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A few years ago, a coworker rented a beach house on the Outer Banks. One day, she was checking her bank account when she started seeing some strange transfers going on while she was online. It turns out that someone had hacked into her account while she was checking it because she was not on a secure connection and probably using the same password that had been used by all prior renters. That experience made me paranoid.
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I refused to download any of my banking apps on my phone. And I wouldn’t check my bank accounts while traveling because I worried that someone could “break into” my account while I was checking it. After all, how safe are passwords at most wifi locations? As recently as this month, a cybersecurity analyst found the majority of banking apps they examined could potentially expose your passwords and/or banking info. Who wants that?
Do you Use Free Wifi?
Traveling as we do, I rely on free wifi to save me money and to stay in touch while I’m gone. But have you noticed that many public locations have really lousy security? I love American Airlines, but the password for their clubs’ wifi is the same all year round and at every location. And I get hives just thinking about logging on at other public locations like restaurants and bars (although I really do appreciate the fact that they offer wifi!). And if you’re traveling by car, bus, train, ship, air, or RV, you’re often accessing public wifi as well.
While I used a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection when writing for other publications, I wasn’t familiar with how to use it on a personal level. Attending the Washington D.C. Travel Conference in March, several speakers mentioned the need to add a VPN to our travel tool bag. This became even more important as we planned on leaving for China at the end of March and the government there blocks access to the social media we’re used to – no Facebook, Instagram or Google. Not sure if the country you’re visiting censors or restricts internet access? You can find a handy guide here.
WHY YOU NEED THE BEST VPN FOR TRAVEL
So what does a VPN provider do? It provides you with a safe way to access the internet in what might otherwise not be a safe environment. For example, during one of our hotel stays in China, the wifi password was 8888. That inspires confidence that no one else knows or can see your device, right? No!
Connected to a VPN, your internet traffic is kept away from prying eyes. By encrypting your communication starting right on your device, no one can snoop your data on possibly shady wifi. Also, certain governments block sites (China’s “Great Firewall” blocking Facebook/Twitter/Google) or sites prevent content from being available in your country. (News videos or sports programming not available outside the UK) You can choose VPN servers in different countries, bypassing locale restrictions. During our trip, we were in either Hong Kong, New York City, or Los Angeles, depending on the connection/need).
REASONS TO GET VPN FOR TRAVELING
Here are some of the reasons why you should use a VPN when traveling:
- Encrypt all your information sent through a public wifi
- Make secure connections with airport and inflight wifi
- Make all money transfers safe and secure
- Access Netflix and paid streaming services
- Access timely sporting events (like March Madness)
- Connect to a remote datacenter (like your employer)
- Freely access censored or restricted websites (like from behind China’s Great Firewall)
- Use private internet browsing and avoid surveillance
- Share VPN with others that need secure connections
- Use it on all of your devices, anywhere, anytime
EXPRESSVPN: the Best VPN for Travel
After researching and receiving recommendations, we settled on ExpressVPN. The timing was perfect as, right before we left for China, I received a pitch from ExpressVPN asking if I would like to let my readers know about VPN services and precautions during Spring Break. While my readers are not Spring Breakers, I found the information valuable for all of us.
Getting a VPN on your mobile devices is easy. Go to your device’s store and download the ExpressVPN app. You’ll be asked to set up an account. The monthly fee is $12.95, although if you buy an annual plan, the cost is reduced to $8.32 per month (for a total of $99.95). The best part? The company has a 30-day money-back guarantee. Try it and, if you don’t agree that it is worth it, just cancel. You can download the ExpressVPN app to all your devices, and a single account can be used by three devices simultaneously. This made one plan perfect for Allan and I, although a family where everyone wants to be online at the same time may benefit from having multiple plans.
This non-techie traveler has come to love and appreciate the use of VPN. ExpressVPN was easy to set up on my three devices: iPhone, iPad, and laptop. I cannot imagine going back to not using VPN all the time, no matter where I go or which mode of transportation I use. And if you’re traveling in an RV, check out more useful RV electrical tips.
Annick, The Common Traveler
I want to thank ExpressVPN for providing me with an annual plan of the best VPN for travel at no cost which I used during my trip to China and have continued to use upon my return (I can now use public wifi without fear!). I’m happy to report that I have been very happy with my service!