Streaming TV on vacation: What you need to know

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

Apple TV - remote control
Julian O'hayon (CC0)

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, PlayStation Vue, and Hulu with 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.

Regional sports: You can watch live games from outside the house, but only inside your team's local market area.

PlayStation Vue

Device restrictions: Vue allows up to three streams at a time anywhere in the U.S., but only one stream is allowed at a time on TV devices such as Roku and Amazon Fire TV. If someone else is using that stream at home, you can't watch on TV outside the house, and you can't watch outside the house on more than one TV at a time. Also, you must login at home within your first 30 days of subscribing--and once every 60 days thereafter--to retain access outside the home.

Local broadcasts: If available, you'll receive live local broadcasts based on your current location, and you can access any local broadcast recordings you made at home, but you can't record local channels while you're away.

Regional sports: Your local team coverage should be available from anywhere in the U.S., provided you've signed in at least once from your home location.

DirecTV Now

Device restrictions: DirecTV Now allows two streams at a time (or three, with a $5-per-month upgrade) on any device from anywhere in the U.S..

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

Regional sports: You can watch live games from outside the house, but only inside your team's local market area.

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 with 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 allows two streams at a time (or three, with a $6-per-month upgrade) on any device from anywhere in the U.S..

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.

This story has been updated with additional clarity from Hulu.

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