No one likes to pay for expensive WiFi at hotels and resorts, but you do have some options. I check out two mobile WiFi hotspots here, a "free" option from FreedomPop, and a prepaid daily hotspot rental with an unlimited data option from Xcom Global, which serves the USA and 179 countries. (What is a WiFi hotspot?)
Xcom Global sent me a USA Mobile WiFi Hotspot to test out on my travels. Xcom offers a daily rental service with unlimited data. You order the hotspot online, and it’s delivered to you just before you depart. It arrives in a carry case with a USB charger, cord, instructions, and a prepaid return envelope. Printed on the outside of the hotspot are the WiFi SSID and the password that secures your connection.
I took the hotspot to Las Vegas, using it in two hotels, various restaurants, and in the Convention Center. The biggest convenience was not having to worry about finding a WiFi connection I could trust. I just turned on the Xcom hotspot, and all of my devices (phone, iPad and Chromebook) instantly had secure connections. Speed was good. Not crazy fast, but worked very well for maps, email, and basic web viewing. Xcom says the data is unlimited, but bandwidth will be decreased or cutoff by the local wireless provider if you use a lot of data. My connection was never fast enough to support streaming video or online backup. When you are done with the device, return it in the provided prepaid shipping envelope. Current cost is $14.95 per day.
As part of my normal travel gear, I also took a FreedomPop WiFi hotspot to Vegas. This can be a "free" service. You buy the hardware, and then are offered lots of service upgrades beyond the free 500MB monthly option. The catch is that free service is only a slower 3G connection, and I found coverage limited. Last year I upgraded to a 3G/4G device which costs me $3.99 a month for 500MB of data. I have also added the monthly unused data rollover service option for $3.99. This allows me to accumulate up to 20GB of data. If you go over your plan’s base data or rollover amount, you are charged on a per megabyte rate. Plans and rates vary; check FreedomPop website.
Over the years I have found the FreedomPop hotspot more than enough for my limited data usage while on the road. The Xcom and the FreedomPop Internet connection speeds were similar. If you are on a limited budget and watch your data usage very closely, this can be a good option. I also use the FreedomPop as a backup Internet connection for my home.
While watching my Twitter feed, @MurrayOnTravel, Xcom Global noticed I was headed to Mexico, so they sent me a review unit for that trip. It included a Universal Plug Adapter/USB charger, cable, instructions, case, and return label. When you travel from country to country with Xcom, they may give you different devices for specific countries. I sure was glad I had this device at my first hotel in Puerto Vallarta. It was a beautiful modern resort, their WiFi service provider was not always reliable. I pulled out the Xcom Global hotspot, and I was online. At first it was very slow, but I contacted Xcom tech support by email, and they suggested I follow the reset instructions provided with the unit’s instructions. After that it worked flawlessly. Details can be found on the Xcom Global website.
I did have one more problem, which was my fault. I left the unit on a balcony chair in Mexico's hot mid-day sun after taking the above photo. A few minutes later I lost my Internet connection. The unit had overheated. I put it in the mini-bar refrigerator and crossed my fingers. Later that day it fired right up.
The Xcom Hotspot worked well in six different locations in Mexico's Riviera Nayarit region, which included some remote resort locations. I would suggest international travelers look seriously at the Xcom Global service. The pre-paid daily rental option is a real convenience, as is the unlimited data and the ability to support multiple devices. For US residents traveling in the USA, other options might be a better choice if you watch your data usage closely.