Mobile Computing: Hotels With Hotspots

Feature: High-Speed Hotels

Shower cap? Check. French-milled soap? Of course. Wireless Internet access? Not sure.

These days, more hotels are offering high-speed wireless Internet access. Unfortunately, finding such a hotel hasn't gotten any easier. None of the advanced search functions at the major online travel sites I visited recently--CheapTickets.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Lodging.com, OnlineHotels.com, Orbitz, Priceline, RoomSearch.com, and Travelocity--allow you to search for hotel properties offering high-speed Internet access.

So how do you find hotels with hotspots? This week I give you an update on which chains are offering Wi-Fi Internet access. Plus, I've got some tips on making sure you get connected with minimal hassle and expense. (And see this week's Mobile Computing News, Reviews, & Tips section for a review of a high-speed hotel in Atlanta.)

High-Speed Wireless Hotels

  • Microtel Inns & Suites, which has received the highest customer satisfaction ranking among economy/budget chains from J.D. Powers & Associates, recently introduced free Wi-Fi at its 265 U.S. hotels. Microtel properties are often located in suburban areas.<br /><br />
  • Homestead Studio Suites, which provides in-room kitchens, offers free Wi-Fi access in its moderately priced accommodations, according to the company.<br /><br />
  • The Kimpton Hotel chain, a collection of upscale/boutique properties primarily in the West, now offers complimentary Wi-Fi in guest rooms and public areas.<br /><br />
  • Omni Hotels was the first luxury brand to offer free wireless Internet access in guest rooms and public areas (according to the company).<br /><br />
  • About 400 Marriott properties, which include Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn, and SpringHill Suites, now provide wireless Internet access. Wireless service is sometimes available in guest rooms or in public areas only; check before you book. While Marriott-brand hotels usually charge about $10 a day for Internet access, some of its lower-priced brands (such as Courtyard) offer free wireless service.<br /><br />
  • Best Western has rolled out wireless Internet access to about 15 percent of its 2300 properties in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean, the company says. Wired access is available in all Best Western guest rooms, and Internet access is free for guests.<br /><br />

High-Speed Hotel Tips

Do Your Research Online. As I mentioned earlier, don't expect the online travel sites to help you find a wireless (or wired) hotel room. Some other options include HotelChatter, which compiled "best" and "worst" lists of Wi-Fi hotels; the Wi-Fi-FreeSpot Directory; T-Mobile; and Wayport.

Never Assume. Just because a hotel property advertises wireless access doesn't mean it will be available in your room. Wi-Fi is still sometimes confined to lobbies and meeting areas, while guest rooms have ethernet connections. Before booking, call the hotel to make sure Wi-Fi access is available in all guest rooms.

Have a Backup Plan. Though it's never happened to me, I've heard of travelers who had been assured Wi-Fi access was in their hotel room, only to discover that the signal was too weak to use. (My editor says this has happened to him. When they moved him to a room on a different floor, the signal was fine.) When you reserve a room, ask if there is a wired high-speed connection in your room, too--or at least wireless access in the lobby--as a backup. It wouldn't hurt to ask if there's a wireless Internet caf&#233; nearby, too.

Pack an Ethernet Cable, Just in Case. If you don't have a strong Wi-Fi signal in your room but do have an ethernet connection, great. Many hotels offering high-speed wired access supply a cable in each room. But to hedge your bets, pack an ethernet cable--the cable could have walked off with the previous guest.

Make Sure You Log Out. If you use a fee-based wireless service, be sure to properly sign off when you're done. I know of at least traveler who neglected to do so and was later hit with a big bill.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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