November 24 2008 by Mark Deyer
I'm guilty of it. Aren't we all? Its 11 pm, you've just checked into the hotel after a long day of travel, and the only thing you want to do is crash. But you have to check your email. So, instead of paying an outrageous fee for 3 minutes of Internet service you squat in the hotel lobby and mooch the free Internet.
I've done it more than I can count; and every time I end up wondering, "If it's free in the lobby, why isn't it free 12 floors above when I'm in my own room?"
Hotel WiFi can be one of the most frustrating aspects of traveling. The rate gouging, weak signals, port changing, and the time restrictions have always left me scratching my head. I put together a short list for Hotel WiFi Survival:
- Look for hotels with free WiFi. There may not be such a thing as a free lunch, but there are definitely hotels that have mastered the business model and offer free Internet. Hint: Best Western.
- Make your own WiFi. It's incredibly frustrating to log in and pay $9.99 for a 12 hour block of Internet, only to realize that you have a poor signal. Because of this, I've started traveling with a mobile wireless router. Some are only $30 and are not much bigger than an alarm clock. They allow you to create your own wireless network in your hotel room by connecting into the hotel room's hard-wired Ethernet cable. I use a D-Link Wireless Pocket Router that has small, lightweight, very versatile, and travel-ready with a cool protective case. They can be very useful when you are traveling with a companion who also has a computer or co-workers staying in the room next to yours.
- Always update your anti-virus programs and security levels. The loosely secured networks in some hotels make for a 'target rich' environment for those up to no good. At home, I'm always cognizant of my personal networks security levels, but on the road, I take no chances. Make sure to disable shared folders, update your firewall, always connect to a VPN when possible, and download all relevant operating system updates.
- Do your homework. Some hotels may offer free WiFi without actually advertising it. Many hotels will charge a standard rate for internet for guests, but if you enroll in their loyalty or rewards program, you are eligible for free Internet. Additionally, HotelChatter.com publishes a yearly list of the best and worst hotels for WiFi that is extremely helpful for those staying in areas with limited hotel options.
Have any other essential WiFi tips? Leave a comment and let us know.