Many Reasons Why To Use A VPN When Travelling

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We Always Use A VPN When Travelling

We always use a VPN when travelling. Do you? Many people think of VPNs as something that only computer-savvy geeks use. Or something that is mandatory for business travellers accessing their company networks. As a former technology executive, I probably am a bit of a tech geek. And I used VPNs for business communications.

But VPNs really are easy to find, install and use. And subscribing to a reputable VPN service is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

How To Get And Use A VPN

VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. It provides a secure communications channel between your device (computer, tablet or phone) to the web services you are using.

There are many options out there for VPN services. You simply sign up for the service and then install the client software on all of your devices.

When you want to turn on the VPN, you just start the app. You will often get the choice of a server location when you start the service. If you have installed the app on your cell phone, you may be able to just turn on the VPN through the phone settings page.

Some VPNs include the capability to “auto start” when they detect a network login. This means you will never forget to turn on the VPN. But I prefer the ability to turn on the VPN when I need it. You probably do not want or need a VPN always on.

A VPN Keeps You Anonymous

A VPN helps to keep you anonymous. Every computer when connected to a network gets an IP address. This IP address identifies you to services you connect to. This means that anything you do when connected can be tied to your device. A VPN provides you with a random IP address that is never directly linked to you. And that IP address changes every time you log in.

There are many reasons why you may not want to be identified with what you are doing on the internet. As a traveller, you may want to get access to travel services that don’t remember who you are. This may get you different pricing or different options. You may use your internet browser in “private” mode. But a VPN adds another layer of anonymity.

A related issue is traffic logging. The more reputable VPN services keep no traffic logs whatsoever about what you do on the internet. Even if they were asked to provide data, there is nothing that can be tied to you. There may be times when you would not want your data exposed if that logging server is hacked. Or accessed with a warrant.

A VPN Keeps You Safer

When we travel, we find that so many of the networks we encounter are totally open with no password. Or the password for a network is a generic one for everybody. These networks are never safe from the potential to have network traffic hijacked. Whenever we connect to these networks, we turn our VPN on.

The internet data then travels in a secure “tunnel”. The data is encrypted. So even if someone can intercept the data, they can do nothing with it.

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Even if we have logged on with a specific password, there are times when we want to have our VPN on for security. If we need to enter a secure password or do a financial transaction, we put the VPN on. We would never want to have this data compromised.

VPNs Give You Access To Sites In Other Areas

If you log into a network, you IP address is identified to a specific location. Many internet sites limit access based on where you are located. If you want to watch your home tv streaming services, your device probably needs to look like it is in that location.

When you log on to your VPN, you can usually pick a server location. And if you get a VPN with a broad set of server locations, there is a good chance that you can log in and look like you are local to almost anywhere.

It is easy to get and use a VPN when travelling.

VPNs Get You Online When Internet Access Is Blocked

There are countries that block access to the internet. When we travelled to China, we knew in advance that many social media sites where blocked. A VPN allowed us to get around this. We logged into another country and had full internet access while we travelled in a country with restricted access.

How To Pick A VPN

Since there are a large number of VPN providers, you need to decide which one to use. Some considerations for picking one …

Pricing

There are both free and paid VPN services. This is a case where you often get what you pay for. While free services may be tempting, you may be sacrificing reliability, access and support if you are getting something free.

Server Distribution

We wanted a VPN with lots of servers and locations of servers. This meant that we had greater flexibility in picking a server close to where we were or where we wanted the server to be located.

Support For Multiple Devices

You want a service that supports multiple simultaneous device connections. This lets you have more than one device connected at at time. And share it with other travel partners.

Support For Specific Countries

You may want a VPN that supports specific countries where the internet may be blocked (e.g. China). Not all VPNs have this capability.

Data Logging

Alway read the fine print to see if the VPN service logs the data. It defeats the purpose of using a VPN if there are logs that might allow someone access to your network traffic.

Support

You want to pick a company that has a great support reputation. They will help you to troubleshoot when you run into a problem. Or quickly answer any support questions you have.

These are the key things we considered when we chose a VPN to use when travelling.

What VPN Did We Choose?

When we got our first VPN, we talked to many of our techy friends. We decided that IPVanish provided all the things we were looking for. It was reasonably priced if you paid the annual fee. This works for us since we travel all year around. There was no logging, good support and it let us have 10 simultaneous connections. We can pick the location when we start up the VPN. There been no problems with IPVanish since we started using it. It is installed on every device we own.

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When we planned our trip to China, one of the early things we looked at was VPN requirements. China blocks many internet services and the only way to access them is through a VPN. But it also became clear that not all VPN services worked equally well in China. We finally decided to add a second VPN that was recommended for use in China. We added ExpressVPN to our tech toolkit. It worked well most of the time we were in China. We got updates with server recommendations. The major downside of this VPN is that it only allows 3 simultaneous connections. David and I continually juggled the connections between us. ExpressVPN is a great option but since we really only need one, we will not renew this VPN when our annual subscription expires.

It was never a question that we wanted to use a a VPN when travelling. We just needed to do a little research to pick the VPN that was best for us. For the situation we needed it for.

Things To Consider When Using A VPN On Your Travels

A VPN fixes a lot of issues when travelling. But it does introduce some challenges that we needed to be aware of too.

There were many networks we found that did not support a VPN. We are finding this to be less of an issue than it used to be. But often the free fully open networks will block the VPN (e.g. airports). This is particularly annoying since these open networks are where the biggest risk exists.

Some internet sites required you to be local for access. The fastest connection VPN server may not be the one located where a web site wants you to be located. But if your VPN allows you to select a server exactly where you need to be, you should be able to get in. Even if it is a bit slower.

That leads me to the next point. Your network access speeds will slow down when you are going through a VPN. Depending on the VPN service or server location you select, your speed degradation will vary. The more reliable VPN services have less slow downs.

And sometimes a web site will just not work with a VPN on. I have had trouble with banking, hotel and credit card sites being very finicky when I am trying to get in through a VPN. And these are the services I want to access behind the VPN. Often I can get in if I try a server in Canada. Not surprisingly I guess, the websites know I am Canadian and may be doing a location check as part of some security checks on login.

There are some downsides to using a VPN. And thus you may not want to use a VPN all the time. But there are also so many reasons why you should use a VPN when travelling.

Why Aren’t You Using A VPN When Travelling?

We have a lot of apps we use for travel planning and when travelling. If we are travelling with any kind of device, we would not travel without the ability to turn on a VPN. We are often on the road for extended periods. And simply cannot disconnect from the internet. We need to do banking, travel booking and access our secure data when we travel.

A VPN is easy to purchase and use. It gives us a sense of security when we access online services. We can’t imagine not using a VPN when travelling. If you can disconnect or limit what sites you access when travelling, then maybe you can pass on a VPN. But if not, are you prepared for the risk?

Do you use a VPN when travelling? Any other advice on picking or using a VPN?

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About TravelAtWill 491 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

24 Comments

  1. I can see why a vpn is important to securing your data especially in regions where things are not secure and restricted. I didn’t know there are free vpn services so that is cool.

    • Noel, I am surprised there are so many wide open networks. And as a former techie, I know how easy it is to sniff the traffic. And anyone with bad intent will take advantage of that. Just an extra safety precaution if you have to access things you don’t want others to see. Linda

  2. Great guide and we agree about the importance of staying secure on the internet when traveling. We currently use Express VPN which works for us, the limitation of devices is a little frustrating. Having a VPN is a adds that necessary bit of security when traveling and needing to make reservations, etc. A must for all travelers. Love this article!

    • Rosemary, We certainly found the ExpressVPN worked well in China. And everywhere else we tried it. I just wish they would increase the concurrent users. Glad you liked this post. Linda

  3. I always wondered how VPN works (and what it stands for :). Sounds logical that it provides a random IP address that is never directly linked to the computer in question. It doesn’t seem complicated to install and use and yet, it does give a certain peace of mind. Would definitely consider using the VPN, thanks for the suggestion.

  4. Wow a very detailed and helpful post. I’ve always been intimidated by the technology of using a VPN. Wasn’t sure where to start. Do you have other VPN networks to recommend?

    • Sharon, IP Vanish and Express VPN are the only two that I have any personal experience with. There are many others out there. And probably other blogger suggestions if you check. Linda

  5. I definitely have thought of them as something that only computer-savvy geeks use, I didn’t even know what it was. But, security and being anonymous are important so I can see their importance and it sounds super easy to use

    • Sherianne, Part of why I wanted to write this was to dispel the myth about how technical they are. The new apps are pretty easy for most people to set up. Glad this helped. Linda

  6. Thanks for writing and sharing this informational post. Honestly, we have never used VPN till day but it really makes a sense to pay and buy a good one depending upon the location you are travelling to and considering other factors too. IP Vanish sounds quite promising and will check this up.

    • Suruchi, I am glad this provided some input to you on something to consider while you travel. We travelled for many years without one. But are so glad we have it when we need it. Linda

    • Jean, ExpressVPN has 3 connections. Ok if you usually travel by yourself. But we travel with laptops, phones and iPads for two people. So 3 connections was a challenge. Linda

  7. I had to use a VPN in China but I have been reading about how you should use one recently. Great tips and I’ll look into it.

    • Nicole, We were glad we had some VPN experience before we got to China. Luckily we realized that our normal VPN would not work. And we were warned that you could not download the VPN once you arrived in China. I hope this helps you select a VPN for regular travels. Linda

  8. Thanks for this info on VPNs. We didn’t have that when we were in China & it was frustrating. It’s a great idea and one we’ll surely use in our future travels. Since I organize such travels worldwide with dentists, I’ll definitely make them aware as well.

    • Elliot, I am glad this information on VPNs was helpful. Make sure you pick one that is known to work where you are travelling. And install the software when you are at home as you may not be able to download when you are away. Hope this proves useful to others as well. Linda

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