I never go on vacation without a Roku — here's why

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K
(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

When I recently packed my bags for a trip to Nashville, my Roku Streaming Stick 4K was in my luggage before any clothing or toiletries made it in. 

For context: I knew the Airbnb I was staying at had a TV and Wi-Fi, so I knew I didn't need more than my Roku. Also, I was going with a buddy who loves two of the same shows that I do that were about to debut new episodes: The Rehearsal and Harley Quinn. 

But while some might think packing my own Roku might be overkill, I knew it was the right call. And, wouldn't you know it, I was right. So, I thought I'd explain are the two big reasons why I always bring a Roku. Sure, if streaming doesn't matter too much to you — you're on vacation, your time — you can skip it. But if you care about TV as unhealthily as I do, here's what you need to know.

Entering one password once

Say your hotel or Airbnb has a good TV, even a smart TV. That TV could even have its own streaming device (more on that in a minute) plugged in. But the real reason I found the space in my luggage for the Roku Streaming Stick 4K dongle is simple: your host or hotel is probably not going to be offering you streaming services included.

So, when I plugged my Roku into that TV, all I needed to do was find the Wi-Fi password, and enter that into the menu. Then, I'm signed into every single app I subscribe to, and I sure used them.

The Roku Streaming Stick 4K home screen

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

On Thursday and Friday, as I explained above, I was watching a lot of HBO Max for Harley Quinn season 3's premiere and The Rehearsal's third episode. But that was during the evenings. 

When we were hanging out at the Airbnb, either in the morning (I'm the early bird) or mid-day when we came back to take a nap, I was watching YouTube Premium, the most underrated subscription payment I make every month. If you don't know about YouTube Premium, it removes the ads from YouTube videos — legally. I know some people use ad blockers, but that's not for me.

Then, on Saturday night, when we came home from the event we were at (WWE's SummerSlam 2022), we turned Peacock on to watch some of the matches over again, as we wanted to see how they were on TV.

Oh, and if you have Sling, YouTube TV or any of the other best cable TV alternatives, bringing your own streaming device from home means faster access to your DVR. The variety of streaming services you use during any given week makes this all the more pressing.

Rokus are better at hotel Wi-Fi (at least for me)

But what if you're in a hotel? Hotel Wi-Fi is much more tricky than normal Airbnb Wi-Fi, as there are screens where you need to enter your hotel room info and so on. And streaming sticks don't play nice with those. 

That said, at a recent weekend at a hotel, I found that Rokus actually work with hotel Wi-Fi. This is very much a your-mileage-may-vary situation, but in my testing, the Chromecast with Google TV and Fire TV Stick 4K Max couldn't get on the network.

The Roku home screen on a hotel TV

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey)

Of course, you may not own a Roku. The Roku Streaming Stick 4K may be our pick for the best streaming device, but you might prefer Fire TV for side-loaded apps, or a Chromecast for whatever reason. 

Either way, packing a streaming stick means you aren't reliant on the hotel room's selection of channels and over-priced video-on-demand content.

Outlook: Make your vacation easier

You might think your phone is the only gadget you need on vacation. But I don't think "staring at video on a tiny screen" is a vacation. If you know your hotel or Airbnb has a big TV, take advantage of it.

By packing my own Roku on trips, I can make any room feel like home. Or at least I won't have to type out my extra-long passwords that I store in one of the best password managers.

Next: I cut the cable cord — here's 3 things I love and 2 things I hate about it. And here's how to watch Grease online for free.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • ptsenter
    I'd like to share my experience traveling with streaming device.
    I'm doing this for at least 3 years. And I always carry some version of Fire TV.
    First, I never failed to connect to wifi in any hotel. Usually it's easy enough. And only once it was trickier because I had to navigate using pointer - mouse.
    Second, I usually travel overseas and I need VPN to be able to access Netflix and Youtube TV.
    My Fire TV's worked in St. Martin, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Tahiti - Moorea, Greece - Crete, Hawaii (no VPN needed, but it was hotel), ...