Vacation is the perfect opportunity to disconnect, but that’s mainly from work and other responsibilities, not everything. You’ll undoubtedly still want a good internet connection for keeping in touch with friends and family on social media, researching local places to eat or streaming your favorite shows when you have the down time.
In this guide, we’ll give you a quick rundown on how to quickly get online using a hotspot, and how to find free Wi-Fi anywhere in the world. (You can also learn how to tell if your Wi-Fi is slow due to internet throttling, how to speed up your Wi-Fi and our picks for the best VPNs.)
What is a hotspot?
A hotspot is a central location or device that offers wireless access to the internet, and any network device can connect provided it has the right access. Depending on your mobile provider and plan, you may be able to use your smartphone as a hotspot.
There are two different types of hotspots: public and private.
In the above scenario where you’ve paid your mobile provider for the ability to create a hotspot with your smartphone, the smartphone is the physical device that creates wireless access for other Wi-Fi-enabled devices, like laptops, desktop computers and streaming devices. This is an example of a private hotspot.
A public hotspot is usually created by a business to provide internet service when visitors, customers and clients are on site. Many free, public Wi-Fi connections are hotspots. But for the sake of accuracy, it is important to note a difference between standard Wi-Fi and a hotspot.
What’s the difference between Wi-Fi and a hotspot?
Whereas hotspots are a physical location or device, Wi-Fi is a wireless technology that devices can use to send information to each other. If you have Wi-Fi at home, it’s because you have a Wi-Fi router quarterbacking all of your wireless gadgets, and an internet service provider that’s connecting that router to the internet.
So long as you set a strong password, a private Wi-Fi network like that is going to be more secure than a public hotspot because you control who and what connects to it. Public hotspots, on the other hand, are open to anyone within range, which is why it’s a good idea to use a VPN or some other security measure if you need to do anything sensitive, like shopping or sending money.
How to find free Wi-Fi or free public hotspots
While this probably won’t be possible at home (unless you happen to live really close to someone who has an unsecured network), there are usually lots of options for