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Streaming TV on vacation: What cord-cutters need to know

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Not all streaming bundles work the same way when you’re away from home. Here’s a rundown of the restrictions and workarounds.

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In theory, cutting the cable cord should give you lots more freedom to watch TV on the road. Because you’re no longer bound to a cable box, you should be able to stream live TV from anywhere.

But with streaming TV bundles such as Sling TV, YouTube TV, and Hulu + Live TV, that’s not always the case. Depending on where you are, what you want to watch, and which streaming bundle you’re using, viewing restrictions can apply. As the summer approaches, here’s what you need to know about how each streaming TV bundle works when you’re on vacation:

Sling TV

Device restrictions: Sling TV lets you stream anywhere in the U.S. on any device, with the same simultaneous stream limits that apply at home. (That’s one stream at a time for Sling Orange plans, three concurrent streams for Sling Blue plans, and up to four streams for Sling Orange + Blue plans.)

Local broadcasts: Sling only offers live local channels in a handful of markets, but if you live in one of those markets, and travel to another, you’ll get local broadcasts from that location.

AT&T TV

Device restrictions: AT&T TV allows three simultaneous streams from outside the house.

Local channels and regional sports: These are locked to your home location—based on your network’s IP address—regardless of where you are. You can change your home location up to four times per year through the AT&T TV app under Settings > Preferences > Location Settings.

YouTube TV

Device restrictions: YouTube TV allows three streams at a time on any device from anywhere in the U.S.. You must login at home once every three months to retain access, or once every 30 days for MLB games.

Local broadcasts: If YouTube TV is available in the place you’re visiting, you’ll receive local broadcasts. (You can still watch other channels outside the home, even if YouTube TV hasn’t launched in that market.)

Regional sports: Your home team’s games should be available while traveling, though YouTube says this can depend on content rights.

Hulu + Live TV

Device restrictions: While traveling, Hulu allows two streams at a time (or three with a $15-per-month upgrade), but on mobile devices only. You cannot watch Hulu’s live service on a TV device such as Roku or Amazon Fire TV from outside your house.

Local broadcasts: If the place you’re visiting offers local broadcasts, you can watch them.

Regional sports: Your local team coverage should be available from anywhere in the U.S..

FuboTV

Device restrictions: FuboTV’s basic plan allows two simultaneous streams from anywhere in the U.S., but if someone else is watching on TV at home, you can’t watch on a smart TV or streaming TV device from a different location.

Fubo’s Unlimited Streams and Family Share + Unlimited Streams upgrades do give you additional out-the-home streams—two for the former, three for the latter—but the restrictions on TV viewing apply no matter which plan you choose.

Local broadcasts: If the place you’re visiting offers local broadcasts, you can watch them.

Regional sports: Your local team coverage should be available from anywhere in the U.S..

Philo

Device restrictions: Philo allows three streams at a time on any device from anywhere in the U.S..

Local and regional sports channels: Not applicable, because Philo doesn’t offer any.

Potential workarounds

If you’re running into viewing restrictions while on the road, you might try downloading some TV Everywhere apps from the networks you’re trying to watch. These don’t always offer live feeds, but they will likely allow you to exceed the device restrictions put in place by your TV bundle.

See below for the TV Everywhere apps you can use with each streaming bundle. (Keep in mind you can only log into the app if you receive that channel as part of your service):

You can also use an antenna and some additional hardware to watch local broadcasts while you’re on the road. The cheapest way to do this is with AirTV, a $120 box that streams over-the-air channels into the Sling TV app on Roku, Fire TV, iOS, and Android devices. This works both inside the home on up to two devices at a time, or outside the home on one device at a time. You can also set up a full-blown over-the-air DVR with Tablo, Plex, or Emby, all of which support out-of-home streaming, though this is probably overkill if your TV bundle already offers local broadcast channels.

And if all else fails, just kick back with an on-demand streaming service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or HBO Now, all of which are free of streaming bundles’ labyrinthine restrictions.

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Jared Newman covers personal technology from his remote Cincinnati outpost. He also publishes two newsletters, Advisorator for tech advice and Cord Cutter Weekly for help with ditching cable or satellite TV.

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