IT'S A WI-FI WORLD
We've ranted in this space (often, I'm afraid) about having to pay for wireless Internet access at airports and hotels and such. I was in San Francisco on personal business recently and was asked to pay for wi-fi, which is ridiculous in a city that's five miles from Silicon Valley and prides itself on being friendly to tourists.
Toronto Pearson, of course, also charges for wireless. At least San Francisco has good shops and lots of good restaurants for passengers who've cleared security.
Anyway, as I was typing this note I got a twitter notice from Star freelancer Reb Stevenson to say she was getting free wireless at the airport in Vienna and in Skopje, Macedonia. Skopje has free wi-fi and not Pearson or SFO? What's wrong with this picture?
As for internet access at hotels, it turns out a website called hotelchatter.com has been doing wi-fi surveys at major hotel chains for years, and bless their hearts for it. According to the web site, Holiday Inns and Best Western hotels always have free wi-fi, all the time, as do Personality Hotels (San Francisco) and Gansevoort Hotels, which are still pretty limited (New York, Miami both come to mind, and there's talk of one coming to Toronto).
Listed as "mostly free, depending on the brand" are Choice Hotels (all brands except Clarion, Rodeway Inn and Ascend Collection) and Intercontinental Hotels (not including Intercontinental and Crowne Plaza brands). Others are free for hotel loyalty club members, including Fairmont and Omni and many Hyatt brands.
Definitely worth checking out.
While we're on the wi-fi topic, USA Today reports that AirTran Airways in the U.S. is moving toward having wireless on its airplanes by the end of July.
I ONLY READ IT FOR THE TRAVEL ARTICLES
I'd never heard of her (honest, honey), but it seems there's a model/reality TV star/Playboy Playmate named Bridget Marquardt who will be showing something on the Travel Channel May 14 called "Bridget's Sexiest Beaches."
(Hmmmm....maybe it's time to upgrade the cable package at home. What? It's a U.S. channel?) Anyway, USA Today had an interview with her where she revealed some of her favourite travel spots. Apparently she loves Amsterdam and Tabacon resort in Arenal, Costa Rica. Inquiring minds wanted to know.
MOVE OVER, COLUMBUS
The folks who run Discover America, the official U.S. travel web site, have re-launched discoveramerica.com, with some 7,000 pages on all 50 states, the five U.S. territories and more than 100 cities.
It's interesting to look at the main page and find the cities/places that are highlighted with bright, orange dots. You can click on Ft. Myers and about eight other places in Florida, and there are 13 places highlighted for California, the most of any state. (For some reason, working-class Stockton gets a mention but not sexy Napa. And they've got San Mateo/Silicon Valley located south of Monterey instead of about 60 miles north. But we digress.)
Iowa's cities don't merit a highlight on the "destinations" map. But several other states are in the same situation, including Idaho, Kentucky, Alaska, Nebraska, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Mississippi.
You can find info on those states, of course, such as the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota and on the bluegrass country in Kentucky. It's just that their cities aren't so much destinations of their own.
That issue aside, there's tons of good information on a vast country and places where travelers can post photos, which is a nice touch.