RV Internet Explained! How We Get RV Wifi on the Road

sitting outside RV with internet hotspot device

People often ask us how we are able to get good internet while traveling in our RV, especially since our jobs depend on the internet. However, recently the number of people working remotely has exploded. And in just the last few weeks, we found ourselves answering this question on the daily with other guests at the RV park we were staying in. It seems many people weren’t quite prepared for the challenge of working from an RV and finding solid internet. So, we decided it was time for us to share exactly how we get wifi on the road!

Can I Get Internet Without an Internet Provider When I’m in My RV?

If you are residing in a typical dwelling, such as a house or apartment, people will usually have an internet provider. Often times it might be the same company that they get their cable TV or satellite TV through. Companies like Comcast, Xfinity, or other cable providers usually have internet packages.

But these are not mobile internet options, so you can’t take them with you in your RV.

However, there are other types of technology where you don’t need to have an internet provider and you can actually get mobile internet through devices that you bring with you in your RV. Essentially, it’s Mobile Internet.

 

Types of Mobile WiFi Internet Options: 

Satellite vs. Cellular

There are a few different types of mobile internet options to choose from. The first option is to go with satellite internet. This was initially what we considered, just because it was the first thing that came to mind. Our original class C RV that we first purchased already came with a satellite mounted on top, and we often see these same satellites at the various camping stores. As long as you have a mobile dish or a dish that’s mounted on your RV, then you could get a satellite package that would work. Popular satellite TV & internet packages for RVer’s can be bought through Dish as well as a few other companies. 

However, after doing some research we discovered that we could actually get internet through the cell networks just in the same way you use data on your phones. Think of it like this, many people can actually turn their phones into a hot spot – where you broadcast the data signal from your phone and tether other devices to it (like your computer) to use the internet through your phone. Now, your phone isn’t intended to always be used as a hot spot. So another option is to buy an actual hot spot device, which is designed exactly for this purpose! 

What is the Best WiFi for an RV?

It’s tough to say what the best wifi for an RV is because it depends on where you will be traveling/staying and your budget. The good thing about satellite internet is that you can get a satellite signal in some pretty remote areas where you don’t get a cell signal. That is a benefit for people who really like to be off-grid and out in some rural areas. However, satellite tends to be more expensive – at least from what we found. 

Can I Just Use the WiFi at an RV Park?

Oh, don’t we all wish!  Many RV parks today advertise “high speed internet” to attract guests. It’s a good idea; however, in reality, it just isn’t something you can depend on. Most of the time this “high speed” internet isn’t much to get excited about. Plus, if there are a lot of people staying at the park and people are trying to stream, then the bandwidth will get sucked up and you won’t be able to use it.

This is super important to know, especially if you work from your RV! I can’t tell you how many times we have heard other campers vent to us at how they get kicked off of Zoom calls and can’t even download a file from their email on the RV park’s WiFi. 

I’m telling you now, never depend on it. Great RV park WiFi is awesome if you have it, but it’s a nightmare when it doesn’t work and you don’t have an alternative!

How Do We Get Internet While Traveling in Our RV? 

We use cellular internet in our RV when we are traveling because after doing a lot of research, we realized that satellite just wouldn’t be worth the cost for us.  Plus, we just don’t watch a lot of regular TV. In fact, we haven’t had cable TV in over 6 years (and have never had satellite TV). We usually watch TV through the internet such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and YouTube. 

So for us, we felt like cellular internet was the way to go! We found a number of packages and devices that were affordable and would give us the flexibility that we needed. 

Mobile Internet Hot Spot Devices 

In order to have cellular internet, you will need to have some type of hot spot device. As I mentioned before, you can actually use your cell phone for this or even a tablet (if you have cell service on it). However, this is not ideal for long periods of use because your phone could get hot. So if you really plan to use the internet a lot, I recommend investing in a proper hot spot device.

What is a Hot Spot Device & Can I use a Wifi Hot Spot in an RV?

Basically, a hot spot device is a type of mobile router where you can put in a SIM card but it’s used just purely for data. And yes, these devices are perfect for RV travel!

The great thing about these hot spot devices is that as long as you have cell service with that provider, then you will have internet access. So that means you could be in California, then drive to Colorado, and even Florida — all with internet access. 

And just like you may use your cell phone when traveling down the road in your RV, you can also use your hot spot device! For example, just the other day we were driving down into Florida and I needed to hop online and do some work. Josh was driving and I was in the passenger seat, and I set up my computer and was working on the internet while cruising down the interstate!

However, you will need to consider the package and provider that suits your needs best. Below are a couple that we have.

Verizon RV Internet Hot Spot & Plans

The very first hot spot and mobile internet plan we got was from Verizon. We actually bought a Verizon JetPack hot spot a few years ago from Amazon. Then we went to our local Verizon store in Denver and told them we needed to buy a data package for the hot spot. 

Neither of us had our cell phone plans through Verizon, although we could have gotten that too and bundled it. However, they did offer a pre-paid data plan specifically for the hot spot. We purchased that and were able to reload it with however much data we needed. So for example, we could buy 20 GB of data, and then we it ran out we could just reload with more.

It was a good option when we were just traveling on weekends in the RV or for extended vacations. However, once we started traveling and living full-time in our RV we realized we needed an unlimited plan so we didn’t have to keep reloading.

AT&T RV Internet Hot Spot Options (Netgear Nighthawk)

Another option is to go through AT&T. They have a number of packages and hot spot devices available for purchase, just like Verizon. However, through some fellow RV friends in Facebook Groups, we discovered a company called OTR Mobile.  They are a reseller and had unlimited AT&T internet plans specifically for mobile internet needs like ours! 

We could have brought our own unlocked hot spot device to them, but we decided just to buy a combination plan and device through them. We purchased a Netgear Nighthawk MR1100 as well as a monthly unlimited plan subscription, which auto-renews every month. 

* NOTE: OTR Mobile Now Works with T-Mobile, although we still have a grandfathered AT&T plan with them.

Full-Time RV Living Requires Solid Internet for RV

One thing to keep in mind is having backup options, especially if you are full-time RV living and working from the road. This is true for us because we have really important work and clients, who we have to be available for. So we never want to be caught with poor internet, if we can help it!

For that reason, we have all the major US networks covered.

Our primary internet is through our Netgear hot spot on an unlimited AT&T plan. However, just in case of an emergency, we also still have our Verizon JetPack that we use as a backup. In addition, my cell phone is actually through T-mobile and I have an unlimited plan with hot spot capabilities through my phone that are pretty fast if I ever need to use it (and I have). Lastly, Josh’s cell phone is through AT&T too.

So you can see, we have our bases covered just in case. 

Click to Watch Video Below

 

Great RV WiFi Means We Can Do So Much More!

Having great internet in our RV means that we can travel, work, and live in our RV just how we did back in our house! We are able to do our work, have Zoom calls with clients, upload videos to YouTube, and even stream Netflix, Hulu, and more! In fact, both Josh and I can be streaming at the same time! As long as the cell service is strong, we really don’t have hardly any problems with our RV internet with this setup.

 

10 thoughts on “RV Internet Explained! How We Get RV Wifi on the Road”

  1. This article works if you have cell phone service! Here in West Marin, CA.,just a few miles from San Francisco, we have spotty at best Verizon or AT&T cell service.
    So what is next for those of us who can’t make a call or send a text?

    I’ve read about internet for all ideas. How will that work?

    1. Hi Harley – yes, we chose to rely on cellular for our internet. It’s not always perfect because there are sometimes places where the signal is weak. Alternatives include satellite internet — however, as mentioned in the post this can be expensive and even with satellite you could be down in a canyon somewhere and just not get a signal either!

      Aside from satellite and cellular, I don’t have a solution. Hardwired internet is the only other thing I know of, and that would mean a telephone / cable line. Some RV parks have this option for people to choose from, but it’s not going to be available if you are out boondocking in the wilderness.

      It’s the tradeoff for having the freedom to travel and explore. Connectivity is an issue. Everyone’s situation is different. For us, we plan our trips where we know internet / cellular signal will be poor during down-times at work (or we may even choose to take time off work). However, since we rarely take time off work we end up camping in places where we know we will have service.

      Hope this helps
      Happy travel to you!

      – Liz

      1. Hey Liz!
        Great blog and video!
        When you say you “plan your trips for places that you know you will have good internet” Im wondering how you research this?
        Is there a website that you have found useful in looking up cell coverage?
        Im about to make the jump to full time rv living while working remote and im very nervous about internet!
        Thanks,
        Bryan

        1. Hi Bryan – thanks for reaching out to us!

          Yes we use a combination of websites to research the cell signal before we travel somewhere. First, we always read reviews of campgrounds (because sometimes people will mention this) and we also research Campendium – most people here will leave a review about the cell signal because it’s built into the review / comment section as an option.

          Then we also look at cell signal coverage maps for or various providers. Each provider has their own map you can use, and there are also some apps out there that overlap different carriers in layers that you can turn on and off.

          We do a lot of research on this, typical major cities are fine. It’s when we are out in more remote areas.

          Sadly, if something is on the edge and gets inconsistent reviews then we often don’t go there. We have tried before, but the stress of not getting a good signal when we need it is just too frustrating. Unless we know we are taking a “vacation” and don’t have to work, we always stick to areas that seem to have a pretty solid connection.

          Hope this helps!
          Liz

  2. Would you mind saying how much you pay for cell and how much satellite is? Without actual costs it’s hard to make choices.

  3. Hey….fellow Navarrean (?) here…..we are also remote workers / full timers located in the Keys for awhile. We were using OTR and were extremely satisfied with the quality until the switch to TMobile. We were paying $60/mo for unlimited and unthrottled service. A few months ago it changed to $70/mo….no biggie. Once the switch happened, the price went to $109/mo, and the Netherlands Nighthawk router became locked. AT&T couldn’t help, and OTR couldn’t help. They suggested bigunlock.com, or cellcorner.com. we decided to call Verizon, our cell phone company. We each have 15GB of unthrottled high speed on our phones, then it can slow down, and a jetpack with the same. The jetpack costs $11 for unlimited…just have to deal with throttling afterward.

    1. Hi thanks for sharing your experience!

      We ended up sticking to OTR mobile and they ended up grandfathering our AT&T plan instead of changing to T-mobile. We did have to get a new SIM card and plan, and aside from the occasional disconnection (which I would get on their chat and they would reset) we didn’t have any other issues with it. I think ours went up to $70 just recently after that change. Sorry to hear your experience was a pain. I know this is an evolving industry at the moment with a lot of changes as more people get into this lifestyle and need mobile internet. Hope you have everything sorted now!

      Happy travels to you!
      – Liz

  4. I don’t want to buy anything from amazon anymore, so could you recommend another place to buy the hotspot router? Do I have to buy sim card separately and is the card expensive? I had a bad experience with amazon, so I won’t use them anymore!

    1. Hi Charlotte – I’m sure you could buy the router many other places online. Yes, you do need to buy a SIM card – there are various providers that sell mobile router / hot spot SIM cards. They are essentially just data you are buying. You will need to check to the compatibility though – because if you buy a “locked” router then you might be limited to only a certain carrier for the SIM card (such as Verizon). So if you want to be able to have the option of using different carriers (like Verizon, AT&T, etc.) then you will want to buy an unlocked router. We have used OTR mobile – who are a AT&T / T-mobile reseller of data plans. That’s what we use in our router.

      All the best!
      – Liz

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