We’ve all been there. You’ve checked into your hotel or vacation house and, once you’ve taken a look at the laminated channel list, the disappointment washes over you as you process the limited number of options available.
Fortunately, in the era of streaming options, we no longer have to rely on our host’s TV setup for our vacation entertainment. With a little preparation, you can bring your streaming services with you wherever you go.
Travel with a streaming device or HDMI cable
The first thing you’ll need to stream TV while you’re traveling is a way to connect it to your vacation spot’s TV. Fortunately, most streaming devices are about the size of a thumb drive, so they’re pretty easy to travel with. Once you plug it into the TV’s HDMI port, all you have to do is connect to the Wi-Fi and you’re all set.
If you don’t own a streaming device, you can also get by with an HDMI cable and a laptop or tablet. These days, most TVs also come with streaming apps built in, but they might not have the full breadth of services that you subscribe to.
Download videos for offline viewing
These days, most streaming services allow you to download their TV shows and movies directly to your phone or tablet, so you can watch them without an internet connection. It’s a great idea, especially for families, to load up before long car rides or flights. Just be sure to get your downloading done the night before, so your device has plenty of time to load up.
Here’s what every streaming service allows:
- Netflix doesn’t make its entire library available to download, but you’ll still be able to get plenty of titles, including all of Netflix’s originals. You’ll just need to download the Netflix app on your phone or tablet. Once you’re there, look for the download icon next to a title.
- Amazon Prime Video also lets you download select titles for offline viewing. Like Netflix, you just download the Prime Video app to your phone or tablet and look for the download icon next to eligible movies and TV shows.
- Hulu doesn’t currently support downloads on any of its titles. While Hulu’s CEO told AdWeek in 2017 that the feature was coming “in a few months,” the streaming service still doesn’t provide it.
- iTunes and Google Play both give you the option to download titles when you buy or rent movies through their services. Unlike the rest of these services, though, you’ll be able to download them to your laptops, too — not just your tablet or phone.
- HBO Now does not currently support offline viewing on any of its titles.
Use live TV streaming services out of your market
If you subscribe to a live TV streaming service, it’s pretty simple to bring your regular channel lineup with you on vacation. For your streaming options, all you’ll need is a reliable internet connection, typically around 10 Mbps.
Where things get a little trickier is if you’re trying to stream your home market’s local channels or regional sports networks. For example, you want to catch your favorite baseball team’s games or keep up with the local news. Every live TV streaming service has slightly different rules around streaming these channels when you’re out of your market.
|Service||Home market’s local networks||Home market’s regional sports networks|
|Hulu + Live TV||✘||✔|
No matter what streaming service you subscribe to, you won’t be able to stream your home market’s local ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC affiliates, but PlayStation Vue, Hulu + Live TV and fuboTV do let you stream your home market’s regional sports networks while you’re traveling. If watching your home’s local channels while traveling is important to you, there is one workaround.
Use a VPN to access local channels from home
Simply put, a VPN, or virtual private network, connects your computer, phone, tablet or streaming device to another computer and allows you to use that computer’s internet connection. This is especially useful for travelers who want to stream their local market’s channels.
If you want to stream TV while traveling internationally, VPNs are absolutely essential. Some streaming options, like Hulu, aren’t available outside the U.S., so you’ll need a VPN to access them.
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