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What are the best ways to get WiFi on a camping road trip?

More from Outdoor Living Newsletter April Outdoor Living Newsletter
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How can I get a reliable WiFi connection when I'm on a camping road trip?

Dear RVer

WiFi has become a fixture in our daily lives; whether at Starbucks, work, or home, we are almost always connected to a WiFi network. However, having a solid WiFi connection on the road can prove quite challenging. Below are five tips that will ensure you're always connected on the road.

1.  Take advantage of WiFi Hotspots

AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint offer their customers free access to broadband WiFi "hotspots". These hotspots, which are typically available in designated hotels, airports, parks, rest-stops, retail stores and restaurants are easy to access. Travelers who plan to use these should obtain a list of hotspots before venturing out on the road.

2.  Get a MiFi

MiFi is another option for travelers seeking WiFi on the road. MiFi is a small portable wireless router that serves as mobile WiFi hotspot. You are able to connect up to 5 pc's or printers. AT&T, Verizon and Sprint currently offer 3G/4G MiFi with different monthly usage plans and a 1 or 2 year contract.

4G is significantly faster than 3G, however the network isn't as widely available. If your MiFi router cannot find a 4G network it will try and utilize any 3G network. Since MiFi uses AT&T, Sprint and Verizon's 3G and 4G services, the strength of your WiFi connection is largely contingent on the strength of your phone signal. What this means for you is that you may not get a signal in remote locations such as the middle of a National Park or State Park, but who wants to be connected when you are surrounded by the beauty of nature?

Unfortunately, T-Mobile does not offer a MiFi service at this time.

3.  Buy a USB Modem

An alternative to a MiFi like device is a USB modem. It resembles a USB memory stick and is simple to use - all you have to do is insert the device into a Type A USB port on your computer for internet access. All major carriers - AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, offer the USB modem for a set fee and offer reduced prices with a mobile contract. Check with your carrier for more details regarding pricing and availability.

Note: Individuals interested in the USB modem should be aware that this device is not compatible with cell phones; cell phones do not contain USB ports.

4.  Use Satellite Internet

For RVers who are traveling to locations with spotty phone signal, fear not, you can still get high-speed internet. Since portable WiFi devices and cellular internet are dependant on the carrier's signal strength, these are not practical options if you are traveling to an isolated destination or one with poor coverage. In these instances, it may be best to use satellite internet.

To take advantage of satellite internet, you must have a variety of outdoor and indoor equipment. Outside, you will need an antenna and transmit-and-receive electronics, along with a connection to a small, unobtrusive dish. This equipment connects by coaxial cable to the Indoor Receive Unit (IRU) and Indoor Transmit Unit (ITU), which you connect to your wireless router to give you WiFi in your RV.

Satellite internet can provide internet from everywhere, but it is more expensive than other options, especially if you do not have a satellite dish, where you can expect to pay in the thousands to make your RV satellite internet "ready". When you park up to use satellite internet make sure that trees and other objects do not obstruct your view of the sky as this may affect your satellite internet connection. There are many satellite internet providers, most of which are charging between $50-$80/month for a usage plan. Although pricey if you don't have the right dish, satellite internet should be considered as an option to stay connected whilst on the road, especially if cellular internet and WiFi/MiFi devices are not an option or unavailable.

Ground Control and Skycasters are two popular satellite internet providers in the United States.

5.  Use Campground WiFi

Within the last 5 years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of campgrounds that offer WiFi. Some campgrounds offer WiFi for free while others charge an hourly or daily fee. When choosing a campground or RV park, find out if they provide WiFi and if there is a charge to use it.

You can use our Smart Search to find campgrounds and RV parks that offer WiFi. Just select the WiFi option in our Advanced Search and we'll show you all the campgrounds in your area of interest that provide WiFi.

With the growth of WiFi spots across the country and easy availability of technologies it is much easier than ever to stay connected. With our tips, you're now all set to take to the road and stay connected - happy travels!

Copyright ©2012 Camping Road Trip, LLC

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