WiFi on the Road

I’m pleasantly surprised to find WiFi in unusual places.

I’m just finishing up a 6-day trip in northern Arizona. As usual, I brought my old 12″ PowerBook along to keep me connected. It has a built-in AirPort wireless card and can also connect to the Internet via Bluetooth with my Treo where Internet service is available on my wireless network.

WiFi LogoI’m pleased to report that I had access to the Internet on every stop of this trip:

  • Sedona. We stayed at the Sky Ranch Lodge on Airport Mesa. I had a Garden View room. I’m not sure if the WiFi connection was available throughout the property or if I just got it because I was relatively close to the main office. I don’t recall seeing it advertised anywhere. So I was very surprised to get a nice strong signal from my room.
  • Grand Canyon. I stayed at Bright Angel Lodge. While there wasn’t WiFi available there, my cellphone service was able to get Internet access, which I could then share with my PowerBook. So although the connection wasn’t fast and it required pinging to keep alive, it was available.
  • Lake Powell. We stayed at the Lake Powell Resort northwest of Page. Although there was WiFi in the lodge lobby, it didn’t extend out to my room, which was two buildings away. Again, the Treo came to the rescue and I was able to get online.
  • Monument Valley. We stayed at Gouldings Lodge. While I know my Treo can’t connect to the Internet there, my room was sufficiently close enough to the main lobby to connect to one of the lodge’s two WiFi hotspots. (I’m not sure, but I think the folks at Red Bull may have added the second hotspot when they were there in May for the air races. They were responsible for getting the cell tower put up nearby.)
  • Flagstaff. I stayed at the Radisson on the west side of town. WiFi is a standard feature in its rooms.

In each case where the hotel provided WiFi access, access was free. I didn’t even have to log on to a service and agree to usage terms. I just opened my PowerBook and waited a moment. A dialog told me that none of my trusted networks were available and offered to connect me with another network.

Paying Extra for WiFi?

I am surprised, however, at the number of high-priced hotels that are charging a fee for WiFi access. It’s interesting to me that lower budget hotels give away WiFi access but you can expect to pay $5 to $10 per day for the same access in a Hyatt or Marriott or Hilton — each of which tend to be more costly than an average hotel chain.

I’ve also come to the point where the availability of free WiFi in a hotel’s rooms weighs into my booking decision. For example, if faced with two hotels that have the same rate, I’ll go with the one that has free Wi-Fi, even if it doesn’t have popular amenities such as in-room coffee, free breakfast, or a fitness room. A fast, reliable Internet connection is more important to me than many other hotel features.

One thought on “WiFi on the Road

  1. On our last family trip, we had a pretty simple algorithm for picking a place to stay. If the property had wifi, a free breakfast, and a pool, it was in the candidate list. There’s a surprisingly large number of utilitarian but perfectly nice places that support all three on our trip around Lake Michigan, and though I would not have gone back to all of them I’m happy with how we made that choice.

    The failure mode for mobile hotel-picking for me is the inability of hotel search engines to support the “any available room along this highway within 50 or 100 miles” search – you end up having to do a half dozen searches to get where you want.

What do you think?