How to Get Wireless Internet Access in a Hotel

Man working on computer on his luggage in a hotel room

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Some hotels offer free wireless internet access which, for many travelers is the most important amenity. Even if a hotel doesn't offer free Wi-Fi, your hotel will most likely offer wireless access for a daily fee. Here's how to connect to a wireless network in a hotel and make the best use of it.

01
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Before You Make the Connection

Woman using tablet at hotel
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The setup is pretty straightforward and follows the basics of creating a Wi-Fi connection in general, but there are a few special considerations and things to do before you get started working out of a hotel.

Use a VPN to Secure Your Information

Most hotel wireless networks aren't password-protected or encrypted with strong WPA2. Open wireless networks or ones that use the WEP older protocol are not safe, making any information you transfer over the network prone to hacking. So, first, make sure you have a firewall installed, the latest system updates, and the latest antivirus updates. Then, secure your browsing session by using VPN or a remote access solution.

Make Sure Your Wireless Adapter Is on 

If you don't have a built-in wireless device o your laptop, you can purchase a USB wireless adapter or a PC card for your laptop instead.

02
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Find the Available Wireless Networks

wifi symbol
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Find the wireless network icon on your computer. On Windows laptops, the icon is in the bottom right on the taskbar by the date and may look like 1 or 2 monitors or a set of bars. On Macs, look to the top right of your screen and find the wireless symbol (which looks like a striped handheld fan).

Click on the wireless icon to see the list of available networks. (On Windows XP, right-click it to View Available Wireless Networks and on Vista, click it and select Connect or disconnect...).

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View Available Connections and Select the Wireless Network

The Available Networks option is found in the Network & Internet settings.

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In the new window that shows all available wireless networks, find the name of the hotel's wireless network. You can usually find this information, as well as any passwords needed to connect, in the hotel's guidebook in your room.

On a Mac simply click on the name of the wireless network and, for Windows, click the Connect button to connect.

Depending on your hotel's network setup, you may be prompted to enter the security passphrase to connect. You can usually find this information, again, in the hotel guidebook.

Another way to get to the list of available networks (e.g., if you can't find the wireless network icon) is by going to your control panel, then the network connections section. Right-click on Wireless Network Connection and choose View Available Wireless Networks.

If you're having trouble finding the right wireless network name on the list of available connections, you can manually add a wireless network or join another network (for Macs). However, chances are if the network isn't visible, and especially if you don't see any wireless networks there, something else is wrong and you may need to do some wireless network troubleshooting or call your hotel's help desk.

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Connecting to the Network

Once you begin connecting to a wireless network, you'll see a working notice.

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Next, your computer will start connecting to the network. On Windows, you'll see a progress bar and on Macs, you'll see the wireless icon animated to show it's in progress.

If this step takes too long (more than two minutes), you may need to restart the connection process. When all else fails, rebooting your device might help.

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Connection to the Wireless Network

The Network and Internet Status controls show you connections and options for connecting.

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If all's gone well, you should now have a connection to the wireless network. Your wireless connection window will show you that you are now connected. If you go into Network and Sharing Center, on Windows, you'll also see your computer connected to the wireless network.

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Get Authorized to Use the Hotel Network

Entering authorization credentials to access the hotel's internet connection.

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You'll need to open your web browser before trying to use any Internet-connected services like email, so you can go through the provider's landing page. This is where you'll enter in your credit card information (if the Wi-Fi isn't free), an authorization code given to you by the hotel, or at the very least accept the terms and conditions for using the service.

Once you've submitted your authorization information, you should now have full access to the hotel's Wi-Fi network and able to browse the Web, send and receive emails, and so on.

Most likely you'll get a confirmation screen showing how much time you have to use the hotel's internet access (if you're paying for the service). Keep an eye out for any time limitations so you can schedule your work most productively and take full advantage of the Wi-Fi service.

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Connection Details and Troubleshooting

If you can't connect your wireless network, try using the Windows Network Diagnostic.

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Move your mouse to hover over the wireless icon in your taskbar on Windows (or on Mac, click the icon) to get a quick look at your connection: It should show the network connection and how strong your signal strength is. If you have a weak signal, try moving your laptop to another location in the room to see if it improves.

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Connection Options: Share the Hotel Wi-Fi Signal With Other Devices

Laptop computer on bed in empty hotel room.

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If your hotel's wireless service isn't free, after you sign up, you may only be able to access the internet from one device (e.g., your laptop), depending on the hotel's setup. Many of us also travel with other wireless devices we'd like to have connected, though, such as a tablet or smartphone.

A travel wireless router, such as the ZuniConnect Travel IV, can be used to not only share a wired ethernet connection but also extend the Wi-Fi signal to multiple devices. It will be necessary to connect the travel router or access point to your laptop to set it up.