April 8, 2022
As we embarked on our journey towards RV living and traveling, how to stay connected was a big question for us and, as it turns out, one of the most frequently asked questions for anyone else looking at this lifestyle. It took us several years to realize we were asking the wrong question. Chances are, you are asking the wrong question in your groups and conversations, too.
What I see so often is “What internet do you use while traveling?” This is the WRONG question to be asking, especially complete strangers. The way someone else is using theirs may not be the best for you and you could easily end up overpaying, having too much, or not enough coverage for your needs. It doesn’t take into account several factors that contribute to the correct answer for YOU.
- What will you use the internet for?
- How many hours of use will you need each day/week/month?
- How much data will you need each day/week/month?
- Where will you be traveling?
- Where will you be stopping to work or use the internet?
- What is your budget?
- What do you currently have and will you be able to use it while mobile?
Since I don’t know your situation, I will go through each of these questions based on our situation as an example.
WHAT WILL I USE THE INTERNET FOR? Our family of 3 will use the internet for my full time teaching job, our son’s full time school August-May, and my husband’s business. We will also use it for streaming movies, social media, electronic communications, and bills.
HOW MANY HOURS OF USE WILL I NEED? I know I work 40-45 hours a week; my son has school for 10 in person hours, plus independent work, so around 15-20 hours a week; my husband uses about 15-20 hours a week for work. At home for gaming, communications and entertainment, it’s probably another 15-20 hours per week, but that can vary if we need it to.
HOW MUCH DATA WILL I NEED? This one took us some calculating and researching online to figure out. Zoom calls are about 2GB an hour. Streaming a movie is about 1GB per hour. An average 480p YouTube video is about 600MB each. Web browsing is about 60MB per hour. With those numbers in mind, we calculated we’d need about 100GB a month at a minimum.
WHERE WILL I BE TRAVELING? My job requires me to stay in Florida, so for work purposes, this is where we will be. We may travel out of state on vacations and holidays, but won’t need as much data during those times, if at all.
WHERE WILL I STOP/USE THE INTERNET? Since connectivity is a priority, we decided we would stay in populated areas for work or places that do offer internet as a back up to our own use. While we would love to stay in more state and national parks, we will use these for times off from work when coverage isn’t a priority, unless we know they will have decent coverage there. This takes some investigating with each trip planning–the park’s website, reviews, coverage maps, and a call to the park itself can help answer this pretty quickly.
WHAT IS MY BUDGET? In our sticks and bricks, we had $75 for internet and $175 for cellular, so about $250, or up to $300 for a great plan.
WHAT DO I CURRENTLY HAVE/IS IT MOBILE? The FCC currently has a great interactive map for the US showing the major carriers and where they have both data and cellular coverage which helped us a lot. We also checked individual carrier coverage maps and went in and talked to the shops as well as drove to some of the areas we’d visit and checked it out (you can also look at store locators in areas–if they have a store there, coverage will be there, too). We have Verizon and they cover the state pretty well in major areas. Our Spectrum home internet offered some mobile options but not enough coverage in our budget. We liked Verizon’s Mifi device and coverage better, and the price point fit our budget once we updated our plan on our current devices and added the new one.
As a back up plan for both our device and park, I also research cafe’s, restaurants, coffee shops, and public wifi areas so I have a back up, and my cell phone has a hot spot in a pinch, too. This also allows us options for a varied workspace or activities during the day, and if we overuse our data in a billing cycle.
We had considered getting devices with more than one carrier, and that option is still out there if this doesn’t work for our needs or if our travel or usage needs change. With new towers going up all the time, as well as new devices, plans and pricing being offered to stay competitive, we will reevaluate every 6 months to a year to make sure we are still getting the best plan. Subscribing to technology and travel websites or following blogs will help us keep informed.
With this as your guide, it should narrow down your search to your specific needs and get you asking the right questions. The bigger your area of travel, the more challenging it may be to find coverage, especially if you are traveling in another country. Research options there, and, if it is a short term stay, consider prepaid coverage packages, too.
Good luck on your research, and enjoy your travels!
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