First, if you’re expecting an in depth analysis of mobile device carriers, devices, and speeds, this post isn’t for you.
Second, this is just a brief overview of how we’re staying connected to the internet while on the road. We know there’s room for improvement 🙂
As we travel across this vast country of ours, we still need to stay connected to the world wide web in order to work on the road but also post these awesome blog posts for you all. Staying connected is pretty easy but requires some additional thought and preplanning depending on where you are and what kind of internet speeds you need.
Before we hit the road, we were very excited to find out that there are a lot of places that offer free wifi to help supplement our paid options. As always, nothing is really free… In this instance, free wifi is usually super slooooowwwww or it doesn’t work at all. However, we do have some workarounds for free wifi and some additional tools and suggestions to get a better connection.
Free wifi options
We have yet to have a bad experience at a Starbucks! Not only can we get our caffeine fix, but we can also update all of our devices, download movies, and get some work done. Starbucks is usually our go to establishment if we need some solid wifi and if we know we’re going to go through a lot of data.
Why not get some free wifi as you’re shopping? This is also a good time to update your apps and podcasts on your phone. I will also admit that I’ve utilized Target’s wifi while hanging out in the parking lot. Target’s wifi is decent and gets the job done. It’s not my first choice but it’s typically reliable.
This is usually our last resort. You cannot rely on RV park wifi! We’ve only had a couple of RV parks that have had really good wifi. However, during peak hours, it tends to drop. My suspicion is that RV parks aren’t paying for the fastest speeds and their hardware could be some cheap router. At the end of the day, they can say that they offer free wifi.
Paid wifi options
At the moment, our cell phone provider is AT&T and as part of our plan, we get 20GB of data a month and any data remaining will roll over at the end of the month. At the time of this post, AT&T won’t allow you to keep all rollover data, but they will let you keep the data that you didn’t use from the previous month.
I know… It’s Sprint. However, we were able to find an unlimited data plan for about $40/month. Yes, truly unlimited data for about $40/month! As I’m writing this post, I’m using an LTE connection just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. It’s not the fastest, but I’m still able to blog and stream video… at the lowest quality.
At the moment, here’s are the speeds that we’re getting at our current location about 10 miles outside of Nashville. Yes, they are horrible! However, in other locations, we’ve had speeds over 10mbps down consistently. Just remember, unlimited internet!
We also have a Verizon hotspot as a backup if all of the above fail. The caveat is that our Verizon plan is a pre-paid plan. For $20, we get 1GB of data. Yeah, a total ripoff, but it’s for those just in case emergencies. Originally, this was going to be our main hotspot instead of the Sprint one, but it was too expensive. At the beginning, we have 4GB of data for $50. We can burn through 4GB pretty quickly.
Tips and tools
Changing your DNS
Sometimes, you can change your DNS settings to get better wifi. Depending on your device, there are different steps to changing your DNS settings. I prefer to use Google’s public DNS. Some of the benefits of switching your DNS can be performance and security related. Here’s a quick overview from Google on the matter.
Amplifying the wifi signal
There are many adapters, dongles, or devices that you can purchase to get wifi at longer distances. Some of these are specifically designed for home use and even for RVs. I chose the cheaper route and bought something that was fairly inexpensive and would work for both scenarios.
With the Alfa Long-Range Dual-Band AC1200 Wireless USB 3.0 Wi-Fi Adapter w/2x 5dBi External Antennas – 2.4GHz 300Mbps / 5Ghz 867Mbps – 802.11ac & A, B, G, N adapter, we are able to amplify any local wifi signals that we typically wouldn’t get with just our laptops. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any specifications in regards to the effective range/distance.
Side note… This is how I was able to jump on a GoToMeeting while sitting in the Target parking lot!
We really miss our Comcast speeds but found some alternatives while on the road. Also, consider this a cleanse if you will. We should be using our devices less and not binge watch as much if we don’t have high speeds. It’s been quite some time since we’ve watched some Netflix and there are some good shows that were just updated too!