The first few times we traveled overseas, we made sure to turn off the voice and roaming on our phones and used apps like What’s App or iMessage while on WiFi to stay in touch with people back home. If we really needed to make a phone call, we had a cheap pay-as-you-go phone and we would pick up a limited SIM card when we arrived at the airport. It was all a bit of a hassle but the alternative of expensive roaming charges wasn’t too palatable. Nowadays, there are many other options for staying connected traveling internationally. First, you can purchase an international roaming plan from your mobile carrier. Or, you can rent a MiFi, or personal WiFi device, from a supplier like Tep Wireless.

We have tried both and I think there are two main advantages to going the MiFi route. But first, let me tell you how it works.

Montepulciano

Tep Wireless Review

How it Works – Staying Connected Traveling Internationally

Tep Wireless is basically a MiFi rental company. For $9.95 a day, you can rent the device for the duration of your trip and it includes unlimited data. You go onto their website, select the country you are visiting and your dates and order your device. The MiFi device, which is small enough to fit into your pocket, is shipped to your home to arrive before you leave. When you return, you simply slip it into the return envelope and drop it in the mail — easy, peasy.

Since you pay for each day you use the service, you will want to arrange your device to be activated starting on the first day of your trip. The only downside to this, is that you don’t get a chance to try it out before you leave. It made me a little nervous to “trust” that it would work when it was my only way to connect. But no worries, I used the service on a recent trip to Italy and when I turned it on upon arriving in Rome, everything worked perfectly. I would just recommend reading through how it works before you leave. The only downside is that it was a bit of a hassle to activate the device and enter the WiFi password in my phone while navigating the airport.

As I mentioned, each day you will have to turn on the device and activate it for the day. Once you have entered the password once into your phone or computer, you will be all set…just like any other WiFi network. It does take a few minutes to boot up and connect though, so if you are in a panic looking for directions or need to be connected asap, you may want to connect and leave it on before you go.

The service claims to offer:

  • 8 hours of battery life with 20 hours of standby
  • Connection for up to five devices at once
  • No cables or set up
  • A 15 meter area of connectivity
  • No data limits or caps

    Tep Wireless

    Image courtesy of Tep Wireless

Tep Wireless Pros and Cons

There were a few things I really loved about the Tep Wireless service. First, you can connect multiple devices at once. We used a similar service when we were in Iceland and it was so nice to not just have my phone connected for driving directions, but everyone else could connect too if they got bored on those long drives around the country. Instead of having to pay for a plan for each phone, you have one MiFi connection for everyone.

Also, when I was in Italy, I was traveling with a bunch of other women. One lived in Italy so she had her regular phone service, but her phone had a really old version of Google Maps so it wasn’t reliable for navigating through Tuscany. Two others had signed up for international roaming plans from their mobile carriers (two different networks), and both of them had trouble actually connecting to data when we needed it. By the end of the trip, they had figured out what they needed to change in their settings to make it work but the connection still wasn’t reliable. So oddly enough, it ended up being me and my Tep Wireless connection that saved us we were lost in the hills of Tuscany!

What I didn’t like as much was that I didn’t find that eight hour battery life to be accurate. What I would do is turn off the Teppy device when I didn’t need it to conserve battery and also bring along extra chargers.

Also, I found myself usually getting connected at 3G speeds in Italy. For someone used to fast connections, this was frustrating. I’m not sure if it would have been different with a plan on my phone…but at least I COULD connect.

The last con is not a big deal but it does give you one more thing to carry throughout the day. The device doesn’t need to be physically tethered and it works within 15 meters so it can stay in your purse or backpack but if you are like me, you like minimizing your load so carrying just your regular phone certainly would be lighter.

I think if you are traveling with a family, going the MiFi route makes sense so everyone can connect, especially if your hotel doesn’t have free WiFi.

How do you stay connected internationally?

Note: I was given a loaner device for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

 

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