Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How-To Be A WiFi Bandit While On Vacation

Photo Credit
I'm lucky to do a lot of extended traveling with the flexibility of my mobile job. So when I leave the country to explore another, I usually take my laptop and phone with me to work on the fly and to check-in on things back home. The problem with using your smartphone in the US or overseas is that data rates can get super expensive. We're talking from $1-3/MB that you'll fly through in the span of a couple emails.

Here are a couple places where you can be a WiFi bandit while on vacation:

The Hotel Lobby - Many high-end hotels offer free WiFi in their main lobby. If you're lost or looking for directions, this is a great place to stop and reload your map. I also find that when I'm completely stuck, I can ask the concierge or front desk for directions or help. 

Photo Credit - New York Public Library
Starbucks - Locations throughout North America consistently offer free WiFi. It's a great excuse to grab a coffee, sit down and regroup. I like to download all my email, update my twitter feed and share pictures from my latest travels on Facebook.

Panera Bread - If you are in the US, this bakery chain offers free WiFi and an affordable lunch menu. Think of it as a very fancy Tim Hortons.

The Local Public Library - Usually has a free WiFi code. Just ask at the front desk, sometimes there are usage limits.

Photo Credit
Museums & Art Galleries - Most major museums and art galleries have installed free WiFi so visitors can stream audio tours on their phones. If you need to download your email to make sure things haven't gone haywire at work, you can try to do it here.

Urban Outfitters or Anthropologie - Pretty much a terms and conditions page comes up, click yes and you have access inside these stores.

McDonald's - Travelling overseas with sky high data fees are the worst. Don't even think about uploading a photo online, it can cost you $3/MB and you'll cry when you finally get your cell phone bill. When I'm in Europe, I have been able to lock down some free internet (although inconsistent) at McDonald's.  In Europe, free WiFi is harder to come by - which is probably a sign for me to get off my phone.

The Mac Airport Express - I travel a lot for work and have multiple devices like my laptop, phone, my husband's laptop and phone that are all fighting for the internet. I usually bring along my Mac Airport Express when I travel as my portable wireless router. It's no bigger than a standard adapter and you can plug the ethernet cable from the hotel connection, directly into it to enable all your devices. That way, everyone can get some work done in the morning before heading out for the day.

Where do you find free WiFi when you're traveling outside of the country?


  1. Great tips. We have Panera bread in Toronto now!

  2. I love when I am at an all-inclusive resorts and there is wifi access in my room (or even in the lobby). Although when I was in Cuba last year, there was no internet access whatsoever and it was nice to be disconnected for a week. I was really able to relax and concentrate on reading.

  3. mcdonalds came in handy during a road trip to North Carolina last year. great thing is they're everywhere in the US and always right off the highway.