The oddities of my VPN when traveling – What works and what is kinda wonkie!

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VPN + Wifi calling? Nope!

There are many things I just do when I travel. Some things are simple and automatic, like making sure I have all my travel stuff and that the night before all my electronic stuff is fully charged and ready. Next, I make sure my passport is where it lives in my travel bag and that I have my passport not my wife’s. Lastly, that all my toiletries are topped off and that I have a new razor for every trip. I am sure your travel routine is much the same as mine. But then there is the travel tech.

When it comes to travel, connectivity clearly is not just needed but vital in our modern day and age. Sure, I mute my devices when I sleep but otherwise I need to be online every moment of every day and my guess is it is the same for you. But that brings up the need to make sure my data is as secure as it can be when I travel.

Most times it is not an issue as I am on my Sprint 4G service. Is my cell signal 100% secure? Nothing is 100% secure but the chance that someone is that dedicated to hack my cell connection is remote at best. While I could run my VPN over my cell signal I think most do not take this extra step when on a cellular connection. But often I am outside of the USA and since I am frugal I do not always pay the upcharge for fast cell connectivity vs. the free slow service provided as part of my SPRINT PCS service plan. That means wifi from wherever.

The idea that some hotel or wherever I am connected could be capturing my data makes my skin crawl. Thus I always, always, always use my Tunnel Bear VPN when on wifi. I would not dream of ever connecting without it (tip if you are doing this – I feel very sorry for you – I bet you run with scissors too?). Now there are times I have to shut it off like when I use my Fly Delta App or log on to Delta.dumb because while safety may be first with Delta, having my data safe clearly is not. Yep, Delta forces me to use an unsecured connection to access my flights – crazy right?

Last week I avoided the snowmagadon at home by enjoying my time on the beach in Grand Cayman. I used the hotel’s free public wifi because my Marriott Gold Elite status that should have granted me high speed connection was part of the $50 per day resort fee that I declined. Either way I would have only used their service via my Tunnel Bear or, when connecting to my PC at home, via my remote software to access my computer at my desk. Both would protect prying eyes from seeing my data.

I like the fact that either of these two options do not really impact my connection speed. I have in fact tested before on Gogo and found, on some occasions, running my connection via either my Tunnel Bear or even via my Connectify for some reason improves my connection speed or at least the net performance and that is all I really care about. But I have also had some strange results and events.

Nice tweaks Tunnel Bear!

Take for example wifi calling that is a feature of my phone and my SPRINT service. When I have a strong enough and fast enough wifi connection I can set my phone to both send and receive calls and texts like I am at home. Very convenient. Do I need to have my VPN running when I am using this service? Well the simple answer is my wifi calling will not activate when I have my VPN running so I run it without. Is that taking a risk? Maybe, maybe not.

I really hate this, Amazon!

Other things have also changed over time and they have frustrated me. In years past when I wanted to watch some game or download some movie to my device from Amazon Prime when abroad I would fire up my Tunnel Bear and put my home location as USA and presto I was good to go. This year, despite changing location to USA, these services are blocking my access to what I want to see. Mega irritating and means I have to plan ahead to download whatever I want to watch pre-trip and when I want to watch TV it is via my PC at home over my remote connection.

Overall I feel I am doing what I can to be as safe as I can with my data when I travel. I am pleased with all of my above solutions that do, for the most part, work well for me. But you tell me. What are the steps you take to secure your data when you travel for work or for pleasure. Do you ever risk connection to an open wifi source without the protection of VPN? Have you ever had your data compromised from such an unsecured connection? Let us known in the comments below! – René

 

 

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11 comments

  1. Why not have a VPN server at home to connect to? Little trickier but could solve the TV watching issues.

  2. I am finding more of my credit cards will not allow me to access via my VPN, they are blocking those ip addresses. Causing me to have to turn it off to access them. Crazy right, that is the data that you want to keep most secure.

  3. What is Tunnel Bear VPN? I am tech ignorant, travel a great deal, both domestic and foreign, and have not had any problem (yet) with getting hacked.

  4. @Lee – It encrypts or make private you info to the access point aka the free wifi point. For $50/year well worth it to me.

  5. i use ipv-vanish.

    both allow me tu use delta app on Android from everywhere… and amazon video, (from only some non usa countries back to usa)

    solve that amazon problem by spoofing your GPS location (i typically use gracie mansion)

  6. Hi Rene,

    Most of my travel is Europe and the dreaded China with the Great Firewall configurations constantly changing. I use a service called PureVPN. In my research pre-purchase and actual using the service in mainland China, I have not had any issues connecting back to USA servers. I did find a lifetime subscription special they were running for $89 USD. I love the connectivity and have never been shutdown in Asia.

    I’d there are other users here in the blog who have a VPN they would like to share with actual first hand knowledge of using their services in mainland China I would like to know.

    Thanks,

    Kevin
    I

  7. Delta app, website, AND Wifi Calling all work fine for me via VPN. But this serves to point out how crazy the situation is — the OS, VPN service and VPN software versions you’re using definitely make a difference and it’s a bit of a coin toss.

    Running OpenVPN on your PC at home and tunneling back through that probably will be the most effective since you control it all — but speed and your sanity may suffer. Using a smaller VPN service rather then a cheaper large one probably also is a good idea. They are less likely to be blocked and more likely to pay attention to their capacity limits.

  8. ExpressVPN worked for most things in China. A few of my facebook posts were delayed but iy was random. I spent a lot of time on facebook messenger while in Shanghai due to a death in the family. It worked perfectly. The most irritating part is that the IHG app wont work with it on. I have to make sure my VPN is off or the app doesn’t function. I figured that out this week…..at home.

  9. I signed up with NordVPN when they had a Black Friday deal for 3 years for $99.

    I am in India now, and the Delta App works fine when I use it with NordVPN on my iPhone X.

    Streaming Amazon to my PC using NordVPN works fine, but I can’t stream on my iPhone. Amazon is probably using the GPS to determine location, and based on what I have read, spoofing the GPS is a lot easier with Android than iOS.

    I run DD-WRT open source firmware on my Netgear router, and when I get some time I will set up OpenVPN in the router. Unfortunately, the setup looks complex. However, it would resolve the issue of VPN provider IP addressed being blacklisted since my remote internet traffic would like it was origination from my home.

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