Short Term - Reliable Needs
Remote work makes it possible for many to work from just about anywhere you can get an internet connection. This makes extended RVing and boating trips even more appealing - you can combine adventure, travel, and daily life.
But internet options while being mobile are very different than home or office-based options. Full-timers have the advantage in that it's worthwhile to invest in gear and data plans that keep them connected year-round.
Part-time or vacation travel presents some unique challenges that should be carefully considered.
Especially if your short-term and/or sporadic travel needs call for a reliable setup that might involve large amounts of high-speed data access. This can be one of the more complicated mobile internet challenges.
The occasional nomad will need to balance costs and complexity with inconsistent needs. You may even have to weigh the need to pay for data plans that you don't use all of the time.
This guide is meant to address this unique perspective on mobile internet setups.
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A quick video that recaps some of the challenges and some tips for mobile internet for shorter trips.
Challenges of a Part-Time Set-Up
When you have a fixed location, getting hooked up with the best internet solution is typically pretty straightforward. You subscribe to whatever is the best option at your location.
Mobility, however, presents some unique considerations that require more thought and planning to make sure you're covered where you want to be.
You need to be prepared for the reality that what gets you online today may not work to get you online tomorrow when you move to a new location.
You'll have to weigh how many options are practical for your own personal mobile internet needs.
For those hitting the road year-round, it makes a lot of sense to invest in gear that can enhance and support your internet lifestyle, and data plans that provide redundancy, large swaths of coverage, and large buckets of data.
And it makes sense to invest the time to dive into research and education on navigating the challenges of keeping connecting in a variety of locations.
However, if you'll be splitting your time between mobility and stationary life, you have a different kind of challenge to balance your needs.
Compounding Gear & Plan Costs
Most part-time nomads will be maintaining both a traditional stationary internet option at their residence - and a mobile internet solution for when they are on the go.
Both internet set-ups will likely require separate equipment and data plans.
Investing in devices for each situation will incur start-up costs.
And setting up data plans can also incur start-up costs and even re-activation costs each time you want to turn a plan back on. You may even have to incur ongoing plan costs even when you aren't using them - as not all data plans can be practically put on pause.
Determining Your Needs
We hear the phrase 'I need a reliable mobile internet solution' often. But just what does the term 'reliable' mean to you?
Mobile internet comes with a bunch of challenges - varying signal strengths, coverage maps from the different cellular carriers, data caps, network management, throttling, poorly configured campground Wi-Fi networks, and inconsistencies abound.
No matter how you slice it, setting up a mobile internet setup that is reliable is a challenge.
Add in the factor that you'll only need that set up a certain amount of time each year, which means you'll have to balance costs and the amount of mental energy you put towards connectivity.
You're going to be making some compromises in either costs or connectivity to find your unique balance here.
Before trying to come up with the best setup, we recommend taking a step back and really assessing your connectivity needs.
When you're used to an always-on, unlimited, and fast cable connection - you may not have really thought some of these things through before.
- Do you really need fast speeds all of the time, or just sometimes?
- Do you have to be accessible 24/7, or are can you go a day or two with just a faint signal, or hiking up a nearby hill to get a better signal?
- Can you check e-mail while in town or while parked at a campground with negligible Wi-Fi, or do you need a consistent fast signal all workday long from your RV or boat?
- What do you need to do online? The data needs for two-way video calls are a lot more demanding than basic web surfing.
- Do you need unlimited data, or can you manage within data caps?
- Will you really wither away if you can't stream Netflix tonight, or scroll mindlessly through Facebook?
- Can you get by with doing more tasks on a cellular-connected smartphone or tablet (where "unlimited" plans are more accessible), or do you really need to do everything on your laptop and use mobile hotspot data?
- Do you have a set destination in mind, or you can pick a campground or location where you know you'll be more likely to have a good cellular signal?
If you can determine what your minimum viable connectivity needs are - you'll be much better prepared to find where you can make intelligent compromises in your setup.
Here are some further guides to explore on these topics:
Flexibility is Key
For part-time travel, flexibility is going to be key. Flexibility in the mobile internet options you select, in your own approach to using them, and maybe even on the location you choose to visit.
You'll need to be prepared for the variability of mobile internet. There will be good days and really bad days. Redundancy is a common approach for full and most-time nomads so that there are multiple options to tap into at each location.
However for shorter trips, you may not be able to justify multiple options on board - it's just may not be practical to have data plans on all the carriers, expensive signal enhancing gear you might need once, or even to spend the time to understand all of these factors.
So set your expectations to realistic.
Unless you spend the time and money to understand the challenges, you might arrive at a new location and just not be able to get online with the options you have. This can be particularly frustrating if you have work deliverables, and you end up spending more time trying to get a stable connection than you are enjoying your travels.
Flexibility is also the name of the game when considering the options you bring on board. It's just not going to make sense for someone who goes out RVing a couple of weeks a year to keep an expensive monthly data plan active that they hardly use all year long.
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If mobile internet is an important part of your lifestyle, here are ways you can help:
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Seeking Out Flexible Options
For part-time needs, you'll want to assemble an arsenal of mobile internet solutions for maximum flexibility. From avoiding contracts, utilizing Wi-Fi sources, our recommended flexible high bandwidth data plans, and equipment selection tips - this section will help you find suitable options.
Cellular Data Plan Maintenance
If you've managed to capture a rare unicorn of a data plan - you may find you need to keep it active year-round, even if you don't use it year-round. This section goes over how to protect your rare plans - and tips for snagging sweet plans even when you're not actively traveling
Using Mobile Internet Year Round
Some part-timers standardize on a mobile setup that they use year-round, even at their stationary home base. This section covers some special considerations for this.
Creating a part-time mobile internet arsenal takes some research and a thorough consideration of your personal travel lifestyle needs. Building an arsenal that fits within your lifestyle is attainable.
The occasional nomad needs to balance complexity and costs with inconsistent needs.
We recommend beginning research and build-out of your arsenal no less than a month before you launch into a mobile lifestyle - even a part-time mobile lifestyle - if you require consistent internet access.
Use the info provided in this guide, and further research specific needs (such as Working From the Road) and pertinent gear and topics (such as Wi-Fi extending) to build a flexible mobile internet arsenal that works for you.
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