When it comes to how to get WiFi at your campground, RVers are finding more and more options. With the help of some new technology, it’s easier than ever to stay connected. Let’s explore our list of the easiest ways to get internet at your next RV park.
7 Ways to Get WiFi at Your Campground
No matter your camping style, budget, or level of tech-savviness, these seven tips for how to get WiFi at the campground should have you online in no time at all. Mobile internet is easier than ever to access, and we’ll show you how!
1. Use Your Mobile “WiFi Hot Spot”
A mobile hot spot provides you with your very own private WiFi network broadcast from your phone or a small device approved by your cell carrier. Depending on your data plan and the limitations of your device, you can connect one or more devices. You may be able to use your normal data plan. However, you might require a separate, monthly cellular data plan. Generally, you can only use a certain amount of data per month, although there are some unlimited plans.
Mobile hot spots draw data from the same cellular network our phones use. The hot spot will act as an antenna, passing data from the cellular network to your computer. Dedicated hot spot devices operate much like a cell phone in some ways, but without the ability to make calls.
You’ll connect your computer, tablet, or other devices to the hot spot network. Your phone or the hot spot then connects to its cellular network and sends and receives the requested data.
Reliability Rating: 8/10. This is one of the most reliable ways to stay connected on the go. You’ll have your own network and won’t compete for bandwidth with others (other than the broader cell network). However, it still requires cell service to work. So if you’re in a particularly remote area with no cell towers nearby, you’re out of luck.
You’ll have to rely on a particular network (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.). If your network doesn’t work in an area, you’ll need a backup plan to get online. You may need to buy multiple hot spots and ongoing service plans, which can get expensive fast.
2. Try a WiFi Extender
A WiFi extender helps you take advantage of existing WiFi networks that might be too weak or too far away to use without help. Essentially, it acts as a middleman between your devices and a WiFi network you’d be unable to use otherwise.
Think of a WiFi extender as an extra antenna helping boost that unusable or unavailable WiFi network. The extender picks up the WiFi signal with an exterior antenna mounted on your rig and rebroadcasts it within your RV. Your computer or other devices connect to this boosted signal. When your devices transmit data, they pass it back to the extender, which powers up your signal and boosts it back to the WiFi access point.
Reliability Rating: 6/10. While WiFi extenders can help you use distant or weak networks you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise, they come with some problems. First and foremost, you’ll still be on a shared network. No matter how much your extender helps, if the network is slow or congested, your connection will be too. Also, it might seem obvious, but you need a WiFi network to extend. If you stay at remote or basic campgrounds or RV parks with no WiFi connection at all, your extender will be useless.
3. Get a Portable WiFi Router
Portable WiFi routers are the next step up in mobile cellular internet. They often combine many features from dedicated mobile hotspots and WiFi extenders. These devices harness an outside signal (usually cellular or local WiFi) and create a new, personal network in your RV, much like a home WiFi network.
WiFi routers use cellular networks, accessed using a SIM card. The router uses its built-in antenna or works with an external one to receive and transmit data to nearby cell towers. It shares this data with your device over the private, local WiFi network.
Some portable WiFi routers also allow you to connect to other local WiFi connections, like public campground WiFi. The router then shares this connection on your private network, allowing you to take advantage of the superior antenna capabilities of your router. You’ll need to purchase a separate monthly cellular data plan.
Reliability Rating: 9/10. With powerful built-in antennae or connections to quality external ones, you’ll have the best possible chance of grabbing a solid cell signal. The wide variety of features and settings may be complicated, but it also lets you tweak your connection as needed.
Like all other cellular-based systems, the farther you are from a cell tower, or the more congested that tower is, the worse and less reliable the connection. Still, these routers offer you the best chance of maximizing your internet speed and stability.
4. Use Satellite WiFi
Satellite internet is gaining popularity as a solution for quality internet without wires or other connections. Companies like Mobilsat have been offering service for years, and there’s growing buzz about the potential of Starlink.
You’ll connect your device to a personal WiFi network as usual. That network will run off a router connected to a satellite dish mounted on or near your RV. This dish will connect with satellites circling the globe, transmitting information between your computer and a network hub.
Reliability Rating: 6/10. While the technology may be exciting, right now, it has limited benefits for RVers. Equipment can be expensive, connections can be slow, and perhaps most importantly, it isn’t very friendly for novice users. Unless you opt for the pricier rooftop deployed satellite internet system, this may not be a great option for how to get WiFi at the campground.
5. Purchase an Internet USB
Internet USBs are portable, affordable devices that provide mobile cellular-based WiFi to a single device. The USBs plug directly into your device’s USB port. Your computer will power the USB.
They use a SIM card and a small cellular antenna to connect directly to cell networks. Your computer will send and receive data through the USB connection. You’ll need an additional cellular data plan to use internet USBs.
Reliability Rating: 7/10. In many ways, these are very similar to mobile hot spots or portable WiFi routers. The reliability of your internet will depend on the strength of the cell network signal. USB sticks provide a direct connection between your laptop and the device sending and receiving your data. However, you’ll only get a single internet connection (and only for devices with USB ports) unless your computer can act as a hot spot itself.
6. Use the Campground WiFi
This may be one of the most common strategies for RVers, but it’s also one of the most unpredictable. Most campgrounds offer some sort of WiFi as an amenity. However, that could mean everything from a powerful connection with multiple mesh points to a single WiFi router at the park office. The connection speed will vary depending on your position within the park and how many other campers are using the network.
This is about as simple as it gets. Turn on your computer or device, and find the park’s WiFi network. Connect as you would to any other network.
Reliability Rating: 5/10. While this might be the simplest way to get connected on the road, it’s also one of the least reliable. You may not be able to stream or download large files or connect at all, depending on your location. Even if you can log on, you’ll be competing with everyone else in the campground, which could lead to slow speeds. This method is best for casual RVers or those who have more flexibility.
7. Go into Town
In some cases, you’ll need to leave the RV behind and head elsewhere for reliable internet. One of the most common go-to spots is a local library. They’ll almost always have a computer or two available and generally a WiFi connection as well.
You can also opt for one of the many coffee shops or other food and restaurant chains that offer free WiFi for customers. Make a purchase or two if you’ll be hanging around. Some areas may even have internet cafes.
Reliability Rating: 8/10. By making the trek elsewhere, you’ll likely have access to a stronger connection. Depending on the time and place, you may also encounter fewer competing devices. Not every library, coffee shop, or fast-food chain will work well for you, but many have an incentive to provide good WiFi.
What’s the Most Reliable Way to Get Internet in a Campground?
Unfortunately, there’s no one easy answer for how to get WiFi at a campground. It will largely depend on how you use your WiFi. If money isn’t a concern, you can build a strong mobile WiFi setup with cellular hotspots, WiFi routers, and external antennas and boosters. This method will almost guarantee you have access. However, this also requires a large upfront and ongoing cost.
More affordable but still reliable ways to get online will usually involve multiple levels and redundancies and might require you to be a bit flexible. These could include a single cellular hot spot, plus a WiFi extender for campground WiFi. You may still have to hop in the car and head to the library at times.
Trying to figure out how to get WiFi at a campground has stumped thousands of RVers over the years. But from high-tech to low, there are more solutions than ever these days. If you keep these methods in mind, you’ll almost always be able to stay online on the go.
Looking for Speed Test Data in Campgrounds?
If you want to know the overall speed test data for a particular campground before you arrive, check out RV LIFE Campgrounds. If users have submitted speed tests during their stay at a campground, you’ll see an overall rating for the speed and the averages—just scroll to the Connectivity section of the campground review and hover over the icons. You’ll find the Average, Maximum, and Minimum speed test data by provider. It’s a great way to know what to expect before you book a campground.