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We are traveling with our own laptop, and will be using wifi to connect to the internet.

Last year, we found that on arriving at our destination, we were locked out of our email accounts for some time. When logging in it told us that we logged in from an unexpected location, and the email provider simply refused to let us view our mails. We were able to access our mail after a day or so, but the situation was troublesome, because we needed email access to confirm some things.

What could we do while still at home to guarantee access to our personal email accounts later when arriving at our destination this year? In particular, how to retain access to the following two accounts:

  • 1 hotmail/live account without 2fa
  • 1 gmail account with 2fa
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    Make sure the suggested 'telephone number, special questions and alternative e-mail address' are up to date. Mostly you need one of those to get into your mail when not home, but I have not used these profiders. – Willeke Sep 16 '16 at 16:04
  • I figured posting here would be most useful, because this problem only occurs when traveling. Is it specifically off-topic here @pnuts, or is just also on-topic on a different site? – Sumurai8 Sep 16 '16 at 16:20
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    Honestly, that 2fa with phone is a real pain while travelling and more trouble than benefits. They usually require a cell number and in much of my travel, roaming either does not work or is highly intermittent (Here is Ecuador for example, I only get a Canadian roaming signal at night) or I've switched my SIM for a local one to handle things locally cheaply (Luckily now my phone is Dual-SIM but this was not always the case). – Itai Sep 16 '16 at 16:44
  • Gmail 2fa allows usage of Authy, or any offline code generation tool based on a shared key. Luckily. – Sumurai8 Sep 16 '16 at 16:52
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Understandably, this is extremely frustrating. Most email providers have some form of detection and additional security steps when logging in from a location which differs significantly from the last one.

This happened to me several times and usually got around it by setting up back up addresses and security questions. If you have neither, the provider will have a hard time offering you some way of proving it is in fact you. Still, sometimes the hoops are difficult to jump around as each service may ask you to confirm your identity using the other but having 2 email services can help. If they support automatic forwarding, then you can make sure that both accounts have all your emails. I have done this and it works at least quite well with GMail.

The better and more reliable way is to use a VPN. There are many service providers to choose from, most of them for a monthly fee, say $5 to 25 per month, depending on features and restrictions. The point is that you configure your machine or email client to communicate through the VPN which then accesses your email from a fixed location. That way, the provider always sees access from the same IP or location at least.

While I have not tried this from many locations, I am not sure if this will work or not (it might depend on the service) in locations where Internet access is highly-restricted such as Cuba, parts of China, etc.

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Presumably, adding 2-factor authentication on gmail will allow someone to log in, regardless of the location they accessed the email account from.

Gmail provides an option to enter a code sent by text (which could be a problem), enter a code generated with an offline application (e.g. Authy for mobile devices, WinAuth for Windows computers), or simply a (limited) list of printed codes.


According to this post, one can gain access to their hotmail account again with the following information:

Codes can be the date of birth, or receiving a code sent to your SMS number or alternate email if configured.

Since any alternate (hotmail) email will be locked too, this is not a viable option. You might not be able to use mobile data while abroad, making SMS not a viable option either. Using date of birth is scary, because this information is more or less public knowledge for most people.

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