What You Said: How To Score Free Wi-Fi While Traveling

By Jason Fitzpatrick on December 2nd, 2011

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Earlier this week we asked you to share your favorite tricks for scoring free Wi-Fi while on the road. Now we’re back to share the wealth; read on to see how your fellow readers stay connected while traveling.

By far the most popular technique was looking for restaurants and coffee shops that offer free Wi-Fi service. Five years ago the idea that every other establishment in the airport or down a busy street would offer free wireless internet would be a dream. Most readers had little trouble scoring free Wi-Fi from such establishments. David writes:

In addition to the aforementioned McDonalds, I would add Dennys, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Panera Bread, and of course lobbies of Hotels w/ free Wi-Fi.

Hisa shared a little tidbit that many people may be unaware of:

I have a Sprint phone, and when all else fails, I just call to activate the hotspot, use it for as long as necessary, and then call to deactivate it. Sprint is great in that respect because I only pay for the meager amount I use, not the whole $29.99 package.

When free Wi-Fi is near, I snag it. My favorite hot spots are cafes, book stores, hotel lobbies, and fast food joints where I seem to end up anyway when I travel! Also, the convention centers I attend usually have a Wi-Fi option, and it is usually free. I don’t bother “looking” for Wi-Fi, I just let my iPad or my droid phone search for it, and when they find it, I enjoy it ^^

We had no idea that Sprint allowed you to activate the hotspot functionality on a need-to-use basis. They certainly don’t publicize it. Perhaps other readers can chime in with information about their carriers?

Geoff offers up two tricks, both of varying ethical and legal fortitude:

A lot paid wireless systems right don’t check for mac address spoofing. These solutions are moderately evil and you should proceed with caution.

In Europe last summer I ran into a few interesting situations.

1. The airport I was at offered 15 minutes of internet for free. So if I changed my mac address every 15 minutes I could continue to use the internet as long as I needed.

2. Sometimes if your mac address just happens to be the same as someone who is legitimately connected to the network or you wait until they have left the network. The router will think that you are the person who paid for it. There is some pretty simple software you can get to scan a network then change your mac address to that of someone on the network allowing you to connect for free.

While the first one is rather clever we’d steer clear of the second one simply because of the potential problems it could cause for the legitimate customer (you’d be a real jerk if you caused the real customer’s account to get flagged for excessive usage/dual logins because of your MAC spoofing shenanigans).

For more way to connect from the road, hit up the full comment thread here.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 12/2/11
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