You love the freedom of hitting the open road with your house on wheels. RVing is a great way to travel. But just because you want to get away doesn’t mean you want to be completely off the grid. After all, we’re in the Internet age, which means that staying connected, even in your RV, has become a basic need.
Regardless of whether you enjoy weekend outings, taking advantage of summer vacation, or spending all or most of your time RVing, staying online is important. After all, staying apprised of the weather, binging your favorite shows, and staying in touch by email can mean a lot. And you can’t forget to upload those fun pictures and videos from your trip.
Fortunately, you can stay connected in an RV. You just have to give it a little thought. Consider how important being connect is for you. If you work while traveling and using the Internet is part of that, of course connectivity is a priority. Even then, think about whether you have a flexible work schedule or need to be connected during a certain time of the day. That will influence when and how you connect.
If you’re traveling with your family, you may want to be strategic with your connectivity. Sure, letting the kids use their devices keeps them occupied on the road. But going off grid lets them get the full experience of the trip.
If you’re retired and road-tripping, you may only want to connect occasionally to check email or post trip pictures online. So staying connected 24/7 isn’t a big deal to you.
By thinking about when and how often you need Internet, you can better research your choices. Those choices include cellular data, WiFi, and satellite.
An easy way to stay connected no matter where you go is with cellular data. It also comes with several advantages:
- Because you need a password, it’s much more secure than public WiFi.
- The speed is faster than a cable modem.
- It’s reliable, enabling you to connect to the Internet wherever you can get a carrier signal.
- It’s mobile. Cellular data doesn’t need wires or electrical hookups to operate.
There are a variety of carriers out there offering cellular data. Just make sure you choose one that you know will be accessible where you travel.
Also, keep in mind how much data you’ll need and purchase accordingly. Will you be just using your cell phone or will you need your other devices? Will you be using your cell phone as a hot spot for your other devices? The cost of data plans varies by company. So do your research to make sure you get what works best for you.
Although you can’t use WiFi while driving down the road, it is readily available in many places. It’s also free, which is about as easy on your budget as you can get.
Most libraries and coffee shops have free public WiFi. So do many fast-food restaurants, such as McDonald’s. But other than libraries, it’s common courtesy to make a purchase when taking advantage of this service.
The problem with free public WiFi is that the networks can easily overload. That means your connectivity can be spotty and you can easily get disconnected again and again.
These days, many RV parks and campground offer WiFi access, too. Some are free, others charge an extra fee. But this isn’t always worth it because the metal construction of RVs causes them to block WiFi signals. So you could pay for a service you pretty much can’t get. On the other hand, you can always sit outside the vehicle and hope for access. Then again, you could find yourself faced with the same problem as those you might have in those coffee shops and eateries. So it might be best to forego WiFi altogether and bank on cellular data.
Satellite Internet comes from a signal beamed from space to a satellite dish that’s mounted on your RV roof or on a tripod. It then sends that signal to a modem in your RV. They measure 3 feet tall when in use and up to 5 feet when flattened and stored. This option is widely available, reliable, and lets you connect anywhere. As mentioned, you have two choices for mounting the dish:
- Roof-Mounted: Just like at home, a roof-mounted RV satellite attaches to the RV roof. It’s easy to use, too. To operate the satellite and enable the dish to rotate to find a signal in less than 10 minutes, you just click a button. Since an RV satellite dish is permanently mounted to your vehicle’s roof, it doesn’t use storage space in the RV.
A disadvantage of this option is that installation and set-up costs up to four times more than a tripod-mounted dish. So this option would be ill-suited if you don’t plan to go RVing often.
If you do decide this option is for you, you only have a few companies to choose from. They include Winegard, AVL Technologies, and C-Com. As part of your research, contact a company that specializes in this technology, such as Mobile Satellite Technologies, which has trained technicians who can help you find the right fit for your needs.
- Tripod-Mounted: A tripod-mounted RV satellite attaches to a three-legged stand, which you can put anywhere near your RV. It’s a good option if you have a small RV or one with solar panels and can’t accommodate a rooftop satellite.
An advantage of a tripod-mounted satellite is that the equipment is significantly cheaper than mounted models. Plus, there’s no installation to pay for. Another is that you’ll always have Internet access, no matter how remote your location.
The downside is that the equipment takes up storage space in the RV when you’re traveling. Plus, you have to install it, which takes about 30 minutes, every time you set up camp.
You also need to be award that you need to be precise when aiming the satellite on a signal. But online tutorials can help you with this (Print them out beforehand.) If you’re familiar with a GPS system, though, it should be pretty easy.
Quite a few services provide tripod-mounted satellite Internet for RVs. The most notable include Directway and HughesNet, which offer equipment and monthly service plans.
Satellite is a great way to ensure you’re connected to the Internet, wherever you travel. If you have a larger RV and relocate more often, a mounted dish is worth considering. But If your vehicle is smaller and you stay in one spot, a tripod-mounted satellite could be your best option. Either way, both of these choices keep you connected.