You made it to the weekend! Now it is time to tailgate. You’ve got the grill loaded and the cooler stocked, but what about entertainment?
Perhaps you are hoping to stream a smart TV or use certain devices (like your laptop or tablet) while tailgating, but the problem is WIFI. And so you’re left wondering how to get WIFI at a tailgate.
If this describes you, here are your 4 main options on how to get WIFI at a tailgate:
- Use your smart phone as a personal hotspot (our recommendation)
- Use a personal hotspot device from a service provider
- Get satellite signal from a service provider
- Use your vehicle’s wifi
In this article we will do a deep dive on how to get WIFI at a tailgate. We will discuss the pros and cons of the 4 methods listed above, and give detailed instructions on how to turn your cell phone into a personal WIFI hotspot (it is very easy). If you are unfamiliar with what a hotspot is, we will also cover that.
***Don’t forget, we also have an article detailing specifically how we get TV setup at our tailgate. Visit our Tailgate TV article for more details.
How to Get WIFI at a Tailgate
#1: Use Your Smart Phone as a Hotspot
Our recommendation is to use your smart phone to setup a mobile hotspot, which creates a personal WIFI network. Then connect a smart TV or other device to that created WIFI network. This may sound complicated, but it really is not. The only issue you may run into is mobile data usage, which we discuss below.
What is a mobile hotspot? A mobile hotspot is a way to turn your cell phone 4G network into a personal, secure WIFI access point that you can connect other devices to.
Your phone is connected to the network of your provider, like perhaps Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. This is what allows your phone to access the internet even when you are away from WIFI (like at the store or at the office, etc.).
The problem, as it pertains to this article, is what about your other devices? For example, let’s say at your tailgate you want to hook up a smart TV or a laptop to wifi. Well, that smart TV doesn’t come with access to AT&T or Sprint 4G Network (etc) like your phone does. That smart TV can’t simply access a 4G Network on the go.
When you hotspot from your mobile device, you create a wireless internet network that you can connect these other devices to. It’s essentially a way to share the wireless internet ability of your smart phone with your other devices.
Mobile personal hot spots have plenty of internet speed and you don’t need any extra devices or need to worry about setting up satellites to get an internet connection. You simply go through the steps listed down below, and you will be good to go.
If you are tailgating with many people, you can always set up multiple hotspots from multiple mobile devices if the internet starts to slow down from too many devices being connected to it.
If you have a smart TV, you can connect the Smart TV to the mobile hotspot and use the Smart TV to stream any of the apps or programs that you have subscription to. There are streaming services that offer all the live sports you want and many other programs. If you have kids at the tailgate, they can connect tablets to the hotspot and play games.
The major drawback with personal hotspots is you are using data from your cellphone plan. You can use as much as 1 GB per hour depending on how many devices you have connected to your hotspot and how many games or videos you are streaming.
This will not be a huge issue if you plan to simply connect a laptop or a tablet to your hotspot, but if you plan to stream a smart TV for several hours, you will want to make sure you have the proper data plan in place to avoid overage charges. Smart TV’s use a lot of data in comparison to other devices.
So, if you do plan to stream a Smart TV you can really go through data quickly. This obviously is not an issue if you have an unlimited data plan with your cell phone provider. So, our recommendation is to at least research (start here) the cost of an unlimited data plan with your provider.
Understand though, some unlimited plans might reduce the quality of the picture once you reach a certain usage level. This is something your service provider should be able to advise you on.
There are still many carriers who offer unlimited data plans. It may cost more than what you are normally paying, but it is well worth it if you are going to be tailgating a lot, especially if you want to connect a TV to your hotspot. The last thing you want is to get stuck with overage fees.
You should also ask if you have the ability to lower the plan throughout the year that way once tailgating season is over you can lower your data plan back down until next year.
You will also need to make sure that there is a cell signal at your tailgating location or you won’t be able to set up your hot spot. Because modern day 4G coverage maps are so advanced, this likely will not be an issue, but it might be worth checking if you are in a rural area.
And you will also want to make sure your smart TV is compatible with your personal hotspot. Most smart TV’s are, but you will want to check this at home before you get all the way to the stadium only to find out it isn’t compatible.
How To Setup A Mobile Hotspot
Setting up a hotspot sounds challenging – believe me, it really isn’t. We can get this done in 3 simple steps. Let’s walk through this together here, using my iPhone as an example:
Step 1: Go to settings on your smart phone and find your “Personal Hotspot” option.
Step 2: Turn on your personal hotspot and a password should appear.
Step 3: Use the password to connect your other devices to this personal, secure hotspot you’ve just created.
You will choose “Iphone” from the WIFI settings on your other devices (smart TV, laptop etc) and find your IPhone network, and then enter the hotspot password to connect that device to your mobile hotspot.
#2: Buying a Device to Create a Personal Hotspot for WIFI
We just covered using your phone to setup a hotspot, but you can also buy a personal hotspot device that can support WIFI. With these devices, you buy one and get service through a provider.
You will pay for a data plan just like you do for your cell phone. Who would use this instead of a smart phone? Well, not everyone has a smart phone. Also, not all cell phone service providers offer unlimited data plans. So these devices create an alternative way to hotspot on the go if using your cell phone is not an option.
But honestly, unless you fall into one of those categories, it doesn’t make sense to use one of these devices instead of just using your cell phone to setup a hotspot. Your cell phone will do just as good of a job and you won’t have to worry about two devices and two data plans.
#3: Getting WIFI through your car
Some cars now come equipped with WIFI. Just like you do with a cellphone, you set up a monthly plan and the car becomes a mobile wireless router providing WIFI. You can use this wireless internet to stream your devices.
This can be just as effective as using your phone and it is very easy to set up. Your car will have a wireless network and you will be given the password from the company who provides internet.
You will use that to connect your other devices and begin streaming or searching the internet. Just like with your cell phone, you will need to be mindful of the data plan you have.
Once again, if you are going to go with this option we recommend you get unlimited data plan because you will likely go through a lot of data at a tailgate.
One potential major drawback with this option is some cars only allow devices to connect if they are inside the car. If this was the case, you would have to have your TV or other devices you plan to use inside the car.
For a TV, if you have an SUV you might be able to raise the back hatch set up the TV in the back of the SUV facing out towards a seating area. With other models, this obviously becomes more difficult and ultimately why this is not our favorite option.
You can buy additional devices that will enhance the WIFI signal, but they can be quite pricey. Another drawback is you will always have to take that car to the tailgate. So if it breaks down, or if the vehicle is needed for something else, you would be without WIFI that day.
If you have WIFI in your vehicle, perhaps this option is worth considering. It is a viable option, but we think it does have more drawbacks than what your cellphone hot spot offers.
#4: Getting WIFI through a satellite
The last option we are covering in this article is getting WIFI through a portable satellite dish. This dish is primarily used to receive TV programming to the devices you have hooked up to it.
This is very popular for those that have an RV or camper they take on the road or to tailgates. If you want to get internet though, you will have to buy an adapter that will work as the router to send out the wireless signal.
If you have a dish mounted on your RV or camper, they will usually automatically reset themselves to find the signal, which means you don’t have to worry about trying to find the right spot to get your dish to work.
If you don’t have the dish mounted on a vehicle that automatically updates, here is where the drawbacks start. Having to find the signal each time you arrive at your location can be a hassle.
Although satellites have come a long way in this regard, you will still have to set it up each time. Also, to get the internet adapter can be very expensive, upwards to $300.
As with all dishes, if the weather is bad, you may not be able to get any signal at all. This can be very frustrating.
If you a tailgating with an RV or camper, perhaps you might already have parts of this process in place, then this might be the way to go. But for all of you arriving to your tailgate spot in your cars, we would still recommend using your phone hotspot as the option for getting WIFI at your next tailgate.
If you are hosting a tailgate party, here are some of our other resources to help you get the party going in the right direction:
- Best Quiet Generator for Tailgating
- Best Chair for Tailgating
- Best Table for Tailgating
- Best Tailgating Canopy Tents
- Satellite Setup for Tailgating
- TV Setup for Tailgating
- Best Tailgating Fire Pits
- Best Heater for Tailgating
- Best Yeti Cooler for Tailgating
- Best Tailgate Wood and Plastic Cornhole Boards
- Best Outdoor Flagpoles