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Email Options for RV Travel

Email Basics for RVers

Whether you run a business and can’t be “out of touch” for long, are a grandparent wanting to share and interact with your family or just simply like staying connected, you are one of a growing number of RVers finding the need for reliable internet connections while enjoying RV travel. There are several options – some easy, some free, some cumbersome, and some literally out of this world.

For our purposes, we are going to assume you have a laptop with a modem card, an ISP (internet service provider such as Juno, AOL, Earthlink, etc.), and a basic understanding of how to use email. In my travels I’ve run across seven different connection possibilities (and I’m sure I’ve missed a few) – dialup, cell phone, cell network adapter card, wi-fi, ethernet, cable, and satellite service. I’ve also provided some at-a-glance ratings (my opinions only) with 10 being the highest rating possible. Let’s briefly explore:

Options + Pros & Cons:

Dial-up – user plugs a telephone line between the phone jack and the laptop
Cost: Free or very low cost
Speed: slow
Ease of setup/use: pretty easy
Downloads/Uploads (photos, files, etc): really slow - only small pictures

Pros: Any phone line will do, many ISPs provide a local connection number, may be available in your rig if a phone connection is at your site

Cons: Slower than the dickens, files (photos, etc.) may not download or upload, if no local number is available long distance charges may apply, usage time limits if others are waiting

Cell Phone –using a modem enabled cell phone users can access the internet when a cell signal is present

Cost: Cost of your calling plan - draws form plan minutes
Speed: slow
Ease of setup/use: once you get the hang of it it's easy
Downloads/Uploads (photos, files, etc): about the same as dial-up

Pros: Most of today’s cell phones have a built-in modem, unlimited minutes on nights and weekends can defer cost, can be used anywhere you have cell signal, can purchase a prepaid program rather than signing a contract

Cons: Slow, a kit linking your phone and computer is necessary, uses cell minutes just like when you are on a call – should monitor daytime usage if this is an issue, weak or slow signal may affect sending and receiving files

Cell Network Adapter Card (one brand name is Air Card) – uses cell tower networks so anywhere there’s cell phone signal you’ll have internet. User purchases a plan from cell service providers (Verizon, Cingular, etc.) and a cell network adapter card.

Cost: $20-$80/month
Speed: faster than dial-up and straight cell phone modem
Ease of setup/use: A little harder to configure but easy after initial set-up
Downloads/Uploads (photos, files, etc): depends on bandwidth in an area - much better than dial-up.

Pros: Service is based upon cell service availability (in the area you are in) – most areas great – some areas do not have service, as convenient as wi-fi, fees depend on how much you expect to send/receive across the network

Cons:
Plan is like a cell phone plan – you must sign a binding agreement, slow compared to wi-fi, cable, ethernet, weak or slow signal may affect sending and receiving files

Wi-Fi – wireless internet – gaining popularity among public and private campgrounds.
To use this option your computer must have a wireless card – either internal or a plug in. A signal amplifier may be used

Cost: Free-$5/day
Speed: medium to fast
Ease of setup/use: with a wi-fi enabled pc easy - older equipment will need a wi-fi card
Downloads/Uploads (photos, files, etc): You can send & recieve most anything with wi-fi.
Pros: Can be fast (but can be relatively slow, too), convenient to use from anywhere in the park – including your rig, good for long term or one time use, no problem sending and receiving files
Cons: Signal strength (thus speed) varies based upon where the access point (hotspot) is located, unsecured network – some data may be able to be seen by third parties, may be a fee for access

Ethernet – typically available in the campground’s office, this is local area network (LAN) based digital technology. Rather unusual to run across.

Cost: Free or fee based
Speed: fast
Ease of setup/use: easy
Downloads/Uploads (photos, files, etc): send and receive anything

Pros: Super fast, connection always on, access usually free, no problem sending and receiving
Cons: Must have a special ethernet cord/plug, not available at your site

Cable – offered in conjunction with digital TV cable – one of the more popular cable ISP addresses includes .rr.com which stands for Roadrunner. Usually only available for long-term or seasonal stays.

Cost: $30 & up/month based on bandwidth
Speed: meduium to super fast depending on package
Ease of setup/use: Easy - plug-in and go
Downloads/Uploads (photos, files, etc): send and receive anything, fast downloads

Pros: Super fast, is its own ISP, always on connection, available at your rig (may require subscription), no problem sending and receiving files
Cons: Lots of cables and a modem box to deal with, installed just like a utility – you need to be there

Satellite – can be mounted on your RV’s roof or on a freestanding tripod. Signal is located and locked on to. You can encrypt your signal for security purposes Cost: $1,700 + monthly fee

Speed: fast
Ease of setup/use: not that easy
Downloads/Uploads (photos, files, etc): send and receive anything, fast downloads

Pros:
Internet is always available no matter where you are as long as you can get a good, open shot of the sky, fast, convenient, wireless, no problem sending and receiving files

Cons:
Very expensive, bulky to carry around, actual set up requires effort, must be setup away from tress and other obstructions


Even if you don’t travel with a computer you can still utilize email. Let’s look at two of the more popular options – PocketMail and free web based email accounts.

• PocketMail - $15-20/month prepaid depending on service agreement.

Users compose messages on a handheld “composer” (approximately $100). When ready to send and receive a toll free number is dialed (using any telephone – pay, home, cell, etc.), the device is held up to the handset (tone), a button is pushed and emails are sent and received.

I have several friends who use PocketMail and really like it. It’s simple and can be used anywhere you can access a telephone. PocketMail is a text device only – this means no attachments (photos, files, etc.).

• Web based email accounts – many good ones are free.

What’s needed for this option is an internet connection and a web based email account. Libraries, community centers, and some campgrounds offer computers with internet access. Sometimes access is free; sometimes it’s a buck or two. Log on to the computer’s browser, log into your email host, and email away. Some good providers to check out – Gmail (Google), Yahoo!Mail, Hotmail (Microsoft).

If email is important to you when RVing, be sure to ask about connection options prior to arriving. New technology coupled with customer demand is making staying in touch on the road easier than ever.

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