Get the most out of your Internet access on the road

Are you connected to the wireless Internet (Wi-Fi)? The better question is, who isn’t? The days of having to plug your computer into an ethernet cord are long gone. Through Wi-Fi, roaming data, and mobile hotspots you can check up on email, watch movies, browse the Internet, and check social media essentially anywhere, anytime.

But, as most of us know, that access usually comes at a cost. Even if you pay for unlimited data, there are still limitations. Unlimited data doesn’t mean you’ll get consistent, fast Internet. All cell phone carriers have a certain threshold of data you’re allowed to use at full speed each month. Once you exceed that limit, your Internet speed will progressively get slower. Some carriers even charge extra for exceeding that ‘threshold.’ Luckily, most truck stops have Internet access available. Even if you have to pay money to access it while you’re on the road, it’s likely still less expensive than going over your data plan.

To best maximize the value of what you are looking to get when you connect to the Internet there are a few things you should consider. What kind of Internet user are you? Do you consistently browse the Internet, check email, or use apps that constantly update information? If so, you’ll definitely need to access to consistent Wi-Fi.

Since most mainstream truck stops have Internet access available for purchase, a strategic way to maximize the subscription-based Wi-Fi plans they offer is to understand which truck stops you visit the most. Take Love’s for instance. If you find yourself driving predominately in the South, Midwest and East Coast of the U.S., then you know there are quite a few Love’s. Love’s offers free Wi-Fi for My Love Rewards Members (it’s free to sign up), but it’s pretty basic Wi-Fi. It’ll let you check your email and browse the Internet, but don’t expect it to be lightning fast. If you want Wi-Fi that is geared towards faster browsing, downloading files and streaming, it’s a good idea to upgrade to their premium Wi-Fi.

Love’s offers three premium rate plans. Four hours for $3.99, 24 hours for $5.99 and 31 days for $19.99. If you’ll be passing through states with a lot of Love’s stores, it makes sense to try and park there when your hours of service run dry and purchase their long-term Wi-Fi subscription. Think about it, if you are a big Internet user, and are picky about slow Wi-Fi, Love’s 31-day Wi-Fi option could be very cost-effective. If you think you’ll be able to stay at a Love’s parking lot more than three days out of the month, you’ll be getting a better deal than paying for their 24-hour subscription. By planning ahead, you can save a lot of money in the long run. 

Pilot and Flying J stores offer similar subscriptions as well, although free Wi-Fi is only available inside their stores. If you want Wi-Fi in the parking lot, you’ll have to purchase one of their subscriptions, which are priced the same as Love’s. The only difference is Pilot and Flying J offers a yearly subscription, priced at $99.99. Most truck stops offer similarly priced Wi-Fi options as well.

So, what about the drivers that enjoy the capabilities of Wi-Fi, but don’t necessarily need constant access? Say, drivers who like to check their emails, check the news, or want access to streaming apps like Netflix or Hulu but don’t want to pay for Wi-Fi use?

Here’s the solution. Most fast-food places like McDonalds and Starbucks offer free Wi-Fi, that is actually pretty fast. At Starbucks, you don’t even need to purchase anything to sit down and ‘hang out.’ These stores provide a great opportunity for you to check in and see any updates you may have received while you were on the road. For those drivers that want access to movies and TV, Netflix and other streaming apps allow you to download movies and TV shows to your app, so you can watch them without Internet access. The Internet connection at these stores is usually strong enough for downloading, so if you want, you could go sit down and download several TV shows and movies.

Another thing to consider is accessing Wi-Fi at public rest stops. But which rest stops have Wi-Fi available? Your answer is in the Rest Area Guide, available on Amazon. Not only does this guide help you pinpoint which rest stops have Wi-Fi, but it lets you know what other amenities are available at rest stops along major Interstates. It’s inexpensive and it could be a good addition onboard. It’s key to note that this guide only offers information on major interstates and not every rest stop in the U.S.

Whether you’re a heavy Internet user or the casual browser, there are Wi-Fi options available for everyone.