving you your own WPA2-secured Wi-Fi network, as we noted earlier, but it can also sometimes offer a performance boost over the hotel's own Wi-Fi since the travel router also acts as a range extender.

Lastly, there's a third category of travel routers that can act as mobile hotspots to offer internet access for your mobile devices over an LTE cellular network. This is usually accomplished either by including their own built-in LTE modem that you can activate with a cellular carrier or simply supporting a third-party LTE modem through a USB connection. This second option can be a bit more complicated to set up, but it's also a less expensive way to go, since you can add cellular connectivity if you decide you need it later.

Additional Features

At a basic level, a wireless travel router really just needs to be able to do one thing: provide you with a Wi-Fi network. Some go the extra mile, however, offering features such as integrated USB ports or microSD card slots that can be used to share media and other files with your devices, or even acting as a portable battery pack to recharge your smartphone while on the go.

These can be useful features if you need them, but you shouldn't get caught up too much in the bells and whistles. After all, media sharing is great if you plan to use a travel router with friends or family members, but if you're a solo business traveler, chances are you can plug a media card or external hard drive into your computer just as easily, where you won't have to worry about Wi-Fi streaming performance. 

Similarly, while it's always good to have some emergency battery power while on the go, any wireless travel router that offers a large enough battery to make this practical is going to be bulkier, so there's a definite tradeoff there.

Brands to Know

Ravpower

Since it's probably better known for its power banks, Ravpower also has a couple of great little wireless travel routers, some of which not surprisingly also double as power banks. When it comes to additional features, however, Ravpower's FileHub routers are veritable Swiss army knives, with SD slots, media sharing, and more.

TP-Link

Well-known for its lineup of affordable routers, TP-Link has some pretty solid entries among travel routers as well, offering good range and performance, even among single-band models. While you won't get all of the bells and whistles with these, they do the one important thing—creating a Wi-Fi network—and they do it very well.

GL.iNet

GL.iNet's entire business is making small, pocketable routers, and when it comes to security features, they're among the best, thanks to their use of open-source OpenWrt firmware. Most of GL.iNet's little boxes not only offer versatile connectivity, but include a full slate of built-in VPN security features, which come pre-configured to make them easy to get up and running without needing to be a networking expert, but surprisingly there's a lot of room for advanced users to tinker with GL.iNet's routers as well.

Netgear

Netgear is a leading name in traditional home routers, making some of the best options on the market, and while it doesn't offer nearly the same wealth of options among travel routers, it does offer the Nighthawk M1, a mobile hotspot router that can offer Gigabit LTE speeds, along with the versatility to be used as a traditional wired travel router whenever you have a wired connection available.

Netgear Nighthawk RAX80
Lifewire / Jeremy Laukkonen
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