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Keeping Wireless and Mobile Communication Costs Down While RV Camping

By Alan Lidstone

RVing in the digital world of mobile communications that encompasses cell phones, blackberry devices, and notebook computers provides us with a powerful mix of gadgets that enable us to keep in touch with friends, family, and business contacts.

RVers, like everyone else, want to get the most for their money. The first time many RVers take a hard look on the costs of keeping in touch is when they get back after a trip and receive a mobile phone/data service bill double or triple their usual amount.

Fortunately, we have options to keep the cost of communications reasonable that include understanding our mobile device service plans, making use of the most appropriate products and services, and having a backup plan.

What’s in Your Mobile Service Plan?

Check your plan for restrictions when RVing out of your home area. While some plans provide “National Coverage” allowing calls from anywhere in the U.S. to anywhere in the U.S., other plans will put you into “roaming” with no notification or warning if you make calls from outside your billing address region.

Verify what extra billing costs per minute will be if you use up the allocated calling minutes in your plan. Consider increasing your allowed minutes if you anticipate running out of minutes while you are on any extended RV camping trips, and monitoring minutes used to see if you are nearing your included minutes.

You should also verify any applicable roaming charges when transiting or visiting geographical areas with no service from you mobile provider. Since most phones are preset to automatically switch to digital or analog roaming if your provider cannot provide a connection, we recommend you reset your phone to activate an alarm or visual warning anytime your mobile phone switches to roaming mode.

Also, don’t forget to use the free unlimited minutes in most wireless mobile plans after 7:00 PM or 9:00 PM and on weekends. Contact your provider to see if you can start your free calls at an earlier time for a nominal additional monthly fee.

Free Video Conferencing and Communications

Did you know the free software program available from Skype provides free video and audio conferencing via the Internet?

Free video conferencing with audio is accomplished by downloading and installing the Skype software on your computer, creating a free Skype account that enables free audio and video communications with any other registered Skype user anywhere on the Internet, establishing an Internet connection, and starting the Skype program.

Although notebook computers include a microphone and speaker capablity, you will need a web camera (webcam), to provide the video signal. Webcams are available for $20 - $150 at all the big box stores (Staples, Office Depot, Circuit City, Best Buy, etc.).

In addition to free video and audio conferencing, Skype subscribers can sign up for a variety of inexpensive Skype telephone calling programs that allow you to reach any voice phone number from your computer when you are using Skype with an Internet connection. This can eliminate or significantly reduce your cell phone minutes when camping in an RV resort or campground with WiFi service.

Two Skype calling programs popular with RVers include unlimited calls to any phone in the U.S. and Canada for less than $3 per month, or an option to prepay calling time in $10 increments to make calls to the US and Canada for 2.1 cents per minute.

We recommend you review the Skype offering of free video and audio conferencing, and review the inexpensive telephone calling programs to see which may be appropriate for your voice calling needs at home and while RVing.

Directory Service Fees – Everyone gets annoyed with the $1 or $1.50 charges for directory service fee when trying to get a phone number. There are a number of providers such as 1-800-FREE-411 that you can call for directory service for no charge. These services may include an advertising offer in addition to providing directory service.

RVers who carry a notebook computer with DeLorme Street Atlas Plus installed can easily look up more than 150 million business and residential phone numbers and street addresses. They can also create a trip route from any location to the desired business or residential location. One major advantage of this software is that it eliminates going up to the RV Resort office and asking for a phone directory to find numbers. While driving, RVers can search for phone numbers and locations and create a map and driving instructions from their mobile location if required.

RVers who carry a notebook computer and can connect to the Internet have several options. The Switchboard website lets you search for businesses or individuals and also provides maps and directions. You can also use the FREE411 website to look up phone numbers and addresses of business and individuals. FREE411 website allows you to connect to the desired number if you have an active SKYPE account (see above).

Have a Backup Plan - Purchasing and keeping a pre-paid telephone card in the RV can be very helpful if you are trying to avoid roaming charges because you are not in a coverage area, or avoid excess minute charges because you have used up all your allocated minutes.

Pre-paid phone cards allow you to make calls for as little as six cents/minute and are readily available at most supermarkets, gas stations, and convenience stores.

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Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!!!

Alan Lidstone is a freelance author and writer living in southwest Florida. Alan, and his wife, Barbara, co-authored RVs - Getting out and STAYING Out, from Fulcrum Publishing of Golden, Colorado, and they write and publish the Roads 'n Toads website and 24-page print newsletter providing timely information on activities and products that help RVers get the most from the RV lifestyle.