I travel to four to six continents annually, so I’ve learned to pare my bag down to just the essentials. But I still want to enjoy some comforts of home, like catching up on my favorite shows on Hulu, HBO Go, and Amazon.
Until recently, I was usually stuck streaming shows from my iPad. Sure, a tablet is fine for solo viewing (and limiting my compulsion to multitask while watching TV). But watching à deux on a tablet is annoying, and even solo sometimes I want more of a home theater experience — meaning, what I want to watch, not what my hotel’s channel selection dictates.
Enter the Roku Streaming Stick. This finger-sized device plugs into the HDMI port on the back of a television. It quickly connects to hotel WiFi (even for captive portal networks where a password is required) and from there I just use the app on my phone as a remote. (It comes with a small remote too, but that’s just one more thing to put in my carry-on). I get instant access to 2,500 paid and free channels with over 150,000 movies, TV episodes, and sports events. And packing up my room is way more fun when I connect my Roku to Spotify.
The giant screen my hotel has thoughtfully placed with the perfect view from my king-size bed is now completely under my control. Roku gives free access to channels like Crackle, Sports Illustrated, Al Jazeera, and Reuters TV. I can easily connect subscription channels like Netflix, HBO Now, PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and WatchESPN.
Traveling with someone who wants quiet to work or sleep, when you want the latest Games of Thrones episode? No problem. Roku connects through your mobile device to deliver the TV’s sound straight to your earbuds.
Whether I’m traveling with my kids, my partner, or solo, Roku lets me watch TV my way. And it hardly takes up any space in my bag. The travel-changing device is $40 at Amazon.
For more than 25 years, Men’s Journal has been the expert in all things gear — from mountain bikes to fitness trackers, blenders to watches, and drones to cars. We take pride in a rigorous review process that includes testing and torturing. While our standards remain high as ever, our site now includes affiliate links, which means that if you buy something using these links, we may receive a commission.