Taking A Roku On Vacation
You wouldn’t be alone if you have, or would consider, taking your Roku with you on vacation. 75% of American’s consider internet a must have when traveling. As we’ve become attached to our streaming entertainment, smart devices and connected lives in general, it stands to reason we want to take those experiences with us when we travel as well.
In fact, it’s a lot more common than you think. Taking streaming and smart devices when vacationing is increasingly popular. In fact, it’s more than becoming popular, its becoming a necessity. In a recent survey, 40% of parents said their kids asked to watch streaming within 15 minutes of arriving at their travel destination.
It’s not just families with kids, 42% of adults sought out WiFi connectivity within 15 minutes as well. The reality is our lives are becoming increasingly connected and digital.
So, if you’ve thought about, its becoming increasingly common and even important to many people, what does it take to bring along your Roku when traveling?
Why Take A Roku On Vacation
If you are like the vast majority of American’s you get most of your TV and entertainment from streaming services, rather than traditional cable. However, most Airbnb’s and Hotels have limited streaming channel selections. While we generally go away on vacation to get away from our normal life patterns, it doesn’t mean there isn’t downtime or the opportunity to catch a new episode of appointment TV.
Taking your Roku with you is a great way to ensure you and your family have access to your favorite entertainment without the hassle. In addition to your favorite streaming channels you can also access many free streaming channels.
Plus Roku’s are among our favorite streaming devices to take while traveling. Roku themselves encourages you to take and enjoy your device. Still, despite them being supportive and trying to make it easy there are a few things you’ll need to know before taking your device with you.
Not Just For Vacation
While our focus is on vacation travel, there are lots of other trips worth bringing a Roku along for. They include regular business travel, where you often have lots of downtime. They are also great to take when staying with family to provide some additional quiet time.
What You Need To Take A Roku On Vacation
In order to take a Roku with you on vacation you’ll need only a few things
1) The Roku (Or Similar Streaming Device)
Not surprisingly you need a Roku or similar streaming device. You’ll also need the power cord, adapter and the remote. You can use just about any recent Roku for this, including the Streaming Stick, Streaming Stick+, Ultra or Express. For the Ultra or Express you’ll also need the HDMI cable.
2) A TV With An HDMI Input
At your destination hotel or Airbnb you’ll need a TV with an HDMI input. It’s rare you’ll find a modern hotel or Airbnb without one. If you are traveling to a very old hotel, B&B or similar location you may be surprised.
3) WiFi Connection
While some Roku devices have an ethernet port, in most cases you’ll want to connect to the WiFi network. If your destination does not offer WiFi or charges extra, considering bringing using your own hotspot on your phone or a standalone cellular hotspot.
4) Travel Router
If you are only bringing a Roku and they have open WiFi this step is optional, but for some WiFI networks, multiple Rokus (or other smart devices) you’ll want to bring a travel router with you as well.
5) Small Power Splitter
Occasionally your hotel or Airbnb may not have a free power outlet or USB port for your Roku. Bringing along an inexpensive power splitter is an easy way to ensure you can get your device up quickly.
Getting The Roku Plugged In At A Hotel Or Airbnb
Plugging Into The TV
Plugging in the Roku when on vacation is relatively easy in most instances. You’ll need an open HDMI port. There generally are not hard to find on the back of the TV. Then you simply need to change the input on the TV to the HDMI port you plugged into.
Still, if you run into a hotel with a unique setup we have a few suggestions.
TVs with Buttons On The Side, Bottom or Top
For TVs with buttons on the Side, Bottom or Top this is usually pretty straight forward. You can adjust the input and put it back without impacting the next guest.
Go to the TV and on the back look for the cord from the command box to the back of the TV that looks like an old phone cord. This known as a RJ45 cable. Unplug it.
After you’ve done this you can use the Input button the side to bring up the input menu. You will generally use the arrow buttons to move through the list but on some TVs you press the input button to cycle through the list until you get the input you desire.
TVs with No Buttons
For TVs with No Buttons but the On Command system things get a little tricker. While you can bring a universal remote with you as many sites recommend, this is a bit clunky.
A trick we’ve found that works is to use one of the following methods to bring up the TV setup interface which generally allows you to change the HDMI input on these TVs.
Usually one of these will work:
- Press and hold the ‘0’ button for 10 seconds
- Press and hold ‘*’ button for 10 seconds
Control Boxes/Internet TVs
Most newer hotels, as well as those that have been refreshed have Internet TVs and more have input panels that work with the TV.
On these systems you can generally use the TV remote to change inputs. However, what is important is that you plug your streaming stick into the control box NOT the TV. HDMI on the TV is actually HDMI port on the control box. If you plug it into the TV you have to hack the system to get the HDMI port to work. That isn’t necessary.
Still having trouble? Check out our more detailed blog post on getting your Roku connected to hotel TV.
Plugging The Roku Into Power
Other than the occasional hotel or Airbnb that still doesn’t make it easy to plug in and use the TVs HDMI ports, finding power for your Roku device may be the next biggest challenge to having all of your favorite entertainment with you every time you travel.
Below we cover a few tips and tricks for ways to get power to your streaming device when there isn’t an obvious power outlet available.
The easiest and yet most overlooked way to easily get power is to use the TV or TV control boxes USB port. Most Roku devices are USB powered, you simply need to unplug the USB port from the power adapter. Then plug it in into a USB port on the TV or TV control unit.
In most cases these USB ports are powered, will have no negative effect on your device and don’t require you to move any furniture of find a power outlet. Plus, they are right next to your TV.
The TV itself needs power so there is often a power outlet right nearby. While in some cases the outlet is hidden behind furniture, the vast majority of the time the outlet is reachable because it is next to or behind the furniture. Sometimes the cabinet under the TV opens and the outlet is accessible via the cabinet.
In the event that there isn’t a free outlet bringing along an inexpensive power splitter. These are safe and easy to use, and are about the size of a pack of mints.
To use it simply:
- Unplug the TV – we recommend the TV over the control box if both are present because the control box takes longer to come back on, usually the TV will turn right back on.
- Plug in the power splitter
- Plug the TV back in
- Plug in your Roku
Still Can’t Find Power?
We’ve got a whole blog post dedicated to situations and solutions with finding power for your Roku in a hotel or Airbnb.
What If My Airbnb Already Has A Streaming Device?
Security should always be a concern. Anytime you have to internet a username and password into any app, TV or web page you should ensure they are secure. Entering your username or password into a device at an Airbnb can be risky. Not only is a hassle to do it each time, you never know whether the information is truly secure.
Taking your Roku with you and using it in an Airbnb, even if it has a Smart TV means you don’t need to bother re-entering usernames and passwords, or the potential security risk.
What If My Hotel Already Has A Smart TV
Many hotels are now offering Smart and Internet TVs in the rooms. While we applaud this, there are a few things to consider before deciding it’s worth leaving your own device at home.
First, almost every major chain has a different Smart or Internet TV implementation. This means you won’t be assured the channels you want are available. You may not even be able to easily connect without loading new apps on your phone.
Lastly, security should always be a concern. Anytime you have to internet a username and password into any app, TV or web page you should ensure they are secure. In addition to concerns about entering your password into hotel SmartTVs, there is also the question of whether they will truly be cleared at checkout.
Plus its a hassle to enter a username and password with each stay. If you travel for business where you are in a different location almost every night, this becomes a huge burden in addition to a substantial safety concern. Each time you stay and enter your password you increase the odds your account will still be active for the next guest.
Taking your Roku with you and using it in a hotel, even if it has a Smart TV means you don’t need to bother re-entering usernames and passwords, or the potential security risk.
Automatic Remote Config
Something rarely discussed by non-travel sites is the automatic remote configuration feature of many streaming sticks. While at home setting up your remote is a one time need, at least until you buy a new TV. When traveling each new location has a new TV. If you want to be able to use a single remote to control the volume and power on your TV and your streaming stick, you’ll likely want a device that can automatically detect the TV.
Most Roku devices support this feature. It will automatically detect the TV and control it’s volume and power features without needing to enter any codes or identify the TV model yourself.
Connecting The Roku To Hotel or Airbnb WiFi
Of course the last step in the process now that your Roku is connected to the TV, it’s on the right input and it has power and has booted up is to connect to the WiFi.
At most Airbnb’s and some hotels this is pretty straight forward process. You just need to configure the new wireless network.
- Press Home (if not already there)
- Go To Settings
- Go To Network
- Setup Connection
- Select the Airbnb or Hotel WIFi network
Dealing With Captive Portals With Your Roku
What are captive portals? They are the popups you get that prompt you to login or provide additional information prior to using the hotel WiFi. Captive portal are rarely used at most AirBnb’s. However, for regular hotel travelers they are common place. In fact, very few hotels allow you to use their WiFi without accepting terms and conditions, entering a room name, an additional password screen or other consideration.
The Roku devices has have a special feature to detail with captive portals. It popups and gives you a code you can enter on your phone where you can then complete the captive portal login there, rather than on the Roku.
To use this feature when connecting to the wireless network you will need to check the box that says you are using the Roku in a hotel or dorm room. The Roku will popup a code you can use to clear the captive portal on your phone and help get the Roku connected.
A travel router can help you avoid this extra step. With a travel router once you pass the captive portal on one device, usually your phone or laptop, any additional devices you connect will work normally. This includes the Roku.
In addition, you can configure the travel router to have the same WiFi network name you use on your home network. This will allow you to skip all of the steps of setting up the Roku for each hotel or Airbnb’s WiFi network. The Roku will automatically connect. You only need to connect your travel router to the hotel WiFi network and you are done.
Getting your Roku connected quickly and easily, without any captive portal hassles is just one of the benefits of having a travel router.
Troubleshooting When Taking Your Roku On Vacation
Still having trouble or have questions about taking your Roku with you on vacation? Here are some additional blog posts that will help you troubleshoot or make decisions.
That’s it. Overall it’s very easy to take your Roku with you on vacation. And in the few situations where something else needs to be done to get connected, there is generally an easy answer. Of course, having a travel router, power splitter a few additional inexpensive accessories makes it easier still.
We hope this blog post was helpful and we hope you are confident enough to bring some additional entertainment along with you next time you are taking a trip.