After spending all day between a taxicab, a long airline flight, and a complimentary hotel shuttle with one tired husband and two grouchy children, we survived dinner and bath times, and the girls had just gone to sleep. My husband was engrossed in the sports network on the room’s large, flat screen television. As for me, I just wanted to check my email on something larger than the 2” x 3” viewing area on my smartphone.
The hotel boasted complimentary WiFi and even though I knew I had correctly synchronized my laptop to their wireless router, I still had barely any service. Without bothering to change out of my flannel pajamas, I grabbed a room key and my laptop and headed to the business center only to find out that it closed for the night ten minutes before my arrival. As a freelance writer, I have clients who depend on me to stay in touch, sometimes daily. And more importantly, I had to check into Farmville and harvest my crops!
Light at the End of the WiFi-less Tunnel
Checking email during down time at the end of the day is as essential for me to get a good night’s sleep as the relaxing yoga poses that I do just before hopping into bed. Fortunately, the front desk clerk as a tech-savvy young woman who, after hearing about my day, graciously extended the business center hours until midnight so I could catch up on everything I had missed while traveling. But more importantly, she shared some useful tips to help prevent me from going through this again.
Tips for Staying Connected
Stay Wired – When you are wireless, your battery power cuts the energy necessary to run power- zapping resources, like the brightness of the LED screen and, less visibly, the laptop’s wireless card. If you do not believe me, turn off your wireless for a second while simultaneously watching your laptop’s battery life. When you are within close range of a wireless router it’s not that big a deal, but when you are down to one bar, every bit of juice matters.
Use a Mapper Program – These are terrific. If you have ever used a social networking program from a mobile device and later seen that you supposedly logged in from other parts of the country, then you understand when I say that WiFi signals bounce around all over the place. If you are in a hotel or apartment-type setting, you can get a visual layout of available signals with a free program that you download on your laptop. The one for Windows is HeatMapper, and the one for Mac is NetSpot. Because they are free, you do not lose anything by trying them out.
Step Away from the Mirror – American aphorist Mason Cooley once said, “Don’t stare into a mirror when you are trying to solve a problem.” That goes for when you’re trying to get a decent WiFi connection as well. Big mirrors and metallic walls, such as what you will find in most hotel rooms and airports, reflect wireless connections up to three feet away from their surfaces. You will find a stronger connection further away from the mirror or metallic surface.
Boost Service with an Antenna – This little invention is awesome. My USB wireless antenna easily doubles my range of WiFi services, and I have friends who boast a rage that is four or five times what they are stuck with when they do not use the gadget. Because they use about 25% more power than the wireless card alone. So if you were thinking about relying on battery power alone, you might want to think twice about staying plugged in instead.
Smartphone as a Mobile Hotspot – I sometimes joke that my smartphone is smarter than I am! In all seriousness, it is capable of some phenomenal things and one of those things is acting as a mobile hot spot. The difference is that the mobile hotspot device acts like a router, allowing you to share the wireless data plan associated with your smartphone with multiple devices. Mine allows up to five devices to share a single connection. That means my husband and I can both connect our laptops while our daughters connect via their iPads.
Regardless of WiFi connection, something that is mandatory when traveling with electronic gadgets is the accessories that go with them.I find mine at www.locksondemand.com.
Jonathan and Carrie Kraft are laptop nomads who offer a lot of advice on their blog. For instance, things like an iPad rotation lock can help prevent your iPad from annoyingly switching between portrait and landscape modes – a huge help when you are walking through the busy streets of Manhattan with young children and using Google Maps for directions! Accessories can make or break your family’s trip, whether you are laptop nomads like the Krafts or just traveling to visit family over the holidays or taking an extended summer vacation.
Melissa Cameron loves the elasticity that goes with being a freelance author, especially when it provides the opportunity to travel with her husband and their young daughters. The accessories she takes along include the iPad floor stands for use in employing an iPad to help keep her children occupied while on the road. When Ashley is not writing or spending time with her family, she enjoys relaxing with meditative yoga, cooking with organic ingredients, and knitting.