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Traveling around in an RV is a fantastic way to explore and see the world. But just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you can’t have access to fast reliable internet.
Whether you need it for work, trip planning, or simply getting directions, finding ways to stay connected to the internet can be one of the many challenges to RV life. We’ve compiled a guide to finding the best internet options for your RV to keep you connected while on the move.
The Challenge of Mobile Internet for RVs
When you’re on the road, your internet access needs don’t change. It’s just as critical as it is under normal circumstances. You still need internet service to work remotely, stream movies and live TV, directions and reservations, and even “road-schooling” your kids.
Finding internet access while traveling around in your RV can be very frustrating, but there are some solutions that can provide the connectivity you need.
If you’re giving the RV life a try, you’ll need to get accustomed to wireless internet options and understand that the speed and stability of your internet connection will change day to day. Here are several solutions for reliable internet connections while on the road.
Best RV Internet Options
Though figuring out an internet situation while living in an RV may require more effort, 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 for when you find yourself far from reliable and secure public WiFi sources.
To set up a cellular data plan, you’d need to buy a hotspot from an internet service provider, such as Verizon. Your provider may set data caps for hot spots, so it may be most cost-efficient to spring for the unlimited plan.
As great as cellular data can be, unlimited plans can get expensive. But they may be well worth the reliable connection, availability, 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 public library. Using public WiFi can be a great way to save on internet costs, especially if you plan to stay in campgrounds and RV parks and don’t want to wander too far into the wilderness.
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. Since it is a public WiFi, be sure to take the necessary safety and security precautions to protect your device and your information.
Many internet service providers have nationwide hotspots that you can access through the service you have registered at your home address. Although they likely aren’t available in the wilderness, they are readily available in cities and towns throughout the country. For instance, Xfinity has over 8 million hotspots nationwide through which you can access the internet. Keep in mind that these hotspots are similar to public WiFi, so use caution to keep your device and data secure.
Satellite internet has become an increasingly popular option since Starlink internet service opened the doors to greater speculation about using satellites for high-quality internet worldwide. Because of its portability and wide availability, many travelers install satellite internet service in their RVs. This can be a great option if you plan on staying in the same place for a long time.
Starlink recently announced its portable satellite internet service that is ideal for the RV lifestyle. You still need to buy the equipment and pay the additional $25 monthly fee for the portable service. While it is an excellent solution for digital nomads, keep in mind that it will not work while you are in motion.
And it is important to know that even though Starlink has announced this service, the provider is at capacity, so new customers will be put on a waitlist. You can expect to wait for Starlink service well into 2023.
Tips to Get the Most Out of Your RV Internet
Even though establishing an internet connection while traveling in an RV can feel like a hassle, many have found great workarounds. Luckily, there are a few ways to help connect and maintain your internet service.
- Subscribe to unlimited data
As mentioned before, many RVers spring for an unlimited data plan even if it’s a bit more expensive. These expensive plans can actually cost less than paying for data above and beyond your provider’s data limits. If you know that you’ll consistently need more data than the limit allows, it’s almost always less expensive to go with an unlimited data plan.
- 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 poor, and they can mean the difference between being able to access an online map and being left to find your way to a campsite on your own.
However, boosters can often cost up to $500. They can also work against your signal in certain situations. If you decide to get a booster, we recommend turning it off when the signal is strong enough on its own.
- Get a WiFi extender
A WiFi extender, or repeater, 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.
An extender can be a great way to boost your wifi signal while using a public network, and several RV manufacturers integrate them into their models. The WiFi extender becomes a part of the public WiFi network, so we again urge caution and security to protect your privacy and information.
Other Internet Alternatives for RVs
If you’re new to RV life, or aren’t sure that a cellular plan, public WiFi, or satellite internet 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 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 more secure than using public networks and would probably give you a great connection during your stay.
Subscribe to Cable or DSL provider at a campground
If you’re planning on staying at a campground for an extended time, you may have the option to subscribe to their cable internet or DSL provider. It might be a hassle to set up but this will give you secure, reliable, and high-speed internet during your stay.
To set up your service, you’ll need to pay the installation and monthly fee. 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 internet or Viasat internet for your RV if you’re staying in one place for longer than a few days, it isn’t a great solution in general. Each time you change locations, you’ll need to pack it up and then set it up and calibrate it for optimal performance.
What’s the difference between a cellular hotspot and a satellite hotspot?
Even if they both get the job done, how you travel and what your goals are 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, satellite internet 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 emails.
How much does it cost to get RV internet?
Naturally, the cost of getting internet in your RV can vary 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, it may be enough to get a hotspot on your phone, which you can use to connect to other devices when free WiFi isn’t available.
Can I get Starlink for my RV?
Yes! Starlink announced a satellite internet service for RVs in mid-2022. With the equipment purchase and an additional $25 per month, you can hit the road and not lose connectivity with Starlink’s new RV satellite internet service. While it will not work while your RV is in motion, it is a convenient way to work remotely, game online, and stream video once you’ve reached a good place to stop. And since Starlink is waitlisting new customers, you may have to wait until late-2023 to be able to access the service.
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