If you’ve stayed in a major hotel in the past several years, you know the drill for connecting to the hotel wireless network: connect to their wifi, try to connect somewhere with your browser, and the hotel wifi network login splash page will show up, so that you can agree to their terms of service, enter a password, etc.. But what if you can connect to the hotel wifi but you can’t get the login splash screen? Here’s what may be going on, and how to fix it so that you can connect to the hotel wifi network and get out to the internet.
First, let’s break this down. You can connect to the hotel wireless network. You know this, because your computer tells you that you are connected. (Note: the images here are from a Mac computer, but this information applies to and will work for Windows computers too.)
But you can’t get the hotel’s login page, and you cannot get out to the Internet, in fact it seems that you are not even connected to the Internet.
This is because you’re not connected to the Internet. You are connected to the hotel’s router, but you are not connected (yet) to the Internet.
And the most likely (and, happily, easily corrected) culprit is DNS.
As we explain in more detail here, DNS, which stands for Domain Name System, is sort of like directory assistance for addresses on the Internet. In order to reach a website, your computer needs to be able to reach a DNS server in order to translate plain English domain names (such as “theinternetpatrol.com”) to the underlying IP address that hosts the domain and the website that is there.
So, if while you are sitting at the hotel, trying to connect to the hotel’s wifi, if your computer can’t get to a DNS server to help it get out from the router to find the hotel’s wireless network server, to get the splash page login, and then out to the Internet, you will be essentially dead in the water.
And, if you can connect to the router (i.e. your computer says that you are connected to the hotel wifi) but can’t get past that, we’re betting that this is your problem.
Here’s how to fix it.
How to Connect to Hotel Wifi When You Can’t Get the Login Splash Screen
The below assumes that the issue is your DNS settings, which, nine times out of ten*, it is likely to be (*note that this is our own anecdotal reckoning, not a scientific survey).
On a Mac, go to System Preferences
Or, if you have your wifi status displayed in your menu bar, click on the wireless icon and select ‘Open Network Preferences’ from the dropdown
Either way, you will end up here, at the main network settings and information screen:
Make sure that you have the Wi-Fi in the upper right-hand corner selected, and then click on ‘Advanced…’
First, while you’re in the Advanced area, click on TCP/IP, and look at the IP address listed as your Subnet Mask
For the average use and user, and for the vast majority of cases, that IP address should be 255.255.255.0. If you see something else there, such as 255.255.224.0, you will know right away that something is amiss, and that amiss thing is the reason that you cannot connect to and get out on the Internet.
So, let’s fix it.
Under the advanced settings, click on DNS
This is where you will find your DNS settings
Now, if you have anything listed under DNS Servers, this can keep your computer from getting out on the hotel network.
So, delete whatever DNS server IP addresses are listed there (first be sure to write down the list of IP addresses so that you can add them back in when you get home, if you need them).
Delete All the DNS Server IP Addresses
In many cases, the moment that you delete the last IP address, your DNS Server settings will be immediately repopulated with the DNS servers that the hotel needs.
(On a Windows machine, you will want to go to your network settings, to the DNS section, and do the same thing. If you need more explicit directions for finding and changing your DNS settings on a Windows computer, there is an excellent tutorial on how to change your Windows DNS settings here.)
At this point you should be good to go! You may need to turn your wifi off and back on to reset everything, or restart your computer, but generally speaking, if you see the new DNS servers in there, that was probably your problem, and it should be fixed.