Full time travel is something many of us aspire to, yet at first glance, making this dream a reality seems to be a daunting task. Fear not. Working on the road is as easy as ensuring you have a good wifi connection, a great data plan and dependable cell service. Mobile Internet is the key. We’ve learned a lot of the trade secrets through trial and error and want to share our newly acquired knowledge with you.
On of the biggest hurdles for full-time travelers is figuring out how in the world they are going to make money to not only travel, but to feed themselves and pay for necessities like clothing and shelter.
If you have a job that enables you to work remotely, you are ahead of the game. But the logistics of how to make travel and work a reality can be daunting. In fact, it’s one of the top, if not the top, questions my husband Dan and I are asked.
You see, Dan works as a software engineer while we travel full-time, and it’s absolutely critical that he stays connected everywhere we go. Whether it’s in the National Forests in VA or the rural towns of CO, he must have access to the Internet.
I dabble in travel writing for various publications and websites, including TravelingMom and Kelloggshow.com. We also are very active on YouTube and publish videos often on our two channels, our family vlog and our kids’ channel that features pranks and kayaking.
And our kids are homeschooled, and utilize the Internet for a whole host of research projects, blog uploads for our site as well as their sponsors, etc.
So, we need a mobile office with phone, email and high speed data.
Short of sitting in a coffee shop for eight hours every day, we struggled to find the right combination to make it all work for us, both financially and technically. We did all the research we could think of to find good, cheap data for our cell phones, internet connection and high bandwidth data connections.
We’ve tried everything, including going uber cheap and let me tell you up front that going cheap is not the answer. Remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for?” It applies exponentially here. Cheap data is bad data.
Here I take the guesswork out of work and travel. Here are the very things we utilize to make work and travel as seamless as possible.
Cell phone service is available nationwide with pretty good 4G LTE network coverage. This means cell phones should work in all but the most remote areas we visit. There is always the option to make WiFi calls where cell service is not available.
We started out with Verizon and then switched, in an effort to save money, to T-Mobile. We had high hopes. We now “affectionately” call them, “T-Maybe”. This was, hands down, the biggest work-related mistake ever.
T-Mobile works in big cities and that’s about it. If you don’t travel and never leave your urban environment, sure, the savings are well worth the switch. But, if you are like us and travel outside of these areas, you will be loathe to find anything except extended network. Verizon is definitely the most expensive, but it also has the best coverage.
Luckily, we were referred to Ryan Maharg, a Verizon Specialist. He hooked us up with a great deal and we are in the process of switching everything over to Verizon. Ryan has been awesome. I highly recommend contacting Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org, tell him #KelloggShow sent you and he can set you up with cell service, a Jetpack and a customized data plan.
A mobile hotspot is basically a portable internet connection that connects to the Internet through a cell provider. Personally, I think it’s the best invention since disposable diapers. Literally, this mobile internet device can provide an Internet connection to up to 15 WiFi enabled devices, like tablets and laptops.
We use a Novatel MiFi Jetpack 6620L to connect everything we use to the Internet. We can even, in fact, connect our phones to the JetPack when the T-Maybe signal isn’t as good.
The only downside is that each device takes some of the bandwidth, which can reduce your connection to a crawl if you don’t have a great signal. Also beware of video. Video eats your data so fast which can result in steep overage charges. In fact, we know someone who took his nephew on a road trip and they watched YouTube videos the whole time. Want to know what his bill was? A whopping $1400! Dan would have died!
Cell Signal Booster
A cell phone signal booster does exactly what it sounds like. It boosts the signal from the cell tower, expanding the coverage area … even in dead zones. We went about a year and a half before we got one of these and let me tell you, it’s a life saver in places like campgrounds. Campgrounds often claim to have wifi, but the signal is lame. So lame, in fact, that it doesn’t reach any but the nearest campsites.
Now we use a Wilson DT4G which uses an external antenna to boost the signal inside our RV. It’s provided our cell phones with three bars of 4G LTE where without it we could only get a 2G signal! It also boosts the signal to our mobile hotspot, so we get better Internet connection speeds, which is especially important when multiple devices are connected.
Free WiFi Hotspots
As we all know, there are free wifi hotspots everywhere, all across the country. Coffee shops, laundromats, Sam’s Club and most fast food restaurants almost always have free wifi.
But, after trying this a few times, we pegged this as a drag. I mean, who wants to sit in a coffee shop or in the parking lot outside of Sam’s Club for up to eight hours a day? And, of course, a purchase at a coffee shop or restaurant is pretty much expected if you want to use their wifi, so it’s not really free, yet still cheap — and still a drag.
Many cities and towns also now offer free WiFi in downtown areas or parks, which has proven useful for us on several occasions. You see, we have a mobile hotspot, but it has limited data, 30 gigs on our current plan. And, every now and then we use more than we should and it’s then that we utilize the free wifi that some cities and towns offer, if only for supplementing. It’s great because I head out and play with the kids at the park and Dan buckles down and cranks out some brilliance!
In addition, many campgrounds, like KOA, offer free WiFi to campers and provide a good quality signal. Some campgrounds have limited coverage areas where the wifi signals don’t cover the entire campground, so be sure to ask before you reserve a site. Comcast Cable customers can also take advantage of XFINITY WiFi hotspots, which are popping up everywhere that Comcast offers broadband Internet access.
WiFi Range Extender
I have no idea how this works, but it works beautifully. According to Dan, a WiFi range extender “amplifies the WiFi signal from a WiFi hotspot and makes it easier to connect multiple devices to the WiFi network”.
You can use a WiFi range extender to expand the WiFi coverage area, so you can access free WiFi hotspots from within the comfort of your RV. For instance, if you are parked near a restaurant or store or hotel or park that has wifi, you can use the range extender to basically boost the signal to where you are. You know, so that you don’t have to actually go inside to use their wifi!
Bet you didn’t know that some luxury RVs, like the Newmar King Aire, come fully equipped with a range extender.
So that takes care of all the work related concerns you may have. But there’s one more hurdle and that is the kids. Other than running them ragged and keeping them as exhausted as possible so you can get some much needed work time in, you ought to consider some other road trip ideas to keep them engaged and relatively quiet. I found these to be incredibly creative and my kids love crafts. Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the beauty of apps and games that make for really great boredom busters … add in a little education and it’s a win/win for everyone!
Now get out there, no excuses! See you on the road!