Accessing the Internet on the Road: Know Before You Go

Posted by: CK Luther on Friday, February 1st, 2013

Leaving your home or office Internet connection doesn’t always mean that you have to miss important emails or be cut off from Facebook or other social networks. When your Internet service provider (ISP) doesn’t offer roaming access or have coverage in the area where you will be traveling, investigate your options before your trip to make sure you have Internet on the road.

Paid Options

If you are lodged with digitally-challenged friends or staying in a hotel without an Internet connection, plan ahead by preparing to pay for Internet access. Throughout the world, Internet cafes provide reliable connections, often without the need to bring your own device. These servilibrary patronsces fall at the low end of the cost scale for paid Internet on the road, and usually charge by the hour. National copy center chains often have the connection you need for a quick email or two. You’ll also pay by the hour at these locations and should plan to get access during normal business hours.

Cover your bases by subscribing to a mobile broadband service that covers major metropolitan areas, such as Boingo and CLEAR. Both provide no-contract mobile access. With Boingo, you use your own device. For Clear and similar services, you must buy a USB device or mobile hotspot before your trip.

Free Connections

Depending on your location, a little research can ferret out free Internet access in major North American cities. Get connected at national coffee chains, fast-food outlets and shopping malls for the price of a hamburger and fries or a latte. To avoid getting booted without notice, ask about the location’s usage policies before you stream videos for three hours or transfer large files.

Large cities offer Internet-on-the-road connections, including Wi-Fi in libraries. Other publicly available options include commuter trains and buses. Using this free connection requires that you book a ticket and have the time to travel.

Emergency Wi-Fi

If all else fails and you are really desperate after the library, coffee shop and mall close, find the closest large hospital. Most teaching hospitals and those connected to universities offer free Wi-Fi for patients and visitors. If you don’t have anyone to see at the hospital or don’t want to be around anyone ill, check for a signal in the parking lot closest to the emergency room. If the hospital has a public cafeteria, find it and get connected while you enjoy a healthy hospital cafeteria snack or beverage.


Tethering lets your computer or tablet access the Internet on the road through your cellphone. Because every cell service provider has specific policies about tethering, it’s best to ask before you go. Your tethered device uses data from your phone’s data plan, so it also helps to know your plan limits are and what any overage could cost. Read the phone’s manual, and download any software that you might need before you exercise this option.

Leave a Reply