If you are considering vanlife then you might be thinking about how to get wifi in your van or the best vanlife internet option. Shawn and I have been on the road since 2018 and have traveled from the east coast to the west coast and back again. During this time we have been living and working on the road which means we are constantly traveling to different areas of the country. Since we make a large majority of our income online, we must have a connection to the internet to get work done. Unless you hook up a mobile wifi system to your rig chances are you will need to figure out how to get wifi in your van. During this time we have learned the best internet for vanlife and now we want to share that knowledge with you. From paid to free here are my top Vanlife wifi options.
Post Originally written 10/14/19 and updated on 5/14/20.
Paid Vanlife Wifi Options
There are quite a few mobile hot spot options that you can choose for your vanlife wifi option. If you already have a cell phone plan then chances are you can add on a mobile hotspot from around $20 a month depending on your data plan. To get the best hotspot I recommend checking out the different coverage from each carrier and deciding which carrier has service in the areas you will be most.
The prices below are assuming you are a new customer who does not currently have a plan with the cellular carrier and are some of the best vanlife wifi options.
Top 5 Mobile Hotspots for Vanlife Wifi
1. Verizon Jetpack– By far Verizon Jetpack is the most used hotspot that I have seen in the vanlife community. They have a good reputation for having coverage in the more rural areas where vanlifers often can be. It is a great option if you do not want to use your hot spot on your phone or if you have a low data plan on your cell. The Jetpack cost ranges from $15/month for 1gb of data, $60 for 10gb, $80 for 15gb, $90 for 20gb, $120 for 30gb, and $150 for 40gb.
2. AT&T Wireless Internet– If you are an AT&T subscriber then this might be a good add on option for you. During the past few weeks during COVID-19, we were in an area with basically zero internet for Verizon users. A friend purchased two of these hot spots so we would all have internet. Although we were grateful for the internet, it was very finicky and we had issues almost immediately out of the box. Although AT&T had service in Northern Cali, Shawn has AT&T and he hardly has service in remote areas. It is also being rated as the number 3 network as far as coverage according to whistleout. If you are looking for more bang for your buck, it is only $50 for 50 GB of data or $100 for 100GB each month, plus $10 a month for the device payment.
3. Skyroam hotspot – Skyroam is a service that sells a hotspot device separate from your cell phone plan. You purchase the Skyroam Hotspot (The Solis X or Solis Lite) and the you can choose from 3 different plan options. For the US, they have a monthly plan with 20gb of high speed data for $50 (speed throttled after 20gb) and you can purchase an additional gb for $6, pay per gb only which is $8 per gb, or currently they are offering 50gb for $99 a month (deal may expire soon).
I do find the Skyroam interesting as it is separate from your own cell plan and uses whatever tower is around it, meaning you would likely have service more often than if you went with one carrier.
If you want to try out Skyroam, they also are available to rent. To purchase or try out Skyroam, head to their site and use code Chasingthewildgoose for a discount at checkout!
3. Sprint MiFi 8000– Sprint offers a basic MiFi card running from $30-$60 a month with 10gb,50gb, and 100gb of high-speed data respectively.
5. T-mobile Alcatel LINKZONE Hotspot– T Mobile also has its version of a mobile hot spot running from $35/mo: 5GB $60/mo: 15GB $85/mo: 20GB $100/mo: 25GB.
What Hotspot We Recommend
At the end of the day, I have seen more vanlifers with Verizon Jet Packs and have heard fewer complaints. Although there are going to be areas where Verizon does not have any service, overall Verizon has cell service than AT&T more often in my experience. Verizon Jet Pack is what I recommend to vanlifers who need internet on the road.
Alternative Plan: Depending on how much data you have, a great alternative is to use your phone (whether AT&T or Verizon) as a hotspot and then purchase a hot spot from the opposite company. Then you will be covered no matter where you are at!
Other Vanlife Wifi Options
Another option is a prepaid mobile hotspot. These can be purchased at Wal-Mart, Amazon, and cellular stores. The upside is that you purchase the hotspot and buy data as need so no data goes wasted. However, the downside is worrying about constantly refilling your data when most plans only cost around an additional $20 or so for a mobile hotspot. I would only get a prepaid mobile hotspot if you didn’t want to commit to a contract or pay for a high priced device. Verizon Prepaid Hotspot offers three current devices that you can choose from on a pre-paid plan. From $50-$200 per device and a data plan of $30-$50 a month for up to 30GB of data.
Cell Phone Hotspot
Using your mobile hotspot to connect your computer to wifi is a fantastic option if you are trying to budget on the road. Depending on your plan it may not cost at all or cost very much to use your data. The downside is that often I need to use my phone and my computer at the same time and this can slow them both down.
Vanlife Wifi Booster Options
Assuming you are using a hotspot device then you might not be near a city and finding signal can be quite tricky. You might have a great signal one mile before your campsite and then wham! You suddenly have 3G or no bars at all. This is where a vanlife wifi booster can come in handy. Although we personally do not have one YET, I have sat in some people’s vans who have a wifi-booster and can attest that it works.
Now, they aren’t miracle workers, you aren’t going to be zooming along when no one else has a signal. However, it has saved me whenever there was no way I could have worked on the small amount of signal I had. It was still slow, but it worked. I recommend really thinking over how often you are in weak signal and you REALLY REALLY need to get work done. Wifi boosters cost around $600 and take a little bit of work to install. Below are the top vanlife wifi booster options.
Free Vanlife Wifi Options
The amazing thing about being on the road is you can move! If you don’t have a signal and need it, then chances are you are able to move down the road to get some wi-fi. When we are in cities or even small towns we often find places to get out of the van and get some work done with free wifi.
Getting free wifi at a library seems so glaringly obvious yet, I didn’t utilize public libraries until my friend Katie from So We Bought a Van suggested we head to the library in Moab one day. Libraries are so fantastic; they are quiet, free, and you can stay there as long as you want. Personally I get super antsy and feel guilty if I take up a spot at a coffee shop for too long and feel the need to buy something else or move even though I just got in the groove. Libraries are usually open late hours and no one cares if you need to stay for a while. Another tip is so many libraries have study rooms to reserve even if you don’t have a library card with them. You simply ask the librarian and you can typically reserve them for two-hour increments.
Visiting local coffee shops is one of my favorite parts of being on the road. A local coffee shop says so much about a town and it’s a community and I find it so enjoyable to hop in and see what they have to offer. I typically will research the area and find the best coffee shops that are set up for laptop workers. Check online to see if they have wifi and use Google or Yelp to scope out pictures that will show you if they have much room.
Especially with Mom and Pop shops I always purchase an item from them and try not to stay more than two hours. It’s a great way to get out of the van for a few hours and experience new scenery.
I love a good beer, and tasting local beer right from the brewery is another perk of living on the road. Most Breweries have great wifi and if you visit during the day chances are its super chill, quiet and a great place to get a little work done. Be careful though, you might find yourself drunk and getting work done! Maybe try a pale ale over an IPA.
Other places to get free vanlife wi-fi
- Wal-mart, Lowe’s, Home Depot – So many larger retail chains offer free wi-fi. If you get lucky and find a spot close to the door you MIGHT be able to hop on the free wifi. Honestly, it’s not ideal but sometimes you’re in an emergency wifi situation!
- Starbucks- Starbucks is a tried and true option for getting work done. There are so many of them even in small towns and you can always count on your drink tasting the same.
- Bars – Check out the local bars often they have wifi! Just like breweries, during the day they often are super slow and have great wifi speed and you get to experience a piece of the city you are in!
- Restaurants – Although my grandmother told me never to try and multitask while eating, you COULD check out the local restaurants for lunch while getting some laptop work finished!
- Xfinity Wifi- If you have maintained your Xfinity subscription while on the road you may notice their wifi pop up as an option in bigger cities. If you have an Xfinity plan then you are able to access free wifi from so many locations. They also have paid plans you can choose from if you were in a real bind!
After reading this post I hope you were able to answer some vanlife wifi options questions such as, “How do I get wifi in my van” and “What are the best vanlife wifi options” which will enable you to hit the road and easily work online! What do you do for vanlife wifi? Let me know in the comments!
Hi. Can you clarify something for me? You mentioned using hotspot from your current carrier, which I’ve done with my MetroPCS plan, but then you suggested also getting hotspot from another carrier in addition? How does that work?!…I thought I would have to switch carriers altogther.
Hey Elle! You can go to Verizon or AT&T and simply buy a hotspot line from them. You don’t have to have a phone line in addition. It will likely cost more than if you just added a hotspot, but it is possible! My friends did it with AT&T and it was $50 a month! Pricing always changes though!
Hey thanks for the great post! I am trying to figure out how much I’d be able to accomplish with Verizon’s 15 GB cap on tethered devices that aren’t smartphones (aka a computer). Do you find yourself burning through that pretty quick, or do you find that it allows you to get done what you need to get done?
Hey Theo! Great question, I find that it varies. If you are working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, you will probably blow through it. It mostly depends on what kind of work you are doing. If you are uploading/downloading a lot of files and on video calls then it definitely won’t be enough. I would consider moving to AT&T and getting their 50gb plan for $50-$60 per month. I have the Jetpack and also have 15gb hotspot on my phone and I typically use both if I am doing video calls. When I’m just doing regular work/surfing every day I don’t utilize both. I hope that helps!
thanks for the research you’ve put into this! I’ve a couple of questions, I came to this article through the fb page therapists who live in RVs. I’m not living in an RV yet, but have not had good luck with using the Verizon mifi for video calls when traveling. I have unlimited data on my mifi, and have only traveled in areas serviced by Verizon.
I don’t really understand your answer about using data from more than one source to support the video call. You mention having a jetpack and hotspot and are able to use both at the same time…. could you clarify this? thx!!
Also you mention using public places for wifi, how do you navigate confidentiality on video calls? Can you stay in your vehicle and get enough wifi for these calls? I noticed reserving a room at the library, that sounds doable…
Hey Erica! These are really great questions and I don’t really have a ton of answers for your specific situation. As far as the hotspots go, I was referring to owning two different hot spots and using them both throughout the month so you have more data to use. I didn’t mean using both at the exact same time, as that isn’t possible (as far as I know). Let me know if that doesn’t make sense. Verizon does have unlimited data but it’s only fast up to 15gb and that goes so quickly when you are on video. Since you are doing video calls, you might try AT&T as they have plans going up to 100gb of fast data.
Other than the library, you probably wouldn’t be able to use a public space for your calls unfortunately and it’s unlikely the wifi would reach out to your car enough to get video service. The only thing that MIGHT work would be to have a wifi booster which would give you a better signal during your calls.
I will definitely be asking around and seeing if there are any better solutions for you!
These are great suggestions! 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 the Internet these days! It makes things SO MUCH easier and enjoyable
Haha you are so right! It really is the greatest convenience right at our finger tips!
I just got off the phone with Verizon after reading this article. They said not to buy a jetpack or mifi device unless you want to connect multiple devices. They said you get more data at just as good speeds if you just get their unlimited phone plan and tether to your laptop using your phone. In fact, they said buying two cheap phones with two separate unlimited lines is cheaper than buying a phone and a mifi device. The mifi devices are really meant for businesses that have large teams on the go.
Hey super interesting! I don’t see how two cheap phones would be cheaper than a jet pack. I pay $20 a month for my jet pack. There have been times when my jetpack worked better than tethering my phone to my laptop. However if you have a Verizon plan and do not think you will go over 15gb a month then I say do that! Even with unlimited plans, you still only get 15gb of fast data. So this is why I have my jet pack and use my cell phone as a hotspot.
In fact I’ve used a jetpack for about 8 years now and don’t really recommend it for more than one or two devices.
I see, That is great suggestion. Is it the plan that 15Gb of fast data? Then the rest will be normal? It doesn’t seem reliable at all.
Hey Leon! Yes, Verizon offers a 15gb plan that is fast data, once you have run out it is much slower. This is why I use my cell phone hot spot and have a jetpack which also has 15gb. There are other carriers, of course, AT&T being one of them that has bigger plans, but I personally haven’t found them to be as reliable for coverage.
Have you ever run into anyone with a satellite hotspot or have you looked into it yourself? I feel like this could have the best coverage but I don’t know if it requires a dish and one site says they throttle data just like mobile providers do. The job I have right now requires 10 hour days on zoom and another program for like a week a month. I’m not sure how that would be on data but I’m assuming I would need unlimited data. My other option would be to just plan around it and park in a well-serviced area for this time. I’m also curious if you can run a hotspot on Xfinity, they use Verizon towers for their cell service, I’ll be calling them soon to check because everything online is about their wifi hotspot network and not a personal device, but if you have any knowledge about it that’d be great.
I have the same question as Alex. I will be working 6 hour zoom days about three days a week, and then will need wifi for coding about 5 days per week. I will be moving into my van full time in the fall of 2021, so any advice on how much data and what plan might be best for this situation moving forward would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for the awesome article!
best blog for van life internet, it really helped to settle my decision :))
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Thanks for this post. I just found it through a google search as I’m attempting to do vanlife full time in Colorado. I will work from my van and also at my work site which has WiFi, so I believe after reading all the options you listed above that using my hotspot from my carrier/phone should be enough. I’m changing my T-Mobile plan (bad service in rural areas) to Spectrum mobile, which uses the same towers as Verizon and it’s much cheaper. I opted out for $45/month plan with unlimited talk, text, data of 20 GB (after that, it slows down) and some international texting/features.