Portable Wifi for Working Remotely – Internet While Traveling or Full-time RV Life
There are so many different options when it comes to portable wifi and being able to work remotely while traveling. Whether you are traveling across the country in an RV, or just bounce around city to city there are internet options available. This article is highlighting the best portable wifi options in the United States. Things become more involved and complicated when it comes to International Travel and internet access.
You might be surprised to learn that your cellphones hotspot can actually be a great, cheap way to work remotely depending on internet usage.
We have been traveling around the United States for a year and a half now while working full-time in our RV. The majority of our time has been spent in the Western US, usually near National Parks or other outdoor attractions away from populated areas. We also generally boondock, which means we camp on public land for free, which is usually outside of any towns. This means there is no public wifi, campground wifi or anything of that nature.
We work 100% from our Portable Wifi, which we use over 600gb per month and power 4 zoom calls at once.
Portable wifi has a-lot of different meanings anymore as there are so many different plans and options to choose from. If you are looking to work from the road for 1 month, travel in an RV for a year, or just want an option to be able to work from anywhere these internet plans have you covered.
Working while camped outside of Grand Teton National Park
Working Remotely Full-time – Internet Usage / Cellphone Hotspots
Before worrying about which plans or devices you need, the most important part is figuring out your internet usage. You might not need a hotspot device and internet plan if you are not using a-lot of data. If you are only making phone calls, searching the web lightly or work occasionally you most likely can use the hotspot that your phone plan has.
This depends greatly on what carrier, phone and plan you have. Verizon, AT&T and T-mobile all have hotspot plans that you might already have or can pay a little extra to get. Cellphone hotspots are actually faster than the unlimited plans listed below that we use to work. The issue is that they have a data limit generally from 20gb to 50gb per month. We use over 600gb per month, which is why we use our cellphone hotspots as a backup since our T-mobile only allows for 40gb.
T-mobile even shows your how much hotspot data you have used per month – 0.3gb of 40gb
If you are doing light research, web browsing and occasional zoom calls a hotspot plan on your phone is the way to go. It will only cost you a little extra every month depending on what plan you have. We have the T-mobile Magenta Max plan which gives us each 40gb of Hotspot data. This would be enough to run 30-60 hours of zoom calls per month, as zoom meetings vary in usage consumption. Video calls and streaming are some of the most data heavy usages possible.
If you were to browse the internet (without streaming videos) for 5 hours a day, for 30 days the average consumption would be 8gb-16gb per month, which is way under the 40gb max.
If you are a solo traveler or don’t use a-lot of data, a Hotspot from you phone is the way to go!
Unlimited AT&T Plan for Working Remotely – Portable Wifi
Do not get a hotspot plan or device directly from AT&T, Verizon or T-Mobile. All of these plans have limited amounts of data and are also very expensive compare to the internet plans that we use.
We use a-lot of data which is why we have two unlimited AT&T plans and our phones T-mobile hotspot is a backup incase of an emergency. We have two plans because speeds vary drastically depending on where you are, and this covers us incase speeds are slower in certain areas. We also have two plans just incase one of them ever has an issue and stops working, we always have a backup.
Camping in the woods in Idaho, while having fast internet speeds.
AT&T UNLIMITED PLANS –
Reliable Internet – We have used them since April 2020 (now Nov 2021) and have had 0 issues with their internet plan.
Bix Wirless – We have recently switched over to them as our second AT&T plan (We had issues with a different company).
Hotspot Devices to purchase –
BEFORE PURCHASING ANY HOTSPOT DEVICE… CALL YOUR INTERNET PROVIDER (Above) TO MAKE SURE IT WILL WORK WITH YOUR PLANNED DEVICE.
Netgear Aircard 797 – We use this as our main hotspot and the only issue is battery can overheat when very hot outside.
Netgear Nighthawk M1 – Another great hotspot device with longer battery life. (This comes included with Bix Wireless)
Depending on what company and plan you choose, expect to pay between $120-$160 per month for AT&T data. Also add on the cost for the hotspot device, but thats a one time fixed cost.
Below is the Netgear Aircard 797 we use as our primary internet device
We have traveled all over the Western US, and are now heading east. The majority of the time our portable wifi devices get us between 20mb-30mb download which is perfect for zoom calls and more. The general upload speeds is 5mb-10mb which can upload a YouTube video or other large files.
These are the average speeds we seem to get, as speeds can vary drastically. We have been to numerous places in Idaho, Cali and Colorado were speeds where 40mb-80mb which is really fast! We have also been to a few spots that were 1mb-7mb download which is barely fast enough to work, so we changed spots. This is why we generally try to move the RV on weekends or days we are not working incase the internet is not good enough in a new location.
Verizon & T-Mobile Unlimited Plans – Working Remotely
There are plenty of Verizon & T-mobile hotspot plans out there. The two companies listed above, Reliable Internet and Bix Wireless both offer plans. Our experience from living on the road however is that AT&T is almost always better then both of the other carriers.
We have been to a-lot of areas where AT&T/Verizon have great speeds but there is little to no T-mobile service. This generally occurs when we are away from populated areas, as large towns generally have decent T-mobile. This is why we can not recommend a T-mobile plan unless you know that where you are going will have good service.
We actually used to have a Verizon plan (we switched to Bix AT&T) but the problem was constant congestion on the tower which slowed our speeds down. After researching and watching videos, we found out this was a common problem for full-time RV people as Verizon towers are constantly congested. This just means that there are so many people using Verizon in certain areas that the speeds are not usable to work from.
So… unless you plan on spending long periods of time in certain areas where you know Verizon or T-mobile is better, we suggest AT&T. Over the past year and a half there has been less than 3 times we had to move areas because of poor internet connection.
Internet Speeds – Portable Wifi
We are currently 4 miles outside of White Sands National Park in New Mexico while writing this article. The results below are currently from while I am writing, with multiple tabs open and even our amazon Alexa playing music. The speeds here are not great, as we average 6mb-12mb download but there are no other camping spots in the area.
This is why we have two separate AT&T plans, for when we have slow speeds.
We have streamed multiple zoom calls at this spot and have had 1 or 2 times were zoom froze for a second and came right back. We prefer speeds of 15mb+ because we run multiple zoom calls at once and have to upload large video files. Depending on your work and how many people use the internet 5mb-10mb will be fine.
Speedtest from our backup AT&T plan outside White Sands NP
Internet While Traveling – Remote Work
When it comes to choosing a data plan to work remotely it comes down to your usage and needs. If you only need to use it for a week or two for work, then upgrading to a larger hotspot on your phone is the cheapest and best option. If you are going to be working remotely all the time or just want an an extra option an AT&T unlimited plan is your best option.