How to save cash on internet access while traveling

By Nicole WongWhen I travel, I want to get away from it all -- except from the internet. Here are three ways I surfed the Web on my laptop during my 17-day cross-country roadtrip this summer without cracking open my wallet:

First, I booked hotels that offered free wireless-internet access. That saved me much more cash than just the $10 to $20 nightly internet fee that many other hotels charged. I wrung out the additional savings from the ironic reality that the lower-priced hotels, like Super 8 Motel and Holiday Inn Express, were usually the ones throwing in free WiFi. Meanwhile, the more expensive hotels typically slapped on Internet fees, knowing that their main clientele of well-to-do guests or business travelers with expense accounts would pony up to peruse cyberspace. It's situations like these where it pays off to be cheap!'s annual list of hotel chains that throw in free WiFi is a good resource when you're figuring out where to stay.

Second, on those unlucky occasions when I wound up in a hotel that charged for internet access, I simply went to bed early so the next morning I'd have more time to romp around online while sitting in a nearby cafe that served free WiFi along with a delicious breakfast. Also, some hotels that charge for in-room internet will waive the fee on the spot if you sign up for the chain's free customer-loyalty rewards program, so be sure to ask about that.
Third, some cities have created Free WiFi Zones that you can tap into. I found one in downtown Durham, NC. I would have happily sat on the concrete benches in the mid-morning sunshine while catching up on email. But it just so happened that Toast, the panini restaurant where I planned to eat brunch, was across the street from the open-air WiFi plaza and the signal was strong enough for customers inside the paninoteca to easily surf and swallow at the same time. The cash I saved on the previous night's hotel internet fee more than covered my $8 brunch of roasted beet, ricotta salata, orange and mint bruchetta accompanied by a green salad. And while I was slurping up free internet access, I looked for more deals to cash in on during the rest of my trip.
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