Smart phone controls of a hotel room.
zhu difeng/Shutterstock

Just because you’re leaving home doesn’t mean you can’t take smart home tech with you. Whether you’re camping, road tripping in an RV, or staying in a hotel, you can bring some of your smarthome tech with you.

Put Google or Alexa in Your Vehicle

Roav volt with google assistant in a car

Just because you aren’t home doesn’t mean you can’t have your favorite voice assistant. Some cars manufacturers are baking Google Assistant and Alexa into the infotainment system, but even if you’re in an older car, you still have options.

Anker makes both an Alexa and Google version of its Roav product. The Roav looks like a standard car charger, but it syncs with your phone and your vehicle’s speakers to give you a voice assistant on the go. You’ll need a data signal from your phone for the devices to work of course.

Amazon did announce the Echo Auto, but it’s invitation only right now, so third-party options are the only viable choice currently.

Or if you’re using a hotspot, you could take your Echo Dot or Google Home mini with you. Some hotels are starting to include Echo devices in guest rooms as well.

Determine Your Internet Options

Verizon Jetpack hotspot viewed from front and back.
Verizon

Many smarthome gadgets require the internet to work. Your video doorbell, cameras, Wi-Fi devices, all need some network access to enable all the features they provide.

So as a first step, determine what your internet access is going to be. If you’re tent camping, you may not have convenient internet access; or if you do it may be slow. But if you’re staying in a hotel, or you have a mobile hotspot with good reception, then you have more options to consider.

Keep in mind that most hotels have a guest login page, which can prevent Google home and other smart devices from reaching the internet. If you have an Amazon Echo, there’s a process for working with web browser sign-in pages. But for everything else, you may want to consider a travel router.

Travel routers can connect to a hotel’s network and then create a custom Wi-Fi network for you to use. That process bypasses the sign-in page for all your smart devices and gets around any ‘one device only’ rules some hotels have.

The easiest thing to do is to make a plan for not having the internet.

Consider a Smarthome Hub with Local Control

Hubitat hub with box on a couonter.
Hubitat

Since you can’t guarantee internet access wherever you go, and mobile hotspots often have data caps, control of your devices without the internet is the way to go. The easiest way to manage that is with a hub that works locally.

SmartThings and Wink hubs both have a small amount of local control capability, but they still mainly rely on the cloud, so you’ll want to skip those for travel. Instead, you may want to consider Hubitat, HomeSeer, or OpenHab.

Local hubs are more challenging to set up than cloud hubs like Wink or SmartThings, but the fact that they can work without the internet is the main advantage of using them for traveling. As long as you also choose smart gadgets that don’t rely on the internet (or you provide a mobile hotspot), your only concern will be electricity to power your gadgets.

Choose Z-Wave or Zigbee Devices

zigbee vs. zw-ave logos
Zigbee / Z-wave

The other advantage of using a hub, especially a local control hub, is Z-wave and Zigbee. Most smarthome hubs support Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols, and these create a mesh style network. That means you can bring plugs, lights, and sensors with you even if you don’t have a way to provide internet access.

If you’re staying outdoors, choose gadgets that work with the weather. Setting everything up is relatively close to the same experience at home, and that’s probably where you should do the setup work anyway. That way, when you arrive, you’ll only to plug everything in and provide the internet if you have that available.

With smart sensors, you can automate your arrival and departure, and if you do have internet access, you can even build a light security system that alerts you if anyone enters your room, vehicle, or campsite.

RELATED: How to Bring Your Smarthome Outside

Bluetooth Is a Decent Alternative to Smart Hubs

ilumi blutooth bulb with phone
ilumi

As we mentioned above, smarthome hubs with local control are typically difficult to use. If you’d prefer not to work through that, or spend money on one more hub, Bluetooth is another option.
You can control Bluetooth bulbs and plugs directly from your phone without the need to set up a hub. This option also works without the need for internet, although some devices offer Alexa or Google compatibility if you can provide network access.

In a hotel, placing Switchmates over the light switches will prevent you from having to get out of bed one more time to find the one switch you missed to get the last of the lights off. Your tired body will thank you for the easy controls. Just don’t forget to put the original bulbs back.

The main downside to this option is the short range of Bluetooth. You likely won’t run into issues in a hotel or RV, but at a campsite, you may need to keep things close to stay within range.

You Can’t Take Everything With You

Some smarthome devices won’t travel well. Cameras like Wyze Cam or Nest cams are an attractive option and would be useful, especially from a security aspect. But they use lots of data and likely would blow through any cap a mobile hotspot may have or suffer from throttling.

Similarly, anything you would typically attach to a house like a smart lock, thermostat, or switch, isn’t a viable choice.

But as you long as you plan correctly for the options you do have available, you can take at least some of your smarthome comforts with you when you travel.

Josh Hendrickson Josh Hendrickson
Josh Hendrickson has worked in IT for nearly a decade, including four years spent repairing and servicing computers for Microsoft. He’s also a smarthome enthusiast who built his own smart mirror with just a frame, some electronics, a Raspberry Pi, and open-source code.
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