Trippin’ Engle’s Communication Setup
Communication with others has improved tremendously in the past decade, especially for gypsies like us.
Staying in touch while on the road
During the first month and a half of our travels Christine and I will be traveling in separate vehicles. Our primary method to communicate will be using our cell phones (hands free of course). In areas where there is limited coverage we have 2 BeoFeng hand held radios that have GMRS frequencies so we can talk car-to-car. They can also be used when we are in campsites that don’t have cell coverage… honey, can you pick up a loaf of bread from the trading post? As a licensed amateur radio operator, the BeoFeng radios also provide access to ham radio repeaters that may be in an area we are traveling. At $63 this was a ‘no-brainer’ to get a pair of them. I might even convince Christine to become a ham.
Staying in touch while camping – the connection
We use a AT&T ZTE MiFi that allows multiple devices to utilize our data plan. With this we can connect our laptops, cell phones, Kindles, iPads to the internet using our cellular data plan.
However we already know that many RV camping locations have marginal cellular coverage. A marginal cellular connection is a minor inconvenience for most of us, however we like the security of being able to have wider coverage for emergency communication as well as staying in touch with the family. Technomadia’s reviews of the WeBoost 4G-M in their technical website RVMobileInternet cellular booster seemed to be the best solution for us to extend the range of our cellular access. We picked this booster over other less expensive boosters because it has an external antenna and much more gain than the internal boosters.
We plan on temporarily placing the WeBoost on some foil or a pie plate until we get to NY when we can complete a more permanent installation (more on that later!).
Currently we have a 20Gb plan from AT&T and hope to keep it in that range, however we have the flexibility to increase it as we travel. I will monitor our data usage from the Android AT&T app.
This will help us stay in touch with family using FaceTime on our Apple products and Skype on the laptop as well as cellular voice and Google Voice over the internet. We can do everything we did in our sticks and bricks home utilizing Comcast internet service with the MiFi & WeBoost.
Cellular Data is expensive compared to an internet connection to a house – most home connections have unlimited data usage. We gave up our unlimited AT&T cellular data plan several years ago.
To keep our cellular data usage down, we will be installing the WiFi Ranger Elite so we can more easily reach park WiFi hotspots etc. especially for streaming movies, uploading video and doing OS & program updates. We plan on purchasing and installing the WiFi Ranger when we get to NY. We want to remove the old satellite dish on the roof of Lola and use the access hole to route the WiFI Ranger and WeBoost external antennas.
Besides the WiFi Ranger we will probably get the Go2 to create a local wireless network inside the RV. After having some great exchanges with Chris at RVMobileInternet and others who have actually installed and are using this exact setup, it seems like a great solution because this combination can actually manage cellular usage and WiFi usage from a single console. As one person said, this combination of the WiFi Ranger antenna and the Go2 WiFi router makes it easy to manage and understand your data usage. Also your entire WiFi setup is supported by one company.
WiFi Ranger describes their Elite Pack (WiFi Ranger + Go2):
A complete network with indoor accessibility and outdoor range, with the Elite ready to be mounted to a ladder, crank-up batwing antenna, or flagpole. Provide a secure, private network for all of your wireless computers and devices with the Go2 which also has several LAN ports for hardwiring computers and devices. The Elite then brings in otherwise weak WiFi from Hotspots in the area to get your entire network online. The indoor Go2 is dedicated to providing the secure network and also allows for USB tethering a 3G/4G Aircard or MiFi device. To power the Elite and interconnect it with the Go2, its 30FT cable needs to run to the inside where the Go2 is stored. Avoid drilling a hole for this cable by routing it to the inside through a refrigerator vent, slide, or engine compartment.
That’s the hardware side of our communication tools.
Staying in touch while camping – the communicating
So now we can connect! What then? For ‘live’ communication of course there is voice (cell & Google Voice over IP), FaceTime and Skype; but what about pictures and blogging?
For private family use we have a SmugMug account to share pictures securely. I use Adobe Lightroom for a majority of my photo editing, and it has a plugin for SmugMug. That makes it easy… and I like easy! We can also share private files using DropBox, and of course we use instant messenger (Apple and Android products) along with Gmail for email.
For our blog we utilize GoDaddy and their WordPress package. For snail mail we utilize Escapee‘s mail service to forward mail. Physical mail can be sent to the nearest post office as General Delivery and picked up, or to the RV Park we are staying in (check that they will handle your mail before sending anything to the park’s address).
Another option for WiFi is to stop by a Starbucks, Home Depot, local Library, or internet cafe. This is especially useful for those big Adobe cloud updates! If the signal reaches out to the parking lot we can even do it using the WiFi Ranger!
Especially for our grandkids we will be posting travel updates using a couple of cartoon characters (Lola the RV & Fritz). The first ‘rough cut’ of this project was posted here on Vimeo. We may incorporate these characters into this blog as we get more practiced at it. Last Christmas we gave all 3 of our grand-kids a custom scrapbook, and we will be sending them postcards as we travel. Sometimes old school is cool school – especially to 2 5 year olds and a 3 year old. There are also some services that will snail mail out a custom postcard you create! We will try some of those and give a review of our experiences when we do.
That’s our plan on staying in touch with YOU and FAMILY on this great journey!
Trippin’ Engles – April 23, 2016