Ah, the internet.
Whether you like it or not, the internet has become an everyday must-have in our lives, and (for some people) staying connected is as essential as having a marshmallow in a s’more.
But what are the BEST options for obtaining the internet while traveling in an RV?
The answer is; it depends! It depends on you, your traveling style, your budget, and whether or not you NEED the internet to be fast, reliable, and consistent at all times.
We know, we know; this can be a rather intimidating and confusing topic—but don’t fret! We are here to break it down and set you up with some beginner knowledge that will aid you in finding the best setup for you and your family!
Identify Your Internet Needs The first (and most important) step in finding the best internet solution for you is to identify your internet needs.
Are you looking for a simple plan that will help you stay minimally connected while allowing you to stream Netflix, check your Instagram feed, and send cat photos to grandma? Are you a remote worker who sits on Zoom calls all day, who needs to have a strong internet connection to send out all of those “per my last email” emails? Are you a YouTuber (like us!) who requires a fast upload speed to get your latest video out to your audience? Are you an online gamer who relies on a fast download speed to keep up with the new Fornite updates?
Identify your internet needs first, and then move on to researching the different options.
The Three Options for Internet
Now that you have identified your internet needs, it is time to dive right in to the three different options for staying online during your travels: cellular data, wi-fi hotspots, and satellite.
Cellular Data- There are a TON of options for cellular data, and it is a fairly easy and reliable way to stay connected—as long as you are in an area where there is plenty of signal! The cost of cellular data is typically reasonable, there are many different plans to fit your demands in terms of data caps, and the speeds will vary depending on which carrier you choose, where you are located, and any potential tower congestion. The current major carriers are:
Verizon AT&T T-Mobile/Sprint **Hot Tip: the best way to ensure that you will stay connected while traveling and using cellular data is to carry a plan with all three carriers. (All great things come in threes, after all; The Three Stooges, The Three Little Pigs, and BLT sandwiches, to name a few...)
Wi-Fi Hotspots- Public Wi-Fi is the cheapest and easiest way to connect to the internet, and it can be found in many different places. Most coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, stores, and rv parks now offer a public Wi-Fi—and it’s free! The speeds of public Wi-Fi are more-often-than-not slow and glitchy, as they are overall dependent on the amount of people that are connected and your proximity to the access point (the location where the signal is being broadcast from—typically the office building). One major thing to consider when using public Wi-Fi is to acknowledge that it is what it is; PUBLIC! You want to be aware of what you’re doing when on a public connection, and remember that there are security concerns if you access any of your personal information while connected to that Wi-Fi.
**Hot Tip: If you are staying at an RV park that offers fast internet but you find yourself disappointed in the connection and speeds that you are getting inside of your RV, you may be parked too far away! Look into purchasing Wi-Fi extending gear to help access that connection!
Satellite- Historically, satellite internet was not a great option due to its slow speeds and costs, but the next generation of satellite internet, led by Starlink, is shaping up to be an awesome option—as long as you are living stationary in an RV or move very infrequently (for now!). The speeds of satellite internet are unmatched, ranging from (to put it simply) fast to EXTREMELY fast! It can be a pricier option in terms of gear and power needs, and it is heavily reliant upon a clear view of the sky (take a chainsaw to all of those surrounding trees!) ; but, if the stars align and you are able to have it, satellite internet could be the most reliable connection.
If one of these three options sounds like the right fit for you, we encourage you to spend some additional time researching that specific option to further solidify your choice!
Equipment and Programs to Improve Your Experience
Once you have chosen a plan and cellular option that works best for you, there is some additional equipment that you MAY want to consider!
For cellular connections, whether you are using your phone or a data hotspot, the system is heavily reliant on how much signal you can get and your connection to the tower. Purchasing a signal booster or an external antenna will help to extend your system’s reach for that signal, and it will put you in a much better position for staying connected as you travel the country.
Another great purchase for your in-home Wi-Fi network is a router with Wi-Fi as WAN option. In simple terms, a router with Wi-Fi as WAN will act as a “house” for all of your other device’s connections (computers, phones, TVs, game consoles) and, rather than connecting each of those devices to a new network EVERY time you change locations, you only need to connect the router with Wi-Fi as WAN to a new network. (It’s like eating a cake by yourself; do you really want to take the time to slice eight individual pieces, or would you rather just grab a fork and dig right into it!? I say, “hand me the fork!”)
Lastly, if you are using a public Wi-Fi network, we highly recommend that you purchase a VPN to protect yourself and your sensitive information. A VPN will secure any and all information coming to and from your network, ensuring that your connection is private!
**Hot Tip: a FREE tool that you should utilize while traveling the country is Google’s Internet Speed Test . This online tool will help you check on the quality of the connection at your current location, wherever that may be!
It’s true; internet on the road can be an overwhelming and constant battle—but it is not an impossible journey! There is a wealth of information online and many fellow nomads who have dedicated their careers to helping you stay ahead of the ever-changing RV internet war. So arm yourselves accordingly, and check out some of our personal favorite resources below:
Whew! We know, that was a ton of information.
But we have been in the exact same spot as you are now; sitting in front of a screen (eye slightly twitching?) stressing and wondering how and what is going to help us stay connected on the road!
Utilizing the same information that we have provided you in this post, Keith and I have personally built an advanced system within our RV that works perfectly for the two very internet reliant businesses that we run!
If you are curious to see our setup, or are looking for even more information about RVing and internet connections, you can check out our YouTube video on the topic, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udxt7WhwVxo
As always, feel free to reach out to us directly with any questions at www.keithandraini.com and we are so excited for you and your journey; whether you’re full-time RVing, embarking out as a weekend warrior, or camping in your own backyard!