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You’ve got everything mapped out for your perfect RV nomad lifestyle—except how to get internet in an RV. You might think you can survive off your phone hotspot for a while, but you’ll soon see that there are many problems with this strategy.
Whether you’re retired and just want to watch your favorite shows or you are trying to work from the road, you’ll soon see that having stable internet is a necessity. Without internet in your RV, your frustration level will be sky high and that’s exactly the opposite of what the RV lifestyle represents.
Why Is Stable Internet Important to the RV Lifestyle?
Even if you’re hitting the road to have a fun family vacation with limited electronics, you need to have reliable internet. There might be a point when your patience runs low and you need to fall back on the tablets and TV for some much-needed parent time.
Many people hitting the road to RV these days aren’t retired and have to have a good connection to get their work done. Whether you’re a writer, blogger, work in customer service, or have some other type of job, if you have shoddy internet, it can take ten times as long. You want to be able to get out of the RV and enjoy what’s outside.
Just about any type of job is possible remotely if you have good enough internet. Finding internet that works for you can allow you to move freely without worrying about where the closest coffee shop with free WiFi is located.
Why Isn’t Using My Phone Hotspot a Good Idea?
Using a phone hotspot is an easy fix but almost every cellphone service will squash your plans. You have “unlimited” data on your plan, so that means that you’ll get the fastest internet for as long as you want, right? Not so fast.
Reasons using your phone as a hotspot is a bad idea:
- Phone battery drain
- Cell phone network throttle (even on unlimited plans)
- Potentially huge phone bills (not unlimited plans)
The above three reasons are the main reasons you should use your phone hotspot for your main WiFi supply. If you’re in a pickle and your other internet is on the fritz, then that’s totally fine, but you shouldn’t rely on it.
Using your phone hotspot for the internet can hurt your phone’s battery in the long run. Since most phones don’t allow you to just swap out a battery anymore, that can be a big pain.
If you don’t know what throttling is, that’s when your cell phone service provider slows your internet speed down. For instance, if you get 4G normally, they might take it down to 3G. Yes, it’s only 1G, but it makes a big difference. Even if you have “unlimited” internet they usually have a throttle disclaimer in there after 15 GB of usage.
For those of you that don’t have unlimited plans, you can usually rack up hundreds of dollars in data charges from streaming a few of your favorite movies. For just one hour of Netflix, you’re looking at using 1GB which will eat through your data pretty quickly if you get into a binge-fest.
What Type of Internet User Are You?
Before we get into the best internet options for RVers, you should know how much data you use. If you hardly get on the internet, you might be able to make it through with just your phone. I just know that with our family of six, that would have never worked.
Add up the number of devices that use the internet in your RV. If you are going to stream video, we already learned above that one hour will eat up 1G. If you won’t stream video and you only need to check your email, you might still want to get something that allows you to have 5-10GB of data.
What Are Some Good Options for How to Get Internet in an RV?
I apologize if I’ve just dashed your plans of using your phone’s hotspot for your main WiFi, but I won’t leave you without a solution.
Depending on how you plan on RVing, there are a few options. I will put the best solution for each travel type under that section so you can easily get to it.
Internet for RVers that Stay at RV Parks All of the Time
Those of you that like to stay at an RV park for a month or more might find it easy to access the internet through the RV park. Most resort-style RV parks allow you to pay a monthly fee to use their in-park WiFi.
Keep in mind that if you want to get high-speed WiFi, you might put out as much money as you would buying internet usage for a house.
Before you jump on the park RV internet bandwagon, make sure you see how many devices they allow to connect through your account. If you have a television, cellphones, or other devices that connect, it might not be worth it and you may want to consider one of the options in the next section.
Internet for RVers on the Move
For those of you that like to be on the move and to be out of parks often, you want to be self-sufficient. It’s a very freeing feeling to know that you can get your work done or watch your videos without having to sign up for WiFi at some random location.
There are a few ways you can achieve this and some of better than others because of their overall value.
I am going to put this one up at the front of the class because you need to watch it and by watch it – I mean watch it pass by. Satellite internet might sound great but it’s slow and it will probably cost you more than your RV payment if you have a payment. Including the expensive equipment and the expensive subpar internet access, you’re looking at thousands of dollars.
Hotspot Pack AKA Jetpack Internet
After dealing with spotty internet for way too long, one of my friends recommended a hotspot device. It works like your phone’s hotspot and allows unlimited devices on it. The one that we got was through AT&T but you got it through eBay.
What I loved about it:
- Easy to connect all of our devices to it quickly
- Not over-the-top expensive
- Free to low-cost device provided
- Reliable just about everywhere
Since the hotspot was a dedicated one, we just kept it plugged up most of the time so we didn’t have to worry if the battery ran out. If you wanted to bring it with you though, the battery life was good and we never had any problems with it.
Keep in mind that if you go out of reach of your cell phone service provider that it won’t work. A lot of people choose to get another jetpack device from another provider. We didn’t really go anywhere that we would have problems, so we just kept that one.
If we did run into that problem, we could have just used our cellphone hotspot in a pinch since we have Verizon.
Keep in mind that it did have an option so you can tether your device to the internet box. If you had worries about interference and wanted to get the best connection possible. My son even ran his gaming computer on it which was cause for celebration in our camp.
Where Can I Buy a Hotspot Pack?
We personally bought our off of eBay. There are a lot of good sellers on there and it’s pretty cheap. Just check the description and reviews and you can easily find one without breaking the bank.
If you want to put out more money, you can go directly to AT&T and get one of these as well, but who wants to do that?
Many people also swear by Skyroam, but I personally haven’t used it before.
What Do I Do If My Internet Is Too Slow?
You might start to celebrate because you finally have a solution for how to get internet in an RV. There are still a few things that might plague you as you travel.
Before you park your RV somewhere, take your RV box and walk to the areas and see if you have full bars. Keep in mind that the signal will have to come through your RV, so anything less than full bars won’t be helpful.
Just a few feet in one direction could make a big difference due to a tree, mountain, or other structure that could interfere with your precious signal. If you can’t find any spots that have a great signal—don’t despair. There is something called a WiFi booster that can give you a bit more speed from your connection.
Keep in mind that if you want to boost your speed, you do need to have a connection. Without a connection, there is nothing to boost.
There are a lot of different options for internet boosters available but we never personally needed one. We usually stayed in areas that had pretty good internet but we did get one of the following devices I’m going to talk about.
Where Do I Buy WiFi Boosters?
Amazon is a good place to find WiFi boosters. Just make sure to check the reviews. These are a couple of good ones you should consider.
Winegard 434719 ConnecT 2.0 4G2 (WF2-435) 4G LTE and Wi-Fi Extender for RVs
CC Vector Long Range WiFi Receiver System – Repeats to All WiFi Devices at a Distant Location. Boost Coverage to Garage, Garden, Upstairs, Back Rooms, and More; 2.4 GHz
What Do I Do If I Don’t Get a Good Signal?
When we were in Florida RVing, we loved to tuck our RV under the trees. It was blazing hot when we went in the summer and the trees kept us from baking in our small rig. The only problem was that the signal had a hard time making it to our rig.
A WiFi extender will help you by getting the signal to where you need it to be. We bought a WiFi extender and connected it so that we could put it on a pole out from under the trees. When we did this, it allowed our devices to pick up the signals easier.
The internet was even better outside, so if you like to watch television outdoors then this could help you.
When we weren’t under trees, we just put it up on top of the RV which kept us from having to find a place to put up a pole for the extender.
Where can I buy a WiFi Extender?
You can get a good WiFi extender off Amazon. Pretty much any of them with good reviews will work since the one we used is way outdated. Alfa and King are a couple of good brands.
Alfa WiFi Camp Pro 2 Mini Version: R36A Wi-Fi USB Router + AWUS036NH Long Range Repeater Kit
ALFA Network WiFi CampPro 2 Universal WiFi / Internet Range Extender Kit for Caravan/Motorhome, Boat, RV
FAQ about How to Get Internet in an RV
Answer: If you’re doing sensitive work on your computer, you might worry about someone stealing your information. Following basic internet security like creating strong passwords and keeping your software up to date will give you peace of mind. Unless someone is really close to your RV, they won’t be able to hack you
Answer: If you get a dedicated WiFi hotspot, you should be able to easily get the internet you need for around one hundred dollars. If you go the satellite internet route, you’re looking at thousands of dollars in equipment and potentially hundreds or even thousands in data charges depending on your usage.
Answer: When you’re on the go in an RV, you want to have it all and that includes a fast internet connection. Cable internet and DSL type speed just won’t happen in an RV but 4G or 5G internet gives most people what they have to have for their internet needs.
So, if you’re talking about being able to stream videos and play games online then yes, you can.
Answer: Some people that live far out have satellite internet at their homes. Taking your home satellite internet with you isn’t a good option. There are options through Dish to watch television through a satellite in an RV but so far they don’t have a solution for on-the-go internet.
Answer: Yes, you can find hotspots that give you unlimited internet without throttling.
Wrapping Up the Internet Connectivity Issue
Just about everything we do has some need for the internet. We need it to look up our favorite recipes, call our friends and family while on the road, watch our favorite television shows, and upload videos to YouTube.
Making sure you have the best internet possible is a high priority and now you have the information you need to make an informed decision about which way to access the internet is best for you. As you can see, however, the hotspot with unlimited data and no throttling was my choice.
And I paired it with a WiFi extender so I could always be sure to pick up the signal even in a tree-filled area.
Click here to see the best RV assistance plans to give you peace of mind.