How to Get Faster Hotel Room Wi-Fi
You check into your hotel after a hard day of traveling. All you want to do is kick off your shoes, set the temperature to whatever hot or cold extreme you wouldn’t be able to get away with at home, and say hello to your Netflix queue before some much-earned rest. And then you realize the terrible truth: Your wi-fi connection is horrible or, worse, non-existent.
For a weary traveler—or even a well-rested one—there are few things more annoying than paying a small fortune for a hotel room, only to quickly realize that your wireless connection is terrible. Gone are your dreams of getting any work done on your trip, streaming your favorite music to get you in the mood for a big theme park day, or uploading all of your daily vacation photos to your social network (or cloud storage) of choice.
Here are a few tips you can use to address potential wireless woes before they become a problem.
Before you book: Check for awesome wi-fi
As you’re booking your next vacation, consider your wireless needs when you’re deciding where to say. This can be as easy as pulling up a third-party reviews site like Yelp or TripAdvisor and seeing what past guests have had to say about a hotel’s wi-fi capabilities. If there are a bunch of complaints, you might want to consider booking elsewhere. That, or know that you’re going to have to go into vacation mode with more of a wireless game plan.
While you’re looking for the perfect hotel, consider its proximity to any nearby public hotspots—as a last-ditch backup plan, of course. This could include a nearby Starbucks or McDonald’s, a local library, or just any general public hotspot that you can find using an app like WeFi (iOS, Android) or WiFi Map (iOS, Android).
As The Points Guy’s Katie Genter notes, there are also a few sites that specifically profile hotels by their wireless capabilities. They’re not perfect, but sites like hotelwifitest or SpeedSpot should have listings for at least the major properties wherever it is you’re looking to go.
While you’re packing: Bring along the right gear
If your hotel is confirmed to have spotty wi-fi, or you just want to be super-safe (spoiler: I always go the “just in case” route), the easiest way to ensure a great wireless connection in your room is to bring your own router. There are plenty of great travel routers you can buy; they aren’t expensive, nor do you need anything high-powered. A simple N300 travel router with WISP capabilities should be sufficient—something like the TP-Link TL-WR802N, which should cost you less than $40 and fit in the palm of your hand.
In theory, you should just be able to plug one into the wall, connect your room’s Ethernet cable to the router, and connect to your own wi-fi network instead of the hotel’s. Routers that support the aforementioned “WISP mode” can also work as a wireless repeater of-sorts, giving you a stronger connection to a hotel’s wi-fi signal without the hotel figuring out that you’re sharing that connection with multiple devices in your room.
Either way, it’s possible that your hotel has found a method to prevent you from using your own router in your room—up to and including disabling the Ethernet connection entirely. That said, a typical travel router is super-tiny and shouldn’t be much of a burden to stash in your luggage or carry-on bag. I’d much rather have one to try out than to not have one at all... and have a crappy wireless connection.
You can also try picking up a beefier external antenna for your router. An antenna that you connect to your laptop’s USB port might give you a little more firepower than your laptop’s built-in capabilities, and it could give you a shot at getting a better overall conn