In the RV life, some things are both a blessing and a curse. Take for example, RV internet service. Today’s technology allows full-time RVers to travel. No matter where the road may take you, it is easy to stay connected with family and friends. That is, if you have a good internet connection. The challenge lies in choosing the best RV internet possible. The ultimate goal is to find a balance in your lifestyle. You must juggle between high-speed internet for your RV, continuous connectivity, and affordable monthly fees. This article will guide you through the tips, tricks, and insider secrets that every traveler needs to know. Let’s start at the beginning.
If you are just in the initial planning stages, you will need to know exactly what you can expect from RV internet access on the road. The number one question I hear is, “How do you get internet in your RV?” Instead, consider asking this question:
What Are My RV Internet Options?
RV internet access can vary from place to place. First, you need to choose a primary source of the signal. Here are the basic options for RV internet:
-Satellite – dedicated internet service from a satellite provider like Hughes Net. This is an expensive option that works best for remote regions.
-Cellular – a one-stop-shop for internet and telephone needs. Depending on your travels, cellular can provide excellent service, but the cost skyrockets if you use too much data.
-Free WiFi – coffee shops, RV parks, and truck stops often provide this. Free wifi is a great temporary option, but it is not a serious solution for ongoing internet access.
-DSL or Cable – an awesome high-speed internet option, but only for “the RV park bound.” If you plan to travel, this is not a viable option.
What Are The Costs Associated With Each Option?
Okay. Please note. I am not a lawyer, a doctor, or an internet cost expert. This information is simply for entertainment value only. Check the rates in your own area, and with your own providers. With that said, best case scenario means your monthly cost is $0.00 a month, using only FREE WIFI. Worst case, you spend around $300 a month using cellular and/or satellite data. If you plan to remain in the major cities, T-Mobile and Sprint offer amazingly flexible, and affordable, data plans. (Think $100 or under.) If you plan to travel to and fro… Verizon and ATT are your only viable options. Personally, I spend about $240 per month on RV internet. This covers phone charges and 40 GB of data. (I use the data feed from my cell phone, and create my own WIFI inside my coach.) Your costs will vary, depending on how you plan to use the internet.
Which Option Is Best?
The best internet for an RV is a combination of services. RV internet is not a one-time installation. If you are traveling, you will have to determine what type of connection works best in each location. Here’s an example. Let’s say you need to write a few “non-security” emails (you know, just a note to a friend, etc.). You park at a McDonald’s, because they offer free internet. From inside your coach, you may be able to connect to free WiFi, and send your message via Gmail. The cost? $0.00 (unless, of course, you run in for a few fries. 🙂 The security? NONE. The speed? Will seriously vary.
Once you are back on the road, you decide to do some banking. This is a security-oriented task. You do not want to have your information hanging out for the whole world to see. In this case, you should use a secure connection, like your smartphone or iPad. Cellular data plans will often provide you with the best security, for this type of mobile internet activity. The cost? Anywhere from $50-300 a month.
So, as you can see your usage and your location determine your budget.
Let’s break it down even more. Ask yourself the following questions to discover what type of internet user you are. You must decide:
Are you a casual surfer?
Description: If you are a casual surfer, you use the internet for basic banking, email, and occasional Facebook posts. You might read the news online. You rarely watch YouTube, and never download movies.
Prescription: For the casual user, a basic cell phone package with 3 or 4 GB data will probably work fine for you. I suggest Verizon or ATT, as they have the best U.S. coverage. Watch for a screaming deal, to get the most data possible for your money. If you are on a super tight budget, the casual surfer can survive on free WiFi alone. (Note: DO NOT do your banking or personal transactions on FREE WIFI!)
Must Have’s: Smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Might consider a WiFi booster to increase free RV internet connectivity. (See suggestions below.)
Are you a socialite?
Description:If you are an internet socialite, you connect to every social media possible. You love to post, tweet, email, pin, and instagram, whenever possible. YouTube is your friend, and you find yourself watching cat videos WAY MORE TIMES than you will admit.
Prescription: Socialites need data like fish need water. Cell phone data plans are what allows you to connect to the internet. Be aware, RV internet is not like at home internet. Videos take up a lot of data, and can cause you to go over your data limit, if you are not careful. I suggest at least 10 GB of data on Verizon or ATT, which you can use on any of your internet-enabled devices.
Must Have’s: Smartphone, tablet, or laptop, WiFi booster, and cellular signal booster for RV internet inside your rig. (This will help you connect in more places with more bars.)
Is The Internet Your Lifeline?
Description: If the internet is your lifeline, you might work online. If so, you do everything from uploading videos and audios, to writing, editing, Skyping, and more. If it’s done from a virtual location, you are doing it!
Prescription: You will need a variety of internet options. Lifelines need to use FREE WIFI whenever you can grab it, but you will also need a solid cellular plan, with at least 4o GB of data. It’s important to watch your usage, and stay away from overages. You might also consider having more than one cell phone contract. Verizon is stronger in some areas of the country, and ATT is more available in others. If you can’t be without the internet, you may need to spread your data between 2 companies, and make sure you stay connected at all times.
Must Have’s: Smartphone, tablet, computer, WiFi booster, cellular booster, possibly MiFi connectors, or additional hot spot tools for RV internet inside your rig.
Are You Joined At The Hip?
Description: The Hipster connection borders on addiction. If the internet is your passion, you will be discouraged with RV travel. RV internet is not always available, no matter how many gadgets you have. If you HAVE TO BE ONLINE at all times, you may have to stay still more often.
Prescription: Park your RV at an internet-rich, phone or cable-ready site. Stay parked for several months at a time, and buy cable internet, or DSL from the local provider. You will have fast internet all the time. You will also need a serious cellular plan, to cover all your data needs throughout your day!
Must Have’s: An RV park with high speed internet opportunities. This will provide THE FASTEST RV internet option available.
Which Option Is Easiest?
The easiest option is cellular, and if I had to choose one, I would suggest Verizon. Verizon is the strongest network throughout most of the United States. It is not, however, the cheapest. So watch for special offers before you sign any contracts. Most smartphones can be used as Wifi hotspots. You simply push a few buttons within your phone, and your phone shares its RV internet connection with your tablet or computer. It’s an easy process once you get it set up. I suggest you purchase the latest technology prior to RV travel. This should include a new phone, computer, tablet, and printer. WiFi-friendly technology will work together with the least amount of hassle.
Additional Tips & Tricks:
-Apps – There are several apps available that show coverage regions for your cell phone. If you plan to use your cell phone as your main source of internet, consider downloading an app like Coverage for your iPhone.
-Preparation – Know your route, and plan around your needs. Plan high-usage activities when you have good coverage on your smart phone, and do them all at once. If you have solid internet coverage, try to batch your activities, and once again, do them all at once. You never know how the coverage will be “down the road.”
-Boost Your Signal- There is a ton of gadgets that can boost your ability to get online. If you are a casual user, don’t bother. If you depend on the internet for your work, you will want a Wilson cellular signal booster and a WiFi Ranger. (See Amazon.com for more information.)
-Understand GB and Overage – I can’t say this enough. If you are using your cell phone to consume internet, you have to monitor your usage. It’s easy to use WAY MORE internet than you intend to. I suggest dividing your GB into 31 days of the month. You know how much you can use PER DAY without triggering an expensive overage charge. (Oh, and you better find out what the 0verage costs are before you sign a contract!) If you have more data than you need by the end of the month, then you have internet to burn. Download or stream some movies, or watch the latest doggy videos on YouTube.
-Go Old School – Using a Roku to stream T.V. works great with landline internet. Using RV internet? Then consider using RedBox or Netflix, in DVD or BluRay format. When you watch a movie on DVD or BluRay, you avoid using precious internet data, and you save a boatload of money! (If parked with cable or Direct TV, you don’t have to worry about how many movies you watch.) Just be careful when you are using your phone or computer for these types of activities!
Need a Posse?
More questions? The best way to get the answers you need for your specific rig are to join a posse, and get answers from the experts. You can get more information by joining http://www.rvmobileinternet.com
You can also pick up the book Mobile Internet Handbook available at Amazon.com
Special Photo Credit Goes To: Outside Our Bubble