The Most Reliable Internet for Digital Nomads
A guide to getting the best Internet access if you are a frequent traveler or modern day nomad.
For modern day nomads without a fixed address—the digital nomads, backpackers, and #vanlifers—life on the road is all about living in the moment. The free spirits who manifest this lifestyle are often eager for exploration, while hoping to inspire and connect with digital communities through their adventures.
Not relating to this image of a wistful vagabond in the wild? Maybe you don’t fit into the nomadic category, but still spend a lot of your life traveling from one place to the next. Whether you’re a glamping influencer or striving to get back to your roots by living off the land, having access to a reliable Internet connection is just as important. And staying connected while you travel the world is a luxury we’re lucky enough to access today.
From video chatting with loved ones to working remotely to earn income on the go, a good Internet connection offers the sense of safety and security you need to travel comfortably.
Keep reading for a guide to the best Internet options for travelers of all kinds, with options varying based on how often you’re on the road, what you can afford, and what speed and bandwidth you need.
Free Public WiFi
If you only need a strong Internet connection for a few hours here and there to video chat with family, attend a work meeting, or send out a few emails, then you should be able to manage through a combination of your cellular data plan and using free public WiFi. If you’re on vacation, traveling for work, or backpacking, then stopping by a coffee shop, food chain, or store with free WiFi should do the trick.
For those living in an RV or campervan who work online for long periods and prefer to be in their rig while working, it might be worth investing in a range extender or WiFi booster. Most campgrounds offer free WiFi if you’re staying on a designated lot, but signal strength can be weak depending on where you are. Either way, purchasing a range extender or WiFi booster will allow you to get a stronger signal, whether it’s from a campground or free public WiFi offered somewhere in town.
Essentially, these devices take the WiFi signals coming from your campsite office, or another public source, and strengthen and extend those signals. The result is a better, stronger, and more secure connection wherever you’ve set up camp. This option works great if you’ll be staying in one location for a few weeks or months at a time and there’s a decent signal close by.
If you already have a cell phone plan, you can add a mobile WiFi hotspot option for around $20 per month, depending on your service provider and plan. When your cell phone is turned into a mobile hotspot, a WiFi signal is established so you can then connect your laptop or tablet. Having a mobile plan that provides you with good coverage is key. If you’ll be getting spotty cell service, then Internet through your mobile hotspot will be spotty as well. Many providers offer 4G speeds and are rolling out 5G across the country. If you’re willing to change providers to get the best mobile hotspot option for you, check out the coverage options from each carrier and determine which carrier has the best service in the areas you will be spending the most time. Free Roam offers a free and unbiased map tool that allows you to search for cell signal strength based on location and provider. SmartMove also has resources to help you compare mobile plan options like Xfinity, Optimum and GCI, that feature hotspots and options to bundle your broadband services.
If you need to use your cell phone and one or more computers at the same time, a mobile hotspot will likely not offer enough speed and bandwidth for you. Once you add additional devices you may experience a slow down. Using a mobile hotspot frequently for work on a laptop or other device can also drain your phone’s battery quickly.
Buy a Wireless Hotspot Device
If you don’t want to rely solely on your cell phone for Internet access, plan to move around frequently, or are unsure about relying on free WiFi options, then purchasing a travel router might be your best option. Mobile RV WiFi, or MiFi, is similar to other types of WiFi, except in an RV there is no landline to connect the router to. In this way, it is more similar to your phone’s WiFi than it is to home WiFi. It receives an Internet signal but does not have calling and text capabilities. You can connect your devices to your MiFi router without draining your phone’s battery or using up data from your cell plan. Typically, the signal on the MiFi router is stronger than the signal on your cell phone, even if they use the same provider. You can also switch providers for your MiFi without changing your cell provider.
If you need to work remotely and will be frequently on the go, using a combination of MiFi, a wireless hotspot, and free WiFi will keep you connected most of the time. Need to get on the Internet while your partner is driving? You’ll have to rely on the mobile hotspot, since MiFi does not work while the RV is moving. Once you get to your destination, if you plan to stay there for a few days, weeks, or months, then using your RV’s MiFi and/or public WiFi with a signal booster should keep you covered in most areas where service is available.
If you want peace of mind knowing you can access the Internet, even in the most remote locations, then opting for satellite Internet may work best for you. As long as you have clear access to the sky above, the satellite dish will be able to search for a signal. The downside is that this option is more costly, but if access to the Internet is what’s paying your bills and funding your nomadic adventures, the investment may be worth it.
Starlink's RV WiFirelies on a small roof-mounted satellite dish, and Starlink satellites orbit much closer to Earth than traditional satellites—meaning better communication speed
Ready to get access to the Internet while on the go? Let SmartMove help you find the right provider for your nomadic adventures.
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