Taking care of business — from an RV

Janet Arrowood

Extended or full-time living in a recreational vehicle has become an increasingly popular option for many working-age adults. But can you work effectively and efficiently and maintain productivity from an RV? Yes, but it takes planning. And its not inexpensive since you’ll likely require reliable internet access.

I spent almost a year living and working in an RV while traveling around the West. I worked full time while traveling 100,000 miles. Because of my data-intensive job, I couldn’t count on the wireless access or cable television available at most RV parks. At best, RV park internet systems are limited in their capacity and shared with many users. The TV systems are limited in their channels and quality.

If you’re going to live and work in an RV, here are some things to consider:

Make sure your RV accommodates your working lifestyle. You might need an office area or built-in desk. You could make lap desks that are easy to store, work from a portable table or convert an area into an office. Using a dining table can become a nuisance. A dedicated space is better. 

Check with your internet, cell phone and television providers to find out what they offer to meet your data and viewing requirements on the road. If you’re only going part time, you might be able to put your home services on vacation hold to reduce costs. Or you could have to go with a different provider or set of providers to support the RV lifestyle.

I started out with a Verizon Jetpack, but the mobile hotspot internet device didn’t offer enough gigabytes or bandwidth to meet my needs. Additional gigs cost a lot of money each month, and slow connections presented a real problem.

 Most plans integrate with your smartphone. But you might use the RV park WiFi for your cell phone to reduce data use on your mobile internet access plan. You might be able to use the WiFi hot spot capability of your smartphone or tablet instead of a Jetpack or similar device. Keep in mind RV park internet access is often unsecured before using those systems for anything related to business, finances or security.

Some sort of signal booster constitutes another consideration since most RV parks aren’t located near cell towers, and trees or buildings could attenuate the signal. There are additional considerations with a booster, including antenna location and height, to ensure the best possible reception.

Purchase and use an uninterruptible power supply. The electricity in RV parks isn’t reliable. Unplug your electronics if an electrical storm is even remotely possible.

Secure computers, monitors and other hardware before you hit the road or windy weather is likely. Really pad and tie things down. The open road is bouncy and hard on electronics.

For the best TV lineup, purchase a satellite system with a dish and receiver. Make sure you have enough cable and some sort of stable stand so you can move your dish for a clear view of the southern sky.

If you maintain a business travel schedule that requires air service, plan RV stays well in advance so you’ll know where you’ll be when booking flights. This becomes particularly important if your partner will move the RV to another location while you’re gone, necessitating a return flight to a different airport. It’s usually less expensive to book round-trip flights from the same airport.

Finally, balance work and fun. It’s important to maintain a schedule — the same as working from home or going to an office. But it’s also important to take full advantage of your RV lifestyle. Get out there and explore.