The moment you hitch up your caravan to the car or set off to your static holiday home caravan park, one of the last things you might want to think about is the work you are leaving behind.
In this day and age of more or less permanent communication, however, there are times when you still need to work whilst on holiday – and when work means rather more than the relatively limited functions of a smartphone or tablet, what can you do?
Since few laptops are yet to come installed with a 3G communication function, you are typically limited to hooking up to the internet only through a Wifi access point. At caravan sites, this may be a bit hit or miss – your connection could be very slow due to multiple users on the site; weather conditions; where your caravan is sited; and, even the structure of your ‘van itself.
Do caravan sites have Wifi?
Of course, an increasing number of caravan and camping sites recognise that a wireless connection to the internet has become one of life’s essentials – even when you are out in the wilds and taking advantage of the predominantly outdoor life.
Evidence for that recognition might be illustrated by the growth in the number of campsites specifically earmarked by the Caravan Club for their provision of broadband Wifi on site. Including both Club and affiliated sites, the Caravan Club currently offers a total of 149 sites that offer this facility.
The listings are graded gold, silver and bronze, according to the speed and reliability of each site’s connection, but also come with warnings about what to expect from this kind of Wifi in your caravan:
- there is no guarantee that the Wifi connection is going to be up and running all of the time – but, then are you likely to have 100% reliability even in your home setup;
- it is still a largely outdoor environment, subject to the vagaries of storms, lightning strikes or even the local wildlife nibbling away at supply cables;
- speeds may be lower than you expect at home, simply because you are sharing a limited bandwidth with your fellow campers and some sites might be more remote than others;
- don’t expect the connection to support streaming video or TV – such as iPlayer, YouTube, Skype or FaceTime – but stick to the basic tasks of opening and sending mail and moderate surfing only;
- that said, many sites have plans in hand to improve and speed up connections – with the provision of more lines or the replacement of copper with fibre optic cabling.
Boosters and mobile routers
If you want to improve your chances of a more effective and faster connection to your campsite’s Wi-Fi service, you can buy antennae and onboard boosters to amplify the signal you are receiving. If your campsite doesn’t have a Wi-Fi connection, with the appropriate booster device you may even be able to connect to one provided by the local pub, café or restaurant.
These include iBoost Wi-Fi systems and wireless travel routers and they work in different ways – some have antennas for example. There are a number of suppliers in the UK, and you might want to start weighing up your options by visiting the website Wifi on board.
If you are from anyone else’s hub, you might want to consider a 3G or 4G mobile router – but then, of course, you need to pay your mobile network provider for the data you use.
Other caravan Wifi options
When you are out of range of a publicly accessible Wifi hotspot, or you need a fast, reliable internet connection, a number of alternative options exist:
- a dongle is a small device that plugs into your computer and lets you connect to the internet:
- they’re usually the size of a USB drive, and they look identical too. Some dongles are used to give your computer Bluetooth capabilities, Wifi, extra security, multimedia, and so on – but usually when we say ‘dongle’, we’re talking about the mobile broadband kind.
- the affectionately named dongle is a way of adding a SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) card to your laptop through a USB connection;
- a dongle may be bought quite separately, with your choice of mobile broadband operator through the use of a SIM card only deal, or directly from the network operator;
MiFi – a portable wifi device
- wherever you can get a mobile ‘phone signal.,you can get online via the MiFi’s wireless network;
- this is the name given to the “My WiFi”device (also known as Pocket Wifi)
- you might want to think of it as a portable wireless router – like the one you are probably using at home;
- in just the same way, MiFi has the ability to link a number of wireless devices – typically up to ten – to the internet through the same internet connection;
- effectively, you are creating your own mobile WiFi hotspot and one that offers considerably faster internet connection than that provided by your smartphone or tablet on a 3G network;
- MiFi is a separate, standalone device, or may be rented from the mobile network operator of your choice – you might want to beware, however, that some operators may “lock” your MiFi device in just the same way that operator-supplied phones may be locked into that operator’s network;
- a further option is to use your smartphone as the principal connection for your laptop to the internet;
- by tethering your smartphone and laptop in this way, you may access either 3G or 4G networks (if these are in range and available on your phone), using the phone’s access to the internet;
- beware that with tethering, it is probably not going to take very long before you reach the limit of your data allowance and, once that has been passed, you’ll have to start paying an arm and a leg for your access to the internet;
- also, as already mentioned, however, this is likely to provide a less rapid connection speed than using a dongle and/or MiFi arrangement.
Like it or not, therefore, there is probably no escape from the ability to work whilst enjoying the comforts of your caravan – whether it is a tourer or a static second home. Wifi communications give you the chance to stay abreast of whatever is happening on the work front and allow you to continue to make your own contribution to what needs to be done.
We hope our caravan wifi guide will give you the solution in choosing the most appropriate wifi hotspot / wifi signal device so you can enjoy your holidays but still go online when you need to.