Wifi is a touchy subject among campers, both full timers and recreational campers. Everyones wants and needs are quite different but this is my opinion based on my experience and my thoughts on the subject. Many times I find myself at the controversial end while discussing internet access both as a camper and a workamper. Everyone has an opinion on how it should work, how it is supposed to work and why it does or doesn’t work.
It seems ironic to me, that in our attempts to leave behind the hustle and bustle of everyday life, many insist on home-like access to the internet, as one of the top make it or break it issues when reviewing a campground.
Many, if not most, campgrounds advertise free wifi. However, the effectiveness of the campgrounds system tends to range all across the spectrum. Typically, the free wifi is designed for folks to check email, catch up on the news, post on Facebook and general internet browsing. It is generally not designed for complex gaming, streaming or downloading all of your favorite books. It has been our experience that access to the campground wifi system is sporadic at best but usable for the basics. Since we have been workamping, we are on the other side of the counter (literally) to the compliments and more commonly, complaints to the access of the system. When we ask guests what it is they are trying to accomplish, the answer in many cases, particularly if it is a family, that the kids want to play their games or watch a movie, both of which are typically at the top of the no-no list. But what guests don’t seem to understand is that they are not the only ones trying to get online and they are not the only ones trying to entertain their children via technology.
Some campgrounds have better systems than others. This is particularly true but not exclusively true for higher end campgrounds and/or resorts. Typically, the more money a campground can spend, the better the system. With that said, when a campground needs to spend more money on upgrading their internet service, that cost will, inevitably, be passed on to the campers and reflected in their rates. Having worked at a number of campgrounds that vary and quality, size and amenities, how much money is spent on the system is a direct reflection of the quality of that system. Another aspect is location. Some campgrounds are situated in an area that lend itself to better access than others. A more technical contribution of internet provisions not considered by many is the fact that a system may be designed for “x” amount of users. In a campground with 100 sites, the maximum number of users for regular use could be 200. However, the average number of devices on a campsite is likely to be about 3-4. If the campground is full, it means that the service will be decreased significantly, especially when out of those 3-4 devices at least 1-2 are trying to stream, download or game online.
My husband likes to compare most if not all campground wifi systems to Disney. Having spent a little too long parked in the Orlando area, we spent a great deal of time at Disney and discovered that despite having thousands of guests in the parks at any given time, their free wifi is actually quite good. But like everything Disney, they have the money to spend and their prices for everything reflect that.
This is what we have learned about the internet and being on the road. It is imperative to have your own data plan to accommodate your internet usage requirements. This is a challenge for many to understand particularly because internet usage at home is virtually unlimited and paid through the cable/phone or a specific internet provider. However, when traveling, you are now limited to what you carry with you, which is typically a smart phone with a limited data plan. We carry enough data through our cell phone provider to accommodate our needs based on the assumption that internet access at our next location will be limited. Yes, it costs a bit of money, but it means that we will have no frustration when we can’t get access to “free wifi”.
What is free wifi? It is just that FREE. I take that to mean that service may be sketchy at peak times at best, it is being shared by hundreds of other users and I will understand that too many will not only abuse the service, but complain that the service isn’t comparable to what they have at home. When we do pull into a park that has better than average wifi service, we appreciate it and use it but do not abuse it.
While we are full timers, we do like to get away from it all and actually camp strictly for recreation. This is time spent with family and friends in an attempt to disconnect from our constant want to be connected to the world. While I do appreciate being able to keep in contact, check the news and send a few emails while away, I also appreciate the fundamental reason why I have pulled my camper to a remote location.