Internet-on-the-road-(Heading-1200px)

Finding driving directions, camping spots, cool swimming holes nearby, grocery stores, cheap gas, etc… we’ll go ahead and say it: we wouldn’t want to travel without mobile Internet these days! It makes things SO MUCH easier and enjoyable, especially since we don’t like to plan ahead. And for the digital nomads out there, having a good Internet strategy is a MUST if you’re fortunate enough to make money and travel…

 

 

1- Cellular Internet Data Plan

That’s the ultimate way to stay connected. We use that 90% of the time. If, like us, you own a smartphone (who doesn’t these days?), you then probably take Internet for granted; and it’s even more useful when living a nomadic lifestyle! If you intend to work from the road and your income depends on being online, then a good cellular data plan is a must.

 

Fast & reliable internet means MORE WORK DONE.

Internet on the road stay connected, work and travel

(more info about our Android Radio here)

 

Alright here’s what’s really going on…  MORE CAT VIDEOS!!

Internet on the road stay connected, cat

 

1.1- Coverage

Unless you plan on doing urban-dwelling, you will probably end up camping in BLM, National Forest, Public Land or at any remote location; getting lost is half the fun! In that case, it’s worth paying a little more and making sure you’re covered (almost) anywhere you go. Before choosing a network provider, check out OpenSignal.com (Desktop, Android, or iPhone) as you will find an interactive map of different network providers coverage. It’s also useful to find out if your next camping spot has Internet (for people working remotely):

Find-internet-on-the-road-staying-connected-vanlife,-open-signal-T-Mobile-Verizon-Utah

Coverage Comparison for Utah: T-Mobile VS Verizon

 

Coverage varies with network providers: you will find Verizon Wireless has the best coverage out there in rural zones (which is where we spend most of our time).

 

If working remotely and your income depends on being online, you might consider a signal booster; it takes an existing signal and boost it from, for example, one bar to three bars; it could make the difference between being stuck or being able to work (or with / without cute cat videos)…

WeBoost 4GX-RV

WeBoost 4GX-RV. Buy from Amazon.

 

1.2- Cost and Plans

Here is what we got when we signed-up in September 2017. Keep in mind prices and plans change often, so we post that as reference only!

  • Date we signed up: September 2017
  • Network Provider: Verizon Wireless
  • Plan: Beyond Unlimited
  • Monthly Price: $85 for one smartphone + 20$ for HotSpot = $116 total including misc fees
  • Monthly Calling and Texting: Unlimited (USA, Canada & Mexico)
  • Monthly Data for Smartphone: Unlimited in the USA (after 22GB, speed might be reduced); 500MB per day in Canada and Mexico; 15GB tethering max (that’s when you create a WiFi Hotspot from your phone, so you can use your laptop)
  • Monthly Data for Hotspot (JetPack): 15GB (after 15GB speed is reduced below 600 kpbs; it’s pretty slow so forget video streaming, but you can still do the basic stuff)

 

We’ll repeat ourselves: what’s the point of paying for a cell phone plan if there’s no signal most of the time? That’s why we highly recommend Verizon Wireless as they have THE  best coverage; it’s as simple as that. And here’s a deal: click the image below to see Verizon’s plans and get a free JetPack (Hotspot), sweeeeeet! (New 2yr activation req’d. Use promo code VZWDEAL at checkout)

 

 

For Canadians travelling to the United States:

Yes, it’s possible to get a monthly plan in the USA if you are a Canadian resident (we did it)! We recommend showing up at a Verizon shop (or else) in the USA and sign-up in person. They might have to run a credit score check. Having an address in the USA might help; we just used our address from Kinek.com (it’s free and easy to sign up). Note that we had to pay a deposit on the SIM card (smartphone) and on the MiFi (hotspot) because the credit score check didn’t go through (for some reasons). Be aware that if you spend more than 50% of your data (or talk) in Canada or Mexico during the last 60 days, Verizon might stop your services in these countries (read the small prints of your contract). And finally, getting a US bank account and credit card might help as well (we will eventually publish something about that… faroutride.com/banking-vanlife).

 

1.3- Using a laptop

1.3.1- Tethering

It’s possible to create a Hotspot with your smartphone to share your internet with your laptop; it’s called tethering. Some network providers allow tethering, some don’t, so make sure to check that. Verizon Wireless allows 15GB per month with the Beyond Unlimited plan (as of September 2017). You can also buy a MiFi device (a.k.a. Jetpack) to create a hotspot; it’s $20 monthly and you get 15GB tethering in addition of the 15GB on your smartphone (Beyond Unlimited, Sept 2017).

Verizon Jetpack 7730L

Verizon Jetpack 7730L (a.k.a. MiFi or HotSpot)

 

Be aware most websites are optimized for smartphone: if the website detects that you are browsing from a smartphone, the images and data downloaded are very small. Browsing from a laptop sucks MUCH MORE data than a smartphone! Using a laptop, it’s very easy to go through the monthly 15GB if not careful…

 

1.3.2- Data Saver

To reduce data when browsing from a laptop, we recommend using Chrome browser and install Data Saver Extension. It compresses the images, videos and text; that reduces the amount of data used:

Find internet on the road staying connected vanlife, data saver

Data Saver Stats

 

1.3.3- Metered Connection

When connecting to WiFi (tethering from your phone or your MiFi device), Windows checks for updates and download them wasting instantly your precious monthly data 🙁 To prevent that, we recommend doing two things:

 

a) Creating a metered connection

By telling Windows the connection is metered, it limits what apps and Windows can do in the background:

  1. Click on the WiFi icon in the taskbar, then right-click on the connection you want to meter and select PropertiesFind internet on the road staying connected vanlife, window wifi
  2. Toggle the “Set as metered connection” button to “On”Find internet on the road staying connected vanlife, window metered connection

 

b) Turning Windows Update off

Even by setting a metered connection, Windows will still try to update. It’s better turn off the Windows Update service:

  1. Click on the “Windows” button and then “Settings” (left-bottom corner of your screen)Find internet on the road staying connected vanlife, window setting icon
  2. Search for “Services” and click on “View local services”Find internet on the road staying connected vanlife, windows services
  3. Scroll-down to “Windows Update” and double-click on it
  4. Click on “Stop”, select “Disabled” and click on “Apply”Find internet on the road staying connected vanlife, stop windows update
  5. This service can be re-started when desired (at the library or at coffee shop…). Just select “Manual” then click on “Start”.

 

1.4- Unlimited AND cheap?

There are a bunch of small providers advertising cheap unlimited data plan (such as Calyx Institute). You buy a hotspot device (that only works with them), pay for the entire year in advance, and you get unlimited data.  We considered them at first, but we realized they come and go and you’ll loose your money (annual plan and hotspot device) if they ever disappear (we observed that a few times). Moreover, most of the time, they buy bandwidth from smaller network providers with limited coverage… cheap is not cheap anymore if you can’t even use it! For these reasons, we pass.

 

2- Free WiFi

Free WiFi at coffee shops is great, except coffees and goodies quickly add up to the bill! So it’s not exactly free… And it’s easy to get distracted when we’re trying to work, so we’re glad we have our Verizon data plan as primary Internet source.

Libraries are a good place to get free WiFi; it’s normally fast and quiet (too quiet?).

Some groceries, gas stations, restaurants, WalMart, etc. also offer free WiFi but it’s kind of slow compared to coffee shops and libraries.

There is a free WiFi finder in the OpenSignal app (Desktop, Android, or iPhone).

 

You are in danger:

Be aware that open networks are not secured and your passwords, credit card numbers, etc. could be easily intercepted and used by hackers to buy FarOutRide stickers or such. For this reason, we never make online banking or sensitive transactions when we’re connected to open networks; we temporarily use tethering from our Verizon phone or MiFi device for that.

 

3- What about Satellite Internet?

It’s slow, expensive, cannot be used when driving, it’s affected by bad weather and land features, and the dish has to be aligned with the god of Internet in the sky when parking. End of discussion for us!

 

4- Netflix

Netflix will quickly drain your monthly data, so we have a hack for ya. You are aware that it’s possible to download movies for offline viewing on your smartphone or tablet, right? Unfortunately, it’s not possible to download a movie on a laptop via Netflix.com… unless you download and install the Netflix App on your laptop through the Microsoft Store or the iTunes Store!

In the Netflix App, search for a movie and click on “download” to save it:

Find internet on the road staying connected vanlife, Netflix

If  “Download” is not showing, it’s simply because this title is not available for download… 

 

5- Safety

Isabelle and I sometimes part ways to go ride alone (or just take a break 😛 ), so it’s important to be able to communicate with each others. The best way to ensure a reliable communication is a pair of Midland Radios, but we really like the “Location Sharing” of Google Maps so we know where each others are in real-time (as long as there is cell phone signal). The “Location Sharing” feature is located on the upper-left menu of the Google Maps app. Once it’s activated, we can see each others position on the map, nice! (Antoine normally carry the smartphone with him while Isabelle carry her smartphone + the JetPack hotspot with her; the location comes from her smartphone and the JetPack provides the Internet link)

Find internet on the road staying connected vanlife, Sharing Location Google Maps

Isabelle making her way up “Lord of the Squirrels” trail in Whistler (no worries she’s riding with a group of people 🙂 )

 

 

Conclusion

You don’t want to miss the latest viral cat video, do you? Then get a cell phone plan now.

 

 

 

WANT MORE?

Check out our Build Journal, learn everything about The Van, read our VanLife Guides, or if you’re new to this start by reading The Prologue.

 

 

 

STAY IN TOUCH!

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ABOUT US

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

 

 

CONNECT

Join our Facebook group to connect with other passionate DIY campervan builders like you!

 

 

CHEERS!

 

 

 

 


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21 comments

  1. Comment by Sean Layne

    Sean Layne Reply August 20, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    You need to add VPN to your devices for when you are on a public Wifi to avoid packet capture. I use NordVPN, I got a 2-year plan for 80$ I think. It was cheap and they accept bitcoin! Also, Nord is probably one of the fastest VPN services I have used. Be safe out there on your adventures.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 20, 2018 at 1:05 pm

      Good point, thanks we’ll check it out!

    • Comment by Lise Lussier

      Lise Lussier Reply September 7, 2018 at 4:13 pm

      NordVPN is asking 111$ (cad) for one year

      • Comment by Antoine

        Antoine Reply September 7, 2018 at 7:57 pm

        NordVPN is not the cheapest, but I heard it’s one of the best.

  2. Comment by Jon Kinstad

    Jon Kinstad Reply August 8, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    I’m in Salmo. Pretty sure I saw your van up at the pass one day. When you get tired of the crowds in Whistler you should come ride here in the fall.
    Keep the rubber side down! Cheers!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 9, 2018 at 10:59 am

      Haha thanks for the invitation, we’ll let you know when we pass by Salmo.
      I’m having a hard time liking Whistler village, but the trails are amazing 🙂

  3. Comment by Alyssa

    Alyssa Reply August 5, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for the write-up!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 6, 2018 at 11:21 am

      No problem 🙂

  4. Comment by Jon Kinstad

    Jon Kinstad Reply August 5, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Thanks for sharing all this great info. I feel like I should buy you guys a beer!
    Just an FYI, there is no App for Netflix to play on a Mac laptop. For whatever reason Netflix hasn’t gone there but hopefully will at some point. However, you can get Netflix on an iPhone or iPad through the iTunes Store. So if you don’t mind the small screen you can get your Netflix fix that way. There are some potential hacks but they appear to be more involved than I was willing to deal with.
    If you find yourselves in the Kootenay’s let me know and I’ll follow through on that beer offering!

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 6, 2018 at 11:23 am

      Thanks for your input!
      Where about in the Kootenays? We went to Kootenay Pass last winter for splitoboarding and LOVE IT, will go back.

  5. Comment by Will

    Will Reply August 5, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Great info guys .. however as a OSX user I can’t seem to get the Mac version of the Netflix downloader only the iPad /IPhone

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 6, 2018 at 11:24 am

      There is no Netflix app for the MAC right now unfortunately…

  6. Comment by brad

    brad Reply August 5, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Thanks again for your willingness to share!! So I am intrigued with the idea of using the google map location sharing with the jetpack. How does that work exactly? I am not at all familiar with the jetpack, but wouldn’t you have to be able to turn that feature on in the jetpack? I thought it was just a hotspot for internet. Or are is Isabelle using another device to connect to use for location sharing?

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 6, 2018 at 11:26 am

      Oups, I should clarify that I guess…
      Isabelle carries her smartphone and the location comes from the Smartphone; the JetPack only provides the Internet connection.

      Hope that helps!

  7. Comment by Owen

    Owen Reply August 5, 2018 at 7:07 am

    So does the signal booster increase the ability to get a signal outside the coverage map or just strengthen a weak signal inside those areas? It’s a big problem here in Australia and we’re on the road at the moment struggling with it so you article is timely. Love your blogs by the way

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 5, 2018 at 9:34 am

      If there’s no signal at all, the booster won’t really help. It takes an existing weak signal and makes it usable.

      Happy travels!

      • Comment by Lise Lussier

        Lise Lussier Reply September 2, 2018 at 5:01 pm

        Your comment helps me to understand what exactly is a hotspot. Thanks. (I’ve been discussing that issue with u on Instagram)

  8. Comment by Ivan

    Ivan Reply August 5, 2018 at 6:41 am

    Hi Antoine, thanks for all the great insights. Can you comment on what GPS you have found to be most helpful.
    Thanks again for all your help

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 5, 2018 at 9:36 am

      We use Google Maps. You can’t get better than that!

  9. Comment by Terry Bugera

    Terry Bugera Reply August 4, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Another very informative well thought out article.

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply August 4, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      Nice, glad you enjoyed it!

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