WAYNE from CLEARWATER, FL writes:
I’m going to be traveling in an RV this summer (1st vacation in 30 years!) and need to keep in touch. I’m leaning toward a lap top instead of a tablet because I would like to plug my desk top monitor in to watch TV, movies, etc. Anyway, I’ll need a service provider that I can take mobile all over the country and stay connected. And, will it be able to work while on the road to look for places of interest, campgrounds, etc… Having never left home before, and not owning a “smart phone”, I don’t even know where to begin looking. – WC
The question of how you stay connected when traveling is a good one and there are quite a few options out there. The most important thing to know before you choose, is exactly where you are going. That will help determine which option fits you best.
Free Wi-Fi Hotspots: This is the simplest and cheapest option, but also the most limited. Wi-Fi hotspots areas, usually restaurants or public places, offer free Wi-Fi internet. You can connect to this free internet using any Wi-Fi enabled device (most laptops, tablets & desktops with Wi-Fi adapters) and browse the web, check e-mail or do online tasks. You will only be able to use the free Wi-Fi from within the location, and since most free Wi-Fi networks can be used ay anyone, it’s not the most secure option for accessing online banking or other personal information.
Prepaid Wireless Hotspots: You can purchase devices that use a cell phone provider’s network to generate a Wi-Fi signal that allows you to connect to the internet. These devices are usually labeled as mobile broadband or mobile hotspots. They can be purchased prepaid for a few months at a time without needing to sign a long contract. You’ll need to buy the device and pay the monthly access fee (about $100 for the device and usually ~ $30-$50 per month) Make sure to check the coverage maps for the areas you plan to visit.
Some examples of these services are Virgin Mobile, (click here for more information) T-Mobile (click here for more information) or Verizon Wireless (click here for more information). Keep an eye on the amount of data you use as the total bandwidth is capped. You’ll most likely will be fine checking e-mail or reading websites, but if you start watching videos or downloading programs you’ll quickly go over your data limit.
Smart Phone Tethering: Tethering is where you use your smart phone’s internal Wi-Fi card to turn it into a Wi-Fi hotspot. You use the data access provided by your cell phone plan. If you’ve been considering buying a smart phone, then this may be the perfect excuse. Major cell phone companies such as Verizon and AT&T offer free tethering on Android and Apple 4g smart phones. It is very important to check coverage maps for the areas you’ll be in to verify cellular coverage. Keep an eye on the amount of data you use, as the total bandwidth is capped. It will likely be sufficient for checking e-mail or reading websites, but if you start watching videos or downloading programs you’ll quickly go over your data limit.
Unplug and go without: This isn’t an option for many people, but for those who can do it it’s surprisingly nice to take some time where you don’t check e-mail, read Facebook or view the latest breaking news. This kind of techno-vacation can be a good way to unwind from the always-on world.