For anyone that can afford an RV but doesn’t know what it is, it is the perfect blend between living at home and being on a road, being the perfect choice for anyone that can’t decide whether they love travelling or settling.
While at first glance that may sound like nothing but a long list of benefits, the list of caveats is just as long, and the most pressing matter is Internet connectivity.
Given the rise of remote work as a trend, most RV users probably migrated towards doing this for a living out of comfort or necessity, but as we all know, there’s pretty much no way one can work from home without being connected to the Internet.
According to a survey made by SatelliteInternet.com, the use of RVs by the average American has increased as of late, one of the key factors being the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of this, we’ve decided to go through a list of methods through which you can stay connected to the Internet while on an RV, what you can do to take advantage of your bandwidth, and more.
What Options Do I Have to Stay Connected in my RV?
Before all else, one must understand what trying to be connected to the Internet from an RV is really like, and from that point forward, the list of options is quite obvious.
You are constantly on the road, but can also settle over long periods of time in the same place, so naturally listing the number of ways one could connect to the Internet is simple: All of them!
When you’re settling over a long period of time
There are RV owners that like travelling, and there are those that actually live in their RVs, choosing to stay in the same place for months or even years at a time.
Because of this, they can take advantage and use some Internet connectivity methods that a regular homeowner can use as well.
Here are the two sources of Internet that these type of RV owners can take advantage of:
Dedicated Internet connections via satellite offer some of the best connectivity speeds on the market, however the service and hardware installation is quite expensive.
Another issue with the hardware is that even the light equipment currently available will still add a lot of extra pounds to your rig, so if you’re thinking about being gas efficient, or if you’re worried about the integrity of your vehicle, it’s totally justified.
The bright side to satellite connections is that while indeed very bulky, you’ll have some of the strongest signals available, especially if you’re under a clear sky, just as long as you remember to go for the more mobile-friendly satellite options.
On the flipside, if you are in an area with many obstacles above you such as trees, you may experience high amounts of latency.
This option is only truly feasible when you’ve settled in a very remote area and all other Internet connectivity options become impossible.
DSL or Cable
There’s no need to remind anyone that DSL and cable connectivity is indeed the fastest and most stable option out there, but because this means that you need to be physically connected to a network, it is only viable when you’re in a trailer park.
In fact, if you’re not planning on settling in somewhere for at least a month, don’t even bother trying DSL or cable Internet, since by no means will you be getting your money’s worth out of it.
When you’re Constantly Travelling
On the other side of the spectrum, there are RV owners that truly know how to take advantage of the fact that they have a house on wheels, and they are always moving from place to place.
The only problem is that while they do get to travel constantly, they have a harder time looking for Internet connectivity options than their stable counterparts.
Here are the two sources of Internet that these type of RV owners can take advantage of:
Cellular data has come a long way in recent years, and while it still can’t compete with full-speed satellite Internet, it is much cheaper to use, requires no heavy hardware installation, and the signal strength is actually good if you stay clear of really remote areas.
However, you wouldn’t be the only one that would think of this option, because if you camp in a rural location near crowds or on busy holiday weekends, local cellular towers quickly become overloaded and connections slow to a crawl.
More so, the speed of your Internet connection greatly dwindles once you’ve exceeded your monthly plan.
In fact, many users even resort to owning multiple cellular data plans, switching to the next one as soon as the previous one has hit its monthly limit.
Rotating with multiple cellular data plans can be a hassle, and if you don’t manage to get a bargain on your subscriptions, you may even end up paying more than on a satellite connection.
Imagine you’re walking to a café or your local fast-food joint, and while you’re there drinking your coffee or eating your meal, you connect to the local Wi-Fi and check out what’s happening online.
That’s precisely what it’s like when you’re in an RV and you jump from Wi-Fi hotspot to Wi-Fi hotspot, and while it can be free (depending on what Wi-Fi you’re using), those of you that need constant Internet connectivity may not find it feasible in the long run.
This is because no two Wi-Fi hotspots are alike, and some locations may even have the occasional Wi-Fi issue when you visit them, forcing you to look for another location fast.
What Kind of Internet Connection Is Best for Me?
What Kind of RVer are You?
Now that we’ve laid down the basics of what the average RVer can use to stay online, it’s time to decide which option is best for you depending on your needs.
Obviously, if you’re the type of RVer that likes to stay in RV parks that offer their own Wi-Fi service, the best return-on-investment will be with simply connecting to the local public Wi-Fi.
However, keep in mind that you won’t be the only one doing that, since everyone in the RV park loves a freebie and will stay connected most likely 24/7.
Because of this, having a Wi-Fi signal booster or a Wi-Fi repeater will go a long way.
If you’re more of the travelling type, a satellite or a solid cellular data plan is what you will need.
Why Do You Need an Internet Connection?
While the main focus so far has been on the speed on the Internet connection, staying connected is yet another important factor, probably the most important if you work remotely.
Thus, if you need to stay connected every single day for a good couple of hours, and can’t afford being offline for long periods of time, then a satellite or a cellular data plan is definitely what you need, even if they will be used as a backup.
On the other hand, if your line of work doesn’t require you to be online, and you just need to be on Facebook once in a while, connecting to a public Wi-Fi is most likely all that you need to do.
What Do You Do While Online?
The last aspect that one needs to consider after speed and connection stability is connection security, since each of the above-mentioned Internet connectivity sources have their own pros and cons.
For example, while your local coffee shop Wi-Fi might be 100% free of charge, the level of security within that network is seriously questionable.
So, if your job involves working with sensitive data, or if you yourself need access to sensitive data or databases, it is best not to use any of the public freebies available, since the risk is just not worth it.
If security is what you’re most concerned about, cellular data plans will often give you the best security for this type of mobile Internet activity.
Common RV User Archetypes
If the above-mentioned criteria are not enough to help you decide what type of Internet connectivity is best for you, we’ve created a list of the most basic RV user archetypes that exist.
Read them, consider what archetype you are, and make the best decision based on that.
1. Casual User
You only use the Internet once in a while to send an email, make an online payment, or surf the occasional social media post.
Additionally, you rarely ever engage in bandwidth-intensive activities such as watching videos or gaming, and you almost never download anything.
You’re the perfect candidate for a cellular data plan since you’ll have connectivity almost every time you need it, and you’ll most likely never reach the monthly quota, let alone incur overcharge fees.
However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to the occasional package deals that providers offer, since every penny counts.
As far as what devices you’ll need, anything that can connect to mobile data or act as a Wi-Fi hotspot will do the trick.
This includes smartphones, tablets, or laptops, as well as a Wi-Fi booster for when you get in range of free Wi-Fi networks.
2. Social Media Fan
You’re a full-blown socialite and you have an account on every single social media platform available, so you’re always browsing your feed, posting new things, and watching videos online.
Because of your Internet habits, you’re still an ideal candidate for cellular data plans, although you’ll need a much larger plan than a casual user, since watching videos alone can eat up all of your GBs within a few days.
As far as devices go, you can use the same hardware as a casual user.
3. You Work Remotely
You make a living off of working online, so you need an Internet connection that is both fast and consistent, especially within your regular 8-hour shifts.
You edit documents online, have video calls, download and upload large amounts of data, and pretty much any other data-intensive activity imaginable.
As with the previous two categories, a cellular data plan is still viable, but you’ll need to go for the really expensive ones (+40 GBs is recommended).
More so, you’ll need to pay extra special attention when you connect to free public Wi-Fi networks, since you’re working with company data which isn’t worth compromising.
As far as hardware goes, devices that can act as Wi-Fi hotspots and very powerful Wi-Fi boosters and extenders will do the trick. Additionally, you can greatly benefit from using MiFi devices as well.
However, since the Internet is basically your source of income, you are among the few that could really benefit from investing in satellite Internet, since the initial investment is more than worth it in the long run.
Obviously, make sure that you choose your provider carefully.
4. You are Constantly Online
For whatever reason, be it streaming, gaming, or social media, you are always online and you require fast and constant Internet connection.
Because of this, you should first consider whether getting an RV is actually worth it for you, because you will have Internet downtimes, no matter which options you go for.
If you do however engage in the RV lifestyle, consider settling for months at a time in a cable-ready site and get a DSL or cable connection, but also consider getting a very serious cellular data plan for when you are moving in between locations.
As far as hardware requirements goes, you’re the most limited category of them all, since it’s not about what equipment you can buy, but rather the location where you are settled in, namely an RV park with a high-speed internet connection.
How Much Does Internet and Wi-Fi Cost on an RV?
This is a question that hardly has a definitive answer since it’s affected by too many variables to make calculating a budget worthwhile:
- Where you live
- What are your browsing habits
- What your budget is
- What kind of RVer are you (more stationary or mobile-oriented), etc.
However, unless you can find some way to jump from free Wi-Fi to free Wi-Fi on a regular basis, staying connected to the Internet while in an RV will cost you.
For example, cellular data is the handiest option in terms of connectivity, but the costs can add up by a lot once you exceed your monthly plan.
While casual Internet users may find the monthly plan more than enough, those that work from home or love streaming and gaming will surely burn through their monthly plan within a day.
On the other hand, satellite Internet is indeed the fastest and is arguably a bit cheaper, but the upfront installation costs of the equipment and the monthly rental fees make it viable only if you have a lot of upfront money to spend.
When you draw the line, the best option for Internet connectivity when it comes to living in an RV in terms of speed and connection consistency is arguably via cellular data.
While it may not be the cheapest option, offers and discounts are constantly coming and going.
Besides, any smart device can be turned into a Wi-Fi hotspot with just a few clicks, and the advantage is that you can password-protect the network so that only you can use it.
Tips and Tricks for Getting RV Internet
1. Know the Coverage of Your Area
Many apps for both Android and iOS can be used to show coverage regions for your cell phone, and this is great for those of you that went for cellular data as an Internet connectivity option.
2. Be Prepared
If you’re an RV owner, you like to travel, and if you like to travel you most likely have a pageant for planning your trips ahead of time.
That being the case, next time you decide to switch location, don’t just look for stops to eat, sleep, or visit, also look for local Wi-fi hotspots.
3. Boost the Signal you Already Have
As mentioned earlier, we live in an age where Internet connectivity can be found anywhere, but if you require a fast and constant connection, you’ll need some help with boosting the signal.
For example, the free Wi-Fi from trailer parks will surely be crowded, so a good Wi-Fi extender will come in hand.
4. Monitor Your Internet Usage
If you’re going for cellular data plans, you’ve most likely exceeded your monthly quota a few times, and maybe even had to pay some overcharge fees when you exceeded them by a large margin.
That’s why a good idea would be to take the amount of GB you have in your cellular plan, and divide it by the number of days in a month.
By doing this, it will be easier to keep tabs on what you’ve used over the course of a day, and to make sure you don’t burn out all of your GB before the next month begins.
5. Always Look for Freebies
Streaming movies or playing games is fun, but we all know how impactful they can be on your bandwidth, and there’s no shame in using alternative methods that can help you save some mobile data.
For example, use RedBox or Netflix in DVD or Blu-ray format when connected to a landline to watch your favorite movies.
More so, monitor whenever you enter an area with free Wi-Fi, and connect to it as soon as you get in range.
6. Always Have a Backup
Because there are so many variables in terms of how you can connect to the Internet while in an RV, this also means that sticking to just one option will prove difficult.
That is why always having two paid options readily available will provide you with the fastest speeds and the most constant connections.
Of course, connecting to a free Wi-Fi whenever you get the chance is always an option, especially when the satellite and cellular data bills start piling up.
Internet in an RV: CONCLUSION
While it’s true that there is no definitive answer to the question What is the best Internet option for an RV user?, we hope that by reading our article you’ve got a better idea as to where to start looking for options.
Let us know what methods you use to stay connected to the Internet while on your RV by leaving us a message in the comments section below.