I don't know about you, but my mobile web reception sucks. Sure, it works in most places I spend my days. But it is slow, unreliable, and if I am out of town? Forget it. I might as well be trying to surf the web on a freaking rock.
Because of this, my love of free WiFi is extreme. I tend to choose where to give my patronage by whether or not they offer free WiFi. I book hotels that have it, I go to coffee shops that provide it, and I even refuse to go somewhere that asks for paid access. I mean, who would honestly want to pay to use an internet connection for a few minutes at a time? If I wanted that, I would go to an actual internet cafe, thank you.
Anyone wondering how to make sure they always get free WiFi have come to the right place. As a dedicated signal hog and cheapskate, I can honestly say I am good at weaseling out that sweet, sweet Internet. Sadly, I can't promise you will find free WiFi anywhere, but pretty close.
Here are a few tips:
Use an App
There are a ton of apps out there that have been developed recently for finding available WiFi signals, and every smartphone or tablet owner should have one. Apps like Wi-Fi Finder and WeFi will discover any hidden networks or local hotspots that you can tap into when you're in a pinch. I have even found signals when I have been sure there wouldn't be a single one to be found. Have your laptop handy? Try the Boingo WiFinder for Windows, or search beforehand with the Hotspot Locator.
Check With Your Cable Provider
Did you know a lot of cable, phone and internet providers offer hotspots for existing customers all over major (or even smaller) cities? Comcast, Time Warner, CableVision, AT&T and many others have these available. Check your provider's website to see if they have any, and where.
Book a Hotel
Or a motel, or a hostel. Many will have free WiFi available (even most, these days) for you to enjoy during your stay. Vacation rentals are a little more rare in this regard, but check sites like AirBNB will tell you which provide Internet as an amenity. When you check in you can ask for the access code.
WiFi With Your Coffee
A lot of businesses these days provide WiFi for free to paying customers. Starbucks, for example, and McDonald's. If you find yourself needing to pass the time, connect to a reliable web source, or just wanting to relax for a bit, slip in and buy a cup of coffee or something small. Then ask for the access code to their WiFi signal. You can find companies that offer this service by region (both in and out of the US) at WiFiFreeSpot.
Use Your Phone As a Signal Hub
Sometimes WiFi just isn't within reach, no matter what you do. When that happens, you at least have the mobile signal through your phone. Which, if you tether your mobile, you can use to project the signal onto your laptop or tablet and surf that way. Just watch out how much bandwidth you are using, keep a close eye on the fees and other fine print of your mobile plan, and only do it in emergencies. Those charges can add up quick.
In the end, you shouldn't have much trouble finding a free WiFi signal to use. Between the many tools there to help you look for one, and the number of companies jumping on board with providing it for users, the Internet is always within easy reach. Thank heaven for that...can you imagine if we have to spend a day away from our web addiction? I couldn't.