6 min read

Travel Router

Can a travel router solve my not so travel related problems?
Travel Router

About a year ago, I heard about a nifty little device known as a travel router. It seemed like an excellent device, but I paid little attention to it because it was solving a problem I didn’t have.

After months of frustration with my internet provider, I took matters in my own hands and figured a travel router may solve my problem.

In early January, I bought GL.iNet GL-MT3000 (Beryl AX), from this point known as the Travel Router. GL iNet sells many similar devices and frankly, most of them do the same thing.

What problem am I attempting to solve?

Problem 1: Every couple of months, my internet provider has an outage (due to planned maintenance or otherwise) and I am left without the internet for hours on end, sometimes even 12 hours. This affects the entire family as we use our internet for both work and for usual personal stuff. The travel router will allow me to hotspot my data from my iPhone to my Ubiquiti home network.

Problem 2: every few months, we take a brief vacation and it’s always annoying to sign up each device to the hotel Wi-Fi. Interestingly, the number of devices we bring with us keeps increasing every time. My son now has his own Pixel Tablet. Ideally, I would get to the hotel, hopefully find an ethernet port and have a direct connection to the Travel Router, which then would share this internet connection to the rest of the devices. My travel router can also block advertising and trackers on all devices.

Problem 3: the travel router can be my VPN when needed. For reason that are best left undocumented, I need to be seen that I am connecting from a certain country that is not where I am currently located.

Is the travel router a solution to my problems?

Problem One: Travel Router as a backup connection for my home network

The Travel Router was a frustrating disappointment because it only worked for a few minutes and the connection would end.

Let me explain. I connected my iPhone to the USB port on the Travel Router. Then, I connected a ethernet cable on the LAN port of the Travel Router which was connected to the WAN port of my UNIFI Dream Machine (my home router).

I connected my 2018 iPad Pro to my Travel Router via Wi-Fi. Using the admin panel of the Travel Router (192.168.8.1) I ensured that the connection from the iPhone was active and working, and it was. Relatively straightforward to set up. One click and the iPhone is sharing the connection to the Travel Router and my home router can use that connection to provide internet to the rest of the house. It was glorious. We all know there is a big BUT coming and there is. This glorious feeling only lasted a few minutes at best and the connection between my iPhone and my Travel router disconnected, which obviously means my home network does not have internet either. Interestingly, I tried this exact setup with my Pixel Fold and the connection worked extremely well. Problem solved. Unfortunately, my Pixel Fold has a limited data connection. It is my iPhone that has unlimited data and that is why I wanted to use my iPhone’s connection for my home network. A potential solution would have been to just swap the sims and that would be fine but will cause issues with iMessage. Beeper was briefly a solution to this but Apple seems to always impede my solutions (kidding).

At first, I thought, it was the USB connection between the iPhone and the Travel Router. Therefore, I connected the Travel Router to the iPhone hotspot via WIFI and then, the Travel Router can share the connection to my home network. The same issue persists.

During this entire process, it occurred to me I could connect my iPhone to my MacBook via USB C and share that connection to my home router via ethernet. This idea on paper is looking promising and I will update this post once I have had the opportunity to test it out.

To conclude: PROBLEM ONE NOT SOLVED BY THE TRAVEL ROUTER.

Problem Two: Hotel Wi-Fi

My family went for a two-night gateway to regional Victoria. This trip wasn’t without its problems but I will remained focused on the Travel Router situation. As soon as I arrived at the room, I was looking for an ethernet port. To my surprise, I found one behind the TV. I was super happy. A direct connection to my Travel Router is the best-case scenario. Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived. Regardless of what I did, the Travel Router did not get a connection from that ethernet port. I even tried another ethernet cable. I didn’t take my MacBook with me so I couldn’t connect it directly to my MacBook to test if the port was even working. Unfortunately, I left my USB C Ethernet adapter at home, so I couldn't connect it directly to my iPad Pro to test if the port was working. The next best option is to connect the Travel Router to the Hotel Wi-Fi and then share it with any device that connects to my Travel Router. This process was laborious.

I used my iPhone to connect to the Hotel Wi-Fi and then I disconnected that connection. I cloned my iPhone’s MAC address on the Travel Router and it instantly connected with surprisingly decent speeds. Magically, all the other devices connected to the Travel Router, and it worked. It worked very well. I didn’t have to go through each device and connect directly with the Hotel Wi-Fi.

However, there was a big flaw in this plan, which I only realised when we stepped out of the hotel room and went downstairs to the restaurant. Obviously, the Travel Router has a limited range and once again I had to connect everyone's devices to the Hotel Wi-Fi at the restaurant. At first, a part of me thought, do we really need Wi-Fi at the restaurant? But my son quickly answered the question for me. Nothing comes between him and Paw Patrol.

Using a travel router as your own hotel Wi-Fi is a great idea but only on paper. No one is spending all the time in the Hotel room (maybe, some people do). If you are like my family, we are dining at the restaurant, swimming and soaking by the pool, attempting to burn off the tiramisu at the gym, you get the picture.

The nerd in me also considered powering the travel router with the power bank and just carrying it around with me. I could have done that, but I chose not to. I may be a nerd but now I am a nerd with a family and already have enough things to carry around.

To conclude: THE INTENDED SOLUTION WORKED BUT ITS NOT PRACTICAL

Problem Three: VPN Router

The Travel Router worked really well as a solution to this problem. Using the admin panel, I set up wire guard VPN for various countries using both Proton VPN and Windscribe. The Travel Router comes with a physical switch on the side which I can toggle to turn on/off the VPN connection.

In setting up the Travel Router, I connected the ethernet cable from my home router to the WAN port of the Travel router. I then turned on the VPN and any device connected to the Travel Router was using the VPN connection. Some streaming services will not work if it detects an active VPN on the device (such as the Apple TV or the iPad) but if the VPN is at the router level (in this case on the Travel Router), the streaming service has no clue and it works perfectly. When I want to change countries, I log into the Travel Router’s admin panel and simply switch to a different wireguard connection. The entire process is swift and works flawlessly.

The Travel Router has excellent VPN support. Nothing more to add there.

To conclude: THE TRAVEL ROUTER SOLVES THIS PROBLEM.


What’s good about the Travel Router

  • It is USB C Powered and WiFI 6 support
  • Its small and I love the shade of blue it comes with
  • The physical toggle switch that can be assigned to whatever is just great.
  • Supports Tailscale
  • Adguard Home ad-blocking built in
  • System runs on Linux and admin panel is quick and easy to use.
  • Network storage support via USB: I could have connected my external drive and shared videos with the rest of the family.

CONCLUSION

I am returning this Travel Router back to Amazon because it does not solve the primary problem for which I bought it for.

For such a small device, it has so many features and for the right person, this device can solve many problems.