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Helping holiday travelers find Wi-Fi at airports

How to find Wi-Fi hotspots at airports during the holiday travel season.

If you’re among the 8.9 million travelers that the AAA estimates will head to U.S. airports over the holidays, remember that Wi-Fi can be a lifesaver during that inevitable flight delay. You can not only keep yourself entertained, but also check weather updates and advise your friends and family of your unfortunate untimeliness.

I haven’t found an official count on the number of airports with public Wi-Fi, but it looks like at least a thousand have hotspots. Most airports contract with providers like Boingo or T-Mobile to provide Wi-Fi, which means you’ll pay by the day (usually $8 to $10) to use the service. If you’re connecting through an airport or two, you’ll want to try to use the same service in both airports. A great resource for finding Wi-Fi hotspots at airports is TravelPost.com’s Airport Wireless Internet Access Guide. This page not only tells you who the provider is, but also gives you hourly, daily, and monthly rates for the service. It also lists airports that offer free wireless network access. It’s a good idea to sign up for the service before you leave home because that will give you maximum online time between flights.

Speaking of free, if you’re traveling through the Denver International Airport, clap your hands and say yeah! The airport has just added no-cost Wi-Fi throughout its terminals, joining Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport as some of the few high-volume facilities that offer freebies. The Denver airport’s service is ad-supported, but I’d rather stare down a few banners than pay $8 to use the Net for 30 minutes. For a list of more airports with free wireless, check Wi-Fi Free Spot’s list here.

Even if your airport isn’t on the free list, you can sometimes snag some comp bandwidth by camping out near airlines’ first-class lounges or other businesses such as cafes and bars. And sometimes Wi-Fi service may be available in one terminal but not another, so if you have a long layover, it’s worth exploring the facility.

One final tip: Plug in your laptop right now. There’s nothing more annoying that powering up to find that you forgot to charge the battery.