If you are reading this page on your computer, chances are you are accustomed to keeping in touch over the Internet. With so many new technologies on the market, you can take the Internet with you in the RV—with the right equipment.
As you can imagine, keeping this web site current requires access to the Internet no matter where we go. We have spent a good bit of time researching various methods of getting online on the move, and on this page we share our findings with you.
We cover the following methods of connecting a computer to the Internet:
The least expensive and slowest method of connecting a computer to the Internet is through your cell phone. This can be accomplished with phones and cell phone service that support data connections.
What You Will Need
IMPORTANT: Your ability to access the Internet via a cell phone depends on all of the following: phone model, cell service provider, and location.
Finding a Data Cable
Data cables are not common options with cell phone users, so the sales person may not know what you need or may give you incorrect information. Ask plenty of questions to make sure you are getting the correct part.
Also be aware that carriers want to sell Internet service with the cable and may present it as something you must have. For example, the Verizon "Mobility Kit" includes the data cable and software for signing up for their Internet service. The bundled Internet service is generally more expensive than the no-frills dialup services (see above). You may decide that you want the Internet service offered by your cell carrier—just be aware that in most cases you can use a less expensive solution.
To find a data cable for your cell phone, go to 1800Mobiles.com and search for the following phrase:
your-phone-brand usb "data cable"
Example search phrases:
motorola usb "data cable"
lg usb "data cable"
nokia usb "data cable"
If the cable you found has a description similar to the one below, then chances are it is the correct item:
Motorola Data Connectivity Kit allows the user to connect a wireless phone to a modem, enabling access to the internet, e-mail or fax. Just connect the cable to your laptop, desktop, or PDA...
Cell phone carriers and specialized companies offer wireless Internet services designed specifically for the laptop. Most services in this category are based on cellular technology or variations thereof. Connection speeds vary from very slow to DSL-like speeds.
Some providers call this service Wireless Broadband with connection speeds of 128 Kbps to more than 1 Mbps. Pay close attention to the connection speed claims because many have very limited coverage, switching to a much lower speed outside that area. Be sure to review the coverage map before buying to make sure service is available at your travel destinations.
What You Will Need
Providers: 128 Kbps and Up
Providers: Below 128 Kbps
Wireless Fidelity (or WiFi, also known as 802.11b) is a technical term for the wireless network cards in laptop computers. Most new laptops come with this technology built-in and older models can be easily retrofitted by adding a WiFi card or device.
WiFi is the technology that links your laptop to a provider using two-way radio signals, and the provider further connects you to the Internet. The actual speed at which you browse the Internet depends on the connection speed between your computer and the WiFi receiver, and between the WiFi receiver and the Internet.
WiFi has a very limited range, typically less than 1,500 feet in radius. An area within range of the WiFi signal is called a hotspot.
What You Will Need
Many hotels, libraries, and some RV parks provide free WiFi Internet service to their guests. Check with the office for details such as coverage, SSID, password, and if additional fees are required.
It is not uncommon to make reservations at an RV park and be told that WiFi is available, only to find out later that the slot you are in is outside the range. When making reservations, ask if your specific slot is in range.
Paid Local WiFi
Various local WiFi providers may be available at your destination for a fee. Common locations are airports, book stores, truck stops, coffee shops, etc. These places offer daily or extended fee structures—ask for details at the establishment. Daily rates range between $3 and $7.
During our travels we have noticed that some RV parks include WiFi in their literature as an amenity. What they may not specify is that you have to pay for this service in addition to your park fees.
Paid National WiFi
If access to the Internet is important, we suggest looking into a national WiFi provider such as Boingo Wireless. Many of the hotspots that can be subscribed to independently can also be accessed under a Boingo consolidated plan for a reasonable monthly fee.
To determine if this solution is practical for you, go to the Boingo search page to find hotspots at your intended destinations.
Cable & DSL
If cable TV or land-line phone service is available in the RV park, then chances are you can also get cable or DSL Internet. Ask the RV park office who provides these services and call them directly to check for service availability.
There is one obvious down-side to relying on wired Internet in a recreational vehicle—it ties you down. But, if you are planning to stay put for a while, this solution may be ideal.
When you talk to the cable or phone company, be sure to ask the following:
In some competitive markets you may be able to get service without a long-term contract and without cancellation fees. However, these are the exceptions, so be sure to ask.
When you don't have the option of being out of the Internet's reach no matter where you roam, then satellite Internet is for you. As you might expect, always having access to high-speed Internet costs a premium.
Older one-way satellite technologies are still on the market, but we suggest you only consider the two-way solutions. With the one-way satellite, you also need a secondary up-link, such as a wired phone line, cell phone, or satellite phone.
Among the two-way satellite Internet solutions, there are two types:
A note about tripod mounted two-way satellite
Roof Mounted Dishes
Tripod Mounted Dishes
Two-way satellites are available from various online and retail locations. You can have one installed in a permanent location and then purchase all necessary components to mount onto a tripod. Or, you can buy complete tripod units from one of these vendors: