More and more cities are offering Wi-Fi at no charge. If you're not lucky enough to be in one, don't cave in and pay for access at your hotel--or at McDonald's or Starbucks, which also charge for the service. Just stop in at one of the many chains below. (Libraries are also worth a try.) To find out other spots where there's free Wi-Fi, head to websites such as jiwire.com, metrofreefi.com, hotspothaven.com, wififreespot.com, and wifizone.org
Retail chainsApple stores Beaner's Gourmet CoffeeBorders Books and MusicCC's Coffee House Diedrich Coffee Dunn Bros Coffee It's a Grind Coffee House Krystal restaurants Panera Bread cafésPJ's Coffee and Wine Bar Port City Java Schlotzsky's delis
Hotel Chains With Free Wi-Fi in Every RoomHeartland Inns, based in Iowa, offer free Wi-Fi in the guest rooms at all their locationsMicrotel Inn & Suites offers free Wi-Fi, free long distance phone calls, and free local calls in all of its guestrooms in the continental U.S. Wingate Inns has free wireless access (as well as wired) in both the guest rooms and public areas of all its locations
As of November 2005, travelers can perform city-specific searches for hotels with complimentary wireless access through hotel discounter QuikBook.com's shortcuts tool.
Hotel Chains With Some Free Wi-FiBest Western hotels are all independently owned and each is required to have Internet access in some public areas and at least 15% of guest rooms. Currently, about 1,300 of their 2,400 North American hotels have either free wired or wireless in guest rooms (they don't make much of a distinction)Choice mid-scale properties such as Clarion Hotels, Quality Inn, and Comfort Inn all have Wi-Fi or wired Internet access available in guest rooms and public areas (excluding EconoLodge and Roadway Inn) Doubletree Inns has a list of select locations offering Wi-Fi in public areas Hampton Inns has also a list of its participating Wi-Fi locations Hilton Hotels have a list of locations offerings Wi-Fi (or high-speed Internet) accessHoliday Inns have wireless lobbies and select guest rooms La Quinta's public areas and guest rooms are wireless or wired in all locationsMarriott offers high-speed Internet access, some wired and some wireless, in all guest rooms at Courtyard, Fairfield, TownePlace Suites, SpringHill and Residence Inn properties. More than 1,900 hotels have wireless, though about 60% of those have it only in public areasStarwood has free Wi-Fi access in the public spaces of about 300 of its North America hotels. Its mid-priced Four Points by Sheraton brand offers complimentary wired or wireless service in guest rooms and public spaces, with a fee for access in meeting rooms. All other brands charge for guest room/meeting Internet access, regardless of whether or not it is wireless or wired. About 25% of their hotels across all divisions (St. Regis, Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, The Luxury Collection and W) also offer Wi-Fi in guest rooms, typically for a charge.
Hotels on the way to Wi-Fi
Days Inn will begin implementing free wireless access in all locations in late-Oct. 2005, as will Ramada at the end of 2005, and Howard Johnson in Mar. 2006.
While no U.S. city is entirely wireless yet, many have large hotspot zones and a select few--most notably San Francisco and Philadelphia--have made free or low-cost city-wide Wi-Fi access a top priority.
Here are the Top 20 winners of Intel's annual "Most Unwired Cities" survey:
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett-Tacoma, Wash. San Francisco-San Jose-Oakland, Calif. Austin-San Marcos, Tex. Portland, Oregon - Vancouver, Wash.Toledo, Ohio Atlanta, Ga.Denver, Colo.Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.Orange County, Calif. San Diego, Calif.Chicago, Ill.Boston, Mass.Washington, D.C.Colorado Springs, Colo.Columbus, OhioCharlotte-Gastonia, N.C. - Rock Hill, S.C.Sacramento, Calif.Baton Rouge, La.Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
For the complete 100-city list, visit intel.com. And to search for hotspots in specific U.S. cities, visit metrofreefi.com.