MAIL OPTIONS (aka "Snail Mail")
Almost all privately-owned RV Parks claim to have "free wifi". Even some state and national parks have wifi available. We have found that almost all of these wifi signals are either too weak to get them consistently, too slow to do anything useful, or just flat out non-existent. We are a bit addicted to wifi, so we researched options to improve our access quite a bit when we took off. One of the (expensive) options we tried was a wifi signal booster / router. The particular model we tried was "Wifi Ranger". We did not have good success with it. We do go to restaurants, libraries, and other public places and sometimes find decent signal, but that is hit or miss, and not the safest when it comes to data security. Another option in some RV parks, especially if they are geared toward people staying longer term, is wifi service for purchase (by hour, day, week, month) such as Boingo or Xfinity. Usually the park will give you information on this if they have this option available.
What has worked best for us has been using our cellphone data and using our phones as a hotspot to connect our computers to the internet. If you don't have a phone that will create a hotspot, you can purchase devices (ie. "mifi") that will create a hotspot for you to connect computers or tablets. This works for us for most of our needs, but be cautious. Unless you have a huge data plan or unlimited data, any kind of video streaming or downloading apps will chew up data fast. We try to hold off on downloads until we do have decent wifi somewhere. And we've given up our beloved Netflix and other streaming services because they use too much data.
Cell service - we have Verizon, and based on comparing our service in various parts of the country with other people that have different carriers, in general we tend to have signal a little more often than people with other services. However, this varies greatly depending on where we are. We are considering purchasing a cell phone signal booster. If we end up doing that, we will let you know how it works out!
We love being "off the grid". However, when you RV full-time, real life still goes on, and even if you don't want to, you will probably need to stay in touch with civilization occasionally. One of our biggest surprises when we started RVing was how precious (and scarce) good WIFI service is. We've also had some challenges receiving packages at times. Access to televion can be "iffy". Hopefully the information below will help you stay as connected as you want to be!
WIFI and Cellphone
We have more TVs in our RV than I have ever owned in a home at one time in my life! We aren't huge TV watchers, but in the evening or on rainy days it is certainly nice to have entertainment options. Many RVs come equipped with TVs, antennas, cable hookups, satellite hookups, DVD players, etc. Of course, you will have to see what your RV has, and then you can determine what works for you. Here are a couple of thoughts from our experience:
Local Air TV - Our TVs will automatically scan and look for local channels available. We have mixed results with this. Sometimes moving the antenna works, other times it doesn't.
Cable - Many RV parks have free cable available. You should have a 50 foot roll of coaxial cable with you to take advantage of this.
Satellite - Our RV came equipped with a built-in satellite dome for DirecTV. This is nice, because we don't have to physically set it up each time we park. However, if there are any obstructions, even a few tree branches, in the way we often don't get signal. We do, however, still have access to our DVR recordings when this happens. We see many people with portable satellite dishes they position outside their RV.
DVDs - Whenever we are in a town with pawn shops or thrift stores, we browse their DVD shelves for cheap movies or TV series on DVD that we can watch. We finished the "Lost" series, "Sopranos", and have now started "Desperate Housewives". We also look for good movies. Once we are finished, we pass them along to friends or family, or donate them back to another thrift store. We always make sure we have a few movies on hand just in case!
If you haven't already, one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself when you hit the road is to make as much of your life as "paperless" as possible. Go into all your bank accounts, insurance, cell phone, etc and make sure that you are set for paperless statements. Also make sure that you have discontinued as much junk mail, magazines, and any other mail that you don't really want to receive on the road. Now that that's done, you have some options.
1. Mail hold, PO box, or trusted person - if you expect to go back to a home base frequently, you could always set up some kind of mail hold or PO box through USPS, or have a trusted friend or neighbor collect your mail for you. Unfortunately, if you get any urgent mail, you may not receive it in time to act on it, or you may have to ask someone to open mail for you or forward it to you on occasion. Barbara received her Mom's mail for years and would open things for her if they looked urgent, and forward packages of mail occasionally.
2. Mail forwarding services - There are several commercial mail options that will forward your mail to you for a fee. They have different features. We chose Traveling Mailbox because they scan your mail so that you can see it online, and then you can also choose to have mail (and even packages) forwarded to you when you are staying somewhere for awhile. We have been very happy with this service. Here is a link to a great article about the mail forwarding options:
3. USPS General Delivery - You can have mail and packages (delivered through USPS) delivered to a post office where you will be and held for a period of time (up to 30 days) you until you pick it up. This is a useful option, and has worked pretty well for us. Before having something sent this way, be sure to check online at www.USPS.com to see if the post office near you accepts general delivery. Not all of them do! Be sure to include your name, GENERAL DELIVERY, and the post office address (confirm online or at the location) on the package. You will need ID to pick up the package. If possible, also use a mailing option that tracks the package so you will know when it arrives at the post office.
4. Delivery to an RV Park - many privately owned RV Parks (not state or national parks) allow visitors to receive mail and packages at their locations. Be sure to check with the park first, because not all of them do, and if they reject a package it might take a while to get it again. Also, ask the park specifically what address you should use for either USPS or other delivery service (Fedex, UPS) because often parks have a PO box, or their physical address is different from their delivery address. Choose a mailing option that allows tracking on the package, and if possible a signature on delivery. We have had one case where a very expensive item was delivered, but the park couldn't find it. Luckily, we had a signature of who received it, and they were able to track the employee down and find out where she had put the package.
5. Delivery to a UPS or Fedex store: We have not used this option, but other RVers have told us that they have had packages delivered to a UPS or Fedex location to be held for pickup. I would contact the store first to verify they will hold a package and confirm address.
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