Accessing Internet on the Road
Internet is an essential resource for people who live in their RVs full-time or part-time. Because of this, many full-timers avoid boondokcing and dry camping locations because of the fear of slow or nonexistent Internet connection. However, there are many ways of gaining Internet access in your home-on-wheels, and many of these methods are attainable outside of an RV park. If you’re thinking of expanding your camping options outside of traditional campgrounds or Harvest Hosts locations that offer Wi-Fi, you’re in luck. Harvest Hosts has put together a helpful guide to get you connected on the road in almost any place that you want to visit.
Campgrounds vs Boondocking
Staying in a campground versus boondocking can provide RVers with completely different experiences. Campgrounds typically provide a sense of community, friendship, or camaraderie among RVers, but many can be crowded, and some folks prefer camping with fewer neighbors. Boondocking or dry camping generally allows for more privacy and more scenic views.
The task of finding reliable internet to work from your RV may seem like a daunting or expensive task. For this reason, many RVers prefer to stay at an RV park or Harvest Hosts location that offers Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi provided by businesses can still be unreliable, overloaded by users (causing slow speeds), or not secured. Before selecting a campground, give the park a call and ask them about their internet speeds, or read reviews containing helpful information. Even if you prefer to camp in an RV park, it may be necessary to obtain your own source of reliable internet using the tips provided below.
Since trees do not create Wi-Fi, boondockers need to provide their own internet if they intend on getting any work done. Many RVers tend to rely on the help of other RVers to determine potential signal at a certain site. Websites like Campendium, Free Campsites, The Dyrt, and others allow RVers to rate campgrounds or boondocking sites and will oftentimes contain helpful information regarding signal. Apps such as Coverage? or Open Signal can reference what the reception in the area might be like.
While these steps may seem like extra work, the results usually pay off in the way of gorgeous, scenic, and private RV camping locations with access to much-needed signal.
Tips and Tricks
A popular choice for RVers requiring internet is satellite internet. This tried and true method allows RVers to access the internet from many remote locations on the road. Some satellites are mounted onto an RVs roof, while others require tripod setups. These can often provide reliable connection almost anywhere with little effort. However, there are a few downsides, including a high price point and slow speeds on cloudy days. Still, this is a good option for those who want to access signal almost anywhere, and the higher costs are often offset by the lack of a need for campgrounds.
Mobile Hotspots have been a lifesaver for many RVers working remotely. These portable devices provide a certain amount of internet access in the form of Gigabytes (GB), but only if there is applicable cellular signal. For instance, a Verizon Hotspot will only work in areas with Verizon cell signal, and the stronger the signal, the faster the connection. Less bars can result in a slower internet connection or none at all. These devices can allow laptops, desktops, Roku and similar devices, smart TVs, and cell phones to connect to their service and provide an internet connection. Some smartphones even have hotspot capabilities Check with your cellphone company to see if your phone is compatible with that feature.
More remote areas throughout North America are typically dominated by one or two types of cellular companies. This can be a problem if you only have one source of cellular signal. Diversifying carriers is the best way to increase your chances of finding strong signal in the places you wish to visit. In the above example with hotspots, you would want to consider choosing a hotspot from a different cellular company than the one your phone plan is on. For instance, if you use Verizon for your cell phone plan, you would want to purchase a hotspot plan from AT&T and/or T-Mobile. Some RVers opt for the “trifecta” and have phone or hotspot services with AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, the three cellular giants of the United States. While this may seem a bit excessive, the cost and upkeep may be worth it to those who want to do more camping without hookups.
Unlimited Cellular Data Plans
Most main cell phone companies have an unlimited plan for data. While this can seem pricey, the advantage can be a gamechanger. Not having to be sparing with cell or laptop usage can be a creature comfort that some RVers miss. Be sure to read the fine print to see if there is a data cap on the faster internet speeds such as 5g or 4g. Speeds like 3g or 2g are much slower and almost unusable for most remote workers.
Tethering is the linking of a computer or other device to a smartphone in order to connect to the internet. Most smartphones are capable of acting as a tether to a laptop or tablet to “share” their internet access. In some cases, this can take away from the separately allotted GB of hotspot/tethering data. In other cases, it can take away from the total allotted data for that phone. Check your phone plan or contact your provider to see how this would affect your phone plan.
Imagine this. You’ve found the perfect boondocking site: it’s large, it’s beautiful, and your RV is the only one in sight. You grab your phone to snap a photo and realize you only have one bar of service. This is where a signal booster can come in handy. A signal booster generally contains an interior antenna, an exterior antenna, and an amplifier. The antennas search for reception and the amplifier amplifies the reception within your RV. If you find yourself in an area with weak connection, a booster can lend a helping hand.
If all else fails, you may have to scout for a local coffee shop or shared workspace. Even some of the most skilled boondockers find themselves in this situation once in a while. Local coffee shops will often let folks work for hours as long as they make a purchase. A shared workspace or a cowork can also be useful if remote workers plan to be in a certain area for a while. These offer rentable offices or desks at reasonable costs. Some coworks even offer tours and temporary passes for folks new to coworking.
Finding reliable internet on the road can be tricky for remote workers, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. These simple solutions can allow RVers to continue exploring wherever their rig takes them.
What are some of your tips for finding reliable internet on the road? Do you have any stories to tell about your experiences with finding signal? Tell us all about it in the comments below!
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Personally, I want to relax and spend time without the Internet on a long road.
Anyway, thanks for the article and the reason to chat.
Good luck, Sam
Accessing the Internet on the Road is a great way to stay connected while you travel. There are various ways to do this, and the best option for you will depend on your needs. If you need to be able to stream video or download large files, you will need a different solution than if you need to check your email. There are many options available, so research the best one for you.
I have T mobile. They have a couple hot spot devices- but nothing works without cell reception. I am going in to talk to them tomorrow.
I hope you were able to find exactly what you needed!
Public libraries are also a great source of free wifi. Most have signals you can get from their parking lots 24/7.
Great tip, thanks for the suggestion!
Thank you Sam for the informative article.
Glad yo hear you found it helpful!
Amazing clearly written article that for the first time explains the RV internet connection options. For a newbie, it was like seeing the gates of heaven. Thank you thank you thank you 😊
Hi Theresa, I’m so glad to hear you found this helpful. Happy trails!
http://www.rvmobileinternet.com/ is THE comprehensive resource for connectivity on the road (camping/RVing) or in the water (boating). Their reporting is exhaustive and pretty technical, BUT VERY helpful. I am part of their MIA club and get exclusive and timely notices of all things staying connected while traveling.
Hey Marty, thanks for your input, this is such a great resource!