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May 21, 2015

Free Wifi in the USA: Wanderlust Wednesday

If you are traveling to the US for a short onsite assignment, you may wonder, "How can I get an internet connection on my phone?" Data plans on phones in the US are pretty expensive, so to combat that I suggest to use free wifi in free wifi zones. Some examples of free wifi zones are shown below in the images. Under the images, I discuss my personal experience with these options. 

 Free Wifi at the Mall
Wifi sign in screen at a mall.

Free Wifi at Fast
Wifi sign in screen at a fast food restaurant.

Free Internet Access at 
Gas Stations
Wifi sign in screen at a gas station.

Free Wi-fi at the
Grocery Store
Wifi sign in screen at a grocery store.

Free Internet Access at 
Gas StationsWifi sign in screen in the U.S.A.
 Free Wifi at Restaurants
Wifi sign in screen at a restaurant.

Internet Access at 
the Casino
Wifi sign in screen at a casino.

Logon at the College
Wifi sign in screen at a university.
Check E-mail from
Dunkin Donuts
Wifi sign in screen at a coffee shop.

Skype from 
the Highway
Wifi sign in screen from the highway.

Facebook from 
Wifi sign in screen from the airport.

In general, when relying on public wi-fi, we can't use it when we are traveling - actually driving on the road. We must stop somewhere to use it at the location that provides it. Also, depending on the wi-fi connection, speeds and internet traffic may provide slow speeds at busy locations. 

That being said, overall, I have had quite a good experience using wi-fi at most of the above locations. I would like to share some feedback from the above mentioned places. 

Wi-fi at the Mall
We had gone to Destiny USA in Syracuse, NY. This wi-fi sign in page is for the mall's general wi-fi connection. Some stores in the mall also have their own wi-fi available. The mall's wi-fi did not work in all stores, but seemed to work fine in common walkways and areas. In the mall, we used wi-fi to connect to Facebook to message each other when the test messaging service (SMS) was not working well. 

Wi-fi at Gas Stations
Gas station at dusk.
Above, you can see login pages from gas stations - Sheetz (commonly found in Pennsylvania) and a general one without branding. Many gas stations with convenient stores or small restaurants inside may have wi-fi. 

Wi-fi at Restaurants 
In this post, you can see login pages from restaurants such as McDonalds, Dunkin' Donuts, and Bob Evans. Personally, I find wi-fi connections at most of these places ideal and the easiest to use. In many cases, let's say you are driving by a McDonalds and want to use wi-fi, you don't even need to go into the restaurant! You can drive into the parking lot, park and use it. Once, I did not have a phone connection on my iPhone, but had Skype on my phone. I parked at Dunkin Donuts, connected to their wi-fi from the parking lot and called my family on Skype from the car! 

Wi-fi at Grocery Stores 
A popular American grocery store on the east coast.
I was able to use wi-fi easily at places like Wegmans and Tops (grocery stores in upstate New York). This comes in handy while shopping. The login page shown in this post is from Weis, a grocery store we saw in Pennsylvania. 

Wi-fi at Casinos or Airports 
Some of these wi-fis are free, and some require a login with payment. For instance, at the Casino, I was able to logon before we checked in. The wi-fi worked well. But, at the airport (JFK), the wi-fi was free for a particular amount of bandwidth and after that you had to pay. I used the free bandwidth quickly (and incidentally wasn't able to do much browsing), and did not pay for additional bandwidth. 

University park.
Wi-fi at Colleges 
We visited several colleges on our trip to the US recently, Binghamton University, SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Brockport, SUNY Cortland, Cornell University, and Monroe Community College. Most of these colleges have free wi-fi. Some of them require you to enter your email ID for verification. The connection speeds vary. For instance the login page on this page is for Cornell University - I was able to logon, but unable to access much online. It's possible the connection was slow due to many users online. At SUNY Buffalo, I could log on on my Macbook, but not on my Windows Lumia phone. 

Wi-fi on the Road 
Above, you can see a login page from the New York Thruway. Often when traveling, some rest areas, travel centers or service areas will have wi-fi available. Personally, I found the New York Thruway wi-fi the worst of all. The connectivity was bad and I wasn't able to browse anything - this was true at about 5 different rest stops on the New York Thruway (I90 - interstate 90). 

Wi-fi at Hotels 
If you do travel around the US and stay overnight in hotels, most hotels will offer wi-fi complementary with the room. Do ask in advance, as some hotels will charge extra. Most hotel wi-fis I have used in the US work fine. On our recent trip, we stayed in Red Roof Inn and Holiday Inn Express, both had good internet connectivity and speeds. Usually to connect to hotel wi-fis, you have to enter a login id- your room number and last name. 

What is your experience using public wi-fi in the US? What kinds of other places offer free wi-fi not mentioned here? 

Thank you for reading and enjoy your visits and business visits to the US! 

Jennifer Kumar, creator of the US Culture Training Finishing School helps Indians and other foreign expats coming to work in the US prepare for culture shock in advance of leaving the shores of their country for business and social success in the US. Contact us here for more information.

Related Posts: 
Save Money When Staying in Hotels 
Rest Areas in the US - What is a Rest Area? 
Training for Expats on Assignment in the USA

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.