For many motorhome owners, life on the road is an opportunity to disconnect and take in the sights. But chances are, at one point or another, you’re going to want the comforts of home.
Whether you want to catch up on your favorite streaming shows, check in on emails, or document your travel adventures on Instagram, you’re going to need the Internet.
Unfortunately, when it comes to getting internet in your motorhome, there’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution. In fact, there are a variety of ways you can get access to the world wide web on the road. Don’t let the options overwhelm you. The most important factor to consider when deciding on a data plan and device to access internet is, how will you be using your data?
Community, Quick Research, and Navigation
In order to pick the right plan and carrier for your needs, it’s helpful to know how much data you use on a monthly basis. If you mostly use a tablet or cell phone to do things like research destinations, navigate, or catch up with friends on social media, you probably aren’t using a ton of data. But you should check your data usage by visiting your carrier’s website or app. Once you know how much data you’re using, choose a plan and a carrier that comfortably accommodates your needs. If you do a lot of browsing on a secondary device, such as a tablet, most carriers offer single device data plans (Verizon’s starts at $10, AT&T’s starts at $15, and T-Mobile’s starts at $20). This will ensure your cell phone's unlimited data plan is not being used up too quickly.
Coverage and speed should also be major factors in your carrier comparisons. Verizon currently has the best coverage in the country, with 70% of the U.S. covered by their 4G LTE network. Its unlimited plans start at $40 and vary per number of lines and data caps.
It’s important to note that unlimited doesn’t always mean unlimited. Different unlimited plans have different data caps. This means that once you reach your data cap, your carrier will dramatically slow down your data speed.
Streaming Entertainment on Multiple Devices
If you use the Internet to stay entertained through streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or YouTube on multiple devices, you’ll want to invest in a mobile hotspot device. They are typically small, self-contained units designed specifically for a primary carrier that receives a cellular data signal and then broadcasts a Wifi hotspot that enables other devices to get online. If you have a streaming device, such as a Roku or Amazon Fire Stick, this is your best option for connecting to the Internet. While there are no unlimited plans currently available for hotspots, you can purchase additional data plans through your carrier, often up to 1 or 2. As a starting point, take a look at Verizon’s Jetpack, AT&T’s Nighthawk, and T-Mobile’s Coolpad SURF.
Working From Your Motorhome
If you rely on a solid, stable internet connection to make a living from your motorhome, you’ll want to up your game and invest in the reliability of a mobile router. Mobile routers create a local area network that feeds off cellular data or nearby Wifi. They are also capable of supporting multiple devices, such as laptops and printers. Although they are more expensive than other options, mobile routers offer many advantages such as increased reliability and extended Wifi range. Winegard is a popular option among the motorhome community for staying connected on high-speed internet.
Remote Location Connection
If you’re traveling to remote areas without service and still need to be connected to the Internet, consider purchasing a satellite. It’s important to note that satellite TV and satellite internet are not the same. Satellite TV dishes are only good for one-way communication and don’t have the ability to transmit information. To connect to the Internet, you’ll need two-way communication, which is where it gets a bit complicated. Satellite internet isn't as easy to set up as a hotspot or mobile router. It requires specific equipment that must be set up while the coach is docked and subsequently disassembled before you can hit the road again. Despite these minor speedbumps, a satellite is a good option if you’re planning to stay put in a remote location for an extended period of time.
This guide is just a starting point. If you can get by without using internet while on the road, most campsites these days offer free Wifi – although you will likely sacrifice reliability, speed, and security. If you choose that route, Wifi extenders are also available that will make the connection stronger and faster. The good news is, whether you’re on the road full-time or just headed out for a summer road trip, there are plenty of options to fit your unique needs. For more helpful information about how to get the right internet connection for your travel needs, visit the Mobile Internet Resource Center and our friends at Techno RV.