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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 4 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. 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.
4. 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!