Data from Statista projects almost 550 million Wi-Fi hotspots by the year 2022. Unfortunately, while there may be a lot of them, many public Wi-Fi connections suck. And hotels can be among the worst. Here’s how to avoid the pitfalls of hotel Wi-Fi.
How to Get Around Bad Hotel Wi-Fi
You’ve mapped the route, bookmarked a bunch of tabs on Tripadvisor, and you’re ready to book a hotel. Make things easier on yourself and scope out the connection before you commit.
How fast a connection should you be looking for? 10mbps will probably do for barebones stuff like browsing and checking email. But 25mbps and up are what you should really be looking for—that speed will handle most online tasks, including streaming.
Do Your Research
The very first thing to do is prepare yourself. When planning your next trip, look at your hotel’s Wi-Fi connection before you book. Call up the front desk and ask what their connection speed is.
You can even ask where the routers are and try to book a room closeby. That can boost your signal if the hotel is using cheap routers or not enough of them. If you’re staying at a well-known hotel chain, try running it through sites like hotelwifitest.com or speedcheck.org
Read through reviews on Google and Yelp and look for complaints about the network. If there are a lot, you might want to try somewhere else. If there’s nowhere feasible nearby, then check for libraries, coffee shops, and even other hotel lobbies you can use as a last resort.
Don’t assume a fancy hotel chain means fast internet. A quick search on Hotel Wi-Fi Test for Houston, Texas shows Hilton hotels have some of the slowest reported download speeds.
Bring a Travel RouterThere are myriad router options for the frequent traveler. Many of them require you to connect to the hotel room’s ethernet port though, so bring the necessary cables. Also, be aware that hotels have wised up to this and may have disabled the ethernet connection in your room or removed the port altogether.
If you can use a travel router in your room, it’ll allow you to connect multiple devices and operate on a more secure connection than the standard hotel Wi-Fi. You can find a cheap (but capable!) travel router for around $40, while more advanced models run $80 and up.
You can also consider a wireless USB antenna or adapter. With an even smaller form factor than a travel router, an adapter can significantly boost the Wi-Fi signal you’re getting from the hotel.
TP-Link AC750 Travel Router
Plug this inexpensive device into your hotel room's Ethernet port to create you own personal Wi-Fi network.
Use Your Phone as a Hotspot
If you’ve got good cell service and a wall charger for your phone, it’s possible to bypass the hotel Wi-Fi entirely by making your phone a wireless hotspot. iPhones and Android phones can generate a secure wireless network for you to use in hotspot mode.
That’s probably only a feasible option if you have an unlimited data plan and good cell signal strength. If not, you can try sharing your laptop’s wired ethernet connection to other devices via Wi-Fi with an app like Connectify (paid) for PC. Mac computers can share their connection for free.
Consider a VPN for Privacy
Whichever method(s) you use, make sure you’re browsing as securely as possible. If you can spare a few dollars a month, get a virtual private network (VPN) and use it whenever you connect to a public access point.
ExpressVPN is our top VPN pick. It’s fast and inexpensive. Many of us at How-To Geek have trusted and used it for years.