What Hotels Have Free Wi-Fi Or Free Wired Internet Access?

free wifi I hate paying for Wi-Fi or wired Internet access in hotels. If it were up to me, I’d add an amendment to our constitution guarantying free Wi-Fi in all hotels. The only thing I hate more than paying for Internet at hotels is forking over the money and then enduring connection problems. If you call down to the front desk at most large hotel chains, they’ll transfer you to an off-site help desk. My experiences with these off-site help desks ranges from problem solved in no time flat to “there’s not much we can do about it, sir,” after killing nearly an hour on the phone.

I recently stayed at a high-end chain hotel in Orange County, California, and my wife and I actually couldn’t bring ourselves to pay $13.95 each to get online. I complained about the price at the front desk and asked if there was free Wi-Fi in the lobby or any other common areas. I was told that there was not, only to find out after checking out that all we needed to do was sign up for their free rewards membership program in order to get completely free Wi-Fi. It would have been great to know that while I was there but the experience motivated me to check on the Internet policies of other hotel chains (see list of hotels with free Wi-Fi or wired Internet below).The good news is that the list of hotels that offer free Internet is growing. And if we continue to patronize these hotels and not those that charge for Wi-Fi, the trend will intensify. I can’t vouch for the quality or speed of service at these hotels but, in my experience, if you pay for wired or wireless Internet and the speed isn’t up to snuff, complain about it. Most hotels will give you a refund. Whether you bother with the off-site tech support depends on how desperate you are to get online and how much time you have on your hands.

Feel free to tell us about your experiences with wired or wireless Internet at various hotels in the comments section.

Hotels Offering Free Wi-Fi or Wired Internet Access

Ace Hotels
Aka Hotels
Aloft
Andaz
Ascend Hotel Collection
B Hotels & Resorts
Baymont Inn & Suites
Best Western
Cambria Suites
Candlewood Suites
Clarion Inn
Comfort Inn
Comfort Suites
County Inn & Suites
Courtyard by Marriott
Days Inn
Drury Hotels
Doyle Collection Hotels
EconoLodge
Element by Westin
Fairfield Inn & Suites
Four Points by Sheraton
Gansevoort Hotels
Gem Hotels
Greystone Hotels
Hampton Inn
Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham
Holiday Inn
Holiday Inn Express
Holiday Inn Resort
Holiday Inn Club Vacations
Home2Suites
Homewood Suites
Hotel Indigo
Howard Johnson
Hyatt House
Hyatt Place
James Hotels
Joie De Vivre Hotels (most locations)
Knights Inn
La Quinta
MainStay Suites
Microtel Inn
Peninsula Hotels
Quality Inn
Radisson
Radisson Blu
Ramada
Residence Inn
Rodeway Inn
Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts
Sleep Inn
Sofitel (except their Washington, D.C. location, which is free only in lobby)
Soho House Hotels
Spring Hill Suites
Standard Hotels
Staybridge Suites
Suburban
Super 8
Swire Hotels
Towne Place Suites
Travelodge
TRYP by Wyndham
Wingate by Wyndham




Sort of Free

Accor Brand Hotels- About 1700 of their 3,500 hotels have free Wi-Fi. Accor claims they are “working toward the goal” of free Internet at all of their locations. Come on guys, it’s not that hard, let’s do it!

Fairmont- Free Wi-Fi for members of the Fairmont President’s Club, which is free to join. If you’re too lazy to sign up or don’t know about this offer, the cost is $13.95 per night.

Hilton- free for gold or diamond Hilton HHonors members.

Hyatt- platinum and diamond members of its Hyatt Gold Passport program receive free in-room Internet access. (Travelers can attain platinum status after five separate stays or a total of 15 nights completed in a year.) For Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt and at some Park Hotels (many Park Hyatt hotels in North America offer complimentary Wi-Fi in the guest rooms), the cost for Wi-Fi is generally anywhere from about $9.95 to $14.95 a day. These hotels also offer packages for 24 hours of service, two- to three-day packages, or seven-day packages.

Kimpton Hotels- free Wi-Fi if you join their free In-Touch guest loyalty program.

Loews Hotels- if you sign up for their You First Rewards loyalty program, you can begin to get free Wi-Fi in after two stays in a year.

Marriott- Gold and Platinum members receive free high-speed Internet.

Omni Hotels- free if you sign up for their free Select Guest loyalty program.

Starwood Hotels- free Internet for platinum reward members. Gold members can choose to receive bonus Starpoints, free Internet or a free drink upon check-in.

Wyndham Hotels- free Wi-Fi in the lobby and public spaces of all hotels, free Wi-Fi in rooms at some locations.




Not Free at All

Crowne Plaza- most locations charge $9.95 per day but many also offer free Wi-Fi for platinum Priority Club Rewards members.

Intercontinental Hotels

Mandarin Oriental

Motel 6- most locations charge $2.99 per 24-hour period, some offer free Wi-Fi.

Night & Dream Hotels (Wyndham)- Wi-Fi costs about $10 per day.

Studio 6- Wi-Fi costs $4.99 per stay.

[Photo credit: Mr. Theklan on Flickr]

Google And Boingo Provide Free Wi-Fi For Travelers, As Long As They’re Not Using An iPhone

Google and Boingo team up to provide free WiFi throughout September.Finding wireless Internet access on the go can be a real challenge at times, particularly if you’re not in the mood to pay an exorbitant fee. But if you’re traveling between now and the end of the month, your search for free access may have just gotten easier thanks to Google Play and Boingo. That is, provided you’re not trying to use an iPad or iPhone.

Yesterday, the two companies announced that they are joining forces to provide free Wi-Fi at more than 4000 Boingo hotspots across the country through the end of September. The locations that will receive this free Internet access include dozens of hotels, restaurants and cafes, as well as malls, subway stations and 15 airports, including JFK and Chicago O’Hare.

This isn’t the first time Google and Boingo have teamed up in this way, but there is a slight difference this go around. It seems that iPhones and iPads, as well as Windows Phones, are being left out of the gratis Internet party. Yesterday’s press release clearly states, “Android phones and tablets, as well as Windows and Macintosh laptops, will be offered complimentary Wi-Fi” as part of the sponsorship program. The specific mention of Android products seems to indicate that the hotspots will be filtering based on device, preventing gadgets from Apple and Microsoft from connecting to the network.

As Android has grown in prominence, Google and Apple have begun to clash more directly in the mobile space. The two companies are now direct competitors with one another and by locking iOS devices out of the free Wi-Fi program, Google is telling users that if they had an Android device they could come to the party too. This short-term promotion isn’t likely to convince mobile users to switch to Android, but it is a subtle jab none the less.

For their part, Apple is being even more aggressive. Later today they’ll announce the next iPhone and the release date of its new operating system. That version of iOS will ship without YouTube, Google Maps or any other kind of built-in Google services as the two companies look to divorce themselves of one another as much as possible.

Travel Smarter 2012: Tips for improving your train travel

The railroad is the oldest, commercial mass transport of the modern age, predating the car and the airplane by at least 100 years. So how can train travel be smarter in 2012?

For starters, “the train takes less time total than all the preliminaries of air travel,” says Margaret King, who regularly opts to take the train to New York City, DC, and Boston from her home in Philadelphia. “I can take plenty of luggage, with no extra fees; I can easily work aboard the train; [and there are] no security hassles.”

From smartphone apps to help you plan and book your travel to a new crop of high-speed trains, train services across the globe have upgraded to appeal to frustrated air travelers and entice would-be drivers from their cars. Let’s take a look at all the ways traveling by train is smarter in 2012.

Smartphone Apps
Name any national railway and there’s likely an app that helps you find train schedules, get arrival and departure updates, and book seats. If you’re traveling to Europe, you can download apps for the particularly country you may be visiting or get the free Rail Europe app. Though far from perfect (e.g., tickets purchased through the app are sent via email as an e-ticket or, given enough lead time, mailed, rather than existing digitally within the app itself), the Rail Europe app gives you information on timetables, stations, and more for 35 European countries. Amtrak has a similar app (also free) that includes a panel for Guest Rewards, a loyalty program that lets regular rail travelers earn points towards free trips. Round-the-world trekkers, particularly those that intend to city-hop, would do well to download AllSubway HD ($0.99), a database of more than 130 city subway maps.Improved Rail Travel Using Social Media and the Web
Twitter is the social media platform of choice for travelers who need quick answers on rail information, particularly interruptions in service on municipal rail lines. Transitpal, a service available to riders of the Caltrain in the San Francisco Bay Area, monitors tweets to determine delays, police activity, and schedule changes. A companion app to the Transitpal service is set to launch in spring 2012 and the concept, says developer and Google alum Frederick Vallaeys, could easily be applied to rail lines in other cities.

As for using the web to improve the rail travel experience, look to Hipmunk, which became in fall 2011 the first online travel agent to integrate Amtrak searches. Hipmunk now displays train schedules and fares alongside airline timetables and fares, giving passengers, particularly those on the East Coast, where Amtrak service is strong, “greater flexibility and pricing power when considering routes.” Sadly, Amtrak fares are not included in Hipmunk’s smartphone app.

High-Speed Rail and Express Trains
Investing in high-speed rail infrastructure has become a priority on the local, state, regional, and federal level as they see that more consumers are willing to pay a bit extra for faster connections. Countries currently at work on high-speed rail networks include Turkey, China, Italy, and Russia. China’s newest express line, which connects Beijing to Shanghai in just over five hours, opened in June 2011. NTV, the first private bullet train operator in Italy, is set to begin service of its Italo fast trains in spring 2012. A point of interest: the private, high-speed rail line has the backing of Italian leather goods mogul Diego delle Valle, among other investors, and a 20 percent stake by SNCF, the French National Rail Service.

Russia has two relatively new high-speed trains between Moscow and St. Petersburg and St. Petersburg and Helsinki, Finland, but Russian Railways is currently at work on a line that will connect Moscow with Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics. Turkey’s famous Haydarpaşa Train Station, the terminus on the Asian side of Istanbul closed in January 2012 for restoration so that Turkish State Railways (TCDD) could complete its construction of the high-speed link between Ankara, the capital, and Istanbul, as well as the Marmaray Tunnel, a controversial and ambitious project that will create an underground rail link between Europe and Asia by digging a tunnel below the Bosphorus.

On-Board Amenities
In a bid to compete with and outdo airlines and bus companies, railways have been upgrading on-board amenities, such as offering Wi-Fi and unique dining menus. Amtrak launched free Wi-Fi on 12 East Coast routes and three California routes in fall 2011, thereby bringing the percentage of Wi-Fi-equipped fleet to 75 percent. (Note: Hipmunk, mentioned above, automatically provides info on Wi-Fi trains in its search.)

Meanwhile, rail passengers on board the Canadian, the VIA Rail train that connects Toronto to Vancouver, can look forward to a revamped dining menu. VIA recently enlisted the talents of eight chefs in a Top Chef-style cook-off. The 2012 Menu Creation Challenge saw the chefs create 72 gourmet dishes for menu consideration.

[flickr image via krikit]

10 hidden travel expenses backpackers often overlook

laundry When planning for a backpacking trip, most people try to create a budget of how much they think they are going to spend. While the flight, accommodations, and daily meals are often factored in, there are still many others expenses that still need to be covered. Here is a list of some of the expenses I’ve encountered in my travels that can add extra dollars to your budget.

Laundry

When backpacking, I’ve tried to get around doing laundry by doing things like:

  • Bringing a small bottle of detergent and creating my own human-powered washing machine by using a giant Ziplock bag, adding water, and shaking
  • Using shampoo and hand soap to wash my clothes in the sink and then hanging them all over the room
  • Trying to forgo washing my clothes as long as I could

Unfortunately, these options never ended up working out perfectly, as they were messy (that detergent bottle always ends up breaking open in my backpack, without fail), inefficient (the clothes are always wrinkled and damp when I put them back into my pack, no matter how long they hang up), somewhat inconsiderate (I’m sure there were people who didn’t like having my dirty socks next to their heads while they slept), and dirty (obviously, not washing your clothes when backpacking doesn’t smell great). The point is, you’re probably going to end up having to go to a laundromat and wash your clothes, or at least pay someone to wash them for you. And, a side note, the laundromat dryers usually take a long time to dry your clothes, so you’ll have to put in a little extra change. Make sure to set aside some cash on your trip for washing, drying, and detergent.Internet/Wi-Fi

Many hotels and hostels will charge extra to use their computers, and even if you bring your own device they still may charge you for Wi-Fi. You also may find yourself having to use internet cafes when computers aren’t available, and while the starting price is often cheap, it’ll still add up depending how often you use it. If you want to get around this charge, I would suggest searching ahead of time for a hotel or hostel that has internet and Wi-Fi included in the price.

passport Visas/Passports

If you don’t have a passport and are a U.S. citizen, you should expect to pay $135, plus the money it costs to have your photos taken. And if you travel frequently, you may find yourself needing to pay for extra pages, which isn’t cheap (I just paid $82 for mine). Visas are another hefty add-on, depending on where you are going and what country you’re from. If possible, I would recommend forgoing a visa agency unless you’re really confused or have a special issue, as they often tack on a hefty fee for themselves. For example, a friend and I both recently applied for Brazil tourist visas. While I filled out the application form and brought it straight to the nearest Brazilian consulate myself ($140), she used a middle man to help her ($250). While she paid $110 more than me, we both ended up with the same final product.

Vaccinations

One thing I will recommend is to keep a detailed record of all your vaccinations so you never repeat one that you already got. It also matters what form of a vaccination you get, so jot that down too. For example, while the pill vaccination for Typhoid lasts five years, the shot only lasts two. Also, if you’re going to a certified Travel Doctor they often won’t go through your insurance and will charge an expensive fee for the visit. If you only need something small like a bottle of pills, ask them if they can waive the fee, or see if you’re primary doctor can prescribe you what you need. Usually when you call to make the visit the travel specialist office will ask you where you are going anyway, so you can find out before the visit what vaccinations you need. For example, for an upcoming trip I called a local Travel Doctor’s office and told the receptionist where I was planning to go. She looked up all of the destinations in their system and confirmed that I would only need Malaria pills. She also told me my visit would not be covered by insurance and would cost $80. Instead of making an appointment I called my primary doctor who said he could prescribe me the Malaria pills, and I wasn’t charged for the visit.

phone Cell phone

Using your cell phone out of the country is a sure way to tack on hundreds of dollars to your bill. And if you have a smart phone, you’ve got to be careful to turn your data off or be prepared to pay. During a recent weekend trip to Aruba, I only brought my Android device along to use as an alarm clock, and even turned the Wi-Fi off when I arrived. When the phone bill came, I realized my morning wake-up call had cost me $130 because of incoming data. Luckily, there are a few ways around the cell phone dillemma. For one, buy a phone when you get there and use a local SIM card, or put the local SIM card into your phone. Even if you call home, doing this usually saves a lot of money. There are also a ton of great calling and messaging plans that are very affordable and sometimes even free, like Skype and Rebtel.

Mishaps

I know, who wants to think about something going wrong before you even leave for your trip? However, it’s not unlikely for a mishap to occur, whether it’s someone getting sick and you need to buy medicine, missing a train and needing to re-purchase a ticket, or losing your luggage and having to buy supplies to hold yourself over. When I was backpacking Europe, two pretty big mishaps happened to me that set me back a few hundred dollars. The first was when my backpack got lost on a flight from Berlin, Germany, to Nice, France. While I kept being told it would be delivered to me when found and I could continue traveling, I actually ended up having to take the train from Florence, Italy, back to Nice to retrieve my bag and then back to Florence, all in the same day. And, while I was told I would be reimbursed for my troubles and for the toiletries and clothes I had bought to get by, I never received a penny. The next incident was about a week later when I tried to board a bus in Naples, Italy. The bus driver actually told me I could buy my ticket on board and then, moments later after I had stepped on, fined me $100 for not pre-buying a ticket. While it was absolutely ridiculous, his threats of calling the police kind of (really) scared me, so I paid. The point is, things can happen and you don’t want to let them ruin your trip, so be prepared.

aruba Activities

While almost every city has free and fun things to do, you should set aside some money to do activities that really interest you. While it’s a good idea to add budget-friendly activities to your itinerary, if there’s a tour that really interests you, a show that looks entertaining, or an extreme sport you’d love to try, you’re probably going to pay to participate, and should. Make sure you bring extra money so you don’t have to miss out on these fun and cultural opportunities.

Water

This is probably the biggest expense people forget to calculate. If you’re in a country where the water isn’t drinkable, you’re going to need to purchase water bottles. There’s really no way around it, although some countries may have cheaper options. For example, in Ghana they sell waterbags which cost about two cents each and are the same size as a water bottle. Also, if you’re in a country where the water is consumable bring a reusable water bottle and drink from the tap. Many companies, like bobble and hydros, even make filtering water bottles so that you can transform your dull tap water into a fresh and pure liquid.

fruitSnacks

While you probably calculated your meals into your budget you may have forgotten those in between hours when your stomach starts growling. I’ve never gone on a trip where I didn’t purchase snacks in between meals, especially when the markets in other countries are one of the best places to witness culture up-close. Luckily, shopping at these open-air markets as well as grocery stores can help you buy snacks for cheap. And, if you have access to a kitchen, can also give you inspiration to cook for yourself and save money on meals.

Hostel extras

If you’re backpacking, there’s a good chance you’ll be staying in hostels. While hostels make fun, affordable, and social accommodations, you sometimes also end up paying for extras that are often included elsewhere, like linens, towels, airport pickup, breakfast, lockers, luggage storage, internet, and sometimes even hot water. Before booking a hostel, check to see what’s included and then compare it with other hostels in the area to see who gives you the most for your money.

Kuala Lumpur mandates WiFi in all restaurants and bars

kuala lumpur wifiThanks to a new law, visitors to Malaysia‘s capital city of Kuala Lumpur will be able to enjoy WiFi in all local restaurants and bars starting in April.

The New Straits Times reports that the law, passed yesterday, will make it mandatory for restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars, and clubs larger than 120 square meters in area to offer wireless Internet services free of charge, or for a reasonable fee. Kuala Lumpur’s city council intends to extend the requirement to public food courts, or hawker centers, later in the year.

While the law will certainly cement Kuala Lumpur’s reputation as one of the most connected cities in Southeast Asia, one has to wonder how the proliferation of WiFi will affect the dining experience, especially for travelers. It’d be a shame to be distracted from Malaysia’s mind-blowing cuisine by email and Facebook.

[Via The Next Web Asia; Flickr image via the trial]