Read This Before You Use Hotel Wi-Fi
When it comes to booking a hotel, Wi-Fi is an absolute must for most travelers. Indeed, when asked what services are of particular importance to them, 80 percent of hotel guests said that Internet access is the most crucial, a recent Statista survey of personal and business travelers found.
That data echoes a survey from English hotelier Roomzzz, which found that 65 percent of hotel guests go online within seven minutes of checking in at their hotel, and one third of hotel guests request the Wi-Fi password as soon as they arrive. Granted, that’s not really a surprise, considering you need a good Internet connection to stream the latest episode of, say, “House of Cards” without experiencing slowdowns.
Nonetheless, there are some important things to consider before logging in to your next hotel’s Wi-Fi.
1. Some hotels still charge for Wi-Fi
Though most major hotel chains offer guests free Wi-Fi, 36% of hotels worldwide still charge for it, a recent HotelChatter survey found. Generally, cheap hotels are more likely to charge for Wi-Fi, says Hailey Benton of Global Travel Academy (www.travelacademy.org). “High-quality and safe Wi-Fi connections are expensive, and if you have opted for a budget-friendly accommodation style this may mean that you miss out on certain perks, like free Wi-Fi,” she says.
But, depending on the hotel, there may still be ways to get free Wi-Fi. Some hotel loyalty programs offer complimentary Wi-Fi to frequent guests, says Benton. For instance, Hyatt offers free Wi-Fi to its Platinum and Diamond elite level members, Trump Elite gives its members complimentary Wi-Fi, and members of Marriott Rewards, which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), receive free Wi-Fi, Benton points out.
Other potential solutions? If a hotel provides guests free Wi-Fi in the lobby or another access point, like its business center, ask the front desk for a room that’s close by. Or, politely ask concierge for a promotional code to get free in-room Wi-Fi. (Some hotels will offer them if you ask.)
Can’t strike a deal? “I always suggest comparing the prices of in-hotel Wi-Fi to purchasing mobile data for your devices,” Benton says. “In many countries around the world, buying a SIM card with plenty of data is very affordable, and much more safe and reliable than hotel Wi-Fi.”
2. Know the difference between an unsecured and secured Wi-Fi connection
Speaking of safety, you’ve likely heard the terms “secured” and “unsecured” Wi-Fi before. Well, there’s a big difference between them. “Unsecured generally means un-encrypted and does not require a password,” explains Robert Siciliano, a security awareness expert at Safr.Me. Meanwhile, “secure Wi-Fi connection generally requires a password and is encrypted, or is accessed by a virtual private network software.”
Therefore, if you want to protect your data, look for a hotel with a secured Wi-Fi connection. “Unsecured is just that: insecure and vulnerable to criminal hackers sniffing out data as it travels through the air,” Siciliano warns.
3. Take the right safety measures to protect your computer
If you still want to stay at a hotel with an unsecured Wi-Fi network, there are ways you can access the Internet without making your personal information, bank accounts, and other sensitive data vulnerable to hackers.
One way to connect to Wi-Fi from your laptop or tablet is by creating a mobile hotspot from your smartphone. This entails sharing your phone’s mobile data connection wirelessly with the other device, and it may be a good option if your cell phone plan has unlimited data. (This PCMag guideshows you how to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot using an iPhone, Android, or other mobile device.)
However, if you don’t have an unlimited data plan, you may be better off buying a secure portable hotspot from either your cell phone carrier (e.g., Verizon’s highly rated $200 Jetpack MiFi 7730L), or from a third party like Karma, which offers pay-as-you-go plans and flat-rate monthly plans starting at $40.
4. Follow these precautions will help you further protect your personal data when using hotel Wi-Fi
- Turn off your device’s wireless signal when you’re not using it. Tucking in for the night? Disconnecting your smartphone or other electric device from the hotel’s Wi-Fi network can minimize your risk of being hacked.
- Use a VPN. Using a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is the most effective way to safely access Wi-Fi. Why? Because, essentially, a VPN is “a private network that only you can access, hiding your important data from potential hackers,” Benton says.
- Confirm you’re accessing the hotel’s Wi-Fi network—not a fake one. Some data thieves prey on hotel guests by setting up nearby Wi-Fi networks that look like legitimate networks but aren’t. And, unfortunately, “a malicious individual can very easily create a Wi-Fi network that sounds plausible,” says Max Eddy, cybersecurity expert at PCMag (www.PCMag.com). So, check with the front desk to verify you’re accessing the right network before you connect.
- Don’t use sensitive websites and mobile apps. One way to prevent thieves from stealing your passwords to social networking sites, online banking services, and other websites and apps when using hotel Wi-Fi is by avoiding them completely. It’s not convenient, but it’s a safe approach.
- Install antivirus software. Antivirus software programs can help prevent viruses, worms, trojans, and other malware from infiltrating your computer.
The bottom line? “Hotel Wi-Fi is convenient but it’s not always secure, even if it was set up with the best intentions,” Eddy says.
Traveling With Weed: What You Need to Know
The news headlines came fast and furiously at the end of September, most of which communicated the simple message: now, if you’re over 21, you can pack pot in your carry-on when flying from Los Angeles International Airport, with the allowance being 28.5 grams of marijuana and eight grams of concentrated pot for personal use. California laws are not the same as federal laws But there’s actually much more to it than that, so don’t be so quick to stash joints in with your shampoo. Here’s the bottom line: since the passage of the Adult Use Marijuana Act on January 1, 2018, recreational pot is legal in California. LAX is in California, so go on and bring it into the airport. But the fact remains that TSA agents are federal employees and pot is still illegal at the federal level, so if they spot any as your bag is going through the scanner, they can call on local police and let them decide what to do. In January, when the Act went into effect, a statement posted on flylax.com, the airport’s official website, read: "Passengers should be aware that marijuana laws vary state by state and they are encouraged to check the laws of the states in which they plan to travel." Transporting marijuana across state lines, whether by plane, train, or car, is illegal, plain and simple. Planes in American airspace are also subject to federal law, so fines may still be a consequence, regardless of whether California authorities prosecute. What happens--or doesn't--if TSA spots pot in your carry-on “It doesn’t matter what airport you’re leaving from. Once you step through TSA, you’re under their jurisdiction and at the mercy of federal law,” said Daniel Vinkovetsky (pseudonym: Danny Danko), senior cultivation editor at High Times, the leading authority on cannabis since it launched as a counter culture publication more than 40 years ago. “It’s misleading to say you can bring weed through the airport. Yes, you can bring it to LAX, but no, you can’t travel with it. If TSA agents see a jar of weed, they might pretend they didn’t because if they do, they’ll have to stop everything and hold up the security line.” And nobody wants to be responsible for an angry mob of anxious passengers. Vinkovetsky noted that law enforcement will, more likely than not, decline to prosecute, so most of the time if they do spot the pot, the end result is simply embarrassment and, of course, getting your pot confiscated. Or worst case scenario: you get held up and miss your flight. “Agents aren’t happy because it’s just a waste of their time,” he said. “They’re concerned about so much more, like finding bombs and knives and other security risks. Pot isn’t a security risk, so it’s not a major priority.” He added that he'll be keeping a careful eye on what happens with international and domestic travel in Canada when weed goes legal nationwide on October 17.
How to Find Cheap Flights to Europe
Early winter can be the perfect time for taking a trip to Europe. Between the mild weather, smaller crowds, scenic outdoor activities, and lower hotel rates, there are a handful of reasons to fly across the pond. There’s more good news: You can score low-priced flights if you plan accordingly. Here, 8 easy tips for flying to Europe in the off season. 1. PICK THE RIGHT DESTINATION (Lukas Bischoff/Dreamstime) Of course, where you’re traveling to affects your fare, so choose a destination with better deals. “The cheapest cities can vary depending on where you fly from, but we’ve been seeing some excellent deals to Copenhagen, Dublin, London, and Paris this year,” says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com. Case in point: Fare Compare found round-way flight deals from New York to Copenhagen for $320 and New York to London for $354. Moreover, a recent Kayak report found that flights to Northern and Western Europe are currently offering the most competitive rates. Iceland (Reykjavik airport) and Dublin are the travel company’s top picks for cheapest European destinations. 2. PICK THE RIGHT DEPARTURE CITY Generally, flights to Europe from Boston, Chicago, New York City, Orlando, Denver, and Washington, D.C. will be the most affordable, since these cities are hubs for many international carriers. 3. FIND AN ULTRA-LOW-COST AIRLINE Some airlines offer better deals than others. Norwegian Air, British-owned Condor, Icelandic carrier Wow Air, France-based XL Air, and Latvian Primera Air have some of the lowest priced transatlantic flights. Wow Air, for example, recently offered a $160 flight from Boston to Amsterdam in December. Primera Air, meanwhile, is selling flights from Newark to Paris for as low as $99. 4. AVOID EXTRA FEES Low-cost air carriers often charge “hidden” fees for extras, like carry-on bags, checked luggage, seat upgrades, or even beverages. While budget airlines are notorious for nickel-and-diming passengers for added fees, “you can score some serious value from their cheap tickets,” says Emily McNutt, associate news editor at The Points Guy. “Just be sure you read their pricing structure and terms and conditions so you know what you're getting into,” McNutt warns. 5. FOR REMOTE DESTINATIONS, FLY TO A NEARBY MAJOR CITY (Chert61/Dreamstime) To cross the ocean as affordably as possible, it often makes sense to break up your trip into two separate itineraries, says Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights (ScottsCheapFlights.com). “Once you're in Europe, you can hop a train or budget flight most places for under $100,” Keyes explains. Often, flights to remote destinations, such as national parks or Mediterranean islands, cost more than flights to major cities. Hence, it pays to map out your trip and plan your flight path accordingly. 6. LEVERAGE GOOGLE FLIGHTS There are certainly a ton of websites and booking search services for finding deals on flights, but Tarik Allag, founder of SecretFlying.com, recommends Google Flights. The tool lets you view fares from your city for specific travel dates, and it searches all but the smallest airlines, as well as the largest online travel agencies (OTAs) like Orbitz and Priceline. You can also use it to set an alert for a flight, and Google will send you an email if price goes up or down. In addition, by utilizing Google Flights’ calendar function “you can scroll through to see if leaving one day earlier or returning one day later will help to save you some serious cash,” says McNutt. “If you're flexible on your destination, the ‘Explore’ function allows you to input your departure city and when you want to travel to see where in the region offers the cheapest flights.” 7. DEPART ON WEDNESDAY, RETURN ON TUESDAY Many articles tout headlines like “This is the best day of the week to fly!” but few have hard evidence to back up their claims. Yet thanks to Kayak, we can put this subject to rest. After analyzing more than a year’s worth of flight data leaving the U.S. and Canada to Europe, the website’s price forecaster found that flying across the pond on a Wednesday and returning home on a Tuesday typically gets travelers the cheapest flights. A recent report from CheapAir.com supports this, finding that travelers can save an average of $76 by reserving flights on a Wednesday (the least expensive day to fly) instead of on a Sunday (the most expensive). 8. GET TWO VACATIONS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE (marchello74/Getty Images) Want a free stopover in Iceland on your way to another European city? With IcelandAir you have the option of adding a stay of up to seven nights when traveling from the U.S. and Canada to Europe for no additional cost to your original plane ticket.
As a child, I looked forward to flying alone from Florida to New York for the summer. It meant a few blissful weeks spent with cousins I rarely saw, and precious time with my grandparents, who I knew would be waiting for me at the gate. This year, I put my own children, ages 6 and 9, on a plane by themselves to see their grandparents. Getting them on the two-hour flight was relatively easy; waiting for them to land took a bigger toll on my nerves. But they arrived safely, and yours will too. Here’s what to expect when your child is flying alone domestically: WHO’S A “MINOR”? Airlines generally consider a minor to be between the ages of 5 and 14. Some airlines, like Southwest and Alaska, cap the age at 12, but you can request and pay for unaccompanied minor status for your older child regardless. SOLO FLIGHTS FOR KIDS ARE PRICIER That solo flight is not cheap. Every airline adds a surcharge. Some are relatively small: Southwest charges $50 per flight, per child, or $100 round trip. JetBlue’s program costs $100 per child, per flight, or $200 round trip. EACH AIRLINE HAS A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT POLICY You will book the flight differently on all airlines. Delta is unique in that you book the flight by phone using their Unaccompanied Minor phone line, which adds a level of comfort knowing there is a dedicated support staff for your questions. Most other airlines allow you to book the flight online; you just indicate the child is flying alone when prompted for the status of the passenger (adult or child) or when prompted for the passenger’s birthday. AIRLINES DO THEIR BEST TO KEEP YOUR KID SAFE You tell the airline in advance who will be dropping off and picking up your child, and ticketing agents ID the designated adult on both ends to let them through security and to the gate. (Unfortunately, they often only let one adult through.) The airlines will also give your child a bracelet or lanyard to indicate they’re unaccompanied, along with an envelope with their flight details. The flight crew typically places unaccompanied minors in the front of the plane to keep an eye on them, but prepare your child to be on his or her own during the flight and to go to by alone to the bathroom or ask for help if needed. A WELL-PACKED CARRY-ON WILL KEEP YOUR KID HAPPY Pack books and games to keep your child occupied and happy, and if you’re sending them with a tablet, charge it and/or pack a charged external battery. Buy food at the airport in case there is no substantial meal on the flight. Be sure to point out where they should place their envelope with all of their flight details, and include a list of important phone numbers just in case. And show them what’s in their carry-on before you say goodbye. BE PREPARED FOR A LONG TRAVEL DAY It will take a lot of time. You and the adult on the other end will be meeting your child at the gate, which means you’ll have to go through security both times. On the departure end, you’ll arrive at least an hour before just as if you were flying and you’ll need to stay until the plane is in the air, so don’t expect a quick goodbye. On the arrival end, allow at least 30 minutes to park and get to the gate, more if you’re in a major airport. CHECK THE FLIGHT ARRIVAL BOARD OFTEN Arrival gates change, and you could be waiting at the wrong one when your child deplanes. SOME INTERNATIONAL AND CONNECTING FLIGHTS DON’T ALLOW SOLO KIDS Each airline treats these cases a bit differently, so read each airline’s FAQs carefully. DON’T DOWNPLAY THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF SAYING GOODBYE Letting your child fly alone might be harder than you imagined. My daughter clung to me before her flight, my son didn’t even wave goodbye. And until they landed safely, my stomach was in knots because my most precious cargo was out of my hands, high in the air. It can be terrifying if you think of it this way. So try not to. Send them to the family members they rarely see. You’ll be forging lasting memories—and an early sense of independence. LEARN MORE Visit each of the major U.S. airlines’ websites for more information on their unaccompanied minor programs.
When you’re on the go, the smallest details can make or break your day. Who would rather spend time adjusting their shoulder straps or rearranging their bags to make room for souvenirs when they could be taking in new sights and sounds undistracted? We found a batch of hands-free accessories that will allow minimalists and pack rats alike to sally forth without such nuisances—and each one rings in at less than $150. (Yes, a backpack might be the ultimate example of the genre, but for these particular purposes, we’re sticking with bags of the frontal persuasion.) Read on to find the one that's right for you. Lighten Your Load (Courtesy Parker Clay) If you prefer to travel light, this is your pick. Made with sustainably sourced, premium Ethiopian leather by Parker Clay, a company that supports vulnerable communities in Addis Ababa, where its production facility is located, the Everly crossbody is perfect for the minimalist day-tripper. At just eight inches long, five inches high, and one inch wide, it has room for a small wallet or card holder, a set of earbuds, and maybe a lipstick or two, and that’s about it. Stash your phone in the slim external back pocket, and proceed to explore with your hands swinging. Everly crossbody in blush, $88; parkerclay.com. Mind Your Waistline (Courtesy Hustle & Hide Co) This sleek hip bag might look like a spin on an ‘80s classic, but it’s not your mother’s fanny pack. With two straps and four ways to wear it, Hustle & Hide Co’s understated, handcrafted convertible pouch is made for the modern traveler. Budget Travel senior editor Liza Weisstuch carried it on a recent trip to Alaska and came back singing its praises. “Wearing it feels like having an extra pocket,” she says. “It's the perfect size for travel, just big enough to keep the royal trifecta—phone, wallet, and passport—within easy reach. That's a huge game-changer for someone who's constantly rummaging for one or the other. Like me.” Liza prefers to use the waist strap (it’s easier for the on/off when you sit down, she says), but you can also clip it directly to your belt loops, use the standard strap and throw it over your arm, or go for the longer strap and wear it crossbody style. “What’s more,” she adds, “its soft, bourbon-brown leather and brass clasps make it a stylish accessory, regardless of whether you're wearing it around your waist or on your shoulder.” Classic button stud hip bag in brown, $100; hustleandhideco.com. Carry It Crossbody (Courtesy Peg and Awl) For years, I’ve been searching for a day bag to fit a book, a water bottle, over-ear headphones, and sunglasses, plus the wallet, organizational pouch, and lip balm that I always carry. It needs to be something big enough to hold it all without having to Tetris it in, but not so big that it weighs me down, and this no-frills satchel from Peg and Awl ticks all the boxes. Designed to carry the essentials and inspired by purpose-driven vintage bags like colonial-era satchels and the military map cases of World War II, the Hunter is made from sturdy, waterproof waxed canvas, with a brass rivets and studs for a modest flash of bling and a wide leather shoulder strap that stays put and doesn’t dig in. The interior pocket is just the right size for a wallet, keys, and a battery pack, and the main compartment is roomy enough for everything else. It's a utilitarian number with a few subtly clever details, from the smart placement that keeps the strap from twisting to a flap you can close with one hand (and a bit of dexterity). Hunter satchel in slate, $144; pegandawl.com. Feed a Crowd (Courtesy FEED) If you require more space, the Go-To bag from FEED provides extra wiggle room and more organizational options with the same crossbody convenience. With a zippered pocket inside that’s ideal for anything that needs to be safely stowed, like a wallet or passport, and an outer pocket that offers easy access to a phone or charger, this cotton-canvas carry-all not only holds everything you need for a day on the town or in the country, its purchase also provides 40 school meals to those in need. Go-To canvas bag in burnished olive, $68; feedprojects.com. Tote It All (Courtesy Everlane) Not a fan of the crossbody thing? Consider an upgrade on the standard tote instead. With leather straps that can handle whatever fits inside and a zip top to keep it all from falling out—and grabby hands from getting in—Everlane’s twill version is a stylish, nearly indestructible upgrade on the original. I put it to the test in New York, stuffing it with gym gear, a laptop, and a bottle or two of wine, and it didn’t give even the slightest bit. If your travel style includes lots of shopping, this bag's generous size and comfortable handles make it a great option, perfect for that farmers' market haul or bookstore score. Twill zip tote in golden brown, $48; everlane.com.