Almost a year ago my husband and I decided, after a 30 minute conversation weighing the pros and cons, to sell our house in Vero Beach and hit the road in an RV. Within a month we made all the plans – house sold, contents sold, donated or stored in pods, fifth wheel purchased, truck to tow purchased fifth wheel, and no idea what we were getting into . That’s the beauty of living in VR – you can do it on the spur of the moment and in small doses.
Although we only learned a few steps for VR, there are many basics that I wish I had known about in advance. Here are seven things I wish I had known before going full-time in RVing and some things you might want to consider if you’re thinking about this nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle.
1. Less is more
When my husband and I sold our house, we moved a lot of stuff into a storage capsule. We also filled the numerous cabinets of our fifth wheel hitch to the hilt and quickly filled the storage space under the RV.
Fast forward, over 10 months later, we donated an old suitcase and bags of clothing and books to local women’s shelters and facilities. I don’t know what I thought when I packed so many placemats, entertaining pieces, pots and pans, and beach towels, but they were just taking up space. In all honesty, we wash the dishes right after we use them and only use multiple dishes for holiday cooking (we have full-size kitchen appliances) so there’s no need for four or six place settings. unless you are the host.
It’s also safe to say that we’ll never read as many hardcover books as we brought, or use as many dishcloths and cleaning supplies. And we don’t use more than one pair of sheets because they’re put back together immediately after washing. Less is more in the RV lifestyle.
2. Know the different types of campgrounds
When we first embarked on a full-time RV lifestyle, we weren’t sure what type of campground to choose or what we’d like. We tried private campgrounds; mom and pop, Kampgrounds of America (KOA), Thousand Trails, state parks, city parks and more. My husband had great boondocking ideas (camping without water, sewers or electricity) but it never worked out for us. Here’s why:
We quickly realized that we preferred to stay in private campsites. Although the amenities vary a bit from park to park, we know that by staying at a KOA, the world’s largest network of private campgrounds, we will get the things we feel we need. I referred to them in a previous post as the “Marriott and Holiday Inn” brand identity of the 1970s and 1980s. You know you’ll get a clean, well maintained, comfortable campground with various site options, dozens of amenities, a small store for accessories and helpful staff. This kind of security means a lot to us and is why we choose many places we go.
While we’ve stayed at several non-KOA properties that we’ve loved — Jellystone for example — we prefer a walk-through site on concrete, if possible, and full hookups.
Pro tip: Join the KOA Rewards camping loyalty program to save 10% on your stays and benefit from exclusive discounts.
3. Limit your wardrobe
We are lucky to have a washer and dryer in our RV. It’s something I negotiated on the final sale and something we wouldn’t live without for this lifestyle. We wash something every day because you have to do small loads. Since there are hardly any dirty clothes, there was no need for us to bring 20-30 t-shirts, 15 pairs of socks, 15 pairs of shorts – you get the idea.
Although we needed multi-season clothes (I’m a travel writer and go all over the world, so I have to be prepared), we didn’t even use half of what we brought. After a few months, we understood this system.
It was given if the garment was already 10 years old or older. I keep about 5 days worth of clothes, reuse them and change those pieces for 5 days, or other clothes after a few weeks. We have storage space in the camper, a full size closet (although you can’t put too much weight on it or the bar will collapse), and we keep the rest in our suitcases under the camper. because. We each have a bag or two of seasonal clothes that we keep in the lower storage that we only need every 5 or 6 months, including a winter coat, gloves, etc. We also bought many new t-shirts from the cool places we’ve visited, and had to get rid of one to add another.
4. Learn how to activate the inverter switch
Our Cedar Creek 291RW fifth wheel hitch is perfect for us. If we even wanted to entertain the idea of boondocking, we needed to know where the inverter switch was for the refrigerator to use battery and solar backup. For weeks after purchasing our RV, I watched hundreds of Forest River product videos to no avail. I checked the manual, Youtube and other resources, but none of them told us where to find said changeover switch.
During our annual verification of the RV, necessary to maintain the warranty, we asked the RV specialist (not Forest River, be careful) to help us find it. It took him about 30 minutes to find it under the RV, behind a false wall, and down to where you have to bend down half your body to find it. He agreed it was the dumbest design he’s seen in 20 years in the RV business, but at least now we know how to “flip the switch.” This will also be useful for keeping refrigerated produce cool when we stop to sightsee between campsites.
Pro tip: We purchased our RV during the pandemic and shortages. We were offered $10,000 for an Onan generator (by Cummins) (the only type our RV can use). It had to be prepaid and would arrive at the earliest 9 months after the order. We would also have to pay to ship it at ground rates to where we were currently traveling. It was easy to say no, since we don’t expect to pay that much for civilized campgrounds in a year.
5. Make a checklist (and double check it!)
Believe me when I say we googled or YouTubed everything we needed to transport our motorhome, set it up and tear it down. With the help of a friend and his wife, we managed to plug in our RV and hit the road. Our first campsite was 20 minutes from our house, the second an hour.
The best thing we did, in the beginning, was to have a note on our smartphone with a checklist for installation and breakdown. We carefully followed the steps, assigning tasks to work as a team, and within about 2 months we finally didn’t have to look at the checklist. Lists are magic; they can save you time and help you complete tasks in order, ensuring you don’t miss a thing.
6. Don’t plan too far ahead
As I mentioned, we just jumped straight into RV life. Many people I have met have planned their adventures to the nth degree, and something is disrupting that schedule, including us. With the recent incredible gas hike, I guess most people are rethinking their summer travel plans and switching horses mid-race. Plan time to stay longer in the places you love, or even time to take road trips, leaving your RV behind so you can experience hotel stays. We do that a lot.
As for us, our well-planned summer route through the western states will change as pulling a fifth wheel up the mountains at nearly $7 a gallon for diesel and getting 7 mpg due to the hills doesn’t is not in our best interest. We won’t pay $1 a mile to go that far.
7. Follow the 2-2-2 rule
My husband and I had an ambitious plan to see a different state each month, which was way too aggressive. We extended our stay at three of the first four campgrounds we visited. We loved the area and the campsite and wanted to enjoy it longer. This is one of the joys of VR; you decide what works for you.
A friend told me about her 2-2-2 rule, and to this day, we do our best to follow it. We don’t like to drive more than 2 hours between campgrounds; we have to be at the campsite by 2pm and try not to exceed more than 200 miles. With this simple rule, we don’t get tired when we travel, haven’t used too much of the day to enjoy the next town (or RV park) in some way, and have an idea of what time we need to leave to reach our goal. .
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