Making a living while RVing is possible in today’s digital age, but you have to have connectivity. Learn how to stay connected on the road!
*This article was written by Meagan Butler*
Making A Living While RVing And Staying Connected
The RV lifestyle isn’t as glamorous as Instagram and #vanlife makes it out to be. We’re not all curled up with our serape blankets, standing barefoot next to a mountain lake, watching the sunrise over our perfectly-percolated cup of coffee.
The only reason that most RVers are up at sunrise and barefoot outside of their rig is because the dog stole six bratwursts off the fire the night before, and after 12 Yeti-sized dog bowls of water, barefoot on a questionable sandy surface at sunrise is the only way to prevent complete disaster inside of the RV.
That, or we’re up with the sun to ensure we can get seven hours of work done before our eight-hour drive to our next destination. Because making a living while RVing is possible.
Realistically, RV life is just like sticks and bricks life, but smaller and mobile. Most full-time or part-time RVers — like myself — work just as many hours on the road as we would work in an office. The difference is, we choose where we want to point the windows of our office.
I work as a freelance editor and writer, and I do most of my work online. I need to have a reliable and stable connection to get my work completed ahead of my deadlines, and my internet needs to be fast enough to switch between websites, publish documents with large photos, and communicate in real-time with my clients.
Even though finding the internet in beautiful locations isn’t easy, it is possible. You just have to have a little patience and use the right tools to get connected. Read below for some tips that will help you get online — and stay online during your journey — so you can make money while RVing.
Getting Online While RVing
Since I live in the western part of the United States, I spend a lot of time in the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Arizona, areas that are sometimes considered dead zones for cell phone service. For connectivity, I use my Jetpack and tether my devices to get online. I have an unlimited plan with 4G LTE that offers me 50 GB of unthrottled data each month.
I am a member of FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association), and one of the perks of my membership is access to member-only discounts. When I purchased my Jetpack, my device only cost me a penny, and I locked my service in for $50 a month for two years. I conserve data by loading movies and TV shows to my tablet when I am on Wi-Fi, so I don’t worry about streaming eating up the data I need for work.
Pro Tip: Consider these Pros And Cons Of A Digital Nomad Lifestyle.
Getting Charged Up
When I am traveling solo in my Airstream Basecamp, I like to boondock, or go places where I have limited or no hookups. Part of the challenge of working from the road while boondocking is charging my devices.
I’m equipped with two deep-cycle AGM batteries, and I have solar panels on the roof that charge my batteries. While I’m off-the-grid (not plugged into a 30-amp power source), I am only able to charge 12-volt devices. That means that I can charge my Jetpack, my phone, and my tablet, but I can’t recharge my laptop.
While I will eventually upgrade my system to install an inverter and lithium-ion deep cycle batteries, I had to find a charging solution that works for me now. When I boondock, I take a Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station with me.
The Goal Zero will charge my laptop and other small devices, and when I need to recharge the Goal Zero, I’m able to use the Goal Zero Boulder 30 Solar Panel to recharge the device. As long as I have sunny or partially sunny days, I am good to go!
Finding Places To Camp With Connectivity
In a perfect world, I could just pull off the road and find a place to work, but most digital nomads will attest, it’s not that easy. Cell phone towers and powerful cell signals aren’t always where I want them to be. Sometimes, I have a better connection in the middle of a state forest than I do along an interstate.
Making a living while RVing is possible; all I need is a little planning time. Before I decide where I want to camp (or work along my route), I have to determine where my cell phone provider has a strong 4G LTE signal. I rely on the apps Campendium and iOverlander, to help me.
Campendium and iOverlander allow users to update camping locations with details such as cell phone service (often by provider). I usually choose a city near where I want to camp, and then I research GPS coordinates and campgrounds with user-updated reviews on cell phone signals.
Relying On Technology To Make A Living While RVing
Once I get to a campsite, or an area I want to work, I use the OpenSignal app to help me double-check my 4G LTE. There is nothing more inconvenient than setting up camp and determining that the signal isn’t working. The OpenSignal app allows me to run speed tests, check coverage by provider, and even locate a signal by using what looks like a compass to find a stronger signal.
Many RVers also rely on cell phone boosters, like weBoost, to help boost a weak signal, and to make it easier to work from locations that have weak or average cell signals. I’ve not tried a weBoost myself, but I know many digital nomads who rave about this device. I hope to add the weBoost to my lineup before hitting the road this summer.
Using Wi-Fi Finder Apps
Sometimes, it’s easier to work somewhere like a coffee shop or a full-service RV park with Wi-Fi. To help me find a free or unsecured network, I use the Wi-Fi Finder app. The Wi-Fi Finder app allows me to search Wi-Fi connections near me and look to see the stability and reliability of that network, based on categories like e-mail, browsing, streaming, and video chatting.
The best part about the app is that I don’t need to use my data to check if there are networks nearby. Once I find a connection, I also use the Speedcheck app to double-check my download and upload speeds.
Connecting With The Winegard ConnectT
I shouldn’t make my RVing life sound so rustic and carefree because I’m not always camping in state forests and national parks. I also travel in luxury when my husband and I have schedules that align.
When we RV in our Fleetwood Southwind Class A motorhome, we almost always stay in full-hookup RV parks. Most of the RV parks advertise free Wi-Fi, but truth be told, the free Wi-Fi in these parks is spotty at best. We recently installed a Winegard ConnecT on the top of our rig. We love this product because it helps us locate open Wi-Fi signals and boost the signal to our devices.
If we only can find secured networks, or the RV park has a lockdown on the Wi-Fi — prohibiting us from using the extender — we can switch over to a 4G LTE signal. When we connect to 4G LTE, we use our unlimited family plan and connect to our SIM card, which is installed in the Winegard. Usually, between Wi-Fi, our Winegard 4G LTE plan, and my Jetpack device, I can find a reliable and stable signal to get my work done.
Making A Living While RVing And Staying Connected — My Final Thoughts
In today’s world, making a living while RVing is doable, as long as you are able to get online. The bottom line when finding connectivity is that there is no one-stop-shop answer that will help solve all of your connectivity woes.
Technology is always evolving, and what might work this year won’t necessarily be the best product for you next year. Having an arsenal of tools in your digital nomad or RVing toolbox is your best bet to help you get your work done, whether you are in the city or off-the-grid.
About The Author: Meg is a freelance writer and editor RVing her way through some of the country’s most beautiful places. When she isn’t writing RV-centered content or editing copy for her corporate clients, she spends time documenting her RV adventures for her blog, Her Fine Mess. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.