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 important.
In our case, not only do we need consistent Internet to update our blog, but connectivity is also critical so that we can 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’ll talk about how we get WIFI on the road while traveling in our camper van. If you’re ready, let’s dive into it.
1. Unlimited Data Plan
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 at first, but you’ll be saving 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.
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 is usually able to 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.
Important To Know: Cell boosters only work if there is already cell reception available, no matter how weak. If there just isn’t any signal to be had, the cell booster won’t provide any added benefit.
Starlink is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways that camper vans & RVs get Internet when on the road. As long as you access to unobstructed views of the sky, the provided satellite dish will provide 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.
Check out ZDNET’s Starlink RV review for more information.
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 having to spend any money. Below are four of our favorite places when we need access to the Internet.
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 McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s usually 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.
Not a super ideal place, but we’ve been known to sit near the checkout counter with our laptops. Only for emergencies!
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
When we receive a serious project and really need to just hunker down and work, we’ll look for paid campgrounds that provide strong Internet access.
Paying for reliable Internet is a no-brainer if you really need to get work done. And 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 be something entirely different. 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 of insufficient WIFI is a problem we know all too well.
Top Internet Tips During Van Life
Public WIFI & Safety
If you’re iffy on public WIFI security, like we are, signing up a free VPN can help allay those fears. We use ProtonVPN. It keeps you safe, easy to use, and absolutely free to use.
WIFI Range Extenders
A WIFI adapter, like this one from Generic, can help increase the WIFI signal strength when you’re inside your camper van. This is a great device to have when you are parked too far away from the Internet router and need a signal boost to connect to the WIFI.
Internet During Van Life Doesn’t Have To Be A Source Of Frustration
Luckily, we live in a day and age where Internet access is near ubiquity. Unless you’re deep in the wilderness, usable Internet is oftentimes much more attainable than you might think.
If you plan to work while traveling in your camper, it’s well worth your time to plan an adequate Internet solution that can meet your needs. Spending a little bit more and upgrading 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.
And from there you can supplement your Internet needs from several of the other solutions that we mention above.