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Whether you’re planning the great cross-country trip you’ve always dreamed of, or hoping to live a more mobile lifestyle, there are ways to bring recreational vehicles into the 21st century so you can go off the grid while still staying connected.
The appeal of RVs and #vanlife
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things around the world. One of the most profound changes is in how and where people do their jobs. A newly discovered flexibility for many, some studies show that up to 71% of Americans are now working from home or telecommuting.
This newfound freedom has given Americans the opportunity to re-envision their lives and not just where they work, but where they live. The American Dream has been redefined.
More than 11% of American households own an RV and around one million Americans live in some type of RV full-time. RVs are no longer just recreational, they are mobile homes and offices with an abundant choice of views.
But what about RV internet? How is it possible to have good enough internet to work if you’re constantly on the move? Are there insider tips on getting good RV Wi-Fi? We’ve got you covered! Here you’ll find the details on how to make sure your RV internet setup is solid whether you decide satellite, wireless or public Wi-Fi is right for you.
How to stay connected while traveling in an RV or van
Before you start living the #vanlife, there are a few things to consider so you can find the best internet solution for you.
Ways to get internet with an RV:
- Rely on free Wi-Fi hotspots and RV campgrounds
- Invest in a cellular data plan
- Set up a satellite internet connection
- Nomad Internet
Rely on free Wi-Fi hotspots and RV campgrounds
Perhaps the easiest — and cheapest — way to get an internet connection while traveling in an RV is to rely on free Wi-Fi hotspots. This solution is probably best for anyone who’s traveling for a shorter time, not necessarily using their RV or van as their home since it’s not a reliable connection.
If you have internet at home and are traveling for a few weeks or months in an RV, then you may be able to take advantage of your internet service provider’s hotspot network. Providers like Spectrum and Xfinity offer thousands to millions of Wi-Fi hotspots all across the country.
In cases where your provider may not have a Wi-Fi network, you can take advantage of free hotspots in larger cities as well as some campgrounds. For instance, in Seattle, attractions like the Space Needle and coffee shops like Starbucks offer free Wi-Fi. The obvious downside here is that you’ll need to be in a specific location to take advantage of these internet connections. Also remember, public networks can also be dangerous.
Some RV campgrounds offer an RV Wi-Fi connection in the park to provide free internet for campers. But depending on the campground size and your location within it, you may need a Wi-Fi extender to get the speed you need. If you’re relying on RV internet from the campground but also a mobile hotspot for backup, you may also need a cellular booster to help amplify your cell signal and therefore, improve your camping Wi-Fi signal.
While not a perfect solution, making pit stops in locations with free Wi-Fi hotspots is one way to stay connected while on the go. Just make sure to let your friends and family know you won’t be readily available online all the time.
Invest in a cellular data plan
By investing in a cellular data plan, you can either turn your phone into a hotspot or purchase a mobile hotspot to take your connection with you on your travels. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon offer both cellular data and mobile hotspot plans.
If you already have a wireless plan with one of these providers, you may already have a data plan. Check with them to see if they allow you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot or tether to create a Wi-Fi connection. Not all plans will allow this.
Alternatively, if you don’t want a full-blown wireless plan and just want the Wi-Fi connection, you can purchase a mobile hotspot and a data plan ranging from a few dollars a month to $100 or more each month depending on how much data you want.
Going over your data amount can be costly. Be sure to carefully consider your data needs. If you occasionally send a few emails and post to social media, a few gigs may be all you need. But if you plan on streaming Netflix for hours on end, spring for the higher plan.
Set up a satellite internet connection
If you plan to make an RV your new home, you may want to consider setting up a satellite internet connection. This is definitely a more permanent solution, though, and would be best if you plan to park your van in one place for a long time — not if you’re driving around regularly.
Out of all of the options, satellite internet has the highest cost with plans starting at about $50/mo. Additionally, it is prone to weather-related outages. However, unlike cellular data that relies on nearby cellphone towers, it’s a great connection type for hard-to-reach areas since your signal comes from satellites above.
Two of the major satellite providers in the U.S. are Viasat and HughesNet. Both providers are available in at least some rural areas of every state. Viasat and HughesNet both offer data plans that won’t cut you off after you reach your limit but will sometimes throttle your speeds.
Look into Nomad Internet
Nomad Internet takes away the need for mobile hotspotting with one carrier by providing cellular internet from available carriers. For traveling nomads, this can be a great option for RV internet service.
With a starting price of $129/mo. after a $149 one-time membership fee, you can enjoy unlimited data from the largest rural internet provider currently.
What’s the easiest option for RV internet?
When leading the nomadic lifestyle, using your cellphone to connect online is the easiest option, but be wary of the possible charges and, of course, service from your carrier needs to be in the area you are traveling.
Do some preplanning before you turn on your cellphone’s mobile hotspot and connect your laptop or tablet when away from home. Remember, most major cell companies have an add-on mobile hotspot plan, some as low as $5/mo., so it is worth looking into if you’re going to be on the road more than in your home office.
While going off the grid and disconnecting feels good, sometimes you may want to chat with friends and family or post to Instagram while on the road. Consider these options for staying connected while traveling in an RV during your next outing!
RV Wi-Fi FAQs
RV internet can be one service or a combination of them, including satellite, mobile hotspot or free public Wi-Fi.
The cost for your RV internet will depend on a variety of factors including which service you use, your location and whether or not you’ll need a Wi-Fi extender or a cell booster. In some cases, you may be able to take advantage of free internet through free public hotspots.
The best internet for RV life depends on what you need internet for and what your RV lifestyle is like. Many people use a combination or internet options to ensure they are connected no matter where their RV takes them.
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