This blog post was updated on July 5, 2019.

Some may like to deny this claim, but it’s certainly true: Wi-Fi is something we just can’t live without! It’s essential for anyone who owns a smart device (be it a cellphone, laptop, or tablet) and uses the internet frequently. In fact, you’re probably using Wi-Fi right now to read this. For those who find that they can’t detach from their devices for a few days, we recommend you find yourself a stay with a strong network connection. The good news is, most hotels, resorts, restaurants, airlines, and any other place we left out, offer Wi-Fi. If you’re taking round trip flights, do some research before you leave for in-flight Wi-Fi details; this way you don’t have to worry. But, before you go connecting anywhere, make sure the Wi-Fi network is secure.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself “How am I supposed to know if my Wi-Fi connection is secure if it’s from my resort?” “What does secure mean?” Hang on, we’re about to inform you of the dangerous risks to using an unsecured network, especially when you’re on vacation.

What an unsecured Wi-Fi network means and the risks

two women smiling at cell phones

Connecting to an unsecured network may not be the first concern that comes to mind when accessing free Wi-Fi on vacation. The first reaction most travelers have after being frustrated with no service is to connect to the strongest network to finally be able to scroll through social media again. Unfortunately, not all public networks that appear on your screen will always be safe. If you happen to be using an unsecured connection on your smart device, you have a higher risk of being hacked. Be aware of the exact network name if you’re staying at a resort or hotel, or wherever you are, because hackers can simply create a malicious network with a similar SSID (service set identifier; aka the network name).

The risks to unintentionally connecting: If you’re connected to, let’s say, ‘Hotel Casino Floor’ Wi-Fi but in fact, the hotel casino’s Wi-Fi is ‘Casino Floor’, odds are you’re using an unsecured network. Once connected, you give the network access to your device, which can intercept anything from your bank account, email, and any other app or site that is opened or has your passwords saved. We’re not telling you that the hotel’s Wi-Fi is unsafe to use; it probably is safe. What we are saying is that a hacker (who’s possibly sitting near you) can almost mimic that Wi-Fi name to trick both you and your device into thinking you’re using a strong Wi-Fi specific to your location … like Hotel Casino Floor. The best advice we can offer is to double check the network before you connect!

Haven’t planned your next trip yet? Book round trip flights now to get started! 

How to know if you’re using a secured network

man and woman wearing backpacks and looking at cell phone

The purpose of Wi-Fi is to be able to search the Web and have internet service. When you’re using the Internet, look at the browser bar. At the very beginning of the URL, you should see HTTPS. The letter S indicates that the site is secure. Without secure data encryption, it’s easy for a hacker to intercept the site, watch what you’re doing on the site, and steal your information like credit card numbers and your home address (if you’re making a purchase on an e-commerce site).

If you have a Wi-Fi to connect to but there are a number of similar networks, don’t just choose any. Try to log into one by entering an incorrect password. If the wrong password successfully connects, it’s a sign that something is not right. Being that you’re connected with the wrong password shows that the connection is unsecured and potentially malicious. Keep in mind that most places, be a resort or an aircraft, will only have one Wi-Fi.

To be safe, use anti-virus software on your devices when you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network.

Things to do to stay cautious

woman using a cell phone on the beach

If your device is set to automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi, your device may choose to connect with a malicious one without any warning to you. To prevent this from happening, check your settings on your devices and change them if needed. For instance, in settings on an iPhone, you can enable ‘Ask to Join Networks’ that are in your range instead of letting it automatically connect.

Another precaution you can take is to turn off your wireless Bluetooth when you’re not using it. If you’re using a public network (one that doesn’t require a password to connect) do NOT update any apps or software on your devices. If a notification pops up informing you to update your phone or computer, this may be a hacker trying to gain access to your device. Lastly, update your devices’ apps and software (if recommended) before leaving home and change your passwords to be more challenging, making it harder for hackers to attack your devices.

You may also like: The Most Useful Travel Apps You Should Download Right NOW

Alternatives to staying connected

woman traveler with arms in the air standing on a dock

If your options are to stay on an unsecured network or to have no internet connection for the duration of your trip, see if you’re able to upgrade your cellular plan. This will probably cost money, but it’s certainly a better option than being hacked. Notify your cellular carrier if you’re traveling out of the country and change to an international plan; this way you can at least make phone calls. By using your cellular data you may not be able to spend every second on the Internet (as it’s a bit pricey). But, who REALLY needs Wi-Fi anyways? Conquer the FOMO on social media, put down your cell phone, and enjoy every second of your vacation disconnected!

Have any other tips on how to safely connect to Wi-Fi when on vacation? Let us know in the comments! 

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About The Author

If she’s not searching for the world's coolest destinations she has yet to explore, you can find her writing content at Fareportal or maybe even drooling over a foodies latest post. Shannon’s a Brooklyn native who enjoys good company, new adventures, and a great laugh!