How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: How Do You Stay Connected Away From Home?

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Most of us just plug directly into our broadband or indirectly via router when we’re at home. What about when we’re out and about? This week we want to hear about your mobile broadband solutions.

When you’re out on the town, traveling, commuting to work, or otherwise not in your home office, how do you stay connected? Smartphone? 4G dongle on your laptop? Mooching Wi-Fi wherever you can find it?

Sound off in the comments with your away-from-home broadband strategy and how you ensure you’re never without internet access. Make sure to check back on Friday for the What You Said roundup.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/3/11

Comments (94)

  1. Michael

    I generally just use my smartphone. On occasion I’ll pull out the netbook and either nab some wi-fi or tether it to my phone.

  2. Lady Fitzgerald

    I use my netbook when I can find WiFi (if staying in a motel, I make it a point to stay where an internet connection is available). If visiting with a friend that doesn’t have WiFi, I usually borrow their computer. I don’t have a smart phone because I can’t justify the expense of a data plan.

  3. Twalorn

    I rely only on free wifi (cafes,restaurants,unprotected home signals, etc) for my wifi capable phone ='( but i’m saving up for a Galaxy SII with data plan =D

  4. Rohugh

    Blackberry – IM, e-mail and web.

  5. DuayneI

    Wifi where I can find it otherwise I use WiFi Tether on my ‘Droid.

  6. Mark

    iPod touch if I can get wifi, laptop if in a hotel room with wifi.

    Kindle 3 with 3g otherwise.

    Don’t have a smartphone yet :(

  7. Jack

    When I go out with my laptop, iPod touch or iPhone to a friends house I will have internet because they will tell me their WEP key :D

  8. Blisk

    I use my Droid X. I do everything I would do on a computer on it. I read the blogs I follow, Twitter (which I do primarily on my phone anyway), and email all on my phone when I’m not at home. There are somethings I can’t do easily like watch some podcasts, but other than that, I’m covered. I mainly just use my phone’s 3G when I’m not home, so it’s a bit slow for streaming video.

  9. Josh B.

    College has had wifi everywhere. It will be sad to loose.

  10. david

    I live in Nashville and we’re lucky enough to have Clear 4G, Verizon LTE, and I think Clear wholesales to Comcast (I’m checking right now …) … Comcast 4G.

    I have Clear (and have for a long time) and it’s just awful now that they’re 4G – at first I though it a part of being an early adopter and they needed to get their backhaul installed (cell tower to internet) but I keep up with nerd news and pretty much know that’s not happening now. I average 300 to 400 kbps (better and 3G, sure) unless the download stays on Clear’s network (i think … ) then it maxes out like a decent Comcast wired connection (~1.6 meg/sec).

    My friends who have Verizon’s service keep reminding me it’s like a cable modem in their pocket (whatever .. nice data cap – that’s not going to be my modem). I’m hoping Comcast provides their own bandwidth because I get great signal at home and work. I’ll find out tomorrow :-)

  11. Amarboi

    I use my iphone 4 to connect to the internet when i am away from home.

  12. Deniz

    Bought a pay as you go-card in Turkey when I was there, topped it up. Then used my netbook connected to my phone tethered, with 3G-speed. Worked like a charm, anywhere I go :)

  13. Wayne

    iPad… 3G Service. Faster downloads would be nice but the iPad suites most of needs. What it doesn’t, there is always a WiFi hotspot nearby.

  14. Wayne

    Should have added that I have a grandfathered Unlimited Plan on my iPad so I don’t really worry about bandwidth usage.

  15. nt0xik8ed

    when i’m away from home i really don’t think about it. i don’t even have my palm-pre set up to check anything online. i even turned off the texting.

  16. Nick S.

    I use my smartphone, or the nearest one around.

  17. J. Howe

    Most hotels have a free internet access, otherwise how else will they attact business visitors? I have a Galaxy S Android phone and I tried 3 different ways to use it to access the internet using my laptop. 1. Bluetooth: it is horribly slow and I found that bluetooth is only useful to access the storage when I don’t have my usb cable handy. 2. I can’t quite remember the name but there’s an application that allows you to turn your usb connection to your smartphone into a internet connection. 3. Mobile Accesspoint: This is probably the easiest and the best way of connecting your laptop or other devices to the internet via your smartphone since there’s nothing you need to do on your laptop other than selecting the accesspoint as your internet provider and punch in the password.

    However, while I was experimenting with my phone settings and another friend who has a different android model, I found that the default setting for both phone is open security, meaning that anyone who is out wardriving will take advantage of that and leave you with a hefty data access bill from your provider. Just a fair warning out to those who aren’t as tech savvy.

  18. Mike H.

    I primarily use my iPhone 4, but will use free wifi on my notebook where available. (Motels, resturants, friends)

  19. Charles

    Verizon 4g LTE for most things under the bandwidth cap. otherwise ill just tether my iphone 3gs under the unlimited data plan and make at&t squirm

  20. x3geek

    groove ip made life very easy when i went to states. uses google voice for incoming/outgoing calling and starbucks hotspots ftw

  21. Prashant

    My phone! Dont have iPad so Nokia is great!

  22. debsawyer

    My smartphone.

  23. bemymonkey

    Smartphone and its WiFi Hotspot function… along with a bunch of prepaid SIM cards (I live right on the border to two other countries).

  24. jon_hill987

    I have a 1GB data plan on my smartphone (which I am using to type this as I am away on training this week, good timing on this article) but I use wifi when available. I also have a 3G dongle which I plug into my work laptop when I am out of wifi range or the hotel charge an obscene amount to use their wifi.

  25. Afx

    Galaxy S2 with unlimited internet when i’m out an about. If i have my laptop with me, then i’ll also tether it to my phone.

  26. Johnsixfox

    I use free WiFi on the street, malls etc and my prepaid data on my iPhone.

  27. Antriksh

    I use my cellphone Internet when traveling in my own country. When outside, I have my Kindle with free 3G that works okay for travel websites and checking Facebook from time to time. Otherwise I keep looking for Wi-Fi with my phone, which has a better browser.

    I also have a new iPad that I haven’t taken out with me yet.

  28. Steve-O-Rama

    For me, it’s almost always through my smart phone (HTC Incredible); if not via the phone itself, I use PdaNet to connect my netbook. I will NOT use Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or location other than my own apartment or my parents’ home, where *I* am the only person with (reasonable) access to the wireless routers at each. I just don’t trust Starbucks, or their customers, to provide me with a secure wireless experience. Am I paranoid? Yes, very. But then again if I’m away from home and *need* greater bandwidth than my smartphone can provide for Internet access, I ain’t likely using it to check the weather or if the Mudhens won; I’d be doing work or accessing private data.

  29. DanFTF

    The internet isn’t essential for my work so I just disconnect and enjoy the break from it. Sometimes I just put on twitter by text message and that’s all I really need.

  30. the_R

    I usually use my smartphone. My data plan is very cheap ([5zł/1.7$]/month/100MB). 100Mb might not be much, but I found that it’s anout enough for syncing, maps navigation and occasional web browsing. For 15zł/5.3$ you get 500MB “unlimited” which I sometimes get, when I know I’ll be needing more. The “unlimited” part is of course crap, because after 500MB the speeds drop to EDGE speeds, but you still use it. My smartphone can act as a WiFi hot spot, so when I need it, I can connect my laptop to it. The one upside of mobile internet in Poland is that It’s quite reliable, and the sppeds are pretty much solid HSPA (+ where available, usually bigger cities).

  31. WBrown

    cell modem or tethered to my droid, if I happen to be in a fringe area, I will use both and merge the connections to get a bit more throughput.
    If I happen to be traveling in the RV, I use a satellite or LEO connection if staying more than overnight. Just not worth the effort to sight in and setup for a overnight stop.

  32. ga4a

    My Samsung Galaxy S (android) is enough to satisfy my online needs for a week. After this week I feel very out-of date and want to log in through the pc and check out all the sites I usually visit (about 20 of them in my routine)

  33. btlgrad

    I use wi-fi with laptop. I can’t justify a smart phone data plan and smart phone isn’t smart enough.

  34. Deb

    Kindle 3 with WIFI & 3G.

  35. TheGift73

    HTC Desire (Android). I’d love to have a laptop, but whenever I do manage to save some money, I’ll get lured into buying some Nikon related product.
    So when I’m out and about (Pub, shooting somewhere) then the HTC is my ‘must have with me at all times’ device.

  36. status:away

    i use my phone for general browsing. after sometime i pull out my netbook and either tether my phone ( which is horribly easy on ubuntu which powers my netbook) or use the wifi nearby,to access private file, i ssh in to my home computer and mount my home (sshfs is soooo good) and generally tunnel my usage through my home pc (security matters)….

  37. necnoc

    I use huawei pocket wifi and I’m always connected on the internet even when I’m travelling.

  38. John

    Laptop using free wifi when available such as most pubs fast food places librarys hotels etc. If not available I use a vodafhone dongle to connect anywhere. Speed is fine for browsing watching videos etc though videos do eat your credit.

  39. Jeff

    I use my Optimus V unlimited 3G data plan from Virgin Mobile only $25/month US. It allows me to setup my own wifi hotspot for my laptop if needed. But usually just carry the smartphone. Stay connected with email, skype, sipdroid voip, skyfire web browser and teamviewer for remote sessions to PC’s.

  40. gabbyan

    I usually connect using my data plan on my galaxy tab either as a mobile ap for my laptop or directly on the tab. I can’t stay offline.

  41. Patrick Lloyd

    Being one of the few geeks that doesn’t drink coffee, I’ve always found it awkward going into a Starbucks to use their free WiFi without buying anything (or maybe a bottle of water). That being said, I usually use PDANet tethered to my Droid as it doesn’t affect my Verizon data plan. Along with that, I use to get into my home computer where my media and documents are stored for on the road reading.

  42. E W

    I don’t. That’s the reason to leave home. To get away. To unplug. Have some alone time.

  43. Tyler

    I have an iPod Touch (and phone with limited data plan) and always use that at home or even away. Nowadays, wifi is everywhere. When I got to Starbucks I always buy something but nobody knows if I am actually using the wifi!

  44. cactusdr


  45. Ray_d_ohs

    I don’t… My employer has banned all broadband form their property! No cell phone coverage no broadband. and since we are over 600 miles from the nearest ISP, They can. I work in Far north west Alaska, we use a narrow satellite link… and only dream about “Real” internet access!

  46. dragonbite

    I either Mooch off WiFi or use the 3G included in the Chromebook. I don’t have a smartphone.

  47. GB

    iPhone 4 on Verizon and Sprint overdrive.

  48. Philip Sørensen

    I use my HTC Wildfire S with a dateplan, and if I need my laptop online a mobile hotspot is the answer

  49. Tony

    use my HTC Wildfire

  50. Craig

    I usually tether my iPhone, but camping this week, I used a local wifi provider. A must have when the weather turns bad!

  51. Bejaysus

    I generally carry two laptops with me one being my Macbook Pro and the other Win XP

    I use to connection methods:

    –> 3G Huawei USB Stick – for my Macbook Pro, Laptop which I perform ICS through my Ethernet cable to my Window XP machine.

    Otherwise I connect via my android smart phone either via tethering or wi-fi hotspot.

    I connect to my work network and home network via my Cisco VPN and startard PPTP VPN via dd-wrt respectively.

  52. Meg

    I use my smartphone all the way and search for free WiFi haha..

  53. esam

    i don’t.

  54. Glo

    I am still using a Blackberry — counting down the days til my contract expires.
    Got a Droid Xoom for Mother’s Day and am loving it. 3G available everywhere I go. Use web-based GUI for tracking customers. Also have a netbook with WIFI from the air, so I am always able to get online for downloading tools.

  55. Larry

    Notebook with wi-fi (if available), AT&T USB 3G Dongle backup. My experience has been that AT&T ads about coverage and speed are grossly overstated. Have been forced to use the old/slow mode many times, either because 3G is not available or has zero throughput.

  56. Ken

    I use WiFi in hotels and at the airport. I know it’s risky, but I have Linux Mint on my netbook, and nothing of importance on that machine. I do the best I can staying with relatives who don’t have WiFi.

  57. Rein Couperus

    You probably don’t believe it, but there are places on earth without 3G or wifi, even without gprs or phone service. There are even places without electricity…
    When I am on the North Pole I use pskmail ( to connect to the internet. Slow, but it’s there,
    even if all satellites are broken…

  58. Chester

    I use portable apps on my flash drive. I just plug it into any windows PC. I can check my e-mail and run open office to do any work. I also still use a HP PDA. In either case I use someone else’s internet connection.

  59. Dennis

    Generally use my Droid smartphone. When I need to connect with my laptop, I use Tether from my smartphone to my laptop via USB. Works great!

  60. Dave

    At this point I just use the 3G Hotspot in my Droid… but I’m already feeling the pain as I’m going into a completely network-free area today through the weekend.


  61. Mike

    iPad Wifi when available. iPad 3G when necessary.

  62. Crampon

    I travel with my job (a lot), all over the world.
    When I’m stationary in hotels, offices, etc…. I use my laptop with iPassConnect; which works well in pretty much every city in the world.
    When moving, I use my Blackberry Torch…. it’s a little restrictive, but gives me access to everything I need.

  63. Chris Wiktim

    I either tether to my HTC or go to a pub, there’s a lot have wifi now particularly Wetherspoons!!

  64. Alex

    DynDNS to have a name to find my broadband IP and then UltraVNC or Remote Desktop
    Dropbox for files

  65. Tushar Kant Naik

    I just use my netbook to connect to internet through my mobile phone’s 3G connection. But it’s too high tariff in my country.

  66. afuhnk

    For security and privacy reasons I stay away from free wi-fi.
    I’m very happy with my 6Gb/month 4G plan on my HTC Panache.
    I occasionally use the tether feature. Very fast, very reliable.
    I also use “Teamviewer” on my phone to access my home computer. Very useful when I forgot to mail an important file or whatnot.

  67. Ted

    With my iPad 2 (no SIM card), I use free wifi when I can, my android phone as a hotspot when free wifi isn’t available.

  68. Ted

    Oh, and I connect from my iPad to my office and home computers using

  69. TheAverageGeek

    Rooted Droid Incredible using Wifi-Tether on my laptop. I am grandfathered under Verizon’s unlimited plan – (read: 5Gb per month). I will use wifi at my family’s houses, but not out and about at places like Panera or Starbucks. It is too easy to fool your average user’s device into thinking that it’s connecting to “Panera”, when it’s really someone’s wifi pineapple trying to find out your twitter or facebook user names and passwords for nefarious purposes.

  70. Don

    I use a Verizon Wireless USB modem and a laptop.

  71. JMat

    I have an iTouch and laptop, so I purchased a Virgin Mobile mifi – 3 G connection. I only use it for extended travel. It is $40 a month unlimited. I like that I can buy a month at at time and throw the device in the drawer when I don’t need it; you can use it once a year or renew it each month.Your choice. Original cost was about $140.

  72. Dan

    Nokia smartphone with Internet plan for no worries to find an Wi-Fi.

  73. snert

    I don’t have a need to.

  74. TeKola

    Just about every town has a public library and most libraries have free wi-fi these days.

  75. dan

    I use an Asus e-Slate (Windows 7 tablet) and use the 3G mobile internet connection from my Android mobile phone (using its wireless Tethering feature). So in other words my mobile phone easily becomes a wireless router, and i connect to it with my tablet.

  76. blackberrier

    Droid X all the time. Can tether laptop if I want to risk it occasionally.

  77. RABO

    I keep a ubuntu live and puppy live install on my G1’s SD as well as some windows portable apps such as Firefox, Openoffice, etc. I carry my acer aspire one netbook(SUCKS!!!), if i am luck enough to land free wifi, but i connect via peerblock and TOR. My g1 has no datqa plan alas though.

  78. Robertson Fox

    I only use wireless broadband for my computers.
    Away from home I take the dongle and light netbook with me.
    I also check email on my small mobile phones.
    And if totally bored use my phone to read Reuters, New York Times, BBC and the Sydney Morning Herald news stories.

  79. Vickster11

    IPad or iPhone 3G works everywhere for me

  80. vicsar

    I use my laptop when I can find WiFi (if staying in a hotel, I make it a point to stay where an internet connection is available. I don’t have a smart phone because I always loose phones and I can’t justify the expense of a data plan.

  81. Lady Fitzgerald

    @ RABO. You are so right about Acer Aspire Ones sucking!

  82. Miss Parker

    When I’m away from home and work I am completely disconnected. I prefer it that way. I don’t own a laptop or smartphone and I don’t need them.

  83. Raj Khalid

    In India I use a Tata Indicomm prepaid modem. Very cheap but slow, best to download mail and do online check in. Ovreseas, in Europe all MacDonalds have free wifi so a cup of coffee and connectivity is cheap and cheerful. Most hotels in Europe have free wifi. USA is still a problem, no free wifi in the Big Macs, not too many places with free wifi. I never use data roaming, too expensive and not worth it.
    Will try the Matrix prepaid for data nex time round.

  84. astral_cyborg

    I don’t have any other mobile devices, which connect to Internet.

    If I am out, I simply don’t use the Internet or I may rely on friends devices.

    If I am at work, we have broadband connection and in combination with my home’s proxy server (I currently use Proxy Server Agent), only there I have full Internet access (with low b/w…).

  85. Tatia

    Î use my EVO hotspot whenever free wifi is not available to connect my Wifi only Motorola Xoom.

  86. Kelvin

    I look for free wifi as far as I can. I use a PC and iPad (wifi version).

  87. Suzanne

    I use free wifi if available. If not, I tether my phone to my laptop. Very convenient.

  88. Matthew KIng

    re: Rein Couperus–That’s pretty awesome! I don’t normally get the the North Pole, but I can see this as valuable in many emergency situations and war torn areas. I use free WiFi and SSL tunnel to a little proxy server I setup at home, or cell phone tether

  89. Habdab

    I use free Wi-Fi if available or I use the internet allowance on my 3 talk plan using my Nokia n96 as a modem to connect.
    I recently bought an Orange Wi-Fi small businesss dongle to use when out and about but inadvertantly ran up a £1180 bill in one month. I was under the impesssion the usage was capped at £40 but this is NOT the case. BEWARE!

  90. Juan Manuel

    Always use smartphone via 3G with Android to check emails and social networks.

  91. drosstyx

    I’m lucky enough to work on a college campus. Free Wi-Fi on my phone or laptop across the entire campus. (Even in the parking garage!)

  92. John

    I use a Wi-Fi connection if I can find one or use a “Rocket Stick” that plugs into the computers USB port. It dials into a server somewhere(?) using the cell phone network and connects to the internet. I don’t know exactly HOW it works, I just know it DOES. ;-)

  93. charlyegirl

    I use free Wi-fi where available, free tether app from android market, w/ my Droid X to my netbook, and any hotel that has free internet w/ stay.

  94. Jerry

    It’s okay for people to miss you a little!

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