Personally, I hate being cramped in my office on beautiful days. Other times I just want to get out and about a bit and get a change of scenery.

There may be an occasion where you’re out of town and need to know where to find hotspots.

Where can you find wifi hotspots? We’re gonna look at some common and less common places to look for wifi hotspots.

Note: As with anything concerning important files and wireless internet connections, always use SSL and other safe computing practices. Most free wifi connections are not encrypted and do not have any security.

Where Can I Find WiFi Hotspots?

Here are some common places that are usually safe bets for finding a wifi connection.

Public Libraries

libraries

Often times libraries offer wifi. If you have a library card, you can access it for free.

If you’re not sure, just ask at the desk about their internet options.

Restaurants, Coffee Shops, Malls and Book Stores

coffee-shops

Many coffee shops and eateries offer wifi for their customers.

If you live near a college, you may find that more businesses provide wireless internet in order to draw in busy students.

Malls sometimes offer wifi throughout the building and specific businesses may offer it as well. Just be sure the connection you’re using is actually coming from the mall or the business and not somebody “providing” a fake hotspot.

Bookstores like Barnes & Noble offer free wifi access (and comfy seating) to customers.

Many restaurants now offer free wifi. If you’re really desperate, McDonald’s offers wifi (ask for a wifi coupon at the counter).

Internet Cafes

I’m not really going to say much about internet cafes, except: consider your security and the possibility that the info you transmit is being monitored (and not necessarily by the owners of the cafe).

Hotels and Airports

hotelsMost major chain hotels offer either complimentary wifi access, or have wired connections in your room. This is handy if you’re out of town.

However, many hotels do not have a dedicated wifi connection for every single floor of the hotel.

Say you’re on the 3rd floor, you may be connecting to a signal coming from the 1st floor or the 4 or 5th floor. Obviously, the closer you are to the signal, the better your connection.

Try asking at the desk before booking your room so you can choose a room on a floor with a healthy signal.

Airports are a bit iffy when it comes to wifi connections. Some airports offer wifi, others don’t at all, and still others you have to specifically ask for a coupon or pay for a specific amount of time.

Update: If the airport you’re at charges for wifi, you might try just asking for free wifi.

For a better idea of which airports have free wifi, look at the list at OpenWifiSpots.

I also noticed an ad in Fast Company for in-flight wifi on some American Airlines flights.

Other Places to Try

You may also find free wifi at these locations:

  • Public Parks
  • Public Transportation
  • Camp Grounds and RV Parks

Call Your Chamber of Commerce

Since most of the places that offer wifi are businesses, the Chamber of Commerce should have information businesses that offer hotspots.

Give them a call and see if they can help you.

Search Online

A faster option than the ones mentioned above, may be online wifi hotspot locators.

These work great if you know you’re gonna be out of town and in a different area.

OpenWifiSpots

open-wifi-spots-scrn

OpenWifiSpots.com is a directory of free wifi hotspots in the United States.

It currently shows the locations of nearly 34,000 hotspots, and uses Google Maps to show the physical location/address of other free hotspots nearby as well.

It’s an open community project, so if you find a wifi hotspot not listed, you can easily add it to the site. You can also rate and add details and notes about the location, including the strength of the signal.

JiWire

jiwire-scrn

JiWire boasts a registry of over 270,000 free and paid wifi hotspots in 140 countries.

They also have an iPhone and iPod touch app available.

Update: LifeHacker posted an article similar to this one a few days after we published this (great minds, eh?). It does include some links to nice web, iPhone and desktop wifi apps for Windows and Mac users.

Wifi User Beware

As mentioned before, always use safe computing tips when accessing the internet via a wifi connection–you never know who’s ‘listening in’.

Some quick tips:

  • If logging into an account, use sites that offer SSL
  • Always log out of sites when you’re done
  • Never enter credit card or banking info if at all possible
  • Be extra careful if you’re dealing with client information (obviously)
  • Switch off your wifi/disconnect when not using the internet
  • If a place/business/location looks like a dive, beware
  • Remember that most wifi hotspots have no or limited security

More wifi security tips can be found at OpenWiFiSpots.com.

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