If you want to make a few friends on a press trip then bring along a device which let’s you share a mobile wi-fi signal so people can check their email while stuck in Tokyo traffic on the tour bus. On my recent trip to Japan I was able to do just that with a MiFi device that was loaned to me from XcomGlobal.
The XcomGlobal device can be rented from the company to provide an affordable data connection. Whatever you do don’t make the mistake of letting your smart phone do data roaming using your standard data plan while you are in a foreign country like Japan where I was. That is a good recipe to come home to a 4 figure phone bill. The XcomGlobal device costs $14.95 per day to rent rather than charging per megabyte or gigabyte of data. If you travel to two countries the rental unit for the second country will not be at an additional fee when it is not in use. For example, if you are taking a 14-day trip to Germany and France with the MiFi Hotspot, you will pay only $14.95 per day for your MiFi Hotpsot rental for the entire length of your itinerary, even though you have two MiFis in your possession. For 3+ countries on a single trip there is a flat $30 for each additional country.
The MiFi deviceXcomGlobal supplies is about 3/4 the size of my iPhone 5. It has a removable battery and came with a spare battery as well as a USB cable and plug for recharging. Oddly, as far as I can tell, the device cannot be used to access the internet while it is recharging. I usually kept the device in my pocket where the button might accidentally get pressed so I would put the battery in backwards when I was not using it to save it from accidentally turning it on. Just put it in the right way to use or recharge.
The XcomGlobal device, like other cell phone based systems I have used, does not work in all situations. It worked well on a tour bus in both Tokyo and Kyoto, but did not seem to be able to work from the shinkonsen high speed train. It did work fine on a local train I took from Kyoto to Hikone. From my hotel room in Tokyo it worked fine but had slow speeds from my hotel in Kyoto.
You probably think that I am an internet junkie because I can’t go on vacation without staying connected. That’s true, but something else happened on this trip that pointed out the advantages of staying connected. Checking my email on the local train gave me the usual set of work emails (including at least a few issues I needed to weigh in on), offers for facials from GroupOn, but also news that my mother-in-law, who lives with us, had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Normally I would have been able to pick up email only before leaving my hotel and after arriving in my new hotel later that night. That is a lot of unconnected time in between when this sort of family crisis is unfolding.
I also traveled to the city of Nara without any hotel reservations and then just turned on my personal internet when I arrived at the train station and got online to book a hotel room. The internet was a bit slow in the train station but the difference between slow internet and no internet is very significant. That is the difference between wandering aimlessly and finding a comfortable hotel.
To rent a XcomGlobal for your next trip goto XcomGlobal.com. Rental cost for the device of $14.95 per day don’t include costs for shipping and handling and optional insurance.