Residence Inn, Courtyard, Springhill Suites by Marriott
Marriott is so close to doing WiFi right. Residence Inns, SpringHill Suites, and Courtyard all have strong, free, fast, working wireless in the rooms and the lobbies.
Furthermore, the rooms at the above hotel brands will give you an ethernet cable, and a free tethered connection if the WiFi in your room is spotty or not preferred.
The lobbies at the above mentioned Marriott's are also perfectly outfitted for meetings--meaning they offer plenty of power outlets and places to sit down and log on. The above video was shot at a Residence Inn and it shows you the mood and situation that is featured in most Residence Inn lobbies.
Finally, in our WiFi hotel testing, we have noticed that newer construction hotels, and low lying hotels, are much more apt to have strong wireless signals. Those old, multi-story buildings can be hard to optimally configure for wireless access.
What does all this mean? Marriott, you are so close. Just offer free wireless access at every Marriott property and you will be the first and only hotel brand to have a consistent free wireless policy.
For those of you who need a bit more of a scene than a Residence Inn can offer, and find yourselves traveling to urban centers like New York, LA and Miami, André Balazs has consistently good, free, strong WiFi.
AB Properties offers complimentary wireless in-rooms at several of his properties in Los Angeles (the two Standards and the Chateau Marmont) as well as at the Mercer and Hotel QT in New York and the Raleigh in Miami. Often, you will need a code but the extra effort to call the front desk for it, is worth it. This is one instance where handing out a code for free WiFi access really fits the hotels scenester profile.
Jeff Klein Hotels, another upscale boutique hotlier well worth mentioning here, takes it one step further and offers complimentary WiFi with no code or agreements to all their guests. The WiFi experience at both Klein hotels, Sunset Tower in LA and City Club in New York, is some of the best we have experienced. However, even though we admire his wireless policy, Klein needs to start opening up some more hotels around the world so we can enjoy the wireless experience in more than two locations.
JDV Hospitality, a California-only hotel group with about 25 operating hotels, has made free wireless a point in all of their hotels. Sadly they have no plans to leave the state of California.
Many JDV hotel offer free, fast, reliable "click and go" WiFi. Meaning no fees, no passwords, no log ons, just a quick reliable WiFi connection. Excellent.
JDV offers this type of connectivity in their guest rooms as well as their lobbies. Many JDV lobbies tend to be small, so you won't see many people surfing aimlessly in the JDV lobby. However, the fact that you can expect a free reliable WiFi connection whenever you're at a JDV hotel is a huge plus.
While Omni makes guests pay $9.99 for twenty-four hours of in-room access, there are two ways around it. First, you can join their "Select Guest Program" and get complimentary web access. Second, you can go down to the lobby and use the free wireless.
While we feel strongly that Omni should go all the way and not charge their guests for in-room access, we absolutely love that they offer free wireless access to all in the lobby. Omni, even takes it a step further, they have a free wireless philosophy--the below quote is from their lobby access page:
We're pleased to offer WiFi Internet access in our hotel lobby and designed public areas. Relax in our lobby while you surf the Internet for business or pleasure.
Back in the day lobbies were gathering areas for business folks, local folks, guests, and passerbys who would pop into a grand hotel lobby to have a cup of coffee, read the paper, or conduct a quick business meeting. Fast forward to 2007. Hotels that offer up free lobby WiFi access to all can make a huge statement in what "kind" of hotel they are. Furthermore, if people are hanging out in your lobby they are more likely to eat in your restaurant, where they may also make use of free WiFi, stop in your bars, and even, book a room at one of your hotels.
Finally, some hotels are of extremely old construction and it is not always easy, or practical to wire every room in a big old hotel for in-room WiFi. Offering up free, easy lobby wireless connections is a decent compromise.
Two other brands with similar WiFi policies are W Hotels and Kimpton Hotels. While W has made huge WiFi strides in the past here, Kimpton has regressed:
Last year, W was on our worst list for not offering wireless at most of their hotels. And they called themselves a hip boutique chain! This year, W has improved by offering free wireless in most of their lobbies...excuse us, living rooms. The downside is that in-room internet is more often than not, ethernet instead of wireless and starts at around $14.95 a day. Although, the W Westwood offers the option of three hours for $6.95.
Kimpton Hotels was always our favorite go-to for hotel wireless because it was always free and free of hassle. However, this past year Kimpton did away with free WiFi access at their two New York properties. Furthermore, most Kimpton properties now require a sign-in code that is for guests only, and then guests are met with complex wireless options (want to use VPN? That is $11.99). Like Omni, Kimpton offers their loyal guests, who are called InTouch members, free WiFi. We used to identify Kimpton Hotels with free wireless access, but that is no more.
No surprise here, these low-budget hotels are tried and true when it comes to free WiFi. Why? Two major reasons. First, these hotels are use to offering guests items like free breakfasts and free parking to compete, thus offering free wireless to their guests was a complete no-brainer. Next, many of these budget hotels are newly constructed, small, low lying structures, which means outfitting the property with a wireless network is not a difficult task. So who cares if your room isn't luxurious or hip?
Holiday Inns aren't the only ones offering free WiFi for their guests. Places such as Best Western, Wingate Inn, Days Inn, and Hampton Inn have all been doing this for quite some time now. And any of these budget brands could have been our pick here, however Holiday Inn Express gets the nod because of their reliable free wireless network year in and year out. Now if Holiday Inn Express could just offer free WiFi Internationally as well.
Some Final Thoughts
Hotels are altering their wireless deals all the time (*cough* Kimpton *cough*) which means connectivity experiences continue vary greatly from hotel to hotel, depending on when you visit, so please leave comments below letting us know what sort of WiFi experience you are experiencing out in the world, or send us tips.
We couldn't do this report with out you. Your consistent input helps your fellow travelers who need reliable, stress free hotel WiFi. We collect your tips, techniques, questions, and input throughout the year and go over your input with a fine toothed comb, which greatly helps us publish this list--for that we thank you.