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I travel often to the US from Canada, so I am very familiar with the excessive costs when your smartphone is roaming in another country. I’ve had roaming charges over $400 in a single month before I smartened up. Keeping in touch with email, checking a map for directions, or checking a website uses data, which is one of the most expensive uses of your phone when roaming. Finding a free wifi connection allows you to use data without roaming charges. Here are places I’ve found have reliable free public wifi you can use for either your phone or laptop when travelling.

McDonalds

There are thousands of locations in the US and Canada and they all have reliable wifi you can use. If you have to buy something, you can find a cheap drink or coffee. Since there are locations all over, you can usually find a McDonalds almost anywhere you are travelling. One report I read in Time magazine said that McDonalds offers the fastest free wifi of any of the common restaurants.

Starbucks

Starbucks is a preferred location for hipsters and independent workers because of the wifi that is offered. Thousands of locations in cities make it an easy spot to pop into when needed. There are fewer locations outside of more heavily populated areas while it seems there is a Starbucks on every corner in New York and Seattle.

Tim Horton’s

This coffee chain is an institution in Canada. There are seemingly locations in every place, from small towns to big cities. Wifi is now available in almost every location. Tim’s offers a basic speed level and a paid high speed level. They are expanding more in the US, but I am not as familiar with the wifi that may be offered at those locations.

Panera Bread/St. Louis Bread

Panera restaurants are a favorite of mine for their fresh and healthy food options. They offer good wifi at all locations. I list two names because in the St. Louis, MO region, where the chain started, the restaurants are called St. Louis Bread.

For all of these locations, you will have to connect to their wifi service and accept the terms and conditions. Then you can get online. With many devices these days they will remember a wifi service that you have used before, so it should try to connect the next time you go into one of their locations. You will still have to accept the terms and conditions each time.