by Nick Taylor
“I hate hotels that charge for Internet access. Bah, Marriott.” That was friend and Southern chef extraordinaire Nathalie Dupree’s recent Facebook post from the West Coast. I couldn’t agree more.
Most hotels that cater to business travelers charge up to $15 a day for in-room wireless because they can get away with it. The Internet’s a business tool that hardly anybody can do without. So while somebody whose company is paying the bill is sitting on his bed in his underwear browsing the net, I’m in the lobby with the rest of the price-conscious travelers using the free signal for our Internet explorations. If I’m lucky I will have found a chair.
That’s the way it usually breaks down. Not all hotels are the same, obviously, and even franchisees of the same chains don’t always follow the same policies regarding Internet access. But generally, the free access is in the lobby and you have to pay for access in your room. The gearheads in the crowd may have ways to get around that, but most of us don’t.
I have some sympathy for the hotels. They’re probably using the in-room charges to pay for continually being left behind by technology. I was in a hotel in Alabama not too long ago that still had telephone and USB cables bundled in the desk drawer along with cards on how to use them. I can see children asking, “Mommy, Daddy, what are these?”
“Those are dead technologies, dear. Wash your hands. You don’t know where they’ve been.”
I’m guessing that it doesn’t cost a hotel operator that much, if any, more to provide free wireless access in its guest rooms. It sure doesn’t cost $15. It would be worth that much in goodwill for hotels to drop the charge entirely.
Of course, smartphones and tablets with phone plans obviate the need for Internet access for many travelers. But a bigger screen sometimes makes all the difference. When booking a hotel reservation, it’s a good idea to find out ahead of time how much you’ll have to pay for a wireless connection in your room.
One caveat: if you’re outside the United States and are going to spend time checking sports scores or Facebook or responding to email on your iPhone or Droid device, the cellphone roaming charges mount up quickly. That’s where a charge for wireless Internet access might be a better deal. But then, sitting in the lobby and getting a free signal would be better still.
What some hotels charge, and don’t:
Kimpton Hotels offer free wireless if you sign up for its free loyalty program.
La Quinta Hotels offer free Internet. Some provide wireless service.
Hilton Hotels charge up to $14.99 daily for wireless at some locations like the Hilton New York on Avenue of the Americas. A spokesman said the fee is less at other hotels.
HHilton Honors Diamond and Gold members receive free WiFi including at the luxury hotels including: Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Doubletree by Hilton and Embassy Suites.
Free Internet is available to all at Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2Suites by Hilton.
Hyatt Hotels charge $9.95-$12.95 daily. Wireless is free in Hyatt Place and Hyatt House hotels.
Marriott Hotels charge $12.95 daily unless there’s a special package.
Marriott Gold and Platinum Elite members receive free wireless.
Marriott’s Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, Residence Inn, SpringHill Suites and Town Place Suites hotels offer free in-room wireless.
Starwood Hotels, which include Sheraton, Westin, W, ALoft, Le Meridien, St.Regis, Element and the Luxury Connection generally charge between $9.95 and $14.95 daily. The W Hotels $14.95, while the Westin hotels charge $9.95. daily.
Sheraton’s Four Points Hotels offer free wireless.