We are now in California for the next 3 months. We booked a monthly KOA site in advance because it (surprisingly) happens to be one of the less expensive options in this area. Now that we’re here, though…
First of all (my friend, Monica, starts her rants by saying, “First of all,” and I love it, so I have adopted it) this RV park is in the bottom of an effing canyon. The Soledad Canyon, to be exact. The Pacific Crest Trail passes right next to us. Which sounds charming on the website.
In reality, we don’t have any cell service, and the WiFi is spotty as heck. I was throwing an internal tizzy almost all day yesterday because the WiFi was OUT and didn’t get restored until 3:30pm.
I can survive without cell service if I can get WiFi. I can still text and make calls with WiFi. I can also survive with no WiFi if I have cell service, which is usually the case. I pay extra for a hotspot, so I can make it work.
Seriously, guys, just give me one or the other, and I can live.
No cell service and no WiFi make me feel like I’ve teleported back to 1920. This is 2018!!! Why don’t I at least have the technology to call for help if I need to? I mean, we aren’t doing this travel thing to “unplug” or go all rustic. I’m not camping! Ironically, I have better cell service when I go camping at Detroit Lake every year, when I do like to unplug.
This is my day-to-day life and I would like to be able to Google the Skinnytaste recipe for Arroz Congri when I feel like eating vegetarian Cuban comfort food for dinner.
And in 2018, I don’t feel like that’s too much to ask.
Since I see this question asked A LOT online, I will try to summarize what I have gathered from reading thousands of responses over the last year.
What a lot of non-full-time RVers don’t know is that often with WiFi hotspots, regardless of if you have an “umlimited” data plan (which I don’t- I have 8G of data to use a month, and it lasts me about 3 weeks without streaming), all cell phone carriers will “throttle back” your data speed once you hit a magic data amount. Usually it’s around 10G. So even if you pay for “unlimited data,” if you are streaming Netflix for 3 days straight, your cell provider WILL throttle back your data speeds. So the reality is that you are essentially getting 10 gigs of high-speed, 4G data, then the data beyond that magic number slows to molasses speeds.
There are only 2 ways around this:
- Some people are fortunate enough to be grandfathered into Verizon’s unlimited data plan from back when it was actually unlimited (I groan every time I think about this… that was me, but, through lack of foresight, I was lured away by a less-expensive plan when I was broke). Through a series of loopholes, and a lot of money, you can find some of these individuals who are willing to add you to their plan for a hefty price.
- Many, many RVers simply carry extra plans and phones. They will have 2 or 3 phones/plans with hotspots, and when one runs out or throttles back, they move to the next one. This is probably the easiest to do but also can get pretty expensive. I mean, my ONE cell phone plan costs too much. I can’t imagine having 3.
How else can you get reliable internet while living in an RV? (Reliable being the key word here… Never, ever count on an RV park’s WiFi. They, in general, all suck. Worse than hotel WiFi or Starbucks WiFi).
I actually don’t know enough about this to go in-depth. I do know that it’s extremely expensive, so I stopped my research right there (we went from 5 incomes to 1- I am not in any position to pay an extra few hundred a month to stream Netflix). I also don’t have a lot of faith that a satellite will work everywhere you want to go. I couldn’t get DISH network to find a signal from my old 2nd-floor apartment in McMinnville; I seriously doubt some satellite internet company will be able to find me a strong signal in the bottom of the Soledad Canyon.
Not a lot of RVers go this route, and I suspect there may be the reason for it. Either it’s the expense or the logistics.
Stay Stationary and Have it Hard-Wired In
You could always just live in one spot, in an RV park that has cable hookups (only a handful of places we’ve stayed at have cable hookups) and who will allow you to have a technician come out and get you all set up with a cable modem. That’s not an option for us. We try to not be stationary. If I wanted to be stationary, I would rent an apartment with better insulation and a maintenance person who I could just call when my refrigerator dies. The purpose of living in a 5th wheel is exactly so I don’t have to stay stationary.
That’s about it. There are entire forum groups on the internet dedicated to Internet for RVs. These are the same things that keep coming up.
If anyone can invent a really reliable RV Internet solution that doesn’t cost as much as a car payment, that person would be rich.
So far, we have been able to limp by on my 8 gigs of hotspot data and the spotty RV Park WiFi. As a general rule, I try to save my data for sensitive or confidential things, where I really need a secure and reliable connection, like paying bills, and I use the public WiFi for things like downloading my next digital library book to my Kindle, or perusing Pinterest and looking at pictures of dolphins.
If I had a job that required me to work from home and telecommute, I’m not sure how successful that would be. I might splurge for the satellite internet AND an extra cell phone or two as backup, if that was my livelihood. Added bonus is that I could likely write those expenses off at the end of the year. But for googling recipes and looking at pictures of dolphins, I can deal with mediocre connectivity.
That being said, we will probably still look into other RV parks that are slightly more connected. I have a toddler and I hate the idea of not having the ability to call for help in case of an emergency. Or to call Kevin and tell him to come home right away if there is a wildfire heading this way and we need to evacuate (the trees around us are BLACK, so this is a real possibility). Or even just so Kevin can text and let me know if he’s working late or not, so I’m not sitting around wondering if he’s at work or dead on the highway. We are surrounded by RV parks, I think this weekend we might drive around until we find one with cell service and go from there.
UPDATE: As if to illustrate my point, just as I tried to publish this post, the WiFi kicked me off. So this may or may not get published… sometime.
*Headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*