While unrestricted hotel Internet connections are becoming more common in some parts of the world, many still insist on making things difficult for guests with multiple devices.
Being able to connect one or two gadgets to the network may once have been fine, but many people now have several devices they'd like to use. The situation is even worse when traveling in a couple or group.
Fortunately, like most things when it comes to technology, there are ways around these restrictions. Here are several methods of sharing your hotel internet connection, even if the manager would prefer you didn't.
Sharing a Wi-Fi Network
Limiting the number of devices that connect to a wireless network is usually done via a code that needs to be entered into a web browser. Once the limit is hit, the code won't work for any new connections.
If you’re traveling with a Windows laptop, the easiest way around this restriction is by installing Connectify Hotspot. The free version only lets you share Wi-Fi networks, but that’s enough for most people.
After installation, just connect to the hotel network, enter your code as usual, and activate Hotspot. On your other devices, just connect to the new network name that Hotspot creates and you're set—although you do need to remember not to turn your laptop off, or everything else will lose its connection.
If you don't have a Windows laptop with you, there's another alternative. A small hotspot device like the Hootoo Wireless Travel Router will let you do the same thing—turn it on, configure it for the hotel network, and connect your other devices to it.
Because it's so small and portable, the Hootoo travel router can be placed wherever you get the strongest Wi-Fi signal, even if that's out on the balcony or up against the door. It can usually be picked up for well under $50, and doubles as a portable battery for your phone or tablet as well.
It'll run as a hotspot for several hours on its own battery, and continues to work while charging, so you can just plug it into the nearest socket via a USB wall charger and keep going.
Sharing a Wired Network
Wi-Fi is becoming standard almost everywhere, but some hotels still have physical network sockets (also called Ethernet ports) in each room. While phones and tablets don't have an easy way to plug into wired networks, most business laptops still come with an RJ-45 port to plug a cable into.
If yours does, and there's a network cable for you to use, sharing the connection is very easy. Both Windows and Mac laptops can easily create a wireless hotspot from a wired network.
Just plug in the cable (and enter any codes that are required), then go to Internet Sharing on Mac or Internet Connection Sharing on Windows to set up a wireless network for sharing with the rest of your devices.
Again, if you're not traveling with a laptop that can connect to a physical network, you can buy a dedicated gadget to do the same thing. The Hootoo travel router mentioned above can share both wired and wireless networks, a feature worth looking for to provide the most versatility.
If you find yourself using wired networks regularly, it's worth packing a short network cable when you travel, rather than relying on it being provided by the hotel. They only cost a few dollars and avoid the frustration of asking at the front desk or finding there aren't any to spare.
If you'd prefer to avoid the hotel's Internet altogether (if it's too slow or expensive, for instance), there is another option. If you're not roaming and have a high data allowance on your cell plan, you can set most smartphones and tablets up as wireless hotspots to share their 3G or LTE connection with other devices.
On iOS, go to Settings > Cellular, then tap Personal Hotspot and turn it on. For Android devices, the process is similar—visit Settings, then tap "More" under the "Wireless and Networks" section. Tap on '"Tethering and portable hotspot," then click the "Portable Wi-Fi hotspot" toggle.
Be sure to set a password for the hotspot, so other hotel guests can't use all your data and slow down the connection. You can also change the network name to something more memorable, along with tweaking a few other settings.
Just be aware that some cell companies do disable the ability to tether like this, especially on iOS devices, so double-check before you plan to rely on it. Acting as a hotspot also quickly drains your phone battery, especially if you've got multiple other devices connected to it, so it's worth keeping it charging if you're near a power socket.