I think everyone probably knows by now that my biggest gripe with Walt Disney World is it’s lack of Internet access. Of course I would like to be able to access a search engine and be able to share my holiday with my friends via twitter and facebook etc but actually it is more than that. International visitors to Walt Disney World face two issues: massively expensive telephone charges and cripplingly expensive data roaming charges. This means that any phone calls are pricey and you can’t get online to use many of the tools now available to US guests such as the lines apps that help you plan your day and the online Disney dining reservation system. Annoying, but not the end of the world. For us however, not having access to free or cheap Wi-Fi meant paying a fortune to call home as we couldn’t use cheaper Internet based options such as skype.
As I am sure other Brits will face this problem and the peak holiday season is approaching, I thought I’d devote my first blog post following our holiday to sharing our solution – this is the blog post that I wish I’d been able to find before we went away! Disney room-based Internet was not an option for us. At $10 per 24hours, it was too expensive, we were not in our room at the right time to call home due to the time difference and it was also via a network cable, which meant we’d have needed to take either a wireless router or a laptop with us – and trust me, we did not have the luggage allowance for that! We thought therefore that we may just have to stump up for the costs of the calls.
However, shortly before we left, Disney completed a trial offering free Wi-Fi in the lobby of the Contemporary. This apparently was successful and so they continued to offer it here and widened it to the lobbies of some of the other conference hotels. I also took a note of all the places rumoured to offer Wi-Fi (officially or not so officially) around the World. We successfully accessed Wi-Fi in three places on multiple occasions:
1. Orlando International Airport. OK so not technically in Walt Disney World, I think it is worth mentioning for all those people that only need to check in to tell the people back at home that they arrived safely etc. At first we had trouble getting this to work. There were three networks that were not locked and appeared to be available for public use. One belonged to the Hyatt hotel located within the airport so we didn’t use that one. The first we tried had ‘public’ in its name but we were unable to get that to connect correctly. Eventually, we also found one called ‘Internet’ and it is this one that you want to use, operated by the Aviation Authority. It is meant to be available in every public area but we found that we couldn’t always get it – for instance in the small enclave near the Starbucks (next to Security). However if you’re sitting in the main part of the lobby/shopping area, you shouldn’t have any problems. Once connected to the network, opening the browser prompts the log-in screen, where you accept the terms and conditions. We could then log in to skype (we used an app on my phone) and dial the UK very cheaply. The network speed is so-so – we had a few issues with it affecting the call, but these were pretty minor.
2. The Contemporary Hotel lobby. A public Disney-operated Wi-Fi network is available free of charge at the Contemporary. We found this location to be pretty convenient – as it is the first stop on the resorts monorail from Magic Kingdom, we could hop off here and make a call when we were on route to either here, the Polynesian or Grand Floridian, e.g. for dining (we couldn’t find Wi-Fi at either of these hotels) or to the Transportation and Ticket Centre for transfer to the Epcot monorail. It is also only a five minute walk from Magic Kingdom. It is worth mentioning though that you won’t get access everywhere within the Contemporary (I assume because they still want hotel guests to pay for it in their rooms). You can get access in the ground floor lobby (where there is also a convenient coffee shop) and on the second floor, which is a little quieter and has some usually empty and comfy sofas, but we had more issues with call quality here, due to network speed. You will not however, get access on the floor where you first get off the monorail or the main floor below it, where Chef Mickey’s, Contempo Cafe and the Fantasia shop are located. There is only one open network to connect to and once connected you will be prompted to agree to the terms and conditions (either automatically or when you first open a browser window). Other convention resorts are now meant to offer this free service, but the Contemporary was the only one we found.
3. Innoventions East at Epcot – powered by IBM, there is currently a network entitled ‘thinkplace_events’ within Innoventions East at Epcot that is available to the public – once again you need to open a browser after you have logged on and agree to the terms and conditions. This network is only available in the East side of Innoventions and isn’t always easy to locate – especially at the side closest to the Land and Seas. It was best near the doors that lead out towards Spaceship Earth. Innoventions isn’t the quietest place to make calls but this is probably the most convenient location!
We also tried out some of the areas that were rumoured on the Internet to have Wi-Fi available for public use, which were Fantasia at Contemporary, City Hall at Magic Kingdom, near the Hat at Hollywood Studios, at the back of Lotus Blossom Cafe in China in Epcot’s World Showcase and the Beach Club lobby. We were not able to find public Wi-Fi available in any of these locations. Some of these had unsecured Wi-Fi, but it was the network that is available for Cast Members and their guests (named something like WDTC, I can’t quite remember) and while the initial connection does not appear locked, you need a password to log-in at the browser log-in page.
So if you’re an International visitor, looking for a cheaper way to call home, I suggest you swing by one of those three locations on your trip to Walt Disney World, and then use a cheap Internet site or app such as skype to make your calls. I believe all three are legitimately open for public use and we have calculated that it saved us over £80. We also used it to look for dining when we were desperately trying to get a last minute ‘Ohana reservation and wanted to keep on trying in case of a cancellation. I hope it can help you too!
BRiTMiCK is a blog aimed at British visitors to Walt Disney World, helping you to make the most of your holiday. Follow @Britmickuk for the latest on whats going on at BRiTMiCK and other Disney sites.