Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Cheap or free Internet access away from home!

Even if I don’t travel with a laptop, many devices rely on wifi to get information so having the Internet has become more and more important. Here are some ways to find access while away from home.

* Hotels with free wifi – Almost all hotels have Internet access of some sort but it seems the nicer the hotel, the more expensive the Internet. If the hotel I’m going to book doesn’t provide free Internet, I figure daily Internet charges into the room rate. Before you book, check this report from on the Best Wifi Hotels. Interesting to note: some of the most well-known chains didn’t make the list. Ugh.

* Airports with free wifi – Just like hotels, almost all airports have some kind of Internet access available but not all provide it for free. maintains a list of Free Wifi Airports. Airports would have a lot less frustrated travelers if they could be online for free during those long layovers I think.

* Wifi Hotspot Directory – aside from hotels and airports, free wifi is available in many places like coffee shops and libraries. is a user-submitted directory of all wifi hotspots in the U.S. and it will show you if the spot is free or not.

* AirPort Express Apple’s AirPort Express – this device is like a portable router that will allow you to create your own wireless network. In hotels where you have to pay for access, you are usually paying per computer so if your group has several laptops, iPod Touch, iPads, etc., you’d have to pay per device. Taking an AirPort Express with you will allow you to pay for one connection and create your own wireless network for all devices to use.

* Mifi style devices – Sprint and Verizon have a device called a Mifi that allows you to have access from anywhere. A monthly charge is required plus the initial cost of the device. Fry’s Electronics has a similar device available that does the same thing but without the monthly charges. The site says it’s out of stock for online ordering but if you search stores near you, it will often show stock available in stores.

* Tether your phone – tethering your phone means you use it as a modem with your laptop. Not all phones are tetherable but maintains a list of info on tethering that will tell you what you need to know.

* Hotspots you’re already paying for – the Internet or phone provider you have already may have public hotspots available to you so check for those lists online. For instance, AT&T, T-Mobile and and Verizon have lists you can search.

* Find a Starbucks – Starbucks has become one of the most ubiquitous retail businesses so they are easy to find no matter where you are. If you have a Starbucks Card and you register it online, you can get wifi for free for 2 hours. Are you an AT&T customer? You can get unlimited access. More info, including how to connect, can be found here.

* Search for smartphone apps – if you have a smartphone, search your app directory for wifi finders. This is helpful on the go, especially if the app can use your phone’s current location to find wifi near where you are.

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