Where To Find Wi-Fi While Traveling

We all know the definition of ‘Wi-Fi’ these days, and that’s a start. The more nonchalantly we all refer to this wireless Internet connection we all seek fervently, both while traveling and not, the more likely it is that we’ll find it. Finding Wi-Fi today is easier than it has ever been before, but the search can still be tricky. In the future, every square foot of U.S. land will have lightning speed Wi-Fi access, but until then, here are some tips for finding Wi-Fi while traveling.

1. Transportation

The one thing every traveler does is physically travel, so the easiest way to find Wi-Fi while traveling is to utilize a network hosted by your transporter. Airports and even airplanes usually have access to Wi-Fi. You’ll have to pay for Internet on the actual plane these days, but before you cough up money for the wireless you use in the airport, make sure to do a check for free networks. You can also find Wi-Fi now on trains, buses and boats.

2. Lodging

Your lodging while traveling is often a good resource for finding Wi-Fi. Not only do most hotels, motels, inns, lodges and resorts have Wi-Fi these days, but even more surprising accommodation choices offer Internet access. You can often find Wi-Fi now at campgrounds, truck stops, hotels, vacation rentals, airbnb rentals and RV parks.

3. Work Space

If you need Wi-Fi while working on the road (which is when most of us actually need it, right?), you shouldn’t have too hard of a time tracking it down. Offices are naturally equipped with Internet access and usually Wi-Fi, but you can also find a connection in other places of work. I do most of my work while on the road in coffee shops and 75% of them seem to have Wi-Fi access. Also check for Wi-Fi at convention centers, shared workspaces and libraries.

4. Leisure Spaces

If you want to find Wi-Fi in everyday places, seek and you will find. Wi-Fi connections are available in many restaurants, bars, gyms and other fitness centers, malls and regular public businesses. I’ve found Wi-Fi in spas, bike shops and certainly computer/phone stores.

5. Everywhere Else

One of the easiest things you can do is what I do: pay a little extra every month to transform your phone into a hotspot. I usually do this before I travel so I can work no matter where I am, even if I’m in a car’s passenger seat all day long.

High-speed godspeed.

[flickr image via raneko]

Is the iPad a threat to hotel Wi-Fi?

ipad While many hotels are now offering free Wi-Fi for guests, there now seems to be a glitch in the system, and that glitch is the iPad. Along with other tablet computers, these devices are most often used for video streaming.

David W. Garrison, the chief executive of iBAHN, a provider of information systems for the hospitality industry, explains why this is a problem. “The bits used for video streaming and downloading increased thirtyfold on our network in one year.”

Because of this, Garrison points out that hotels now must decide “either to not increase the amount of bandwidth so everyone will get much slower service to the point where you’ll think you’re on a dial up connection” or upgrade to a system that will force hotel guests to have to pay extra for the Wi-Fi.

It is a difficult decision for hotels to have to make, mainly because many business travelers choose hotels that offer the free Wi-Fi service. However, the abundant amount of video streaming on the iPad is really putting a strain on hotel networks.

10 budgeting mistakes even smart travelers make

don't overpack if you are on a travel budgetWhen traveling, it’s easy to go overboard and spend more money than you expected. What’s important is that you spend your extra cash having fun experiences instead of on mistakes that could have been prevented with some planning. Read these 10 common money mistakes often made by travelers to help save money on your next trip.

Mistake #1: Overpacking

This is a mistake that can rack up travel costs for many reasons. First of all, depending on what airline you are flying with, you may be charged a fee for each bag you bring. Not only that, but travelers must pay not only based on how many bags they bring, but also on how much they weigh. Once you are off the plane and at your accommodation, if you have brought more luggage than you can carry yourself you will have to consider porter and bellhop costs. Just do yourself a favor and only bring items you can see yourself using and wearing multiple times.budget travelMistake #2: Not knowing the exchange rate

If you’re looking to save money, it’s a good idea to do a little research and figure out what destinations will give you the most mileage for your dollar. For example, many regions in Canada, Australia, and Western Europe have strong currencies, meaning you may end up losing money in the exchange. However, if you plan a trip to, say, Hanoi, Vietnam, or Prague in the Czech Republic, you can end up saving a lot of cash.

When traveling, you should also pay attention to what currency exchange offices offer the best rates. For instance, airport currency exchanges are usually not the best places to change your money.

Mistake #3: Forgetting to check the weather of your destination

Last June I went to Paris, France, traveling under the assumption that France is always hot (on television the French always seem to be sipping wine in sunny vineyards and relaxing in little clothing in quaint little cafes). If I had checked the weather beforehand, I would have known that shorts and sleeveless shirts were not practical for when I was going, and I wouldn’t have had to buy new clothing, a jacket, and an umbrella that I ended up leaving behind anyway.

The moral of the story? Check the weather of your destination before you leave so you can pack appropriately and save yourself from having to buy a whole new wardrobe.

Mistake #4: Not knowing international phone rates

If you really don’t need your phone, leave it home, as you can save a lot of added costs. There are many other ways to stay in touch with people at home, such as e-mail or web chat (find areas with free Wi-Fi or see if your hotel provides it). If you must have your phone, invest in an international calling plan. While every phone company offers a different plan, I have always found that services such as Skype and PennyTalk offer the best deals. Another low-cost option is to purchase a local SIM card in the country you are visiting.

budget travelMistake #5: Traveling like everyone else

Not only is traveling during high-peak season more crowded and chaotic, it’s more expensive. If there’s an activity you love, try an off-the-beaten path destination to do it instead of following the crowd. Instead of going away in the summer, find a destination that offers your ideal weather in the spring. This can not only save you money, but can also introduce you to new, unexplored destinations.

Mistake #6: Not knowing the tipping etiquette

Tipping etiquette differs from country to country, so don’t just assume that just because in your home town you leave 20% gratuity when going out to eat you must do that everywhere. For example, an article on MSNBC.com says that tipping in Fiji is discouraged, while a server in Mexico will expect a 10%-15% tip. Know the customs before you go to avoid throwing away money unnecessarily.

Mistake #7: Not purchasing travel insurance

While travel insurance isn’t free, it can also end up saving you a ton of money if an emergency does occur. Hospital bills, cancelled flights, and natural disasters aren’t cheap and you can get very affordable travel insurance plans at Access America and World Nomads. Also, if you have health insurance or a travel credit card at home, call their customer service numbers to ask what you are already covered for abroad.

Mistake #8: Not knowing your transportation options

While taxis may be the most convenient way to get around a place, they are often the most expensive. Using public transportation options such as trains, buses, tro-tros, tuk tuks, and metros can save travelers literally hundreds of dollars. If you are unsure of how to get to a place ask your accommodation to help you plan the cheapest route. Also, before even stepping on the plane to go abroad, contact your hotel and ask them what the most cost-efficient method to reach the hotel from the airport is, what stop to get off at, and specific walking directions.

Mistake #9: Not taking advantage of frequent flier programs

If you travel regularly, it pays to either signup for a frequent flier program or apply for a credit card that will give you miles. Having loyalty to specific airlines may be difficult for some people to commit to, however, it can lead to free flights and discounted travel.

Mistake #10: Always being a tourist

This is an easy mistake to make, as when people are in a place for the first time they usually end up being drawn to all the flashy signs and salespeople offering experiences at must-see attractions. While you should see the big sights, there are often free museums, open air entertainment, and complimentary attractions in every place you visit. This goes for restaurants, too. While the big, sparkling venue with the extensive (and pricey!) menu in English may look good, wouldn’t it be nice to have an authentic (and budget-friendly) dining experience at a smaller, local eatery? Street-food is also a money-saving option, as well as grocery stores (bonus if you’re accommodation has a kitchen or serves free breakfast). Also, ask your hotel when museums, restaurants, and attractions offer discounts and promotions, such as free entry on Monday nights at an art gallery or complimentary tapas at a Spanish restaurant with a drink purchase.

The (Un)Wired: A Free Wi-Fi Manifesto

The year is twenty-ten A.D. and Wi-Fi should be free.
We travelers bear no grudge with you as long as you agree,
But if you’re that one schmuck who likes to play it old school,
Charging folks for internet–well, then basically, you’re a tool.

Your penny-pinching greed smells just like boardroom boredom.
It’s out of touch and backwards, not to mention just plain dumb.
Please get with the program, be ye airport or hotel:
If you don’t have free Wi-Fi, then you can go to hell.

Maybe somehow you’re still stuck way back in 1999,
But nowadays, we’re all online, everywhere and all the time.
We’re riding on a bullet train to a place called progress,
Get on it or get off it; win or lose, more or less.

Now don’t start waggin’ your finger and talkin’ ’bout capitalism.
‘Cuz what you’re doin’ and what that is, capitalism it isn’t.
You preach that competition matters most in a race,
But Bandwidth Bandit’s the losing horse, so here’s my trophy in your face.

Don’t believe the suits who tell us bloggers we’re too sassy,
‘Cuz let me tell you dittoheads, “Do you know what’s so not classy?”
Welcoming frequent flyers who only wanna soak their feet,
Then telling your five-star guest to go and check his email on the street.

Hey Luddite, while you’re at it, dream big, don’t stop there–
Stick your dirty hands in the water, in the men’s room, if you dare.
You could make a fortune charging for all the stuff that should be free.
A nickel to wipe, a dime to pee, and half a buck to breathe.Real funny how some of you think Wi-Fi’s, like, optional,
An extra perk like cushioned hangars or an ice bucket that’s full.
Well, keep your stupid coffee machine and you’re fancy new remote.
We watch TV online now, perhaps you didn’t know?

Now we’ve all got 3- and 4G, it’s isn’t like we need you,
It’s just your stupid concrete walls keep the signal from getting through.
So please stop annoying us or perhaps find another hobby?
‘Cuz right now I keep running with my laptop to the lobby.

I’ve been around the world, from Port Harcourt to Beijing,
The third world’s better wired than your top floor executive wing.
I can Twitter in Rwanda, get on Facebook and type,
But in your three-hundred-dollar hotel room, I can’t log on to Skype.

Now I spy with my bionic eyes the not-so-distant future,
And if you wanna be part of it, then let me offer you this here clue:
Soon every single traveler’s gonna check in with an iPad–
If your lousy hotel ain’t got Wi-Fi, than watch us get real iMad.

We won’t show up with pitchforks or with gas bombs at your door,
The way you’ll know we’re real pissed off is the way in which we ignore.
We’ll take a different airline, find a different place to play,
We’ll see you got no free signal, and we’ll simply walk away.

Really guys, don’t fret too much, it’s really no big whoop:
Your hotel will make a nice warehouse, or high-rise chicken coop.
Sit back and enjoy your silly ten-buck charges while they last,
You’ll need the cash come winter, when you’re freezing your homeless ass.

Sadly, it’s not just hotels who behave this way,
Not naming any names, LAX, IAD, JFK,
We’re talking to you ‘cuz your airports are such a mess.
You’re necessary but you still suck, so why not suck a little less?

Give us free Wi-Fi and we won’t hate you as much.
(Surely it costs less than nasty airport fudge.)
But you still just don’t get it and that’s exactly why,
We’d rather fly through Singapore, Portland or Dubai.

So here’s the proverbial memo you’ll keep swearing you didn’t get:
“Give us free Wi-Fi dammit, we deserve our internet.”
If not, then don’t complain when history adds you to the pile,
With drive-in movies, the horse-drawn carriage, civilization on the Nile.

So kudos to all those companies who know us, love and get us:
The mom and pop joints, B&Bs and dingy Chinatown bus.
You corporate minds should wake up now and please smell the coffee:
Starbucks has free Wi-Fi now, and so does MickeyDees.

What’s that you say? You still can’t catch the gist?
Of what everyone’s been sayin’–your kids and The Economist.
Really guys, it’s not so hard and I’m pleading on one knee,
It’s already twenty-ten A.D. and Wi-Fi should be free.

Peace out.

(Photo: Flickr Miklo Olivier, Dana-2)

Starbucks to offer free WI-Fi at all US locations starting July 1st!

Starting July 1st, finding an online fix will be just as easy as finding your coffee fix. The official Starbucks Twitter account just announced that Wi-Fi will be free of charge at all their US locations. This instantly turns them into one of the largest operators of free Wi-Fi in the world.

Best of all, the Twitter announcement confirms that no registration will be required, and that connections will be “one-click”.

Even though 3G and 4G are becoming more popular (and available), finding a reliable connection isn’t always easy – and especially in large cities, Wi-Fi is often the only efficient way to do anything involving large files or video.