Traveling through Europe with XCOM Global mobile hotspots
Traveling to Europe without your cell phone can be rather disconcerting. We are so attune to being connected to the Internet and just a button away from everyone we know that going without cell service and Wi-Fi is downright frightening. Normally I grab a SIM card wherever I am. I pray there is good Wi-Fi in the apartments we rent. Sadly neither is always reliable, although the SIM card does get me back on my phone, but won’t get me on my laptop to work.
XCOM Global asked me to give their mobile hotspots (portable Wi-Fi devices) a test drive while the boys and I traveled through Europe. We would be in four countries, constantly on the move and could definitely give their system a run for their money. My goal was to use the portable Wi-Fi instead of a SIM card so I could stay connected with my husband back home, post updates on social media and do some work from the many apartments and hotels we would be staying in, without having to shell out extra money to stay connected. Here’s what I found at each stop along our way.
- Where’d we go? Paris, Versailles and the train to London (only used before the Chunnel)
- Provider: Orange
How’d it work? Almost perfect. We were on the Orange 3G network most of the time. There were a few spots, particularly in Versailles, where we would drop to 2G and it was hard to get my phone to connect to the Wi-Fi. There were also moments on the Eurostar train to London that it would drop to 2G and I could not connect. As long as I was on 3G though I was good to go, which was throughout most of Paris.
- Where’d we go? London and Scotland (Edinburgh, Oban, Isle of Mull and Iona)
- Provider: Vodofone UK
How’d it work? The UK was hit and miss. In London and Edinburgh the Wi-Fi device worked great. Obviously going into old basements cut off the signal, because a foot or two of thick stone will do that, but other than a few minor blips it was OK. Once we left Edinburgh though service went in and out. The technology is based on a SIM card connecting with a cell phone provider, so if I didn’t have great 4G or 3G service on my phone, I didn’t have it on the portable Wi-Fi either. The Hebrides were lacking in a signal most of the time, especially when we would drive around the Isle of Mull. Thankfully our house in Tobermory and outside of Oban in Benderloch had full Wi-fi in the house. Having the Wi-Fi was helpful, but since we were out in the middle of nowhere most of the time, I could have lived without it. Unless you are staying in major cities, it may not be worth it.
- Where’d we go? Rome, Cinque Terre (based in Levanto) and Tuscany based in (Cortona)
- Provider: Vodofone Italy
How’d it work? It was a dream having the portable Wi-Fi in Italy. The country is pretty connected via cell service. We used it to double-check our GPS directions when the TomTom we rented brought us down strange roads that didn’t connect and also to find little restaurants on foot that we had read about in tiny towns. In our hotel in Rome and our rentals in Levanto and Cortona the device worked pretty well. The signal would drop sometimes in Levanto, but for the most part it did work. Some of the little towns we hit and in the Cinque Terre we also lost service, but the Cinque Terre is a national park, which means cell towers are few and far between I’d guess. Overall the device was extremely helpful in Italy.
Since your mobile Wi-Fi is connected to local networks it is VERY important that you not turn on your device until you reach the country you will be using your Wi-Fi device in. If you try to test it out at home it can automatically disable your device, making it useless for your trip.
The battery life was surprisingly good and lasted about a half of day with continuous use. An extra battery did come with our package, which was helpful when we were out all day and needed Wi-Fi.
The charger had multiple plugs that can work in different countries across Europe. Simply pick the plug that fits the outlet and you should be good to go. You will not need an adapter at your destination.
Returning your gear
It is very, very important that you send your gear back the day after you return from your trip. If you don’t you can be charged for the extra days.
Many thanks to XCOM Global for providing me with mobile hot spots to test during our family trip to Europe in April and May. As always, my opinions are my own. When they aren’t you will be the first to know.