I want to feel just as secure when I travel as I do at home. Choosing the right hotel or Airbnb is only half the job. That’s why I’ve decided to pack a wireless security camera when I travel for extra peace of mind. I’m using a basic Arlo Essential camera connected to a Wi-Fi network, feeding video to the cloud via an Arlo Secure plan that I activate on a monthly basis.

It turns out that it’s incredibly easy to set up your own on-the-go wireless security system that way, and I’ll explain how to do so below. I will say from the get-go that you can pick any wireless security camera if you have a preference over Arlo. I went for an affordable, easy-to-set-up, familiar option here. And it cost me around $100.

Why I need security on the go

I’ve only started bringing my security equipment with me recently. It’s out of an abundance of caution. We’ve all seen the security hacks for hotels and Airbnb that go viral on social media. Tricks that involve pressing your finger against mirrors to see if they’re actually two-way mirrors or making contraptions out of clothes hangers to block your door.

But rather than have to deal with the consequences of having my personal belongings stolen without any leads, I’d at least want to have video evidence. The video recordings are saved in the cloud, so the thieves can steal the camera, too. They still won’t get access to the clips.

I mostly worry about my smart devices and documents. And while I tend to pick hotels that offer a safe in the room and have locks on my luggage, I want more peace of mind.

Why I picked the Arlo Essential Spotlight camera

The Arlo Essential Spotlight camera is great for outdoors settings. But it works just as well in a hotel room.
The Arlo Essential Spotlight camera is great for outdoors settings. But it works just as well in a hotel room. Image source: Arlo

For this purpose, I want the cheapest and most reliable wireless security camera I can get. The Essential camera from Arlo certainly qualifies. I have a first-gen model that I use, but Arlo released a new version of the camera recently if you want the latest tech.

The camera connects to a wireless network and you control it with an iPhone or Android app. The battery lasts for several months, and you can position it anywhere in a room. You can try to hide it, but I don’t bother. I just make sure it covers my belongings. 

The Essential records Full HD video and has a spotlight and night vision. It sends notifications in real-time to my iPhone when it detects movement in the hotel room.

It has a two-way microphone that lets me communicate with anyone in the room. These features might be enough to deter someone from stealing anything. Hence, I don’t need it to be inconspicuous. The cleaning staff will see it, but they don’t mind. They’ll move it if they have to, but then they put it back where it was placed initially.

The camera also makes a clicking sound when it activates, so anyone in the room would know it’s recording.

How to get an Arlo Secure plan

The Arlo Secure plans.
The Arlo Secure plans. Image source: Arlo

The key ingredient is saving recordings to the cloud. That’s where the Arlo Secure plan comes into play, which starts at $7.99 for a single camera.

You have to activate a second plan if you already have Arlo cameras protecting your homes with a Secure plan. The cameras have to be in the same location under a plan, so I needed to create a subscription just for traveling. By the way, you get three months of free Arlo Secure access with each new Arlo camera purchase.

I went for the cheapest option and created a second Arlo account. Since I’m in Europe, it’s a version of the $7.99 plan. I then added my home Arlo account as an admin of the travel Arlo.

That way, I use the same Arlo app on my iPhone to monitor the home and hotel. I don’t need to log in and out of my accounts when I travel. My home Arlo account, with its admin rights over the travel one, will get all the notifications and access to the cloud videos. I also use my home Arlo account to enable and disable the hotel camera (arm and disarm). 

I can also download all the videos I want to keep, as they stay in the cloud for 30 days. 

Then, I’ll cancel my travel Arlo plan when I return home. My Arlo Essential Spotlight camera will remain attached to that second account, and I’ll place it in the home. The only difference is that it won’t record video to the cloud. But it doesn’t need to.

Alternatively, I could move my travel cam to the home. 

You’ll need a Wi-Fi connection

The Arlo Secure app for iPhone lets you monitor the home and other properties.
The Arlo Secure app for iPhone lets you monitor the home and other properties. Image source: Arlo

The Arlo Essential is small enough to pack in any kind of bag. With a battery that can last for more than three months, I don’t even have to worry about recharging it. But I do have a microSD cable with me just for that purpose. I will note that the Arlo Essential 2 comes with USB-C charging, and that is an upgrade to consider. 

I need a permanent wireless connection for my hotel security system to work. Most hotels offer free Wi-Fi, which I routinely avoid when it comes to work. Or I use a VPN service for that. But they’re great for the Arlo cams. 

The first thing I do when I get to a hotel is set up the Arlo Essential camera using the iPhone app. I would connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi for that purpose. 

There is one wrinkle here. Passwordless Wi-Fi networks are a problem for my travel security system. That’s why I pack a second smartphone with me that gets its own local SIM card. Another option, at least in the EU, where roaming has gotten a lot better in recent years, is to get a prepaid SIM from home that will exclusively handle my internet needs while I travel.

That way, I can not just control the Wi-Fi network for the Arlo camera setup, I also get a local data plan, which can cut roaming charges. 

This smartphone can’t be an iPhone, as the iPhone routinely kills the mobile hotspot if it’s not in use. This would defeat the purpose of the Arlo security system. Instead, it’s an older Android device that can sit either in a safe or locked bag. You’ll also need to hook it up to power, as the mobile hotspot will use more energy. 

You can even leave the smartphone out in plain sight. The camera ensures that people entering the phone will not steal it. 

The alternative for this instance is a mobile hotspot gadget. It could sit in the safe and rock better battery life than a phone. 

But I accomplished all this with as little hassle and investment as possible.

Why not buy the Arlo Go 2 Camera?

Arlo Go 2 camera comes with a SIM slot.
Arlo Go 2 camera comes with a SIM slot. Image source: Arlo

If you’re a fan of Arlo security cameras, you know the company sells Arlo Go models that feature support for SIM cards. I considered the option. The Arlo Go 2 looks just like an Arlo Essential model. But it costs $250 before any discounts and bundle deals. It’s not worth the investment, not to me, at least. 

What I bought was a spare Arlo Essential when it was on sale on Amazon. 

Then, for about $30, I scored a local prepaid SIM card with plenty of data and a month of Arlo Secure. The Arlo Essential Spotlight sells for $99 on Amazon before bundles and discounts. The same goes for the second-gen model. You’ll routinely find better deals. Currently, the second-gen Arlo Essential camera costs $70 on Amazon.

I will have to get a new SIM card or top-up an existing one whenever I travel again. I’ll also have to get another month of Arlo Secure for each trip. But that recurring $30 spend will be worth it. If I travel multiple times during one 30-day window, I won’t have to renew the plans. Again, it’s all for my peace of mind. 

Traveling to more exotic destinations might involve different roaming or local SIM charges. 

You can go for similar setups using different wireless surveillance cameras. It doesn’t have to be an Arlo model. And you can use more than one camera if you stay in large Airbnbs. I think that would be overkill for me.

End