How to Take Your Apple TV on Vacation

Apple TV on the Move Makes Sense, But Takes Preparation

White keyboard with vacation icons on the keys

Peter Dazeley / Getty Images 


Admit it, you're hooked. Apple TV is addictive. You can get to see pretty much anything you want, whenever you want, from anywhere, and when you don't want to watch anything, you can listen to music, learn stuff, play games. And then you go on vacation and the TV in your hotel room sucks. It doesn't have to be this way.

Here’s what you need to consider if you’re thinking about traveling with your Apple TV — it’s not as easy as you might want it to be.

What You Need

As well as an Apple TV and Siri Remote, you will need:

  • A bag to carry Apple TV
  • HDMI cable
  • An ethernet cable
  • A Lightning-USB cable
  • Apple TV power cord

And you may also need...

  • An AirPort Express or another portable Wi-Fi router.
  • HDMI to VGA adapter (with audio support)

Getting Apple TV online

While many hotels offer guests flat screen TVs, they don’t all offer broadband connections or free Wi-Fi. Adding insult to injury, some hotels insist on charging guests high fees to get online.

This means that before you travel, you should check with your destination to ensure they will be able to provide you with either a Wi-Fi network you can join your Apple TV to, or a wired broadband connection you can plug into directly in your hotel room. If you need to do that, then you'll want to take an AirPort Express or another portable Wi-Fi router with you. You'll need this in order to create your own Wi-Fi network, which will let you get your Apple TV online.

MAC Address

Even if you have Wi-Fi, the big challenge is that not every guest-focused Wi-Fi service is alike. While some destinations seem quite happy to let all their guests join the network as and when they wish, others require you to access the network using an online form, which is no good for an Apple TV, as it doesn’t have a built-in web browser.

Don’t lose hope — many large hotel chains use other companies to manage their guest online provision, and you may be able to get the tech support crew at those companies to add your Apple TV to the network manually, though you will need to give them its MAC address. Assuming you have successfully set up the device once, you’ll find the address in Settings > General > About and listed as Wi-FI address.

You are looking for that 12-digit hexadecimal code. It makes sense to find this before you travel and stick it on a label to the bottom of your Apple TV. The tech support number is often printed on the card that explains how internet access works in your hotel, or ask for help at the front desk.

Making Wired Wireless

If the place you are staying in has a wired broadband connection you can plug into, you can get Apple TV online simply by getting your Mac or AirPort Express unit online and quickly creating an ad hoc Wi-Fi network for the duration of your stay.

Follow these instructions to turn your computer into a Wi-Fi hotspot:

If you don’t have a broadband connection to plug directly into, your options will be a little more limited. You might be able to use your Mac or PC to join the Wi-Fi network, and then bring your Apple TV onto the network by plugging the Mac into your Apple TV using your ethernet cable. 

The iPhone Option

You can also use your iPhone’s 4G connection to set up a temporary Wi-Fi network to support Apple TV in your hotel room. While this will leave you liable to data charges unless you have a generous network provider, it does at least enable you to get everything online relatively fast.

Slow Coach

Before you travel, you should also find out how fast your hotel networks are. Every traveler knows that some hotel networks are quite slow, in part because they may be sharing bandwidth between many guests, all of whom might be attempting to use the network at the same time.

A slow network means that the content you are streaming will lag, stutter, and be delayed. Films may stop, and getting to new shows may take an age. In this situation, it’s going to make more sense to use your Apple TV to stream content you already have on your Mac, iPad, or iPhone than to access movies online.

One way to get a slightly better experience might be to choose the Standard Definition format of any movies you download via the iTunes Store.

Territorial Problems

You shouldn't lose hope at all these challenges. In most cases, you'll be able to overcome them, or at least predict them before you travel now that you know the right questions to ask. All the same, there is one problem you need to be prepared to face: geography.

You see, while you’ll be able to access all your iTunes content using your Apple ID, you may well find that some of the apps you use most often no longer function because you are in a place they don't support. Many streaming services will identify your location before they begin sending their content to you, denying you access if you are in a location they lack the copyright clearance to serve.

There Are Alternative Solutions

Depending on the place you choose to visit, you may find that an Apple TV isn't going to be the best way to get smart TV in your hotel room. If that's the case, then perhaps you should connect your iPhone or iPad to whatever screen is available using the Lightning Digital AV Adaptor and an HDMI cable.

If you have a generous 4G or better data allowance, you may even be able to enjoy streaming movies, and you won’t need to share your Mac number with anyone to get an iPhone or iPad online using hotel room Wi-Fi. You may also want to link up to a home media server, such as VLC.

Have a great vacation.