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WIFI when Wallydocking

January 20, 2017
WIFI when Urban Boondocking

There is a simple trick that will help ensure free WIFI access when urban boondocking at big box stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot or Lowes.  First ensure the store offers free WIFI. Also ensure the store and the county do not have rules preventing you from urban boondocking at the store.  Next ensure you pick a location that has a garden center.

The image in this post is of a Wal-Mart in the Orlando Fl area.  I do not know if it has WIFI or if local bylaw/store policy allows urban boondocking.  I only picked this one to illustrate a simple trick to getting free WIFI when you Wallydock.

Almost all big box stores now rely on WIFI to use their mobile price checking devices and other technology within the store.  The garden center is as much a part of the store as any other part, and still requires access to the same technology which means they still have to put Wireless Access Points in the garden center.  However when sitting in the parking lot, it is rare to be able to pickup their WIFI on your phone or laptop.  Typically the WIFI is tuned to not leak outside too much, also the exterior walls of the building block WIFI signals really well.  The garden centers in most big box stores are not surrounded in by exterior walls, usually it is iron fencing which is far less effective at blocking WIFI signals.

If you get permission to park overnight, always try to park near the garden center in a spot where you can see into the garden center.  If you can see inside the garden center, the WIFI signal can also see you.  In the featured image the red lines mark the approximate location where WIFI signal would likely be optimal.  In this case your best spot to park would not be the back rows of the main lot, but in the side lot which is probably not a preferred location for customers to park anyway.

Depending on the construction, the distance and the exact WIFI solution, you may still need a WIFI amp like a WIFI Ranger, Jefatech, or Alfa to get a usable signal.  But you have a far better chance of getting a usable free signal in your RV when you do not have exterior walls between you and the nearest Wireless Access Point.  Just be warned that you may pay a cost for the free WIFI, with all night delivery trucks parking near or driving past your campsite if you choose a side lot like in the picture.

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