Tidbits for travelers: MSP Wi-Fi, JetBlue election protection

Travelers with lots of time between flights at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) can now surf the internet for free.

To get a 45 minutes of complimentary WiFi service, you’ll need to watch a short ad or take a quick survey, but there’s a timer that will let you know how much time you have left and you can get another session by watching another ad or taking another survey. Not all airports will give you another session, so this is a good compromise.

And it means you can also wait until you’re at the airport to log onto the MSP website and download the coupon booklet that offers discounts in many of the food and shops.

And here’s a nice touch: if you want a commercial-free, faster, premium service, the cost is just $2.95 for 24 hours. Before this new service, that fee was $7.95.

And here’s another (potentially) great deal: JetBlue has a fun contest running called “Election Protection,” which invites people to cast a vote for president in an on-line poll and enter a contest to win a free trip out of the country if you choose the losing candidate. Destinations include the Bahamas, Mexico, Costa Rica, Turks & Caicos, Grand Cayman, the Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, Aruba, Columbia, Bermuda and Jamaica.

Free airport Wi-Fi: coming soon to LAX and MSP – maybe

Free Wi-Fi at the airport is one of those amenities travelers have all but come to expect. Still, there are some airports that remain hold-outs in this department.

Los Angeles International Airport has been one of those hold-outs. Although Wi-Fi is complimentary in some airline lounges (and outside some of those lounges… if you know where to go….), but most passengers who need to get on-line must pay to use the T-Mobile service.

With T-Mobile’s contract for LAX Wi-Fi ending, airport officials announced that they’d be seeking a new service that would offer Wi-Fi for free. In the meantime, the Board of Airport Commissioners went ahead and awarded a two-year contract to Miami-based Advanced Wireless Group, which would make WiFi at LAX free – for 45 minutes sessions – starting sometime this summer.

“The service LAX passengers request most is free Wi-Fi,” said Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey.

But the Los Angeles City City Council has nixed the deal because of concerns that other internet providers – most notably Los Angeles-based Boingo, which provides WiFi at more than 50 airports (and many hotels) – didn’t get a chance to bid on the interim contract.

Let’s hope they work it out. Because if we have to wait for the competitive bid process to play out, it could take 18 months to two years to check email for free at LAX.

In the meantime, another Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – another hold-out on the free Wi-Fi front – plans to offer free Wi-Fi by year’s end.

Souvenir Sunday: Socks and pet services

Yesterday’s Snack Saturday feature served up Tastycakes and other Pennsylvania-made treats for sale at Harrisburg International Airport’s (MDT) Perfectly PA shop.

Tastycakes, made in Pennyslvania

That same shop is where you’ll find one of this week’s Souvenir Sunday picks: socks decorated with an Amish horse and buggy scene.

 Novelty socks

Novelty socks for sale at MDT Airport

I’m sure there’s a shop or two over at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that stocks novelty socks as well. (Moose anklets, anyone?)  And it’s a good bet there’s a coupon in the airport’s summer coupon book that can be used towards that purchase.

Don’t need any socks? It’s still a good idea to download the coupon book from the MSP website or pick up a copy at an information booth inside the airport. There are dozens of two-for-one and free-with-order drink and meal deals in there, along with discounts and gift-with-purchase deals in many airport stores.

You should also pick up the MSP summer coupon book if you’re a pet owner. MSP has a 24-hour pet boarding facility – it’s called Now Boarding – on airport property and there’s a coupon in the booklet good for a free bath or nail trim for pets staying overnight.  That seems like a great airport souvenir for pets – and their people.

Now Boarding - pet boarding at MSP airport

Did you find a great souvenir last time you were stuck at the airport? If it’s under $10, “of” the city or region and, ideally, a bit offbeat, please snap a photo and send it along. Your souvenir may be featured on a future edition of Souvenir Sunday on