A Hotel Wifi Hack

For those who haven’t been following me on twitter or my tumblog or friendfeed, I am on vacation with my family in Hawaii.

Our hotel offers wifi, but no ethernet option, in the rooms. It’s $11/day for seven days, or a total of $77 for hotel wifi for the week we are here. Not terrible, but what about the fact that all five of us have laptops and want to use them this week? $385 for the week for internet for the family is not an option.

So I came up with this cool hack that I though I’d share with all of you who might find yourself in the same situation. We signed up the Gotham Gal’s macbook to the hotel wifi. Then we shared that connection via ethernet using the sharing feature in system preferences. Here’s a sreen shot of my laptop’s sharing options:


You can share a lot of resources on a mac, but in this case, you only need to share Internet and you need to share it via Ethernet.

Then I pulled out our trusty Airport Express which you can buy for $99. I never travel without it. It has come in handy so many times.

I connected the Gotham Gal’s macbook ethernet port to the AIrport Express’ ethernet port and we now have open wifi for everyone on our two hotel rooms.

It works great. The only thing is we can’t disconnect Gotham Gal’s laptop or turn it off or put it to sleep. Everyone is happy. Which is a good thing on a family vacation.

#Blogging On The Road

Comments (Archived):

  1. nickdavis

    Very cool. If you’re looking for an easier option, I use a Sprint AirCard (USB), plugged into a Cradlepoint WiPipe wireless battery-powered router. Assuming you can get an EVDO connection, just switch on the Cradlepoint and in 10 seconds you have an instant password-protected wireless hotspot.Battery is about 2 – 2.5 hours.Here is a photo of the setup:http://flickr.com/photos/ni

    1. nickdavis

      Sorry, forgot to mention you can also plug it into the wall or a car outlet for unlimited power.

    2. Jauder Ho

      Nick,If Fred is on the Big Island, this is really not an option. I was there last year with a Sprint card and could not get any sort of decent connectivity. I ended up having to bite the bullet and paying for hotel connectivity.Fred,While you are there, definitely check out Beach 69. Ask a local and they will be able to tell you how to get there. Apparently Neil Diamond has a house right around there too.Here’s a pic of a sunset at Beach 69 (geotagged!)http://www.flickr.com/photo…

      1. nickdavis

        Figures. I live a mile from Sprint’s billion-dollar headquarters, and most guests still have trouble getting enough bars 🙂

  2. ErikSchwartz

    Why is it that cheap hotels (like holiday inn express and pod hotel) offer free wifi, and expensive hotels charge for it?

    1. nickdavis

      Because they can 🙂

      1. ErikSchwartz

        They’re one of the reasons I have an EVDO card.

  3. Stu

    I’ve run into this issue as well. It’s to bad that you can’t just plug the Airport into an Ethernet port or use it as a wireless bridge. Somebody should make an Airport Express-like device with a built-in web browser so one could connect it directly to a ISP service that requires a web login and then locks service to a MAC address.

    1. Nathaniel

      I ran into this same problem last month. You can use a free program called Macshift to make all the laptops use the same MAC address. This allowed both our laptops to connect to the wifi while only being charged for one connection.

    2. fredwilson

      Check out the linksys device mentioned in this comment thread

  4. iz

    Fred, Its a vacation! Turn off the laptops for a few days!!

    1. fredwilson

      Even if I did, my kids wouldn’tFred

  5. Bruce Barber

    Just call him Fred “Mac-Gyver” Wilson…

  6. hadar

    A better device for this exact problem is the Linksys WTR54GS travel router. It can share the WiFi from the hotel, as long as it’s unencrypted (which is true for most hotels), and then even the Gotham Gal could turn off her computer. I paid something like $37 for mine on Amazon!http://tinyurl.com/2wrhvq

    1. fredwilson

      Wow. I’ve never heard of that but I am going to get oneThanksFred

  7. chefbikram

    Did you ask the hotel to comp your family since you were paying for one connection? You’d be surprised at what hotels will do for customers…esp. if you ask the GM. We just secured free breakfast buffets for my family the last time they were out here visiting. (We’re in San Diego.)

    1. fredwilson

      No I didn’t. Good suggestion though


    Nice hack, I didn’t think of that at the time. I spent $40 on a wireless router when I was there last year to overcome the same issue. I just had the router clone the MAC address on the computer I signed up on.

  9. kenberger

    Nice hack. I’ve been using my 3G WinMo phone as a go-anywhere hotspot (anywhere there is 3G coverage, which includes much of Hawaii). Very simple, works really well.Description and how-to here:http://kenberger.com/blog/2

  10. Dan Weinreb

    That may be funny but I’m sure it’s exactly the truth. This is analogous to what airlines call “revenue management”, in which they charge much higher prices to those who are willing (not happy, but willing) to pay them: business travellers, who are distinguished from casual travellers by restrictions on the tickets such as theSaturday night stay. Similarly, expensive hotels already know that their customers are not price-sensitive. What bothers me so much is that I shell out the $10/day and get a connection of horrible quality, almost always. It’s so frustrating. What’s so hard about providing decent Internet connectivity?

  11. charlie crystle

    Folks–Another indispensible gadget: the small solar charger, good for handhelds.http://www.solio.com/charge

  12. bb

    What a lovely family vacation. Everyone takes their laptops and stares at them instead of enjoying the culture of where they are and each other. Why not just save some money and stay at home putting up images of Hawaii on your 14 flat panel displays. Then you can hire a native Hawaiian to come in and do a dance for you. What, no native Hawaiians in NYC? Don’t worry the kids won’t notice. Ahh, the ugly American traveler (yes, I’m American). At least you stayed domestic.

    1. David

      Fred Wilson? NCYC? Of the BC Wilsons?I think I might know this guy!Interesting reading.;-)

    2. fredwilson

      Fuck youWe bring our computers so we can share the wonderful times we are havingaway from them with our friends back home.We might use them an hour a day on vacation.fred

  13. jackson

    Ay chance you get to screw the hotel is golden. Those fuckers are in the rape business.

    1. fredwilson

      Right on brother

  14. Spyke

    Here’s a Better one for people who find this, If you’re in a hotel that allows you to access the wifi but blocks you via a webpage asking for last name and room number. Follow these steps for FREE internet.1.) Connect to the WiFi2.) open Windows command prompt (mac sux btw)3.) Type: ipconfig /all4.) look for your connection5.) open network connection6.) right click your wifi and click properties7.) look for TCP/IP in the little box and double click it8.) for the IP address use the one from that command propmt where you found your connect9.) use on next line10.) put there ip addy in 3rd line (on commeand prompt ipconfig thingy, it’ll be right below the 255 line)11.) add there DNS entries from the command prompt window and then save your settings12.) repair your internet connection and walla! free internet for 24 hous till there server runs a dns reset, then do it again, it’s just that ez!