By Mark Chesnut
It’s one of the biggest gripes of frequent travelers: Why is an all-important service like Wi-Fi free when you stay at the cheapest budget hotels, but an annoying, nickel-and-diming extra fee when you stay at a luxury property that’s already charging an arm and a leg for the room?
It doesn’t have to be this way. With a bit of strategizing, you might find yourself logging on for free a bit more often.
1. Look before you book. As you browse hotel listings, be aware that some hotel brands offer free Wi-Fi as a rule. Among the latest to join this trend is Riu Hotels and Resorts, which recently added free Wi-Fi as an amenity at all of its Riu Palace properties—including the Riu Palace Riviera Maya in Mexico and the Riu Palace Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic.
2. Stay loyal. Join hotel loyalty programs, and all that travel might add up to free Wi-Fi. If you reach the gold level with Marriott Rewards, for example, you’ll get free Internet access at participating Marriott brand and Ritz-Carlton hotels. The Starpoints awarded by the Starwood Preferred Guest program can be redeemed for amenities like Wi-Fi, while Gold-level members can select from an array of “welcome gifts” that include free in-room Internet access.
3. Upgrade yourself. If you’re looking for multiple features—perhaps the perfect location, and an array of free amenities—it may be more economical in the long run to upgrade to a club-level type of accommodations that includes free Internet access. Guests staying at the luxuriously renovated West Tower accommodations at ONE UN New York, a recently revamped New York City hotel formerly known as the Millennium UN Plaza hotel, get free Wi-Fi as well as other amenities like lounge access with drinks, snacks and breakfast.
4. Sit in the lobby. If you’re on a tight budget or it’s past checkout time—or if perhaps you just like to be in a more social setting—consider grabbing a seat in the hotel lobby and taking advantage of the free public Wi-Fi. If your email gets tedious, at least then you have the option to enjoy some people-watching.
Mark Chesnut is a travel writer, editor and publisher of LatinFlyer.com, which focuses on travel to Latin America. This very blog post wouldn’t exist without Wi-Fi.