Whilst one of the many joys of traveling in a caravan or motorhome is being away from all of the technology that fill our day to day lives, there are times when it is necessary to stay in touch with the outside world.
The majority of people today have mobile telephones, laptop computers and / or tablet computers and although it is extremely tempting to leave all devices at home, they do have a useful purpose when you are on holiday. It has never been easier to check the weather forecast, look at places to visit or find the nearest open supermarket from the comfort of your caravan or motorhome. Unfortunately though ensuring that you have a strong enough signal to stay in touch can be challenging.
Many campsites offer wi-fi connections, some are free to connect to, but others, especially on the Continent or at holiday parks, will charge a fee. Some of these wi-fi fees can be quite high with some companies charging as much as £9.00 per day to connect. Fortunately there are cheaper alternatives to these exorbitant fees.
If you are not particularly fussy if and when you connect to the Internet via wi-fi, contacting the local Tourist Information Centre may be beneficial as they may have a list of available free wi-fi hotspots that you can connect to. Many pubs also use free wi-fi as a lure to draw in customers. Just remember that hotspots are not secure, so other people who are connected at the same time may be able to see what you are doing. It would be wise not to do any online banking or anything that requires sensitive information from a hotspot for example - you don't know who is spying in on you.
If, however, you prefer a longer lasting, more permanent connection other solutions are available for you to use when in your caravan or motorhome.
If your laptop computer or tablet computer has a USB port you can purchase a dongle, which looks like a slightly larger USB data stick and plugs directly into your computer. The dongle will connect to the mobile broadband or 3G network signal that a mobile phone uses. Obviously this only works if you can receive a mobile phone signal where you are staying and the signal may be stronger if you use the device whilst sitting near to a caravan or motorhome window.
Dongles can be purchased from all of the mobile phone operators on a pay monthly or pay as you go basis. Depending on how often you intend to use the dongle and for how long will determine which is the best package for you. Generally, the best value for money packages will be on the pay monthly tariffs, but if you are only going to connect to the Internet for shortish periods of time a few times of the year, then a pay as you go tariff may be the best option overall.
The dongles can also be a great way to boost the wireless signal to your laptop by effectively providing another aerial - this one from Amazon is available for just under £5.00 - very useful if your site provides wi-fi, but you're having problems getting a strong enough signal.
If your tablet computer does not have a USB port - for example, the original iPad does not, then a Mifi mobile device will be your best option. The Mifi means 'My wi-fi' and is effectively a small wireless modem weighing less than 100g, is 9.5cm long and 5cm wide. The Mifi device requires a data card to be purchased from one of the mobile phone operators and works in a very similar way to the dongle, with the added advantages of not needing to be plugged into any device, and it can connect up to 5 devices at once. Again, either a monthly contract or a pay as you go option will need to be looked into.
At the time of writing this article, a Mifi device could be purchased from Amazon for around £40.00, with pay as you go data cards costing around £6.00 for 1Gb, valid for one month. Alternatively, a pay monthly contract with the Mifi device included costed £15.00 a month on an 18 month contract.
If you purchase a device that is unlocked it will work with a data card on any network which means that you can use your gadget abroad if you buy a local data card when you get there - no more expensive roaming fees!
Do you have another solution that works for you - let us know what it is and we'll look into researching it so that other readers can benefit from your experience. Leave a comment below.