It’s been over two years since I last posted about how I stay connected on the road, and it’s changed since then. Time for an update!
First, some history.
For the first three years living in the Casita (2012-2015) I relied solely on public WiFi and mooching off of friends for getting online. If you’re not a big internet user and are on a budget and looking to save some money, I’m living proof that yes, you can go full-timing without a dedicated internet source.
If you do this though, don’t expect to be streaming videos (a lot of public WiFi isn’t fast enough for it), and do expect service at times to be frustratingly unreliable. Depending on where you like to camp, you also might have to drive a ways to find it. My go-to locations when WiFi wasn’t available at the campground I was staying at were Starbucks, McDonalds, and other fast food restaurants. Often laundromats have WiFi too.
Alas, free WiFi isn’t available inside Yellowstone where I work-camped the summer of 2015, and the park is so big that driving to find it was impractical. I’d heard that Verizon had a strong 4G signal at Old Faithful (it’s true, other carriers were marginal at best there), and I was already going through them for my phone plan (which at the time I only used for GPS and checking the weather). So when I arrived I upgraded my plan with Verizon to give me 3 GB instead of 1, and used my phone as a hotspot to get online with my computer.
And from May of 2015 to July of 2016 I survived on a 3 GB data plan, still pretty frugal compared to a lot of people’s internet solutions.
In July of 2016 I upgraded from the iPhone 4S that I’d had since hitting the road to the iPhone SE, which was also an upgrade from 3G to LTE. Having faster internet meant that pages, videos, and advertisements loaded faster and it used more data. So I upgraded from a 3 GB to 5 GB plan at that time to compensate.
Note that 5 GB on an LTE network (and 3 GB on a 3G network) was enough to keep this blog updated, respond to comments and e-mails, check Facebook and Instagram, navigate with Google Maps, and do some basic web surfing, but it was not enough to stream video, play games, or download big files.
And that’s why this summer I jumped on the Verizon Unlimited bandwagon, starting a YouTube channel cannot be done on 5 GB of data.
Since I upgraded a couple months ago, Verizon has already changed their plan offerings again (that happens a lot), and what I currently have as of 9/7/2017 would be considered their “beyond unlimited” plan. It’s still not true unlimited as speeds can be throttled after 22 GB, and hotspot data is throttled to 3G speeds after 15 GB, but I’m still not a huge data hog and so far that seems to be working fine for uploading videos. It also includes service in Mexico and Canada at no extra charge, which I made use of when I flew to Vancouver at the end of June.
Of course, this means my bill has gone up. My 5 GB plan cost me $61, and on unlimited I’m now at $83.71 a month including taxes and after the $5 credit for being on an automatic payment. But a $23 increase to not have to worry about data caps (which I did need to track diligently before) and to get to watch videos and upload my own seems like a fair trade-off.
Other carriers have unlimited plans too which might be cheaper or give you more un-throttled data, but I continue to stick with Verizon because they have the largest network, and I get a usable signal in some truly remote places with it.
And there you have it! Please note that I am not an expert on this subject, I only learned enough to find the best solution for me. There are a lot of other viable options out there. If you’re looking for comprehensive and unbiased information on mobile internet solutions, then you should check out the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center. It’s run by some friends of mine and they really know their stuff! And of course you’re welcome to share your own internet solutions in the comments below.