It’s 6 a.m.
Eighteen minutes ago, I settled myself in the American Airlines’ Admiral’s Lounge. I’m sipping on a machine-made cappuccino in my one of my favorite airport lounge chairs while I wait for the wi-fi login screen to appear…
…Nothing is happening.
I “un-settle” myself and head to the Admiral’s Lounge reception desk to inquire about their “free wi-fi.”
“I’m terribly sorry, but we’re having wi-fi issues this morning. Here’s a voucher for a premium cocktail,” the receptionist says as she hands me the coupon.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned traveling the world it’s that reliable, fast, free wi-fi is a unicorn. It’s the pink panther. Let’s be honest: reliable, fast, free wi-fi doesn’t exist.
What would Bond do?
I have no idea what James Bond would do. I’ve never seen James Bond open a laptop (his or anyone else’s) and struggle to connect to a Boingo hotspot. James Bond is never forced to watch a 2-minute commercial for the Chrysler 300 before he logs onto an airport’s “free wi-fi.” Bond’s web connection never times out in the middle of a mission-critical download.
James Bond doesn’t deal with login screens, fumble with credit cards, or debate wi-fi upgrade offers. James Bond has a constant connection to the information he needs, when he needs it.
We should all travel like Bond.
My secret agent wi-fi kit
I travel with four devices: a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, and a burner phone. Each one serves a different purpose, and three out of the four are Wi-fi-capable. For years, I struggled to find the right combination of wi-fi tools to make my constant Bond-like data connection a reality. It’s not perfect yet, but it’s a huge improvement on the “free” options we’ve all encountered on the road.
The 8-hour mobile wi-fi connection
Every morning before I check out of the hotel, I unplug my pocket-sized Karma Go. I turn it on and slip it into the front pouch of my travel backpack. For the next eight hours (sometimes a little more), I have a wi-fi hotspot where ever I go. My smartphone, my iPad, and the laptop all automatically join the network, and I’m connected. Nirvana!
I’ve been a Karma customer since 2013, and this simple, elegant, reliable device has transformed the way I travel. Instead of asking for guest wi-fi passwords at the companies I visit or struggling to connect to overloaded hotel convention networks, my Karma Go keeps me connected.
Karma has some wonderful features: It automatically refills my data plan as I run low, I get 100 free megabytes of data anytime some other desperate traveler joins my network, and the device is super-simple.
The smartphone backup
For places like Casper, Wyoming, where my Karma Go has no service, I’ve come to rely on my iPhone’s wi-fi hotspot feature. It seems that many business travelers aren’t aware that your smartphone can double as a wi-fi hotspot. I use mine sparingly (it eats into your data plan at a mighty pace), but it’s a great backup.
In the air
With a reliable connection at 30,000 feet, I can get to zero-inbox before I have to put the tray table up on a short-haul flight. You’re probably well aware of your favorite airline’s wi-fi offerings, but I fly a variety of carriers. As a result, I purchased a GoGo Air monthly membership. For $60 bucks a month, I can use GoGo’s in-flight wi-fi on a variety of carriers.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve planned on doing web-enabled work on the plane, only to discover when I board that this plane doesn’t have wi-fi. While this is now happening less frequently, Seat Guru has a handy feature that allows you to see if your flight offers wi-fi. If nothing else, it helps manage your expectations for a productive flight.
I don’t want you to think I’ve circumvented the use of unreliable, annoying, free wi-fi options. I still use crappy hotel connections and my fair share of cafe hotspots, but they’re the exception, not the rule. I’m still looking for that constant connection.
Every night I’m on the road I recharge my pocket-sized Karma Go. Invariably, the device’s battery is drained (or I’ve received the convenient e-mail alert from the device telling me the battery is about to die). And every morning, I turn it on, ready for another day of Travel Like Bond.
Want more travel tips worthy of Bond? See An Intelligence Team In Your Pocket.