Ben’s on the Road: Days 2 & 3
Welcome back to Ben’s on the Road, where one brave Ben’s Bargains editor (me!) attempts to drive across the country with three kids aged five and younger, for as cheap as humanly possible.
Yesterday was my first day on this trip working a normal Ben’s work shift from the car. It’s pretty cool, actually, how easy it is to do my job from anywhere I want, including a moving minivan (my husband is driving; hopefully that is obvious!). My tech setup is not complicated: my Macbook Pro laptop, a power converter (so I can have my laptop plugged in and charging), a mobile hotspot, and my iPhone.
I’ve experimented with a bunch of different hotspots and have found that if you’re going to be traveling cross-country, you really need to have the ability to connect to multiple service providers. They all have different areas where the signal is spotty or just nonexistent, so it works best to have more than one you can connect to. I have a Verizon pay-as-you-go 4G LTE hotspot, as well as my T-Mobile iPhone with unlimited data and tethering capabilities. Because my T-Mobile data is unlimited, I use that for WiFi whenever I can. Then if the signal goes weak, I switch over to my Verizon hotspot. I have used a prepaid AT&T hotspot before as well, but I wasn’t as happy with the speed/reliability on that one.
I bought my Verizon hotspot on clearance at Best Buy for $15 (it’s currently $50 online though). It’s called the Ellipsis Jetpack. I pay $100 for 10GB of data that needs to be used within 2 months. Because I also use my phone for WiFi, I shouldn’t have to refill the data at all over our 15-day trip.
To keep my laptop charged, I have this power converter for the car. You plug it into the cigarette lighter and it gives you two AC outlets and two USB outlets. Nothing fancy about this model, but it was like $20 and has worked just fine.
Add my beloved Macbook Pro (which is fancy and was not like $20!), and that’s all I need to work from the road. I feel pretty lucky I’ve got a job I can do from anywhere. And that I don’t get car sick!
Aside from a few 5 to 10 minute chunks of time where neither my phone or my hotspot had service, I have been able to stay connected really well! We just passed through the mountains in CO and I rarely lost connection even on the stretches of road between small mountain towns. Not bad!
We stayed with family close to Denver last night, and today we’re headed to a cabin near Capitol Reef National Park in Southern Utah. The drive has been absolutely gorgeous! Looking out the windows at the mountains is almost entertainment enough, but we also stopped off and spent some time in the little town of Idaho Springs. I love mountain towns, and this one was about as charming as they come. They have a nice park/playground right by the river, and a very unassuming and inexpensive taco joint called Del Rio Taco that had some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever had. You can sit outside on their patio and watch people rafting down the river below. If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend it!
I’m a sucker for a good photo opp, so a few hours later we also just pulled over on a random exit with a view, had a snack and snapped some pictures.
To find things like this to do when we need a break from driving, I use an iPhone app called Roadside America ($2.99). It uses your phone’s location to give you a list of “off beat” things to do close to the highway. I also like the app Roadtrippers (free!). With this one, you can see things to do, quick snacks, outdoor activities, etc, near your current location, or put in a specific route and see everything along the way on a map.
Tomorrow we’ll be exploring Utah and giving hiking with kids a try. I’m so excited to spend some time in an area I hear is just gorgeous. Watch for lots of pictures soon!