An rv communication center will help you meet the challenge of staying connected to family, friends, or office when you are on the road for extended periods of time. Here are the tools you may find helpful... or even necessary.
Mail Forwarding Services:
If you are RVing full-time, or even for several months, you may need a mail-forwarding service as part of your rv communication center. There are several to choose from, especially in the states with no income tax, or limited income tax:
In addition, in many states, Mailboxes, Etc. and The UPS Store offer mail-forwarding services.
If you’re traveling for only a few months, you may have a friend or family member who will be happy to become part of your rv communication center and help you stay connected.
My regular bills are paid with automatic withdrawals from my
checking account, charged to a credit card, or I take care of them via
the internet. You may be concerned about using the internet for keeping
up with your finances; in that case, you’ll need to stay connected by
calling your credit card and phone accounts each month to find the
balance due. For those accounts that bill the same amount each month,
just remember to mail a check at the right time.
To stay connected with my family and friends I use email, or a cellphone. My mail forwarding company is Alternative Resources (now DakotaPost) and I chose the economy service, getting my mail forwarded just once a month; if I am in an RV park, I will get it there, otherwise I find a post office that accepts general delivery. The company weeds out most of the junk mail and having to go through mail just once a month is fantastic!
Dakota Post and My Dakota Address will also assist with getting license plates and registration.
Important note for veterans: Bring your DD-214 with you to get your license. They will put your veteran status right on your license. Handy for the places that give veterans discounts.
Cell Phones: How did we ever survive before cellphones?
It would be pretty tough to stay connected without one of these in your
rv communication center. My service was originally with Alltel, which
is now Verizon. I find it pretty reliable.
I upgraded the phone in Spring 2011; this new cell phone has GPS and can take photos. I have learned to use the photo feature (took quite a few of my lap as I apparently have a tendency to hit the photo button when talking on the phone), but haven't used the GPS feature. You may have already guessed that I'm not really into learning the latest technology; I like to keep things simple.
For more technologically advanced souls, there are several apps available for i-phones (and other devices) that are particularly useful for RVers, and there are new ones coming available every day. Here are a few I've heard about:
• Emergency Medical Center Locator - Find specialized emergency medical help. Free.
• Help I’m Hurt is another free emergency room locator for i-devices.
• Several of the healthcare companies also have apps to locate in-network providers, urgent care centers and other health services. United Health Care and Blue Cross are two.
• AllStays Camp & RV - $5.99 I use AllStays on the computer all the time so this would be my top choice if I decided to get fancy. Go to their site and click on APPS at the top of the page. There are many options on the filters, including dump stations and BLM land though the latter is not yet complete I hear. If you just get one app for RVing get this one.
• Woodall's - Free. Some nice features, plus the Woodall campground ratings and easy to use.
• Passport America – Free. Very helpful if you prefer Passport parks. Gives you all of the Passport information plus rates.
NOTE: Your rv communication center will likely be useless if you are in, or surrounded by, the mountains.
WiFi: WiFi detectors are available for purchase to help you locate WiFi hotspots that are unsecured. Unless you require regular access this is the least expensive way to access the internet and, if you have a web-based e-mail account with Yahoo, Hotmail, or Gmail, you can check your mail using any provider. Flying J, Starbucks, McDonalds, Libraries, and many RV parks generally have WiFi available.
Keep in mind that "unsecured" means you put yourself and your information at risk. If you do all your banking, shopping, and run your business online, do some research as to what is available. You may want to purchase a personal WiFi hotspot. There are new solutions coming available all the time.
AirCard or Wireless Card:
The wireless card is another must-have tool for your rv communication center. Most laptops come with a slot for a wireless card these days, and you can get the card from your cellphone company. If you need regular access to the internet, this is the way to go. My Alltel card ran about $55/month and, since I paid for it in full when I got it, I had unlimited internet service.
Wireless is faster than regular dial-up accounts, and I can connect to the internet in many places where I do not have a cell signal. The only two areas (other than in the mountains) I have been completely unable to connect to the internet through my card were Indian Reservations. Why? I don’t know.
I upgraded my old Alltel wireless card to a Verizon 4G USB device
when I was at Organ Pipe Cactus NM. (The monthly bill dropped a bit,
but there are additional charges if I go over 5G - I haven't done that
yet.) I was then able to connect sometimes at my rig, especially
when my neighbor, who had a booster, was online. I could occasionally
use the cellphone if I stood next to the metal clothesline pole, but for
a reliable signal on both the cellphone and the internet while there, I
generally had to drive 1.5 miles to higher ground.
A booster is something you might want to look into if you spend much time in national or state parks; they are often in very poor signal areas.
Faxes: I used eFax for many years. When I was in real estate I had a paid account as I sent and received many faxes per month.
If you seldom have need of a fax service you can get a free eFax account as part of your rv communication center. You can receive 10 faxes per month this way, but cannot send any unless you upgrade to a paid account.
If you need fax service on a regular basis, try MaxEmail. You don't need a fax machine or phone line; instead you can use your e-mail account or any web browser to send faxes from scanned images or other documents you've created. You will also get a unique fax number that others can send faxes to; these will be converted to PDF files and e-mailed to you (or you can go to the MaxEmail web site to retrieve them. You can view your incoming faxes on your computer, tablet, or smart phone!
Satellite Service: Satellite systems are high tech
stuff, which I do not have, and very expensive compared to the other
options. Make sure you find a reliable person to set up the rv
communication center with this, someone who will personally provide
telephone help and ongoing service when the inevitable problems occur.
Do your research and talk with people who have this service to get
My rig came with a Direct TV satellite dish on the roof, but I've never signed up for the service. Lots of RVers have the portable satellite dish which they set up when they are in camp.
I am happy with a half-dozen TV stations, which I am able to get in most places with just the antenna, and I actually do fine with no TV at all as I love to read. Some parks charge extra for cable TV, but many parks offer it at no extra charge.
Radio: If you do a lot of boondocking (or wild camping, as they call it in some parts of the world) get a good battery-operated radio so you can stay in touch with what is happening in the bigger world.... that is, if you want to.