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

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
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
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
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 Blu
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
Super 8
Swire Hotels
Towne Place Suites
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]

Boeing Promises Better In-Flight Wi-Fi

There is no doubt that one of the best innovations in air travel in recent years has been the addition of in-flight Wi-Fi. Not only does it help us to stay more productive, but it is a great way of staying in touch with friends and family, not to mention keeping entertained on a longer flight. Of course, if you’ve ever used wireless Internet while on a plane, you probably know that the quality of the connection varies widely, ranging from incredibly slow to impressively fast – especially considering you’re in a flying tube 30,000 feet above the ground. Now, Boeing is promising to make the experience a much more consistent one thanks to a new method of testing and optimizing the Wi-Fi signal strength in a plane.

Boeing’s new testing process arose from a set of existing proprietary tools that they already used to ensure radio signals from Wi-Fi didn’t interfere with the aircraft’s instrumentation. While using those tools they discovered that they could be fine tuned to help optimize the signal of the wireless router for greater efficiency. They also managed to cut the time for testing down from two weeks to just ten hours, significantly improving an engineers’ ability to improve wireless performance in a short amount of time.

What all of this means for you and I as travelers is that we’ll soon have a much more consistent and useful Wi-Fi connection on longer flights. In their press release touting this improvement, Boeing stated that even people getting up and moving about the cabin could have a detrimental effect on signal strength, but with this new method of testing, they were quickly and more efficiently able to tune the router for better performance, greatly limiting these issues. That’s something that we can all appreciate.

Now, if the airlines would just hurry up and get Wi-Fi working properly on more international flights, I’ll be one happy traveler.

[Photo Credit: EPA via WikiMedia]

Gogo Unveils New In-Flight Wireless: Boasts 3X Improvement In Bandwidth

Gogo’s jet-propelled test lab took flight yesterday with several reporters and one very important fin added to the underbelly of the plane.

On the quick flight across western Illinois, CTO Anand Chari showed off the significant speed increases and signal stability of their new ATG-4 (Air To Ground – 4) wireless system. Initially using the current ATG wireless, pages loaded slowly or timed out completely when a crowded plane was simulated. Switching to the new technology showed speeds reaching closer to the estimated max of 9.7 Mbps. When an additional 15 users were simulated on the plane, loading of pages slowed, but never stalled.

“This is a significant tech advancement,” said CEO Michael Small. “We can serve considerable larger number of passengers – over half the plane [before degradation of the service]. The sky is going to keep growing. We’re on a path to getting full service to a full plane of users.”

Streaming services like Hulu and Netflix are still too big of a burden for in-flight connectivity, but the company’s recent release of Gogo Vision offers a nice compromise – 100+ titles to watch streaming on your wireless device for $4.99 a movie or 99 cents a show.

Over 40 planes are already equipped with the ATG-4 technology, with Virgin, Delta and US Airways on board (launches for service on American Airlines and United are expected next year). The company plans to have over 500 planes equipped by the end of 2013.

How do you tell if your plane is equipped with the latest tech? If possible, look under the first third of the plane, near the door – if you can see two fins, the smaller will be the old ATG modem, and the larger will be the ATG-4. In addition, two directional antennae and a second modem will provide another clever bonus – by checking for signal in several directions, the plane will choose the strongest one to use, while the other keeps searching for the next best signal.

[Photo Credits: Dan Morgridge]

Gadling Gear Review: NetZero 4G Mobile Hotspot

There was a terrible noise this morning at our house – the garbage truck ripped out our cable hub and left us without an Internet connection. This is, to put it mildly, a problem at our house where we have two work-at-home Internet junkies. I had been intending to test NetZero’s mobile hotspot for a while but with a fat connection at home, I lacked the motivation and I don’t have upcoming travel on deck. This unexpected accident gave me the incentive I needed to check it out.

Set up is very easy. Plug in the device to charge it and turn it on. You’re done. Like other mobile Internet devices I’ve tried, your success with the hardware doesn’t indicate success with connecting to the web. The hotspot works best near a window – walking around the house revealed that it picked up a stronger signal in some places than others. And my neighborhood, while it does, indeed, have NetZero service, is not very strong. Placement is key.

Connecting to the signal takes as long as it takes. At my house it took about five minutes to hook up to the network – your mileage may vary depending on where you live. Once you’re connected, you might want to look under the hood at the settings. My hub was set to the lowest transmission power by default and it was glacial, I could barely load my email in the basic HTML view. Not useful for a harried Internet junkie. It’s not hard to change the settings, but it’s also not that easy to find the information on how to change them, you’ll have to do some digging.Once you’re all up and running, you can connect up to eight devices to the hotspot. At my house, things started to bog down with two computers hooked up – if you’re in a location with a more powerful signal, you can support more gadgets. So, geographic limitations aside, this thing is easy to set up, easy for nerds to configure for a better experience, and easy to connect to.

The catch here is, of course, your data use, and that’s where the expense is. The hub hotspot is currently on sale for $49.95, but you’ll need a data plan, too. The top tier plan is currently $49.95 for 4GB of data per month. The hub itself costs $49.95 (it’s currently on sale, down from $99.95.) In our house, we use easily ten times that much data. Streaming video is our biggest burner, but I post high res photos, I move documents over a virtual private network (VPN) connection … I’m a data hog. I’d burn through that 4GB in no time.

Given my data excesses, it’s difficult for me to make a case for this device as part of my kit. It feels almost like it’s best for exactly what I’m using it for today – Internet backup. I could see throwing it in the car for camping trips or in my bag from places that charge extra for Wi-Fi. It’s cheaper than a data plan for my phone when it comes to international roaming, but the coverage is US only, so it doesn’t help me with data roaming.

NetZero is essentially offering pay-as-you-go Internet. This is handy for folks wandering the US who want to manage their own access and have it whenever they want, wherever they are (that there’s NetZero coverage). You don’t have to have a contract, so that’s an advantage as well. I’m not sold though, on the idea as a concept. Hotels and even campgrounds increasingly offer Wi-Fi, as does that coffee shop you stopped at on your road trip. A casual user can drop into a public library or even a McDonald’s to get free Wi-Fi.

I’m very happy to have this service to try out today, given that we’re unhooked from the grid at home. I’d file this under casual or emergency user and call it good.

[Image credit: NetZero]

Free Internet For Travelers In Japan

Japan can be an expensive country in which to travel. Food, lodging, along with other goods and services that travelers might commonly buy are often high-priced, compared to American standards. Comparing Internet Wi-Fi hotspots to American standards, Japan is even tougher on visitors, offering few places for service and even less that support multiple languages. But recently, two companies operating in Japan started offering free Wi-Fi to foreign visitors.

Rail operator JR East Japan now has free public wireless LAN services intended for visiting travelers starting today at JR EAST Japan Travel Service Center and 13 stations located on Tokyo’s most famous circle rail route, the Yamanote Line, including some of the busiest stations.

Registration by email can be done in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese for access via PC or smartphone at a variety of locations including Tokyo Station, Narita Airport Station and Haneda Airport International Terminal Station. Users can log on to a connection that is valid up to three hours.Visa Worldwide has partnered with Wire and Wireless Co., Ltd. to launch free one-day Wi-Fi access for all Visa cardholders visiting Japan. Happening right now, the offer runs through August 29, 2014.

This free one-day Wi-Fi connection also has multi-language support for visiting tourists, followed by a 20 percent discount for three-day and seven-day Wi-Fi service. Wi-Fi networks are available throughout Japan, including major airports and leading merchants such as Starbucks and Lawson convenience stores.

Visa cardholders should register before departure from their home countries. Alternatively, after they arriving in Japan, visiting cardholders simply find either “Wi2” or “Wi2premium” access points to access the website for registration.

Looking for other public places with free Internet access? Try WiFiFreeSpot.com or Airport WiFi Guide for more listings.

[Flickr photo by Dennis Wong]