RV internet: 5G or 4G? What are the best hotspots for campers in 2021?

Traveling and working from an RV isn’t necessarily easy. One big challenge of living on the road is Internet.

Mobile Internet

Mobile Internet plans tend to be expensive and worse yet, typically limit your bandwidth.

Even “unlimited” plans are not really unlimited. After you hit the “fair use” bandwidth clause on the contract (usually around 20GB), your data speeds are slowed drastically.

It is so bad that it makes the internet almost unusable.

Bandwidth and campsite location

Another issue is where your camper is located in a campground.

For example, we stayed at one place where some camp sites were on the mountain side, and others were down in the valley.

For the ones in the valley, the internet reliability went way down.

The app Campendium can help. People leave reviews and mark their carrier and service that they had.

But it still can change depending on how many people are streaming when you are there.

Campground Internet

Never go to a campground expecting that you’ll have high speed internet.

At best you’ll have DSL speeds during non-peak hours – say 3-5 AM.

If you have anything better, congrats! You have found a unicorn.

So what are your mobile internet options?

Post-paid hotspot

Post-paid plans typically get you the highest priority for bandwidth but are also typically the most expensive. Moreover they still limit your data.

It’s best to buy these direct and not from a reseller.

Also these frequently come with contracts attached if you get a promo such as a free phone or hotspot.

Be prepared to be locked in for 24 months if you go with a promo.

Pre-paid hotspot

You can find these cheaper than the other plans, but they also have less data and lower priority.

The benefit though, is that you can turn them off and on at will for occasional use – no monthly contracts.

So if you don’t always need mobile Internet, this might be a good option.

What we tried…


This orange puck has a good value proposition – an eSIM card switches networks to get the best signal with the beat carrier in the area.

It works pretty good in places with great internet. However, we found three main shortcomings:

1) it only switches between GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile, not CDMA networks like Verizon or Sprint.

If it worked with all four it would really be a great solution.

2) no 5G yet. 4G LTE only.

3) Data refills were expensive. Because it is prepaid, the max plan size is 20GB a month. It has options for refill automatically.

However, during our first 2 weeks we had 3 refills at $60 a refill (Harper was streaming like it was her job).

At $180 in 2 weeks, we decided to start looking for alternatives.

Car connect

Many new vehicles and aftermarket stereos come with options for mobile internet plans. Our tow vehicle does have an option with a very affordable, unlimited plan with AT&T. I think it was $20-25 a month or $200 for the year.

For high speed, LTE data, that is really inexpensive so that is what we use in the truck and for the kids while we are traveling.

iPad with Data Plan

If you so t have car connect, you can get a similar plan at a similar price for an iPad.

That said, I have seen reports that have said that in iOS 13 or 14, they added something so carriers can see if you are tethering or not so they can restrict bandwidth if so.

In other words, if you are watching videos from your iPad directly it is unlimited. But if your laptop or tv is tethered to the iPad and streaming, they can slow you down.

Visible (by Verizon)

Verizon created this subsidiary that doesn’t have stores and does everything via mobile app and mail order.

You get the benefit of cheaper prices on the Verizon network but not lower prioritization as you would through one of the many Verizon resellers like Straight Talk.

They also have announced that the bandwidth is really unlimited but that capped at 5 Megabits and 480p for streaming.

5 megabits isn’t blazing fast – like slow cable speeds, but it is usable.

The downside is that Verizon doesn’t have the best or fastest service everywhere.

Or in areas where Verizon is king, you might have slower speeds because you and everyone else is sharing a tower.

That said, our friends used this own a recent trip and had great internet.

GL.iNet Router and Tethering

With tethering, you can only connect to one device at a time.

So only your laptop can be hooked to your phone. Not your laptop, TV, and kids devices.

However, this little router (and other similar ones) allow you to tether to it and then multiple devices to connect to it at the same time so you can “share internet.”

It even has other features such as a VPN and the ability to modify TTL so carries might not realize you are tethered.

You’ll have to Google around to find out how to do this. Plus it does require a little technical elbow grease so it isn’t the best option for all.

T-Mobile Home Internet

T-Mobile started offering mobile Internet as home Internet (probably to figure out how to compete with Starlink).

Our friends recently tried this option and it may work for some but I believe the consensus was that 4G speeds were way too slow at their house to keep this.

If you get great T-Mobile speeds wherever you go, this could be an option.


Starlink is one of Elon Musk’s companies. It is actually the end game reason for his rocket company Space X.

Each time he launches a rocket for say the US Government, he launches so low orbit satellites that provide internet around the world.

Currently Starlink is available in beta but is geo locked which means you cannot move it outside of a radius around your home.

This is so Starlink can collect data on where internet is available.

Eventually, the hope so that you can move this. When you can, I bet it will be popular for RVers.

It is also the most costly at $500 for the kit and $100 a month. But you can get blazing speeds with it.

And it does carry a cool kid factor of “I get my internet from space, bro.”

Nighthawk m1 and iPad plan

Every carrier has options for truly unlimited internet. They don’t advertise these but they might have had it previously but discontinued it, or they might have contracted business plans that need high bandwidth and priority but don’t advertise it.

You just have to know the right way to get these plans.

There are various hacks available depending on your carrier. This is one of them.

Basically, you get a compatible hotspot, buy credits from a third party who has this contract, jailbreak your hotspot so the carrier sees an iPad plan, and voila! Cheap, (mostly) unlimited, unrestricted internet.

I usually stay away from these as hacks used by the masses often get patched eventually.

With this one, I’ve heard that people using more that a 1000GB a month were starting to get blocked. Less than that, they have been fine as of this writing.

5G Hotspot

The carries have started to roll out 5G and each one now has a 5G option.

T-Mobile recently started offering 100GB a month for only $50. This isn’t the cheapest option. But it also isn’t a hack.

At $0.50 a gig, this is a very good deal.

5G is not only much faster that 4G, it also stretches further.

I proved this at my last campground in a valley – without this device I wouldn’t have had internet.

5G is good news for campers.

Plus you get the fallback of 4G and 3G in a single device – which actually saved my bacon when driving through Navajo country where internet is spotty or non-existent for most.

What do we do actually do for Internet in an RV?

I rely on the Internet to work. As such we have a hodgepodge of devices we have and can use if we need to.

Car Connect with AT&T

Our tow vehicle has car connect built in and the unlimited plan is only $200 a year with AT&T. So we did this and it has worked out well.

The kids get internet in the car but limited or none at the campsite. It forces them to use their imaginations when we camp and makes long travel days a lot better for mom and dad when the kids have internet.

Visible phones with Verizon

We both have Visible phones which includes tethering. I also have a wireless router with a USB I can tether with. This way multiple devices can connect and stream if needed.

So if Verizon has good service where we are at, this is an easy solution for us.

Years ago I purchased a prepaid Sprint hotspot. I used it on occasion as I didn’t often need it.

If I did I could just purchase some data and away I go.

It is so small that I just keep it in my bag as a backup to a backup.

T-Mobile 5G

Even with all of these options, I’ve been in a situation where the Internet was lousy.

I decided to give T-Mobile’s 5G hotspot a try and so far it has saved me quite a few times, even though I’ve only had it a few times.

In fact, this has been my go to device the past few weeks.

Whatever you do, if you rely on Internet, I’d have at least a couple of options.

Often times where one carrier has good service, another won’t. Or you’ll be in an area where bandwidth is used by other people. Or something else.

Always have a backup or two or three.

Forget Route 66. What about Route 89?

Many people have heard of Route 66 – the famous highway that goes east to west frequented by RVs and those seeking the western states.

That route definitely has some cool stuff along the way but what about Route 89?

So far, Route 89 has contained not only the most scenic drives, but also some of my favorite stops.

Route 89 officially starts in Flagstaff and goes up to the south entrance to Yellowstone, and through Montana.

It has 7 national parks on the route and some of the most amazing vistas I’ve ever seen.

For example, when taking it north you see snow capped Mt. Humphreys, followed by Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, if you make a right you’ll go the Grand Canyon’s south rim.

Somewhere on 89 north
Somewhere on 89 north

Then you enter Navajo territory and beautiful canyon scenery, followed by horseshoe bend – Google it.

At some point you get to Page, AZ which is a little town with Glen Canyon as the backdrop. Wow.

Right after that you get to Lake Powell and Utah.

Lone Rock Beach – our campground in Utah
Our campground in Utah on Lake Powell. In the distance where the sun is setting is Arizona.

Then Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, on and on.

A short hike off of 89 – Grand Staircase

Route 89a – The Arizona Route

But I’d you zoom the map out slightly you’ll see that 89a continues south through Jerome and Sedona – both top places to visit.

View of mountains-side Jerome
View from Jerome: Sedona Red Rocks and snow covered Flagstaff Mountains
Sedona: enough said.

So where Route 66 might get you west, Route 89 has some of the most incredible places.

On this Route you could go from desert, the red rocks, to snow skiing, then water sports in a matter of 1-3 hours.

Route 89 is where it is at. We are sad to leave but we’ll definitely be back to spend more time here and explore further north.

Lake Powell and Glen Canyon

South East Utah wasn’t originally on our list for this trip.

Earlier in the trip we met a family who spent some time here and they had some amazing stories and photos.

We quickly made some room in our itinerary.

Page, Arizona and Glen Canyon

This area is most famous for Horseshoe bend and Antelope canyon.

But just the views behind the Walmart alone are jaw dropping post card.

Lone Rock Beach

Just as you cross into Utah lies a sweet camping spot – Lone Rock Beach.

Boon docking only. You can drive out and park anywhere on the beach.

In Utah, sunset is in Arizona.
Lone Rock
Kids playing near the creek below campsites.

What a unique place. The kids were really bummed we only had a couple days here.

Deep down , so where we. Until next time.

Buckskin Gulch & Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Another suggestion from new friends we met earlier on this trip was doing this hike to a place called Buckskin Gulch.

Basically it is what is called a slot canyon such as the famous Antelope Canyon.

However, due to COVID Antelope Canyon is closed.

But down the road an hour is this one and it happens to be the largest continuous slot canyon in the world.

It didn’t disappoint. By far the coolest hike I’ve ever done.

Kristi really wanted to come here. She is very happy.
Low Rider even came.
The kids got to explore on the trek
We coined this one “Lion King” rock. Thankfully we didn’t see Simba.

How much does it actually cost to live in an RV with kids?

Now that we’ve passed the month and a half mark in our long-term, RV adventure, I think it is safe to say we have lived in an RV.

In fact, since October of last year, we’ve lived in our RV almost as much as our house in Florida.

Most people have a preconceived notion that living in an RV and traveling around the country is expensive.

I certainly did.

It definitely can be expensive but also it doesn’t have to be.

In fact, many people could actually cut their expenses significantly by adopting the lifestyle, and living like a retiree now, verses later in life.

Keep in mind that these are our required expenses. They don’t include our optional expenses such as paid experiences, eating out, or gift shops.

The nice part is that there are so many to pick from and many are free or cheap with a little research.

Our Expenses for March

Campgrounds: $190.34

This is fantastic, and it includes a $25 charge for canceling one campground because we found free camping.

See below on how to get free or really cheap camping.

Food and necessities: $626.20

I use “necessities” very loosely here. These are our Walmart or grocery store visits but not everything was a necessity.

However, I’m not going to spend the time to break it out.

How much is a legitimate expense? I’d estimate $400-500.

For instance, this includes our DEF purchases as well. On travel days we go through 2.5 gallons a day.

Laundry: $120 (estimated)

This is a surprising expense for us. We’ve been trying to handle laundry at least once a week of not every 5 days or so.

Each time we go it is about 20 bucks.

Be sure to bring lots of rolls of quarters.

Gas: $790.49

At first glance, that seems like a lot and it is for fuel. But when you think of it a different way it isn’t that much. For instance, we only paid for campgrounds twice since we left a month ago for a total of $190.

Here’s how living, working, and traveling in a camper has been cheaper than our traditional American dream in Florida.

We Travel Slowly

As you see from above, fuel has definitely been one of our most expensive parts of the mid experience.

We drive a 3 quarter ton pickup truck with a 30 foot toy hauler weighing about 12,000 pounds loaded.

That eats up fuel pretty quickly.

On travel days we typically fill up twice.

Plus, not broken out on this list is the price of DEF for the truck (included in Groceries and necessities).

When we camp, we typically do for 5-14 days.

Camp for free (or cheaply)

We have 3 main camping memberships that give us free or cheap camping, most places we go.

1) Thousand Trails – This membership gets your 2 weeks of free camping at one of their many parks around the US.

There is also some other things you can do to maximize this membership if you are traveling such as staying for no more than 4 nights at a park so you can go right into the next park.

There are also upgrades that give you many more park options, increase your stays beyond 2 weeks, and have an earlier booking window.

2) Passport America – This one isn’t as well known as some of the others but we love it more than many of those.

This membership is inexpensive and often gets you 50% campgrounds.

3) Good Sam or KOA – These are the more well known memberships but I find them lackluster. You usually save 5-10% on camping at their locations but will only pay for themselves after 10-15 visits.

Whereas, with both Thousand Trails and Passport America, using them once for a week at a time has paid for themselves.

State, National Parks

Plus there are other memberships and BLM, state or national parks which are typically cheap of free to stay at.

Combine that with a National Park pass – America the Beautiful and often there are added discounts.

At our current campground (national recreation area) we are paying $7 a night instead of $14 thanks to America the Beautiful Pass.

Plus we have this view.


In addition, for many stop over night we stay at a local Cracker Barrel, which usually allow campers to stay overnight.

When we stop here, we typically buy something such as coffees or a family meal. But for $30 to feed the family after a long travel day (average campground is $20-40 a night) and no charge to stay the night right off the interstate, this is a no brainer.

Total March Expense: ~$1500-1600

Considering that the typical American dream is much more expensive than this, we didn’t really count pennies on the trip, and we traveled from Florida to Arizona and did everything in between, we felt this was pretty darn good.

Many people spend that on a week long vacation, and this is for the entire month of March.

At home, you have more responsibilities

Between errands, carting the kids around, and chores, most people would agree that when you are at home, you always have something that you need to do.

On the road you do too, but it is on a much smaller scale.

Full house cleaning can be done in an hour.

There is no need to mow the lawn.

And you are in a small space so laundry can’t possibly pile up for too long.

Your house is expensive

The average house in the US is between $200,000-$300,000.

You can get a really nice camper for $10,000-40,000 – call it 10%.

If you are using it as a home of sorts, this doesn’t seem as expensive in comparison.

Your house is bigger and requires more maintenance

The more things you have, the more things there are to break.

Having only the necessities and favorite wants limits the maintenance you need to do to only the essentials.

At home you collect things from Amazon.com

I used to poke fun and Kristi for wanting to go shopping at the store, whereas I’d simply order online.

Then we joined Prime and she started shopping online.

Now we both do and the credit card statements have grown bigger.

The joke is on me.

Amazon has made online shopping way too easy.

At home we buy a bunch of crap we don’t need.

In a camper, you are limited on space so you are much more thoughtful with your purchases.

Plus your address changes frequently so Jeff Bezos can’t find you.

He knows he’ll find me eventually.

Barrier for most: Remote or Flexible Work

If there is a barrier for the average Joe that wasn’t an excuse it would likely be this: “My job requires that I go to it.”

That could definitely be a legitimate reason not to do this. However, I’ve also seen where many people in traditional jobs actually do make it work.

Road Nurse

For instance, we met a family where the mom was a nurse, and then started doing 3-6 month contracts in various hospitals in different states.

They travel very slow, staying in one area for 3-6 months.

Local Living

Another family rarely leaves the same 2 mile radius except for extended weekends and vacations (where they just pull their house where they want to go).

Instead they use a free camping membership (see above) and bounce back and forth between campgrounds in their area, where they go to a local church, the kids go to a local school, and otherwise live very normal lives.

They just didn’t want to be chained to their desk.

Full-Time Jet-Set

Then we met a family that works at an airport and does more shift work (week on, week off). Instead of driving to work each day, they live wherever, fly to work for the week, then collect the highest level of hotel points for when their RV is in the shop.

We also met people that work at various parks across the country until they master the job and want a new one.

Other people work for the campgrounds they stay.

COVID job loss

Another husband and wife both lost their jobs due to COVID, and decided to sell everything and travel for a year to “figure it out.” They mentioned that COVID had actually been a blessing in disguise for them.


And yet other people, like me, work with a team remotely. I’ve met people that work ad a senior manager for companies like Oracle.

So there is not “one way” to live and travel in an RV long term.

For some that is full time. For others it may be a couple of weeks or a month.

The first step is for you to eliminate the thought that there is no way you could do it.

There are always ways beyond what your head chooses to believe, they are just different for everyone.

Only you can make it happen.

Grand Canyon By Train

The first time Kristi and I went to the Grand Canyon was 12 years plus 1 day ago. We know this because it popped up on Kristi’s Facebook memories.

We were in Vegas for our good friends wedding and decided to rent a tiny car and make the 8 hour road trip.

We didn’t think much of it but when we arrived we really understood why they call it the Grand Canyon.

It is because no pictures can do it justice or words can describe just how massive this thing is.

Those little green dots in the middle is a full grown forest.

It is quite amazing to see with your own eyes.

We were excited to share this with our kids, even though we knew they were too young to really appreciate it on our level.

The Train

On a whim, we discovered a train that takes you to the Grand Canyon, just outside of Flagstaff – near where we were staying.

This was accidentally a good move because the average wait to get into the Grand Canyon by car is currently 1.5-2 hours.

The train ride? 2-2.5 hours but it didn’t feel that long. Plus we didn’t have to fight traffic, we had on board entertainment and history of the area on the train, restrooms for the kiddos and a snack bar.

Wild West Show

The morning kicked off with a Wild West show while they prepared the train.

You board the train and and are greeted by the person in charge of your cabin.

Ours was Amber Rose – she was fantastic. Like Disney Cruise level fantastic. She had been doing it for 17 years.

Throughout the trip, they told you the history and fun facts of different parts of the area as you pass them.

A couple of cowboys with guitars also ride along and walk through the cabin playing sing-a-longs.

On the way back, those outlaws from the show in the morning even break free from jail and stop the train to rob it.

Probably one of the most memorable experiences for the kids. They tried to get Brayden’s “Gold Tooth.”

Bandits robbing the train by horse.

We even saw some wild horses and deer on the way back out of the park.

The Canyon

As I mentioned, a photo or video of the canyon will never do it justice.

You just have to go out and check it out.

We told Harper to open her eyes and she opened her mouth.

The Train, good for many, not for all

We had a great experience with the train. But it is not for all.

The Good

The train was great if you have kids, large groups, or may be handicapped and want an easy way to see this national park.

There is a hotel at the train station and one at the canyon you can stay at, or not.

If doing a day trip, you are at the park just long enough to see it, explore the buildings, shop for gifts and eat lunch.

The Bad

If you really want to explore the park by hiking or visiting all of the information centers then a day trip won’t be enough for you.

You should either drive yourself or stay at the hotel.

For example, the best view I’ve seen is at the Geological center.

But the train drops you off more to the west where the view isn’t as “grand” (see what I did there…).

Also, sunset is an amazing time to see the canyon. But when you take the train you are gone by 3:30.

Sorry sunset.

That said, it is a great time if you are trying to create and experience. We would do it again.

Kids with their vests and National Park badges. They really like the attention they got for being JR Rangers.

Arizona Craft Beer Post

As we leave Arizona and reflect on our time there, I’m reminded of the many beverage memories we had there.

Arizona had no shortage of microbreweries. However, where we stayed there appeared to be many more wineries.

In fact, there is one right next to the campground.

You can’t throw a stone without hitting a winery.

The thing about Arizona is that we’ve been too busy with the kids and our “must do’s” to really spend any time at breweries or wineries.

So what did you do?

That said, it would have been rude for me to ignore these fine establishments completely. So I picked up a mixed pack at the local grocery store.

Here is what I discovered…

I only tried one brewery because…well…I can only drink so much beer (and they didn’t have a mix and match 6 pack like Publix or HEB)
Reminded me of Newcastle
Just peachy but a bit sweet for more than one of these.
I can’t put my finger on it but this one just tastes like a beer from middle America. Tap the Rockies maybe?
Not bad. Not great. Average Joe beer.

What about the IPA on the box?

I know IPAs are the hipster things to drink. They always have cool names.

But let’s be real – they almost always taste awful.

Like the guy or gal making it got drunk and added way too much hops.

Then they said “oh well,” and called it IPA.

There, I said it. You can thank me later.

As such, I donated those lonely IPAs to a friendly neighbor who “claimed” to enjoy them.

Unless he has no taste due to COVID, we all know he’ll just pawn them off to someone else who “enjoys” IPAs.

Moral of the Story

When visiting Arizona, schedule some time to visit wineries and breweries as you would the many national or state parks, or you may just forget to. There is a lot of cool stuff to do in this state.

Meteor Crater

Today we went exploring the worlds best preserved meteor crater.

Being nerds for science we were very much looking forward to this.

It’s definitely worth stopping by to see once. However, we thought there would be more to do. A half day or less is enough time for most people.

That said, even though the attraction is privately owned (not a state or national park), the owners did a good job with the discovery center and museum.

Almost all of the exhibits were interactive. My kids really liked this part.

Plus the crater itself was pretty cool.

Those dots in the top right are people…yes the crater is massive.

So, yes, stop in if you are on Route 66, but don’t plan on staying for more than a half day as there isn’t much to do.

Our regret was dedicating an entire day. We should have planned something else to go with it.

Downtown Jerome, State Park, Blown Glass & Kaleidoscopes

Jerome is one of the towns we have heard about from several people – from fellow travelers to Kristi’s grandparents in South Florida.

We didn’t know what to expect but decided to check it out anyway being that we were staying only 25 minutes away.

The town really unique being that it is built on a mountain side, much of the buildings are original from between 1899-1910. It also has a stellar view of the mountains of Sedona and snow-capped Flagstaff in one frame.

See Sedona’s red rock, then Flagstaff white caps just behind it?

Historic State Park

We started the day at the state park, the former hilltop mansion of the owner of the main mining company in Jerome.

This museum had a fantastic collection of mining memorabilia original to this area, plus great scenery.

My favorite exhibits:

Early soda carbonation machine. Push the button and it still works.
Some minerals and rocks from the mines below us under black light.
Mining equipment (and that view)
License plates from the 30s.

Stand over 1900 foot mine

Next door to the museum, you can stand on safety glass over a 1900 foot mineshaft. That’s 2x the size of the Eiffel Tower.


The downtown area is really rustic and artsy. Most shops have stuff from local artists, or even that they are the artist themselves.

Blown Glass

One of the first places we stumbled into was this studio with an artist blowing glass.

This was one of Kristi’s highlights of the trip as she has wanted to do this for years. Today just happened to be her day.

Kaleidoscope Store

The artist at the blown glass place recommended we take the kids to the Kaleidoscope store where there was a line to get in.

They had a ton of unique and hand made kaleidoscopes.

They even offered to take our pictures through the kaleidoscope, free of charge.

Family pic through one of their expensive kaleidoscopes
Kaleidoscope Harper
Kaleidoscope Brayden
Kaleidoscope Kristi (kinda has a ring to it)
Kaleidoscope Eliot

Fun historical fact

One fun fact that we learned from the museum earlier that day.

The Kaleidoscope store was in the same building that used to belong to the richest lady in Jerome, who used to run the prostitutes.

See kids, who said history wasn’t fun?

Jennie’s Place is now Nellie Bly – a kaleidoscope store.

Off-Roading Sedona and Honanki Ruins

One of our most anticipated activities was today: Off-roading in Sedona.

Kristi and I did it when we came out here a few years ago and fell in love with it between my enjoyment of trail riding, her need for speed, and our mutual love for this mountain range.

We knew the kids would love it too.

Robbers Roost Cave Hike

We it first stop was a cave dwelling behind a mountain.

Unknown to us, there was quite a hike and a bit of a shimmy around a mountain cliff, so we just enjoyed a small cave and an amazing view of the mountains.

Cant have kids falling off mountains to ruin the fun at the ruins.

Harper volunteered to climb in the cave. We declined.
Notice Kristi and the kids in the top right. Gives you an idea of the magnitude.


There is a small national park buried way back in the national forest here.

Our national park pass got us in for free. Rock on.

They have a very rough dirt road to get to it, or you can go the back way by UTV or ATV. Our preferred method.

Remains of a 70 room cliff dwelling.

Schooled for the day

That was our school for today. How to do donuts in a UTV, a history lesson on ancient ruins, and for P.E. we hiked up and down a mountain.