Friday 24 June 2016

Say "No!" to excessive hotel WiFi charges

There appears to be a growing trend in some hotels and resorts to try and charge guests for WiFi access per connected device. If you're like me you probably travel with several devices, and having all these connected at once could easily add another $75-$100/week to your bill over the course of your stay.

It's outrageous gouging.

There is an alternative, get yourself a travel router and connect as many devices as you like while only paying for 1 device. The travel router can connect to the existing hotel/resort WiFi and then broadcasts it's own network that you connect all your devices to.

I bought the HooToo TripMate Nano on sale at Amazon for $25. This handy device weighs an amazing 1oz and easily fits in your pants pocket or carry-on bag.  You can easily manage it from your smartphone, tablet, or computer, and if you connect all your devices to the HooToo before leaving home they will automatically find it when you power it up at the hotel. Just use the admin interface to have the Nano join the hotel WiFi and you're done. It will also act as a media centre, serving files on a connected USB drive, and it has an ethernet port if your room has a cable to plug in. Overall a purchase I'm very happy with, but there are more reasons than cost savings to get one.

Safety First: Hotel networks are notoriously polluted, the amount of cross traffic is incredible. Your internet connection probably isn't secure, and I know people who enjoy running packet sniffers on hotel networks just to see what they capture.

Think it only happens in small "one-off" places? Last February I was at Club Med with my family, and my brother-in-law had brought his family down at the same time. We both have small children so our Fire TV's came with to help keep the kids occupied in case of poor weather.

One day sitting by the pool I fired up the Fire TV app on my smartphone and it instantly discovered the Fire TV box in my brother-in-law's room.

If I could do that, I could use my laptop to start seeing other guests devices. Worse, I could then start trying exploits on them, or capturing their web traffic. Don't think it happens? Check out this story.

Using a travel router reduces all those risks. The router by nature acts as a firewall, helping to shield all your devices from prying eyes in the hotel.

It's been going on for years, and sadly the hotels don't seem to be doing much about it.

I'll easily save the $25 the HooToo cost me the first time I stay in a hotel that gouges charges per-device for WiFi, and I'll also rest a little easier knowing there is a firewall between me and the rest of the "guests".

If you're looking to get one, the Nano can be found on sale at Amazon every so often. I'd suggest adding it to your watch list.

Happy surfing!

The Home Geek

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