Make this the year you finally use a VPN when you travel

When it comes to protecting your personal information, using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) when you use public wifi is a must, but using one also has the added benefit of potentially helping you snag deals from online travel agencies and, best of all, it’s even possible to set one up that costs you absolutely nothing.

Why use a VPN? Surfing public wifi can expose your personal data to cybercriminals who can potentially steal your passwords, access your accounts, and even infect your devices with malware.  A VPN makes those things a lot more difficult because it encrypts your internet traffic and the money saving part comes into play because it hides your IP address.

Set up a free VPN on your home router

You can set up your own VPN for free on the router you use at home if it supports Open VPN, an open-source server/client setup that lets you connect from a public network to your home router via an encrypted connection. It effectively allows you browse the internet from home no matter where you are.

It takes some technical know-how to configure your router if it’s supported, but there’s a strong possibility that it’s already installed, waiting to be configured. I use a TP-Link router and OpenVPN is baked right in.

When you configure OpenVPN, you’ll need to create a server certificate and a client certificate for each device you want to connect to your VPN. You also need to set up port forwarding and firewall rules on your router to allow VPN traffic.

You’ll then need to install OpenVPN clients on your mobile devices and import the client certificates you created. You also need to know your router’s public IP address or use a dynamic DNS service to access it from anywhere. I use No-IP, it’s free.

Too much work? Subscribe to a paid VPN service

If all that sounds too complicated, then you might be better off subscribing to an existing VPN service. You’ve doubtless been inundated by advertisements online and might be tempted to just go with the one whose ads you see the most, but you’d be better off to do a bit of research on which service fits your needs.

Reddit has some useful threads where users discuss the pros and cons of the different services available, like this one. That’s where I heard about OVPN (no relation to OpenVPN). They are based in Sweden and are reasonably priced. When I’ve needed technical support, they’ve been quick to help. I’ve been a customer for some time and can completely recommend them.

Book cheaper travel deals with a VPN

One advantage of a paid VPN service over a free one on your home server is that you can change your IP address to another location which tricks websites you visit into thinking you are located in a different country.  That can let you access different prices and offers on travel websites that are based on your virtual location, not your actual one.

Why does changing your geolocation using a VPN help you save money on online travel deals? There are several reasons:

– Online travel sites use dynamic and personalized pricing, which means they adjust their prices according to your location, browsing history, purchase history, and other factors.

– Online travel sites also use geo-targeting, which means they show different prices and deals depending on the country or region you are in.

– Online travel sites also use currency conversion rates, which means they convert the prices from one currency to another depending on your location.

How effective this tactic really is is up for debate. One USA Today writer recently tested the claims of a VPN service about how much money travellers could save by using one, but he was unable to replicate their results.

One small thing that is useful about changing your geolocation is it lets you access geo-restricted content online so if you subscribe to a service back home, you can still connect from abroad because they think you’re still inside your home country.

Stay connected using an esim when you travel

Travellers today have become used to the convenience of having the internet in their pocket, but public wifi isn’t always available and roaming data charges can be expensive, You can  switch SIM cards to that of a local carrier in the place you’re visiting, but that’s a hassle. That’s where esims, like ones offered by Airalo, come in.

Airalo esim is a digital SIM card that you can download and activate on your phone in minutes. On mobile phones that support this technology, you can get mobile data in over 190 countries for a lot less than you can from your own carrier, up to 90 per cent less. You can choose from a variety of plans that suit your needs and budget, and enjoy fast and reliable internet wherever you go.  I first heard about them from another travel writer and haven’t looked back.

I even upgraded my phone to a new model in order to take advantage of it.

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