Review: My Webspot – Pocket WiFi

mywebspot - pocket Wifi
mywebspot – pocket Wifi

On our recent family trip to Europe, we considered a few options for having Internet access while on vacation. I know many people buy a European SIM card for their phones with a data plan, but there were four of us so the thought of buying 4 SIM cards was a little daunting. You can use free wifi at various spots as you visit, but we wanted continuous Wifi so we could use it for navigation. In the end, we settled on renting the mywebspot pocket wifi.

Ordering was easy via their web site, and we chose to have it delivered to our first hotel in Amsterdam. We also chose the prepaid envelope option, so we could just drop it in the mail when we left Europe.

What’s In the Package

There’s not much in the package… but it’s everything you need. You get:

  • The mywebspot device itself
  • A USB charger – ours had European plugs
  • A USB cable
  • A foldout instruction guide

The device itself looks very much like a mobile phone. It has four lights on one side, and the other side has a label with a QR code and the wifi name and password.

The only lights we ever saw lit were the battery light and the wifi light. The battery light comes on when charging it, and the wifi light blinks if it is establishing a connection or is solid if the wifi is available.

Using the mywebspot Device

To use it, simply hold the power button for a few seconds until all the lights turn on. After a few minutes of booting up, the wifi is ready and you connect to it with your phone, tablet or computer like any other wifi hotspot. Just carry it with you and you have wifi everywhere.

It claims to have a battery life of 8 hours in constant use. Our experience was that this was optimistic and it tended to last about 6 hours. We carried our own battery pack and connected the device to it to keep it charged up.

It was very reliable and provided Internet access almost anywhere. The only places that we noticed that Internet access dropped out were deep inside buildings or parking garages, places where you would have trouble with cell phone access.

The device gets hot in use… almost uncomfortably hot. I carried it in my pants pocket most of the time, and I was aware of its presence by the heat. When I thought about it, I put it in my camera bag instead so the heat didn’t bother me. Obviously, you should be careful that some pickpocket doesn’t take it.

There is a bandwidth limit on the device, which they call “fair usage”. The limit depends on what area you are in, but in Europe and USA it is 1 GB/day. If you exceed that, the device still works but is considerably slower. There is no way that I am aware of to see your usage.

Summary

The mywebspot pocket wifi device was very simple and easy to use, and did exactly what it promised – portable Internet access.

I will definitely use this service again.

Get your pocket wifi here

This post has affiliate links, meaning I receive a commission at no additional cost to you should you use the link to order a device. I have not been otherwise compensated to write this post, and it is based on my personal experience using a device that I paid full price for.

I Was Almost Pickpocketed in Paris

I’ve been in Paris twice, and on the last visit, I almost had my pocket picked on the metro. Here’s what happened, what I could have done differently, and how you can protect yourself from pickpockets.

We were in Paris for a week during our family tour through the Netherlands, Belgium and France. I think it was our second or third day in Paris and we were traveling via the Metro (subway), as we often did.

The Event

We were boarding a subway car. My wife and kids had boarded first, and I got on last. There were three large men clustered around the pole, mostly blocking the way into the car.

As I got on, two of them formed a wall and prevented me from going past them to join my family. I was very confused about why they weren’t letting me pass. I tried to push between them but they weren’t letting me pass.

After about ten seconds of that, I stepped sideways and forced my way past them.

What I didn’t even notice at the time was that the third man was trying to yank my wallet out of a pocket of my cargo shorts.

The target of the pickpockets
The target of the pickpockets

My son later told me they almost clotheslined him while trying to get to the pocket.

Fortunately, it’s not easy to get the wallet out of there. I often take a few seconds to get it out of there.

They could have grabbed my phone a lot easier – it was in the pocket above that – but they probably saw me put my wallet in there after putting my subway ticket in it, so they had a target.

I stood with my family, glaring at the three of them. They got off at the next stop and disappeared.

I was furious.

Later…

I made a point of keeping both buttons closed on that pocket to better secure my wallet. This made it really hard to get my wallet out; I had to unbutton it first and then take the wallet out, which was inconvenient but also made it considerably harder for my pocket to be picked.

I also started wearing my money belt. I kept about half my cash and one credit card in the money belt, tucked under my clothes, just in case.

I didn’t see any point in reporting the issue to the police. I couldn’t describe the men very well. They disappeared. And I didn’t lose anything. There was no benefit, in my opinion.

How to Protect Yourself From Pickpockets

Here are a few tips to protect yourself from being pickpocketed, along with some links for more tips.

  1. Don’t keep anything valuable in your back pockets. It’s too easy to slip a wallet out of a back pocket while you’re jammed in a crowd.
  2. Keep everything zipped up / buttoned up so a pickpocket can’t just slip their hand in and grab your valuables. Make them work for it.
  3. Keep the majority of your money in a money belt, and keep your belt out of sight under your clothes.
  4. Don’t carry all of your money and credit cards on you. Keep most of it in a safe in your hotel, so if you do get your money stolen, you haven’t lost everything.
  5. Be aware of your surroundings. When you’re looking at your phone, studying a map, or otherwise concentrating on something, keep your back against a wall, in a corner, out of crowds. Pickpockets want you to be distracted – like I was – so they can snatch your valuables while you aren’t looking.
  6. Keep an eye on your bags. I had a camera bag and I often wore it on my front instead of my back, so I could watch it and keep my arms nearby to limit access to it.

Here’s a few links with more details:

The ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel – Review

The ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel is located next to the Centraal train station in Amsterdam. As such, its location is ideal for exploring the area around the train station, and you can make connections from the station to pretty much anywhere in the Amsterdam area or beyond.

We enjoyed the hotel, except for one thing – the heat.

First Impressions

ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel
ibis Amsterdam Centre Hotel

The hotel appears modern and sleek from the outside. When you walk in, the first thing you notice is that there is no front desk. You walk into a lounge type area, with the integrated bar area “Chill #49” down to the left and a snack area to the right.

It took us a few moments to realize that the staff wear ibis shirts and were present in the lounge. They used their portable tablets to sign us into our rooms, and a nearby desktop to prepare room keys.

The Room

A rumpled bed
A rumpled bed

The room featured the Sweet Bed by ibis (a double) as well as bunk beds for our kids. The bed was pretty comfortable and it was certainly large enough for two.

Our kids appreciated the bunk beds; they’re both teenagers and really prefer separate beds.

Bunk beds at the Amsterdam ibis Centre
Bunk beds at the Amsterdam ibis Centre

The family rooms are on the first floor – not the ground floor, as European buildings’ ground floors are floor zero – and are at the same level as the train station platform right next to the hotel. This was the view from our window:

Fortunately, I like trains. You can hear the trains arriving and departing from the adjacent track but none of us found the noise to be disturbing.

The Heat

SO HOT
SO HOT

The main problem we had with the room was the heat. There was no working air conditioning in this area of the hotel, and the windows don’t open in the family rooms. I understand the windows do open in other types of rooms.

There is a ceiling mounted unit but it’s not an air conditioner – I think it’s for heating. The thermostat on the wall makes it look like it can cool the room but it doesn’t.

We complained to the hotel staff and they gave us a portable air cooler device. It works by circulating air over ice packs. I’m not sure it really helped at all. It did blow cooler air – until the ice packs warmed up – but it also humidified the room. The staff were always willing to change ice packs and were generally sympathetic but there wasn’t anything else they could do for us, as the hotel was full.

This was a major issue for us.

Price

The ibis brand is positioned as an economy hotel by parent AccorHotels. Most hotels in Amsterdam are very expensive compared to many other European cities, and this one is no exception. We had a comparable ibis hotel in Paris for half the daily cost of this hotel!

We found the price for the ibis Amsterdam Centre hotel to be competitive with other hotels in the area in its class.

The Verdict

If it wasn’t for the hot room, we would have no problem recommending this hotel. However, the heat was a major issue. I originally wrote that we wouldn’t book there again in a family room… but see below!

Make sure you book a room that has a window that opens.

UPDATE!

A few days after our stay, I received an invitation from ibis to fill out a guest satisfaction survey. I did that, relating our appreciation of the hotel except for the problems with the heat.

I received a response from the hotel manager, who let me know that the air conditioning was indeed not working during our visit but was fixed after we left. He offered to rebate one night’s costs to compensate for our discomfort, which was very much appreciated.

I thought that was a very classy letter and offer and I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls - Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba
Rainbow Falls – Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba

Rainbow Falls is a lovely swimming / recreation area in the Whiteshell Provincial Park in eastern Manitoba, Canada.

The site is located at the end of the White Lake subdivision road, off highway 307 in the Whiteshell Provincial Park. The falls themselves discharge into White Lake, one of the many lakes in the Whiteshell.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

The falls themselves are pretty short, as waterfalls go. It’s quite possible to walk across the top of the falls – be careful – and the water just below the falls is shallow enough for adults to stand up. There are a lot of rocks in the water and they are slippery, so exercise caution if you choose to go into the water.

Turtles
Turtles

The area is very pretty and it features a little wildlife! On both of our visits, we saw turtles, and on our last visit we saw a number of small frogs.

Cute frog
Cute frog

It’s a popular area for fishing, and there is a wheelchair accessible dock off the parking lot.

Parking Lot
Parking Lot

To reach the falls, take the White Lake Resort exit off highway 307. You can either park at the marked location for the path to walk to the falls, or drive down the subdivision road past the convenience store all the way to the end and park in the lot adjacent to the falls.

Path to the falls
Path to the falls

The path is a nice walk, and it takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the falls.

 

Introduction

Hi! My name is Steve Boyko and I am a Canadian who likes to travel.  I’m a geek at a lot of things (especially trains and computers) so I created this site to geek out about travel, from a Canadian perspective.

Join me as I travel for work and for pleasure across this great country, and visit other countries too!