How I Surf The Internet When I Travel
I just got back from a great vacation on the LEFT Coast :-) We fly an open jaw ticket to San Diego and returned from LAX, 2 theme parks, 4 beaches and 3 hotels.
Getting on the web to check email and websites is just a given when we travel these days. Even back when we did the Disney Cruise, there was hi-speed internet on the ship for $12/day unlimited usage.
But internet access when traveling can be very tricky or easy — one or the other. Here’s some tips from my experience in how to access the web:
- BRING A TRAVEL ROUTER & MAKE YOUR OWN HOTSPOT. Belkin, Linksys, NetGear all sell compact wifi routers that are meant specifically for travel — Just plug it in and you have an instant hotspot. Usually with just 1 connection available and you can make it public or private so that no one else hops on to the connection and blocks you out. It’s VERY useful to have so that you never have to really worry about length of ethernet cords, etc. And when stay on the Club Level at hotels, usually the Club Lounge has a business center or at least 1 PC with web access for guests. You can just use that internet port to set-up your hotspot so you can freely use your laptop in the lounge or even walk back to your room. Linksys has the best travel router on the market right now – it’s really compact without any cords for the electrical outlet. Amazon.com sells travel routers for $20-$25. Cheap but very practical.
- GO SLUMMING FOR FREE HOTSPOTS. The ironic thing about travel is that the “higher” you go in terms of hotel quality/brand, the more you have to pay for internet access. For example, Westin, Sheraton, Hyatt, Hilton all charge for WiFi Internet access via services like iPass or WayPort. You’ll have to pay $10/day or more or buy a “week” bundle for something outrageous like $50/week. While these better hotels make guests pay for everything, the mid- and lower-tier hotels all pretty much give it away for free. So the first thing I did when I checked into our top-floor room in Orange County was to walk onto the balcony and find the downmarket hotels in direct line of sight. Sure enough, Comfort Inn, Raddison, and some non-franchise hotels were right there and I easily could connect to Raddison’s free wifi service without any problems. Of course you could also drive around and find many cafes and other places that have free wifi, but why now do it from the comfort of your room if it’s available?
- TRY OUT THE PAID SERVICES. Many of the paid Wifi services have 1-day passes or even free trials available. For example, WayPort is offering a free 1-day promo pass coupon code by filling out a quick form right now. T-Mobile hotspots HAD (expired now) a 3-month free Wifi acess offer for PC’s with Vista installed. Starbucks is giving away a 1-day pass if you sign-up for any plan including a “metered pay-as-you-go” plan with T-Mobile Hotspots. Which means you get the 1 day free, and then pay $6/hour afterwards IF you use it. If you do a quick Google search, you can surely find promos like this. The only problems is that this won’t solve your web access problems if you are on a long trip or travel a lot.
- LOOK UP WIFI HOTSPOTS. There’s tons of wifi-hotspots wherever you go, and you can find many of them online with the various Wifi directories out there. jiiwire, boingo, etc. as all helpful.
- USE YOUR CELL PHONE AS A WIRELESS MODEM. If you have a decent smartphone and an unlimited data plan you can use your smartphone as a modem for internet access. My Samsung Blackjack will get me near DSL speeds when in a 3G area. I personally have been able to use my Blackjack to get web access on my laptop and forgo the $10/day hotel ISP charges. It’s a great option. Cingular/AT&T Wireless even lets you bump up your plans and then downgrade the plan again on a pro-rated basis so that it may be worth it to pay for the incremental cell phone bill cost for this feature when you travel. If you’re on Verizon or Sprint, they may devices to basically allow you to use your phone as a wireless modem.
I’m sure readers have a bunch of other ways to get on the web with their laptop when they are not at home or in the office. What do you do when you travel? Leave a comment below and share your own tips and experiences.