CNET's Cheapskate scours the Web for great deals on PCs, phones, gadgets and much more. Questions about the Cheapskate blog? Find the answers on our FAQ page. And find more great buys on the CNET Deals page.
Taking a trip? I have a motto: be prepared. Genius, right? I invented it when I was a kid; not sure exactly when, but I seem to recall tents and neckerchiefs.
These days, trip preparedness means packing the right tech -- including a mobile router. Because a lot of hotels charge extra for Wi-Fi, while Ethernet access is usually free. If you have a router, presto: Now you've got a hotspot for all your devices.
Like this one: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Dell has the TP-Link TL-WR700N wireless router for $9.99 shipped. It normally sells for at least twice as much. Update: This appears to be sold out.
This is a somewhat older, and discontinued, model, but that shouldn't stop you. The compact, travel-friendly WR700N offers five modes -- access point, bridge, client, repeater and router, a few of which I actually understand -- and features a folding wall plug.
In a hotel situation, you'd plug in the Ethernet cable, plug the router into an outlet, then just connect your laptop, phone, tablet, etc. The WR700N is, by default, configured for access-point duty. But it can also function as a repeater for home Wi-Fi networks with range issues.
A few caveats: In the past, Newegg has reportedly offered these for as low as $5. (It's currently $27.99 there.) And the user reviews there paint a mixed picture, but I suspect there's some user error -- or at least lack of user knowledge -- behind some of them. Routers can be really confusing, especially when you're dealing with setup and all the different modes.
(Over at Amazon, the review average is just shy of 4.0, so a little better overall.)
I'm no expert when it comes to network gear, but I do know there are times when I've desperately wished I had one of these in my travel bag. If you already own one, please do your fellow cheeps a solid and share your opinion of it!
Bonus deal: While we're on the subject of travel, two more items you shouldn't be without: a good USB wall charger and a good USB car charger. So toss the iClever BoostCube and iClever BoostDrive Mini into your cart, then apply discount code 3KTOT95E at checkout. Instead of the usual price of $18.99 for the two, you'll get out the door for $10.99 (assuming you're a Prime subscriber). I own both of these; they're rock-solid. I particularly like the BoostCube's folding prongs and dual 2.4A ports. Update: Fixed the second link -- sorry about that! -- and you must make sure to choose the white versions of both products.
Bonus deal No. 2: Last week I shared a deal on a VR-ready laptop, one that would have been a hard sell for all but the most flush cheapskates. Here's something a little more palatable: Walmart has the HP Envy 750 VR-ready desktop for $749 shipped (plus tax). It's pretty rare to find a system with these specs -- notably an Nvidia GTX 970 graphics card -- for under $1,000. Incidentally, that's the regular price for this model. You'll need your own monitor and speakers, but otherwise you should be all set for an HTC Vive ($499 at Amazon) or Oculus Rift ($542 at Amazon)!