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What You Need To Know About Streaming TV

While camping is the ideal opportunity to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer, there are times you just want to get comfortable inside your RV and watch a bit of TV. Unfortunately, not all parks offer cable, and those that do often charge an arm and a leg. On top of that, many areas don’t have many local channels available.

Some RVers choose to turn to satellite TV to fix this problem. However, our family has found that an even better option has been subscribing to some streaming services.

Streaming services can be enjoyed at home and in the RV. Photo via Piqsels (Creative Commons)
Why streaming?

Why do we prefer streaming services over the other options? Streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu allow you to watch what you want, when you want. We love that nearly any show or movie we could possibly want to watch is available on one of the many streaming services, and we’ll sometimes rotate to a new set of services to watch specific shows before rotating back.

Other benefits include the fact that these services are relatively cheap and can be used anywhere we have an internet connection. Additionally, unlike those who use satellite dishes, you won’t have to go outside and set your equipment up, making them more convenient in the vast majority of cases.

Internet for RVers

Of course, in order to use streaming services, you have to have access to the internet in your RV. Fortunately, there are a couple of different ways to go about getting the internet in your rig, along with a number of tricks you can employ to improve your connection and stretch your allotted data.

Public and paid Wi-Fi

The first option is to use Wi-Fi at your campground, or even the Wi-Fi offered by a retailer if you happen to be parked in their parking lot. Sometimes this is free or included with your campground fees, but other times you will have to pay.

The trouble with these Wi-Fi options is that the signal strength isn’t always great. This means you won’t necessarily have a strong enough connection for streaming. That’s where a signal booster comes in handy (we discuss more on that below).

Cell service

A second option (and the one we recommend) is to invest in cell service. You can choose to use a mobile hotspot, watch directly from a connected device (think smartphones or tablets), or use such a device as a hotspot. We recommend having multiple options available if possible.

streaming
Netflix is one of the most popular options. Photo by Piqsels

Tips and tricks

Below are our top tips and tricks for streaming using the internet options listed above. We’ve traveled all over the country, and by using these tips, we’ve rarely been without streaming capabilities.

Look for free trials

If you plan to use a paid internet service, see if there is a free trial available. If there is, you’ll be able to test the connection to see if it’s worth paying for. Depending on the amount of time allotted, you might even be able to watch or download what you’d like to see and avoid paying altogether.

Invest in a WiFiRanger

WiFiRanger is a useful tool that pulls in Wi-Fi signals from the surrounding area and amplifies them for use in your RV. It’s simple to use and portable, making it ideal for RVers.

Try a cell booster

If you plan to use a cellular signal, consider a booster such as WeBoost. This handy piece of equipment amplifies your cell signal, making it possible to stream even in places where signal tends to be weak.

Go for the most data

Streaming requires a lot of data. If you plan to stream using your cell service, you will want to get a plan with the most data possible.

There are some providers that offer unlimited data and throttle you only once you’ve reached a certain cap and you’re in a busy area. Since most campgrounds are not in busy areas, this can work well for RVers who like to stream, especially if that initial cap is relatively high.

Consider T-Mobile’s “Binge On” option

Another option for those concerned about data usage is to get a T-Mobile plan that includes the “Binge On” option.

Binge On allows the user to stream as much as they want without using their precious data. That said, not all streaming services are included, so make sure you know which ones are and which aren’t before getting started.

Diversify

Our family has Verizon service on our hotspot and T-Mobile service on our phones. Why? Because giving ourselves two options means we almost always have some sort of connection. To be honest, adding a third service wouldn’t be a bad idea, and we would consider it in the future.

Change the video quality

Many streaming services allow you to change the video quality. If you have the option, choose the lowest quality available. Not only will this save data, but it’ll make streaming easier when you have a bad connection.

Download with public Wi-Fi

Sometimes when we’re concerned with our data usage during a particular month, or the connectivity in a certain campground isn’t great, we’ll head to a local coffee shop or library to use the free Wi-Fi and fully download our favorite shows and movies to our devices. This allows us to keep watching at home without using any data or worrying about connectivity issues.

You can even stream shows from your phone, if you don’t mind the smaller screen. Photo by Piqsels

Which streaming services and why?

Once you’ve decided how you will connect to the internet in your rig, the next step is figuring out which streaming services are best for you. The options below are the favorites of many RVers.

That said, if you’d like to try other things, there is always the option of rotating through services as things come up that you’d like to watch. Many services even offer a free trial, meaning you may not have to pay anything at all during your first rotation.

Netflix

Netflix has been our family’s favorite streaming service for years. We love the documentaries available on this service and often find ourselves using them for roadschooling purposes.

We feel that RVers will appreciate this service because it offers a wide variety of high-quality options at a relatively low price. This means there’s something that everyone will enjoy, but you don’t have to spend a fortune on TV service for your RV when you probably already pay for a service at home.

On top of that, Netflix streams well even when your connection is poor, meaning you can watch wherever you roam.

Disney+

We love Disney+ because it is filled with nostalgic movies and shows. It’s perfect for families with kids and Disney fanatics. Since many RVers are Disney fans like us, and since there are some great documentaries about nature—something most RVers love—we think Disney+ is a great option for many campers.

The biggest drawback of Disney+ is that the app is currently quite slow. Additionally, these is no option to play videos on a low-quality setting. This means the service simply won’t work on a slower connection, something that can cause RVers issues.

Prime Video

While there certainly are some gems among them, the movies and shows on Prime Video aren’t always the best of the best. That said, Prime Video can still be a great investment.

We love this service and think it is great for RVers in particular because it is included with an Amazon Prime membership. Since RVers—especially full-time RVers—often find themselves shopping on Amazon instead of driving all the way into town, or because they need a part that isn’t found in stores, it makes sense to have a Prime account, and the video streaming service is just another perk.

Besides Prime Video, Prime also includes access to some free ebooks, audiobooks, and music, helping make travel days a bit more fun. This makes Prime an even better value for RV travelers.

AT&T TV Now

Some RVers insist on having live TV service in their rig. If you’re among them, we recommend turning to AT&T TV Now. This service includes the most channels out of any of the live TV streaming services, and since the price isn’t much more than any other service, we think it’s a great value.

Hulu, HBO Now, Youtube TV, and more

While the four options above are our top picks, there are a number of other options to consider. Some other favorites include HBO NOW and Hulu for on-demand streaming, and YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV for streaming live television.

No matter which options you choose, we are certain you will be happy to have something to do inside your rig on those rainy days or at the end of a long day exploring the great outdoors. Just make sure you turn the TV or tablet off sometimes and take advantage of the fact that you’re camping and surrounded by the beauty of nature!


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