When you’re away in your caravan it’s nice to have some home comforts, and that can include internet access. More than ever we want to be able to catch up on our favourite box sets, check in with friends and family, or even send some work emails!
Here’s our rundown of the options available to you if you need to get online from your caravan or motorhome.
Many caravan sites now have WiFi, but the quality, cost and availability of the connection can vary greatly.
Connection is usually made by entering a password. If the connection is good, it can provide a faster alternative to other methods of accessing the internet and you won't have to worry about data allowances.
However, due to the low power levels and high frequencies used, WiFi reception on campsites can be unreliable. This is particularly the case where there is a lot of vegetation and when there is heavy rain, as both of these can absorb the signal.
One way of improving reception is to invest in a WiFi booster device. In simple terms, these plug into a USB port on your PC, effectively replacing the internal WiFi circuitry with something more powerful. MMM Magazine recommends the iBoost Pro D8 Directional System for its performance, popularity and value.
There are also external antennas which can be attached to the side of your caravan. However, although this can give you a faster connection, if the bottleneck is between you and the source of the signal, it won’t make much difference if the site WiFi is already oversubscribed.
WiFi pros – usually no limitation to use, which is great if you’re streaming or downloading.
WiFi cons – connection may not be reliable so you may lose connectivity at times.
This is an internet connection using a mobile phone network, and so requires the purchase of a data plan. It is often more reliable than WiFi but you’ll need to be careful to avoid exceeding your data limit and incurring additional charges.
If you have a smartphone you can access the internet using the mobile broadband network, or you can connect your laptops or tablets to your phone by tethering – turning on your phone’s personal hotspot. Some networks charge extra for this, limit usage or don’t allow it abroad, so it's best to check with your provider before you leave.
Data roaming charges in Europe have improved. Mobile data coverage has increased and data roaming charges have reduced. From June 2017, you can now use your monthly allowances of data in 28 EU locations for no extra charge.
As a rule, each Mb equates to 20 seconds of video, a minute of audio, or a standard webpage. So, 500Mb of data will allow you to download 500 songs, watch an hour of video, or read 1000 emails with attachments.
Pay-as-you-go-packages range in price but for example, Virgin Mobile* offer a 2Gb data package for £10 which is offered on 1 month rolling contract.
If you're not sure about your contract when it comes to data and travelling abroad, it’d be wise to change your settings to turn off 3G and data roaming; only connect via WiFi where available.
To improve a 3/4G connection, an unlocked MiFi device will take a SIM card and produce a WiFi connection for up to 10 devices. Some MiFi devices have external antenna connectors which can improve the signal, especially if roof or window mounted. Prices range from around £30 up to around £150.
Mobile Broadband pros – more reliable than a WiFi connection.
Mobile Broadband cons – Data comes at a cost, and isn’t always available in rural locations.
Access via Satellite
Internet access via satellite is reliable but very costly, with a fully automatic system priced at around £3500 and ongoing charges between £15 and £60 per month. Satellite internet is best if internet connection is absolutely vital for you.
It’s worth noting that with the improvements in WiFi and 3/4G coverage, it is more far more possible to manage with these methods than ever before.
Satellite pros – the most reliable form of accessing the internet.
Satellite cons – expensive set up costs.
It’s best to agree what your particular needs are, and what your budget is. Mobile broadband is probably the best option if you want an internet connection wherever you are, but WiFi will probably satisfy your needs if you’re happy to wait until a connection is available. If the sky’s the limit, go for satellite internet!
*Virgin Mobile data package available at time of publication (April 2018)