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RV life can be a fantastic chance to travel and see the world. But, as more and more of that world moves online, even RVers need a fast, reliable internet connection.
Whether you need it for work, planning, or simply directions, finding ways to stay connected to the internet can be one of the many challenges to life on the road. Luckily, we’ve compiled a guide to help you find WiFi that works for you and your travel plans.
Challenges of Mobile Internet for RVs
As critical as your internet connection is under normal circumstances, that need skyrockets when traveling in an RV. After all, you’ll need WiFi access for:
- Working/Joining meetings
- Figuring out directions
- Making campground reservations
- Communicating with family members
- Streaming videos, shows, audiobooks, etc.
- Managing finances
- “Road-schooling” your kids
- And much more.
This makes it frustrating to realize how complicated WiFi access can be on the road. After all, you won’t be able to plug in your router like you would in a fixed location. Instead, you’ll need to get used to wireless internet options, which can create a whole host of new challenges.
If you’re giving RV life a try, you’ll probably need to get used to the idea that the quality of your internet connection will change day-to-day. Luckily, there are still many ways to get somewhat reliable internet access on the road.
Best RV Internet Options
Though figuring out an internet situation while living in an RV can be more confusing than usual, there are a few main options that work for most:
For those on the road full-time, cellular data can be a pretty appealing option. Cellular data plans or hotspots are useful when you find yourself far from reliable public WiFi sources, and it’s a great way to remain connected while you’re driving.
To set up a cellular data plan, you’d need to buy a hotspot from your data provider. Your internet will run out quicker than you expect, so it may be most cost-efficient to spring for the unlimited plan.
As great as cellular data can be, an unlimited plan can quickly get expensive. Still, it’s well-worth the reliable connections and flexibility for many campers.
Wherever you go, you almost always have the option of connecting to a public WiFi—whether it’s in a campground, Starbucks, or library. Using public WiFi can be a great way to save on internet costs, especially if you plan to stay on campgrounds and RV parks and don’t want to go too far into the wilderness on your own.
Still, campground WiFi has its drawbacks. Often, these networks are slower and less reliable, and there’s a good chance you’ll find it difficult to join video calls or stream TV. They can also easily be hacked, becoming especially dangerous if you regularly use these networks to check sensitive information.
Stationary Satellite Internet
Satellite solutions have become an increasingly popular option since Elon Musk’s StarLink reveal opened the doors to greater speculation about using satellites for high-quality internet worldwide. Now, some travelers are installing other satellite options onto their RVs. This can be a great option if you plan on staying in the same place for a long time.
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Still, a satellite can be too complicated if you’re more of a nomad since you’ll need to set it up at each new campsite. Plus, current satellite options tend to be a little slower, which may be a massive issue if you need to work full-time.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Your RV Internet
Even though finding internet while in an RV can feel like a hassle, many fellow travelers have found great ways to resolve the issue. Luckily, there are a few ways to help maintain your connection even when typical solutions aren’t enough.
Subscribe to unlimited data
As we’ve mentioned before, most RVers prefer to use an unlimited data plan, even if they tend to be a little more expensive on the surface. That’s because, in the long run, these expensive plans can turn out to be a little cheaper and more convenient. Since they come without the added fees you get with a limited plan, these plans can become much less expensive, especially if you’re using cellular data as your primary source of connection.
Get a cellular signal booster
A cellular signal booster is a device that increases the signal on a device from one to two bars of service. Boosters are helpful when your connection is really low, and they can mean the difference between being able to place a call and being left to find your way to a campsite on your own.
Still, boosters can often cost up to $500, leaving them out of most peoples’ price range. Plus, they can slow down connection speeds in certain circumstances. If you decide that a booster is the right choice for you, we recommend turning it off when it isn’t necessary to maintain a faster overall connection.
Get a WiFi extender
A WiFi extender, also called a repeater or ranger, is another gadget that can help speed up your connection, especially when you’re using a campground WiFi. Once it’s set up, an extender will rebroadcast the WiFi signal it’s receiving inside your RV, creating a stronger and faster signal for you to use.
An extender can be a great way to boost your internet while using a public network, and several newer RVs already have one built into their design! This can make it easier to use campground WiFi, but remember to stay careful about accessing private information on these networks, especially without a VPN.
Other Internet Alternatives for RVs
If you’re new to RV life or aren’t sure that a cellular plan, public WiFi, or satellite is right for you, there are still a few internet options that are available for you:
Co-working spacing in urban areas
Most cities and urban areas have some version of co-working spaces where you can rent a desk for a few days while you’re in town. This can be a great way to use high-speed, reliable internet for work or travel plans, but it isn’t a great long-term solution.
Borrowing bandwidth from friends when you visit
If you happen to swing by a friend’s city, you may be able to borrow some of their internet while you’re in town. This could be safer than using public networks and would probably give you a great connection during your stay without intruding on their physical space. Still, unless you’re only traveling between your friends and relatives, it isn’t a great idea for the long term.
Subscribe to a Cable or DSL provider at a campground
If you’re planning on staying at a campground over the longer term, you may have the option to subscribe to their cable or DSL provider. If you do, a local carrier will come to install the service directly to your site. Even though it can be a hassle, this installation will give you secure, reliable, and high-speed internet during your stay.
You’ll need to pay the installation and monthly fee to set up your service. Some campgrounds already have cable installed, making it even easier to simply pay the monthly fee for the rest of your visit.
RV Internet FAQs
Can I get HughesNet or Viasat for my RV?
Though you may be able to use a HughesNet or Viasat satellite for your RV if you’re staying in one place for longer than a few days, it isn’t a great solution in general. Since they aren’t designed for travel, if you use a HughesNet or Vista, you’ll need to disassemble and reassemble it every time you relocate.
What’s the difference between a cellular hotspot and a satellite hotspot?
Even if they both get the job done, how you travel and your goals may impact whether you choose a cellular hotspot or a satellite. A cellular hotspot is great for RVers who don’t stray too far from civilization and need fast speeds.
On the other hand, a satellite is great for travelers who like to stay in remote places that most internet providers don’t cover. Since they tend to be slower, satellites can also be a great option if you mainly use the internet for less-intensive activities like navigation or sending text messages.
How much does it cost to get RV internet?
Naturally, the cost of getting internet in your RV can range pretty drastically based on what you’re using, how often you need it, and whether you purchase any gadgets like boosters or extenders. But, since it’s the most common option, taking a look at cellular plans can give you a good idea of what to expect.
For cellular data, you’ll need to pay somewhere between $150-$500 for your hotspot device in addition to your data plan itself. If you don’t absolutely need high-speed internet at all hours, it may be enough to get a hotspot on your phone, which you can use to connect to other devices when there isn’t any free WiFi around.
Can I get Starlink for my RV?
Sort of. At the moment, Starlink internet is still too early in its development to be a realistic option for the majority of RVers. For one, it currently only serves a handful of countries and only in regions between 45 and 53 degrees north latitude.
The other major issue with Starlink is that it’s currently very difficult to get and afford the hardware in the first place. The Starlink Kit is extremely backlogged and may take months (if not years) to actually arrive at your door. Once it’s there, you’ll also have a $110/month service fee. So, for most users, getting a Starlink may be possible, but it isn’t worth it at this stage in the project’s development.
We recommend checking out Viasat or HughesNet instead. Not only are they readily available virtually anywhere in the US, but they offer added perks as well like unlimited data and quick installations.
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