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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

2009 Annual Hotel WIFI Report

Best Hotel WiFi 2009

In the past, the budget brands like Holiday Inn and Best Western always topped our Best list. While those brands still offer free WiFi, we're happy to report that several new budget-ish boutique brands have arrived on the scene. These new kids offer hip spaces to sleep in and play in all the while providing free WiFi. So you don't have to sacrifice style — and, in some cases, cleanliness — just to get free internet.

1. Element and Aloft Hotels: Starwood Hotels have routinely made our Worst Hotel WiFi lists largely because nearly all their brands charge for daily internet in guestrooms. But thanks to the new Element and Aloft Hotel chains, Starwood has finally given road warriors what they need: free WiFi.

Element Hotels are created for the extended-stay traveler in mind, so the in-room work stations accommodate guests when they need to get down to business. But the option of WiFi lets guests sit on the couch and watch TV while downloading iTunes songs and waiting for the microwave popcorn to finish.

The same goes for Aloft. While we wouldn't want to hole up in these minimalist rooms all day, having free WiFi at least lets us check our email from the bed. If we want to be more social, we can take our laptop down to the re:mix lobby area to meet new friends and Facebook 'em on the spot.

If there isn't an Element or Aloft near where you want to stay, try a Four Points by Sheraton, which also offers free WiFi.

2. Kimpton Hotels:

Using the Kimpton complimentary WiFi in the lobby and poolside at the Hotel Palomar Westwood

In 2007, we were mad at Kimpton for taking away their once-ubiquitous WiFi service (free in the lobbies, free in the rooms) and requesting a $10+ daily fee for internet. At that time, we were too stunned to consider that if we'd signed up for the hotel chain's loyalty program, InTouch (with no minimum stays per year), we could have surfed the web for free. We only saw a brand who had once offered free WiFi and had called takebacks on their generosity.

By 2008, we had come around to their InTouch plan and had put them back on our Tried & True list. Now in 2009, with so much uncertainty and doom and gloom in the hotel market, we've come to see the reliability of Kimpton wireless as a beacon in the darkness. It's always there, and with your InTouch membership, it's always free. And in our personal experience (we've stayed at Kimpton properties many, many, many times), their staff goes above and beyond the call of duty to make sure you can get online in your room.

3. Hotel Indigo: Hotel Indigo came onto the scene a few years ago, but it wasn't until this year that a significant number of Indigos came online — and we do mean literally online — with free WiFi in guestrooms. The boutique brand from Intercontinental Hotels strives to make the hotel stay a more personal, comfortable experience, and with free WiFi in the rooms, it's almost like we're at home.

4. Hyatt Place Hotels: Hyatt Place is Hyatt's answer to the budget boutique hotel craze, and thanks to free WiFi throughout, we can finally add a Hyatt brand to our Best Hotel WiFi list. Also cool at Hyatt Place for the tech-dependent set? Plug panels in the rooms that allow you to hook up all your media devices — laptops, DVD players, MP3s and gaming systems — directly to the 42" flat-screen HDTV.

5. Courtyard By Marriott: The budget brand from Marriott has long offered free WiFi in their lobbies, but we never found hanging out in a Courtyard by Marriott lobby to be particularly awesome — until this year, that is. Courtyard has introduced these ultra-modern new Media Pod booths with flat-screen TVs and plug panels. Having a meal, a glass of wine and our fave TV show in front of us as we work is just about as good as it gets.

Always Free, All The Time
· Holiday Inn Hotels
· Best Western Hotels
· Personality Hotels (San Francisco)
· Gansevoort Hotels

Always Free, For Members
· JDV Hotels: The majority of Joie de Vivre's properties offer free WiFi in the public areas and guestrooms. But for the few holdouts that still charge, all members of the Joy of Life Club (JDV's loyalty program) get complimentary internet access, regardless of status level.
· Omni Hotels: Most Omni properties charge a fee for WiFi access; however, signing up for the Omni Select Guest loyalty program — which is free to do — earns you complimentary WiFi at all levels.
· Hyatt Hotels: This Spring, Hyatt began offering free WiFi for guests of certain loyalty program status (Diamond and Platinum) at all Hyatt-owned hotels, from Park Hyatts to the Hyatt Flagship properties. But the new Andaz hotels have free WiFi and so do Hyatt's budget brands, regardless of loyalty program membership.
· Fairmont Hotels: There is a fee for internet in guestrooms, but if you are a member of the Fairmont Presidents Circle (membership is free) you can get complimentary internet access during your stay.

Mostly Free, Depending on the Brand
· Choice Hotels: All brands except Clarion, Rodeway Inn and Ascend Collection. (The GEM hotels in New York, however, are free.)
· Intercontinental Hotels: All brands, including Holiday Inn (domestic) except for Intercontinental Hotels and Crowne Plazas.