Setting Up An Internet Connection In Your Campervan

See how you can set up an internet connection in your campervan

When it comes to buying a motorhome, it is common for buyers to ask themselves how they can install a WiFi connection in the van. An internet connection on your motorhome is necessary, whether you are looking to stream Netflix shows or document your travels on social media. Our motorhome WiFi guide will cover everything you need to know, from choosing between an antenna or booster and a mobile hotspot or dongle, among others. 

Is It Possible To Use WiFi In A Motorhome? 

It is possible to get WiFi in a motorhome. You simply need to have a SIM card with data and a WiFi dongle installed in your van. 

Creating a mobile hotspot is in fact the simplest way of getting WiFi in a campervan – eliminating the need for additional hardware. But, it makes more sense to get a dedicated WiFi solution for your motorhome, especially if you intend to use the internet on a regular basis, as a hotspot may end up eating through your data quite fast. 

Camping Ground WiFi Connections 

Using a campsite’s internet connection is one of the commonly used ways of getting a WiFi connection when camping. A camping ground WiFi connection is a great solution for those looking to simply research their next destination quickly. The only downside is that the WiFi service offered at most campsites is very limited, and characterised by a weak signal.  

There are other challenges associated with campsite WiFi connections. For starters, you will only get an idea of the signal strength upon arrival – especially when you are in a secluded location. As such, you might end up being disappointed when you really need to connect to the internet; thus, making it hard to make future plans. Furthermore, you may end up having a very disappointing experience, if the campground is close to or at capacity and the connection is being used by many users, or you are simply parked far from the reception and you can only get a weak connection.   

Lastly, connecting to the campsite WiFi may come at a fee. You will need to find out if the charges are based on data usage or hours or days spent on the network. Things could get costly if you are planning on watching a whole movie, even though checking social media or browsing several websites may be more affordable. 

campervan wifi

Boosting The Strength Of Your Internet Connection 

Getting a WiFi antenna or booster to direct the signal into your van can go a long way towards helping you get the most out of campsite WiFi. You can set these up whenever you arrive at the campsite, or simply have them installed on your motorhome’s exterior.  

To start enjoying better WiFi, simply point the directional antenna towards the source of the WiFi signal you are using. You don’t need to have an additional SIM card or data to use this straightforward solution. In addition to being capable of extending WiFi to several devices at the same time, these solutions can be used with just about any device.   

Connecting To The Internet Using Tablet Or Smartphone Plus SIM And Data

Using your own tablet or mobile phone is another simple and reliable way of getting an internet connection while touring around Ireland – you will need to have a SIM card and data included in the mobile device package though.  

You should be able to access the internet whenever you want, with this solution, provided that you have a reliable and strong connection. Sadly, this is mainly dependent on your network provider and location, considering the fact that mobile broadband is quite patchy across Ireland.  

Consider visiting each service provider’s website, where you can check the availability and strength of their networks using the online service checking tools, in order to identify the best option for specific locations. 

You will also need a great data package, on top of having reliable and capable devices as well as a clear signal. Remember that you will need about 1 GB of data every hour to stream a Netflix film with standard definition. Or, up to 3GB each hour and 7GB each hour for HD and 4k Ultra HD video content, respectively. 

When it comes to devices to use, you can consider using your mobile device for streaming video, if you don’t mind the tiny screen. Alternatively, you can create a WiFi hotspot using your mobile phone for a better video streaming experience. Other internet enabled devices which don’t have their own SIM card can use your mobile data allowance by simply linking to your phone.   

You can enjoy playing games and watching videos on a larger screen – like smart TV, iPad or laptop – by connecting other devices to the hotspot you have created using your phone. However, some providers may not allow you to do this, even though most do.   

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Using Your Phone To Set Up A Private Hotspot 

Setting up a personal hotspot is the first step. To accomplish this, you will need to go open Mobile Network or Mobile Data, under the Settings Menu. Pick Personal Hotspot, and use the instructions provided to add other devices to the network you have created. 

Remember to pick a memorable name and make the password as strong as possible. This will help keep other travellers and campers from using your connection without your permission. 

The next step is to locate the name of your newly set up hotspot on the devices you intend to use. Go to each device’s Wi-Fi Options, find the new network and connect to it by entering the password. You can use the network to access the internet, provided that you have mobile data and a working phone signal.  

campervan wifi router

A USB cable or Bluetooth connection are among the other options you can use to connect to your personal hotspot. The model of your mobile phone and network plan are the main determinants of the number of devices that can join the hotspot at any given time.  

It is worth noting that your phone’s battery will be drained quite quickly when using the device as a Wi-Fi hotspot. If you intend to use the hotspot feature regularly during your travels, it is recommended that you add a power bank or Smart battery case to your travel shopping list.  

Use A Campervan Wi-Fi Antenna To Boost Your Signal 

One of the most frustrating things, capable of causing a full blown meltdown from some travellers, is a dropped internet connection, midway through watching a film – something that most travellers have experienced at some point. As such, signal strength is one of the most important things that people consider when looking to get internet in their motorhome.  

Permanently or on a temporary basis, a campervan Wi-Fi signal booster is designed to attach to the roof of a van. To make it possible for you to stream content seamlessly, the booster works to enhance the strength of the existing internet connection.   

If you are in need of a fast and reliable internet connection, a WiFi antenna is a great option to consider. Since the booster won’t work if there is no signal for your WiFi system to pick up, you will need to have a working WiFi signal in the first place. To avoid having to pay more on toll roads, it is important to consider your campervan’s height before affixing a permanent antenna on the exterior.  

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Is It Possible To Install Wi-Fi In My Campervan? 

Definitely! Using a WiFi dongle or router is the simplest way to get WiFi in your campervan. Alternatively, you can use the above described approach – which entails creating a Wi-Fi hotspot with your phone. 

Designed to work like your home’s main router, a dongle is a smaller device that can be described as a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot or mini WiFi router. This device is designed with an in-built antenna that can pick up 5, 4 or 3G signals, instead of connecting to fibre optic cables like conventional home routers. To make it possible for you to connect your internet enabled devices, such as laptop, phone or tablet among others, a dongle amplifies the signal it receives, creating a WiFi hotspot.   

Keeping the dongle plugged into your van’s electric system is one of the ways you can use it effortlessly. But, to support off-grid use, dongles normally have a built-in battery as well. You will need a data SIM to use the dongle, - to be inserted in the device’s SIM card slot.   

Four Steps To Get Wi-Fi In Your Campervan

Use this guide to set up campervan WiFi with a SIM and dongle, if you don’t want to use your mobile phone, or other methods mentioned below, as the source of your WiFi. 

1. Define Your Budget And Requirements 

Start by considering the following: 

Budgetary limit – How much do you want to fork out for the contract and dongle? 

Do you intend to use the connection to stream Apple TV, Netflix or such content on a regular basis or are you simply looking to check social media and emails every now and then? How much data do you think you need? As a rule of thumb, most users will be comfortable with xxGB of data each month. 

Are you comfortable with Pay As You Go, or do you need a contract? Will you be able to top up whenever necessary, if you choose the Pay As You Go Option? Do you need to be online at specific times – for instance office hours? 

Will you be travelling inside or outside Ireland? 

2. Check Out The Available Selection Of Dongles 

Keeping factors such as signal strength and download speed among others in mind check out the available selection of WiFi dongles; now that you have an idea of your requirements. In addition to checking out any reviews of products you are considering for purchase, you can also learn a lot from #VanLife groups online. 

3. Find Out More About SIM Cards And Data Contracts 

Use your motorhome WiFi to work or browse outdoors. 

You will need a data SIM card, as WiFi dongles do not support the use of a regular phone SIM card. You can choose between a contract SIM – which allows you to use a fixed amount of data per month – or prepaid SIM – which allows you to buy a specific amount of data – just like with mobiles phones. For a decent data allowance an average charge of between £15 and 20 a month is acceptable for a contract SIM. 

To find a great deal when buying a mobile SIM or data deal for your campervan, consider checking out websites like Money Supermarket and Money Saving Expert, among others. You can also get a good deal from your home/phone broadband provider – if they allow clients to add mobile broadband to their plan – especially if you have been a loyal customer for an extended period.  

Search for unlimited data plans, if you intend to stream a lot of movies/videos or use a lot of data. Many campervan owners opt for these plans to calm their nerves, even though the plans cost more.  

Remember to buy a SIM card that fits your dongle – they can fit micro, nano and normal sized SIM cards. 

motorhome mobile hotspot

4. Motorhome Wi-Fi Dongle System Set Up

Start by inserting the SIM card into the dongle – note that you may need to activate the SIM card on your tablet, phone or laptop beforehand. Afterwards, follow the instructions for set up, once the device is charged up and powered on. Lastly, provided that your network has a signal, you can connect your internet enabled devices, such as phone or laptop, to the dongle WiFi network just like you would with a campsite or restaurant network. 

To keep other people from accessing your network without your permission, remember to secure it with a strong password. 

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Do You Need MiFi? 

There are other ways of getting campervan WiFi, in addition to those mentioned above. In the simplest of terms, MiFi works just like a mobile hotspot. However, instead of a phone you use a MiFi device. Designed to use their own SIM cards, these devices – depending on the model – can support the use of between 5 and 15 internet enabled devices. 

These devices tend to be useful to those who have a very limited data allowance or don’t have a smartphone but still need to connect to the internet. MiFi allows you to access the internet without a phone. Some models can boost their signal strength with the help of an antenna – which is a huge advantage. A MiFi can also connect to the provider with the most powerful signal automatically, provided that it’s unlocked to all networks.  

But you will still need to cover the cost of Pay As You Go or monthly data and a SIM card, and use the device in a location with a signal. 

To make sure that you can carry the device with you wherever you go, including day trips, whenever you can’t or don’t want to use your phone, the best MiFi for campervan use should be portable and small. The device should also have a relatively good download speed, preferably 400 megabytes per second, and long battery life – at least 6 hours of battery life is recommended.

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