Van Life & Internet: How To Get Consistent WIFI When on the Road

Whether you plan to work while on the road or simply want to scroll through your social media apps, being connected to the Internet during van life is essential.

In our case, not only do we need consistent Internet to update our blog, but connectivity is also critical to use Google Maps, locate campgrounds, answer emails, and keep in touch with family through our messaging apps. Though we embrace van life to help us ‘get away from it all,’ we don’t deny the importance of having reliable Internet access.

So, in this post, we provide six tips for how we get WIFI on the road while traveling in our camper van.

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1. Unlimited Data Plan

Cell Phone Hotspot With Unlimited Data Plan For Van Life Internet
Connecting laptop to cellphone via WIFI hotspot

The most convenient way to get Internet access during van life is with your cell phone service provider. We recommend upgrading to an unlimited data plan because once you’re in the van, you will have much less opportunity to connect to WIFI hotspots and will be relying on your data plan. An unlimited plan may seem expensive initially, but you’ll save money in the long run because you won’t have to frequent cafes and co-working spaces just to get work done.

You can even use your phone as a mobile WIFI hotspot to connect to the Internet with your laptop.

Recommendation: We use T-Mobile as our cell service provider. We like their transparent cost structure and fair rates. Depending on how many phone lines you need, T-Mobile offers unlimited data plans with generous hotspot data amounts.

Top Tip: Most cellphone service providers also provide Internet access through mobile hotspots. And if used correctly, using hot spots can be cheaper than a normal cell data plan.

2. Use a Cell Reception Booster

Using a cell signal booster is an excellent option if you plan to wild camp in places where you know cell reception is weak. A cell booster can pick up a faint cell signal and boost the reception quality, giving you better access to the Internet. Users report that a booster can increase signal quality by up to two bars. So, if your cell phone would only have one bar of cell signal, a booster would enable your phone to have three bars of signal.

SureCall Fusion2Go 3.0 RV Cell Signal Booster
$399.99

Popular RV solution to boost cell signal and coverage. Works with all cell providers and is 5G compatible. Requires additional installation outside RV.

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04/22/2024 01:48 pm GMT

Important To Know: Cell boosters only work if cell reception is already available, no matter how weak. If there isn’t any signal to be had, the cell booster won’t provide any added benefit.

3. Starlink

Starlink satalite next to a camper van
Photo Credit: IG @trav_travels_

Starlink is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways camper vans & RVs get Internet when on the road. As long as you can access unobstructed sky views, the provided satellite dish will give fast WIFI access to all your devices.

The one-time hardware cost and monthly fees are steep, but if your work demands reliable, high-speed Internet access, then Starlink is likely your best bet.

4. Public WIFI

Utilizing public WIFI hotspots still remains one of the most popular ways to get Internet during van life. And if you know look, you can often find WIFI locations without spending money. Below are four of our favorite places when we need access to the Internet.

Cafes

Most cafes nowadays provide WIFI with the purchase of a coffee. We used to regularly frequent cafes to satiate our Internet needs, but addiction to cafe Internet is a pricey habit.

Fast Food Restaurants

Places like Mcdonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s provide reliable Internet and even a socket if you sit in the right place. Best of all, you don’t have the same guilt of staying for hours on end as you would at a cafe.

Walmart

Not a super ideal place, but we’ve been known to sit near the checkout counter with our laptops. Only for emergencies!

Libraries

Libraries are a fantastic resource for fast and reliable Internet. The facilities are often clean and quiet. And if you go early enough, you can usually snag your own private table or even a study room. Best of all, you’re not forced to purchase any food or drink to use their Internet service. It’s all free (or paid for by taxpayers, rather).

5. WIFI At Paid Campgrounds

A woman working on a laptop in her Ford Transit camper van
Yuko working in our camper

When we receive a serious project and really need to hunker down and work, we seek out paid campgrounds that provide strong Internet speeds.

Paying for reliable Internet is a no-brainer if you need to get work done. As a side benefit, you also get a safe, level place to park, a hot water shower, and a clean toilet (most of the time).

However, not every paid/private campground provides WIFI. Sometimes, they might say they do, but the reality might differ entirely. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check the strength of the Internet before handing over any money at reception. Trust us, like at cafes, paying for a campground only to find out later that the WIFI service is insufficient is a problem we know all too well.

6. Use a WIFI Range Extender

A WIFI adapter, like this one from Generic, can help increase the WIFI signal strength inside your camper van. This is a great device when you are parked too far away from the Internet router and need a signal boost to connect to the WIFI.

WiFi Extender/Repeater

Covers up to 4000 sq. ft and up to 40 devices. Perfect for picking up distant WIFI service and boosting the signal into the RV. Small, portable, and easily packs away when not needed.

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Use a VPN For Added Security

If you’re iffy on public WIFI security, like we are, signing up for a free VPN can help allay those fears. We use ProtonVPN. It keeps you safe, easy to use, and free to use.

Internet During Van Life Doesn’t Have To Be a Source of Frustration

Luckily, we live in an age where Internet access is near-ubiquity. Unless you’re deep in the wilderness, usable Internet is often much more attainable than you might think.

If you plan to work while traveling in your camper, planning an adequate Internet solution that can meet your needs is well worth your time. Spending a little more to upgrade to an unlimited cell phone plan and utilizing your phone’s hotspot capabilities is our #1 recommendation. It’s the quickest, easiest, and most cost-efficient solution.

From there, you can supplement your Internet needs with several other solutions mentioned above.

For any camper van Internet-related questions, please post a comment in the section below.

Happy connectivity!

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