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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dealing with Hotel Wi-Fi

15-bucks a day for Wi-Fi in my hotel room? That makes me crazy. I can get free Wi-Fi at coffee shops and hamburger joints, but I’m paying serious cash at a nice hotel and their jacking me for $15 per day for Wi-Fi!
Interestingly, many budget hotel chains give you Wi-Fi access for free; it’s often the fancier places that are adding the fees. The assumption: the more you are willing to pay for a hotel room, the less price-sensitive you are. Maybe it’s just me, but even if I’m going high-end on the room, I still feel gouged by charges like this. It’s like getting charged an electrical fee because I left the desk lamp on all day.

About 15-cents a day. I checked with a tech buddy of mine and that’s what he estimates it costs a hotel per room to keep a network running. Nice mark-up!

So, how do you get around these charges?
1.    Try to negotiate the fee out of the price when you book the room. If you are booking directly with the site, often the salesperson can waive or reduce certain fees and charges like Wi-Fi, parking fees and gym access charges.

2.      Join the hotel’s loyalty program. Check first, but most loyalty programs are free to join and some offer discounted or free Wi-Fi.

3.      Enable wireless tethering on your smartphone. Just make sure that your data plan is big enough for the heavier downloading you’re apt to do.

4.      Buy a prepaid dedicated mobile hotspot. If you are a heavy user, you can find hotspots with weekly or monthly plans that cost from $15 to $90 (Virgin Mobile and Verizon both have good offerings).

5.   Leave the comfort of the hotel room and find free Wi-Fi at a coffee shop (e.g., Panera), burger joint (e.g., McDonalds) or a city park (depending on the city you are visiting, of course).
One more word of warning: soon you might encounter a tiered Wi-Fi offering. This is a deal where basic Wi-Fi is free or a minimal fee and you pay for an upgrade to get high-speed service and/or support for multiple devices.
Final Note: If you travel in luxury, the small Peninsula chain not only offers free Wi-Fi, but each room gets its own wireless network. I mention this to inspire other hotels (particularly the ones that fit my budget) to follow suit.

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