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“How do you find wifi on the road for van life?”
Now more than ever, people are able to work remotely for the first time and their dreams of hitting the road and starting van life are actually starting to look like a possibility. The one thing that could make or break that dream though is figuring out how to find wifi so you can work from the road.
This question is another one of my most asked questions and I’m so happy to be able to share with you what I’ve found that has worked for me over the last few of years of traveling and working remotely. It should be noted that I’m only sharing from my own personal experience and probably am missing an option I’ve never tried. Also, I’m someone who tends to prefer working from my campsite rather than going into town but you could be opposite or have different needs.
I’ve been able to successfully work from anywhere for about 3 years now and have learned a LOT as far as what works and what doesn’t. So let’s dive in:
Use your phone’s Hotspot:
One of my jobs requires a pretty heavy data load because it’s basically streaming data my entire shift. Because of this reason, I have one of the biggest (and most expensive) plans with Verizon, mostly because of the data plan that comes with a large hot spot plan. It honestly can be pretty pricey as you make your way up into the higher plans, but since I do have to work 5 days a week and have speedy wifi that can handle data streaming, having a large plan is definitely a must. (Side note: if you don’t need as much data, there are plans with hot spots that are less expensive. I would check out your carriers options).
Most plans will tell you that they have an unlimited hotspot, which is true, but after you’ve reached your high-speed gig threshold, the speed plummets and it makes it basically unusable.
My current phone plan with Verizon Wireless has 20 gigs of hotspot data which I actually just added to it from the 15 gigs I had previously. 15 doesn’t cut it for me because it didn’t last the entire month 20 gigs extends it a bit more.
Get a Mobile Hotspot
On top of my hotspot on my phone, I also have a 15 gig mobile hotspot (which I’ve had for years)— the Verizon Jetpack which covers the rest of the month for me.
This is a great option if you have a low data plan on your phone or if you don’t want to use your phones hotspot. I’ve also noticed that it picks up a signal better than my phone in rural areas.
They don’t make the exact version that I have anymore and I haven’t had the need to upgrade because mine still is kicking it. If you decide to go for one, definitely read the reviews. I can tell you from my personal experience, mine has lasted for years and has handled everything from drops to extreme temps and it works like a dream.
One thing I would suggest is to start small and see what you really want for your own needs. You may not need as much as I do (you honestly probably won’t) and you can always add more if you need it later.
Heads up: in order to have fast wifi with your mobile hotspot, you need to have a strong signal. If you are on 1 or 2 bars of LTE, you are going to struggle a bit.
Which brings me to my next point.
Van life Wifi Booster Options:
One thing that I invested in for this van buildout was a WeBoost which can strengthen your signal. I have the WeBoost Drive x RV. Was it worth the $500 price tag? At this point, I’ve not had to use it too much yet but the few times I have used it, but when I have used it, it really worked.
From my experience on the road, especially if you are around mountains, finding a stable signal can be really tough. You can have full bars one minute and 3g the next. The reason why I bought one for this build out is because while at a campsite a couple years ago in our old van, I wasn’t able to log into work and a friend we were camping with turned theirs on I was good to go. I was pretty amazed.
Having the WeBoost does keep the signal stronger and more consistent.
Free Wifi options for Van life:
When I first started out on the road, I primarily would rely on coffee shops because a lot of the places I would camp didn’t have good enough service for what I needed at the time.
When looking for a coffee shop to work at, make sure you are aware of the type of area you are trying to find one. if you are are in a tiny town — DON’T go to a cafe… Typically, these are tables which the staff only allows ordering something to eat and then head out. Coming from a restaurant background, I didn’t want to take someones tips by planting down in a booth for a few hours, which would mean they would lose money since they couldn’t serve other patrons.
Some coffee shops I would find in town would have an open wifi connection, which typically wasn’t as strong as I needed while others had super fast wifi and extremely friendly staff (shout out to the small town coffee shops in Montana. I would check yelp reviews and typically if I saw photos of a coffee shop with people sitting at their computers, I knew I would probably be in luck.
Personally — I’ve almost always had success at a Starbucks. They don’t care if you literally are there all day, they almost always have fast wifi and there are about a billion power outlets.
I love supporting smaller coffee shops though and do when I can but if I’m in a crunch and need to clock in to my shift at a certain time, I’ll usually just find the closest Starbucks.
If you don’t have a schedule where you clock in and clock out or need the fastest wifi, I would suggest checking out yelp for some cute coffee shops around where you are traveling.
This is one I didn’t do often, but would do it in a pinch. Typically I try to avoid open networks, just because of the wifi connection speed but again, my case may not be close to yours and could work just find for you!
I do think working in a library can be a great place to get into a mindset to get a lot of work done. It’s quiet and typically there are desks that you can work at.
Bottom line: don’t let worrying about wifi prevent you from hitting the road! You’ll be able to find what works best for you as you get into the groove of it.
Other Options for Free Wifi while on the road
Gyms: Okay this may sound weird but I have a planet fitness membership and almost always, they have super speedy wifi for their members. Typically I would be going to a planet fitness anyway to shower so while I’m there, I can turn a treadmill into an office space or sit at one of their tables. I’m a black card member so I’ve actually worked from a massage chair. Don’t judge me.
Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart: If you can park close enough to the door, you can score some pretty quick wifi thats free. It’s not ideal, but it is great in a pinch.
Bars or Breweries: If I plan to explore the town that I’m near, heading into a bar or brewery during the day is a great option. Typically they are slower during the day so posting up at the bar with a computer is totally acceptable. Make sure you order a drink or food and tip well!
I truly hope this post has been helpful in getting you out on the road working from wifi! If this answered your question of “how do you get internet while traveling van life” or “what are my wifi options for van life” please let me know in the comments below and then send me a DM on instagram letting me know if you would like to see more posts like this one!
If you haven’t read why I moved into a van yet, definitely check out that post.