It used to be that one would have to search out an out of the way coffee shop or library to get free WiFi when traveling. But now getting online when traveling can be as easy as finding the nearest fast food place, see more.
Coffee Shops and Bookstores
Starbucks used to charge for WiFi access, but no longer. Members of the My Starbucks Rewards program get two hours of free WiFi every day. With a location on nearly every block in major metropolitan areas, free internet is bound to be close at hand.
National bookstore chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble are also now offering free WiFi to customers in their store cafes.
Many independent coffee shops and bookstores also tend to offer free WiFi, especially in college areas. Have a cup of hot java while surfing the morning email for free.
Many restaurants and sandwich shop chains also offer free WiFi. Some chains to look for include Panera Bread, Culver’s Burgers, and Applebee’s in Wisconsin.
But free WiFi will be even easier to find when fast food giant McDonald’s, which had been experimenting with offering pay-for-use WiFi, opens the signal for free to customers as of January 15, 2010.
Adds a new dimension to the whole “would you like fries with that?” phrase, doesn’t it?
Public Metropolitan Parks
In many large cities, free WiFi could be as close as the nearest public park. From New York City to Austin, Texas to Portland, Oregon, city governments have made logging on for free super easy for locals and travelers alike. Check the city’s visitor bureau site to see if that locale offers it.
National Bus Lines
Riding the bus used to be boring. Not anymore, with national bus chains like Megabus (eastern and mid-west U.S. routes) Bolt Bus (northeast U.S. routes) and even some Greyhound buses (NYC to Washington, D.C.) offering free WiFi to its customers.
Hotels and Campgrounds
Many chain hotels, like Hampton Inns and Hilton Garden Inns, offer free WiFi in the hotel lobbies. Some allow it just for guest use (and will be password protected), but most often, the lobby access is open for public use, especially if the hotel is popular with business travelers.
Campgrounds and RV parks can also be sources for free WiFi. KOA campgrounds and many larger independent RV parks offer the internet access to guests as an amenity.
State Highway Rest Areas
Traveling by car? Don’t overlook rest areas on major highways as a source of free WiFi. States ranging from Texas to Iowa to Florida offer free internet access to visitors looking to check email or take a break from driving to upload some photos.
Safety While Using Free WiFi Access
Of course whenever using free public WiFi, one should always keep in mind that the signal isn’t secure and any hacker could easily access a computer once logged in.
Make sure to have recently updated anti-virus and firewall programs turned on and be careful with any information sent when using the free internet access.
But the trade-off is that it won’t cost a cent to log on and stay connected to friends, family and work when traveling. The money saved could easily pay for a meal or attraction ticket, which helps out any travel budget.
Got any favorite free WiFi tips for travelers? Leave a comment below