WiFi while Fulltime RVing
by Al asks...
(Internet Access for Fulltime RVers)
What is the best way to get WiFi for my laptop while traveling?
Coleen, the RVing editor replies:
For many RVers, it isn't one best way to connect to the Internet, but rather using a variety of methods. The best way for fulltime RVers to connect to the Internet depends partly on where you are RVing, partly on how often and for how long you need access, and partly on how much you are willing to spend.
Here's what we do….
Many RV parks now have WiFi. If it is included in the RV site rent and if it works in the RV, then I usually use it. It's fast, free, and easy -- making it my number one choice. If it requires an extra fee or if it requires that I go to the clubhouse or another special location, I'll look at my next option. However, there are times when it's worth it to me to pay the fee to have it in the RV or to go to the club house or wherever the park's service works.
My second choice is connecting through my smart phone. It means tethering my phone to my laptop with a cable. I can't use my phone for anything else while I'm online. Another caveat is that while I have what is supposedly an unlimited use plan, it does have an upper limit. And, here is the biggie -- there are still many places we go where there the cell phone signal is poor or non-existent, rendering this method useless. So, there are drawbacks. But, I love the fact that anywhere that I have a good cell phone signal I can have Internet access, whether it be while we are going down the highway or parked somewhere that there is no wi-fi.
That said, some upgrades could help me get around these problems. Newer smart phones are available that let you talk on your phone while using it as a modem. And, adding a good outside antenna can bring in a signal. But, that goes to the part of the equation about how much money a person is willing to spend. So far, I've done okay without those upgrades -- though, I've thought about the antenna. (And would sure like to have comments from our readers on what Wi-Fi antennas they are using.)
We also sometimes use WiFi that we find in public places. Some rest areas have free Wi-Fi and, especially if it is available in the parking lot, it can be wonderful. McDonalds, Denny's, and other restaurants may offer it to their customers. We've also found free Wi-Fi hot-spots at grocery stores, book stores, and other businesses. Truck stops, which used to be my favorite place to get online, seem to have gone to pay-for-use systems. Some of the places mentioned in this paragraph are good for quickly downloading email, but at others, such as the rest areas, it's fine to sit and use it for longer times.
When we visit family and friends that have routers, we can usually use their connections.
Other people have other means….
Some make routine stops at libraries to use their Internet service. I don't know why, but the few times we've tried this, it really didn't work for us. Perhaps it works better if you want to use one of the library's computers, instead of your laptop.
Mi-Fi is another option that I've never tried. I've been told I'm hopelessly outdated using Wi-Fi. Maybe some of our readers who use Mi-Fi will enlighten us on this.
Satellite dishes are another option. It's my understanding that they work most everywhere except where there are a lot of trees. The kind that automatically position themselves cost more than I'm willing to spend. The kind that has to be manually set-up and aimed…it sounds like too much hassle to me. But, again, these work for others.
I'm probably forgetting some good ways for full-time RVers to find Wi-Fi or get connected. Comment to add to what I've said. Go to the RV Life and Travel blog.