There are many ways to get the internet when traveling. I've been using an iPad 3 with Verizon data, and the iPad can be turned into a wifi hotspot. I have cell phones with Sprint and other networks, and those cell phones can be turned into wifi hotspots. The only problem is that getting data this way can be expensive, especially if you forget about turning off automatic updates on your laptop. Those updates can suck up 500 Mb of data instantly and without you knowing it -- costing you half a month's allotment of data, costing anywhere from $15 to $30 and even more.
Macs have a way to share an internet signal that lots of folks know about. If a Mac is getting the internet through a wired Ethernet cable, then it is fairly easy to turn that Mac into a wifi hotspot. Go to System Preferences --> Sharing, and click on Internet Sharing. Unfortunately, with a Mac, if you are getting the internet through Mac's wifi card, then you cannot also share that wifi signal. In another writer's words: The one big limitation is that you can’t both be connected to a Wi-Fi network and host a Wi-Fi network at the same time.
Here's a scenario. You are in a hotel, and the hotel allows you to use the wifi in your room, but you are only allowed to log in for one device. You have three devices that need internet data -- your MacBook, your smartphone, and your iPad. What to do?
You could get the wifi signal through your MacBook, and then share that internet connection through the MacBook's Bluetooth connection, to other devices. I've spent hours attempting to do this with no luck -- with a couple of Android phones and an iPad 3.
|Sharing Bluetooth on a Mac -- this NEVER worked for me|
If you have a Windows laptop, however, you CAN receive wifi on it and then share that wifi signal! Again, from another writer: Windows has a useful feature that allows you to create a virtual Wi-Fi adapter interface, making it possible to both connect to a Wi-Fi network and create a Wi-Fi hotspot using the same physical network interface at the same time. This feature is hidden, but you can access it using the Virtual Router software — this uses the same Windows features as Connectify, a commercial application.
I've downloaded and tested the Windows-compatible application "Virtual Router" which can be found at:
Here's the description:
Virtual Router is a free, open source software based router for PCs running Windows 8, Windows 7 or Windows Server 2008 R2. Using Virtual Router, users can wirelessly share any internet connection (Wifi, LAN, Cable Modem, Dial-up, Cellular, etc.) with any Wifi device (Laptop, Smart Phone, iPod Touch, iPhone, Android Phone, Zune, Netbook, wireless printer, etc.) These devices connect to Virtual Router just like any other access point, and the connection is completely secured using WPA2 (the most secure wireless encryption.)
Virtual Router was amazingly simple and easy to use. I installed it, it gave a simple window showing the network name, and I entered a password and chose "share wifi signal." BOOM, the Windows laptop became a wifi hotspot. I was able to connect my MacBook Pro to this wifi hotspot immediately. I did have a few problems initially with the MacBook Pro disconnecting from Virtual Router -- but after figuring out the best places to put the two laptops -- the connection has rarely dropped in the past day. The Windows laptop serving as a wifi hotspot does not transmit too far -- about 20 feet, through a wall.
However, I've not been able to connect my Android phones to Virtual Router, nor an iPad 3. I was able to connect the iPad 3 once, after restarting the Windows machine and restarting the Virtual Router software. However, the connection kept getting dropped for the iPad, whereas the connection remained steady for the MacBook.
I've therefore tried Connectify, which took a long time to install, and required the Microsoft .Net 4 framework. I kept getting a fatal installation error, so could not install Connectify.
I am sure that there are other devices out there that do the same thing, so there's no reason to lug a Windows laptop around, but I have not tried these yet.
PS I'd like to actually give compliments to Comcast and its Xfinity wifi hotspots, which are all over the place! If you are an existing Comcast internet customer, then when you drive or travel to other places, you might see Xfinity wifi hotspots. Just log into those hotspots with your usual Comcast username and password -- and voila! you will be on the internet. I've been driving around the US quite a bit recently, and I've seen an Xfinity hotspot nearly everywhere that I've been.
There are also tons of free wifi hotspots around the US. Examples are McDonald's, Starbucks, and Fred Meyer stores.