High-speed Internet access has become fairly ubiquitous in hotels, and not just major chains. You can usually check online to see if an establishment offers Internet access, but your research shouldn’t stop there.
Look into Internet options before you get to your hotel. Find out if the service is via Wi-Fi or ethernet, and whether it’s included with the room charge or costs extra (some places charge $10 to $20 a day).
If you’re traveling with a companion, you might also find out whether there’s any problem with two people from the same room using Wi-Fi. And if you’re stuck with a wired connection, you can probably share it with others by using a travel router to create a hot spot. Several vendors offer small, compact routers that support 802.11g; Trendnet’s TEW-654TR (about $50) is one of the first to back the faster 802.11n standard.
A mobile broadband Wi-Fi router lets you (and several friends or colleagues) tap into your smartphone data network with any Wi-Fi device. Novatel Wireless’s MiFi routers are barely larger than a credit card; currently you can get one for $100 with a Verizon Wireless data plan, or $150 for use with Virgin Mobile’s pay-as-you go service.
You can also get unlocked MiFi models for use with GSM networks. The latter cost $230, and you have to make your own arrangements for data plans and SIM cards. Unfortunately, you can’t use the same MiFi router in both North America and Europe–each continent’s 3G (HSPA) networks operate on different frequencies, so Novatel Wireless has different models for Europe and for North America.
A company called Cradlepoint makes a Wi-Fi router that’s meant for use with any activated USB Wi-Fi modem. However, not all modems work with the device, so check to see if yours is on the supported list.
If you do want to use a GSM-based smartphone overseas, look into prepaid international roaming plans. AT&T sells them in various sizes, from $25 for 20MB to $200 for 200MB. Without a plan, you pay $0.0195 per kilobyte, which comes to $19.50 for a single megabyte.
If all else fails, or you just need to log in to check a few e-mails, check out your hotel’s business center. Some hotels also have lobby stations that you can use to check in to a flight and print out a boarding pass. But be cautious in using a public PC. Try to find a machine that reboots and cleans up between guests; you don’t want your accounts hacked because you left login information or cookies behind. Ask a manager about security if you’re in doubt.
Staying connected can really help you get away from it all in style. Follow our other tech travel tips to really travel like royalty.