'Round The Campfire

Best Ways to Get WiFi on a Camping Road Trip

More from Outdoor Living Newsletter April / May Outdoor Living Newsletter
 
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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 and Verizon offer their customers free access to broadband WiFi "hotspots". These hotspots are easy to access, and typically available in designated hotels, airports, parks, rest-stops, retail stores and restaurants,. 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'll be able to connect up to ten PCs or printers. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile currently offer 3G/4G MiFi with different monthly usage plans and a one or two 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?

3.  Use Your Cell Phone to Create Your Own WiFi Hotspot

An alternative to getting MiFi is using your own cell phone to create your own WiFi hotspot. This is perfect if you have data included in your cell phone service plan. You won't have to buy a separate portable router and, depending on your data plan, it could be much cheaper. You can still make phone calls while using it as a WiFi hotspot. The only disadvantage is it drains the battery much faster, so you'll need to recharge more often.

When you use your phone as your WiFi hotspot, make sure that your hotspot is password protected. Otherwise, anyone within the range of your phone can use your hotspot, and it will be a drain on your data plan.

4.  Buy a USB Modem

An alternative to a MiFi like device is a USB modem aka USB stick. 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, Sprint and Virgin Mobile, 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.

5.  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.

Mobile Satellite Internet comes in two main flavors; automatic roof mounted or manual tripod. The choice really comes down to cost vs. convenience. Automatic roof mounted is more expensive than a manual tripod and typically will cost $10,000 to $20,000 for the dish and all the equipment with an initial $1,000 to $1,500 installation fee. However it does not require any manual intervention to use and is quicker to setup taking around 7 to 10 minutes. A manual tripod will cost around $1,200 to $1,500 for the equipment and around $250 for installation. Tripod is not small and has to be stored when transported and then assembled and disassembled before and after use. It'll take around 15-20 minutes to setup every time you assemble it. If you are regularly on the move the roof mounted satellite will be much more convenient.

The tripod does have another advantage over the roof mounted option. As it is not mounted on your RV, it does allow you to park your RV in the shade under trees or other objects with the tripod off to one side in the clear, pointing at the sky. With roof mounted you must have clear coverage overhead. This may be an important consideration if you're going to be parking your RV in the desert with high temperatures for an extended period.

Satellite internet can provide internet from everywhere, but it is more expensive than other options. In addition, the download and upload speeds are slower. Most satellite internet providers charge between $50 to $250 per month for a usage plan. Although pricey, 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.

iDirect Technologies, HughesNet and Starband are popular Mobile Satellite Internet Network Providers in the United States. However they have outsourced installation and service plan purchasing to third party dealers. There are many dealers available across America, you can find a list at DataStormUsers.com.

6.  Use Campground WiFi

Within the last ten 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 ©2014 Camping Road Trip, LLC

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1 comment(s) so far...

Adding to your good suggestions, here a some more: Regarding hotspots, Comcast offers fast Xfinity which is becoming ubiquitous in the northeast and is often an alternative FREE connection at campgrounds if you're a Comcast customer.

With most carriers, using your smart phone as a WiFi hotspots or buying a MiFi device will add at least $30 per month to your bill and requires a separate data. If you're not already using all of your monthly data allowance on your Android phone, EasyTether from http://www.mobile-stream.com/easytether/android.html or from Amazon, sells for a onetime charge of less than $10 and is easy to install. It enables you to connect your smartphone to your computer via a USB cable and then use your phone's basic d

By LewisEdge on 5/22/2014 9:05:17 PM
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