After a long flight you finally get settled in your room and you want to connect to the hotel WiFi.
This should be easy right? Sometimes it is, but a lot of times there can be problems. Luckily, there's usually a simple fix to get connected and online.
In this article I'm going to explain the tricks I've learned to get connected on WiFi while traveling.
Quick Public WiFi Overview
It's a good idea to know a few of the common terms and definitions. This will help with the hotel instructions and if you have to talk to the help desk to get connected. This isn't a detailed or definitive list, but a quick overview to get you started.
A few definitions you should know:
- Access Point: The WiFi router in the hotel that you connect to
- Client: Your laptop that is connecting to the WiFi router in the hotel
- SSID: The name of the WiFi network you want to select to get connected – A few examples: Marriott Hotel, Westin WiFi, Starbucks WiFi
- WEP, WPA, WPA2: These are different WiFi encryption algorithms and you probably don't need to worry about them when getting connected in a hotel
Quick Tip: If you are switching networks, restart your computer first. As an example, you are connected through an Ethernet network and now you want to use WiFi. Disconnect the Ethernet cable, restart your laptop and turn on the WiFi on your laptop. This will make sure your computer is not confused by why network to use.
A few basic WiFi troubleshooting tricks:
- Make sure WiFi is turned on
- Some laptops have a physical switch or keystrokes to enable WiFi
- Some laptops require you to use software or the WiFi manager to enable WiFi
- If you are not sure, Google something like “how to enable WiFi on laptop make and model“
- Start your WiFi manager and make sure you can see the SSID you want to connect to
- If all else fails, restart your computer. Sometimes starting over can be a good thing!
Getting WiFi Connected In Your Hotel Room
The biggest problem I usually have in hotel rooms is low WiFi signal strength. The hotel is trying to cover a lot of rooms with least amount of WiFi routers. If you are lucky you are close to the WiFi router and will have good signal strength. I've never asked for a room to be close to the WiFi router on check-in, but I have thought of it when I have crummy throughput.
If you are getting a slow connection speed, the first thing I check is the signal strength. How many bars of WiFi are you getting. This is similar to the coverage on your mobile phone. If it is really bad I will look for an Ethernet port.
Top 5 Tips to connect WiFi in your hotel room
- When you check-in ask the front desk for the WiFi SSID and password
- There's usually a brochure on the desk that has the WiFi credentials and steps to get connected. If not, look in the hotel binder for the details. If that fails, phone the front desk.
- As a backup I pack an Ethernet cable and connect to the Ethernet port if there is one. If your laptop has an Ethernet port this is a good option. Also, some times there is no charge to use the Ethernet where there is a charge for the WiFi.
- If there's a charge for using WiFi in your room, use the free lobby WiFi or go to a coffee shop. I like to write all of my emails in the room and then go to the lobby to send them. Not as convenient as in your room, but it can save you a lot of money.
- If you have status in your hotel you may get free WiFi. I know that Marriott Gold gives you free WiFi regardless if the hotel charges for it. Just make sure to check your bill when you are leaving.
If you can't get the WiFi to work in your hotel room
- Call the front desk and see if they can provide advice or a backup plan.
- Check the getting connected WiFi brochure on the desk. It may have a support number you can call.
- Try the WiFi in the lobby.
- See if there is a coffee shop or restaurant in the hotel that has WiFi.
- Worst case, take the night off. You can also use this excuse if you are too tired to work – “the WiFi didn't work” 🙂
Connect To Hotel WiFi In The Lobby
You will usually find the best WiFi connectivity in the hotel lobby. This is because it's an open small area, which makes it easier to cover with the hotel WiFi radios.
WiFi access in your lobby is usually free. This is good to remember if they are charging for WiFi in your room.
The lobby isn't as private as your room, so not the best for long Skype calls, but okay if you are checking your email. You can write your emails in your room and then send them from the lobby when you are all done.
Top 3 Tips to get connected in the hotel lobby
- While in the check-in line, check to see if there's WiFi in the lobby. If there is connect and download your email.
- When checking in, ask if there's a business center with free WiFi and access to a computer connected to the Internet. This is a nice backup plan.
- When checking in, ask if there's free breakfast, with free WiFi. Always nice to get free WiFi while you are having breakfast 😉
Connecting On Conference WiFi
Getting a WiFi connection at a conference in a hotel can be challenge. Sometimes the conference organizers didn't plan for it or they are late getting it installed. There can also be too many attendees for the available access.
Top 5 Tips to get connected at a conference:
- Scan for WiFi networks and see if a SSID matches the conference name. If there's no security try to connect.
- Check your conference package for the conference SSID and password.
- Check the attendee registration desk for the conference SSID and password.
- Ask attendees that have a computer with Internet access and see what they are using.
- See my sections on connecting in your room or the lobby, you might be able to access one of those networks.
A final note, you won't be able to read this article if you are not connected to the Internet. Print it out and take it with you. Then you will be able to use this article to connect to the hotel WiFi.
And if you have any tips to connect to hotel WiFi, please leave a comment below.