When the idea came to me that instead of buying a bigger house we were going to downsize to an RV and travel full-time, I was excited, scared, and clueless. Quickly, I began a furious year-long research about full-time traveling. That was followed by a planning phase that included purging most of our belongings, reading blogs by other families that were traveling full-time in an RV with small kids. I kept doing as much research as I could about anything and all things RV and full-time traveling(thank goodness for YouTube).
I felt pretty dang prepared when we finally hit the road in April 2018, but I quickly found out there are just some things you can’t learn until you get out there and experience them firsthand. I will say that the past 3 months have been one of the most challenging, humbling, and rewarding experiences of my life.
1. You need a lot of RV specific stuff.
I knew going into this we would need to buy a lot of stuff for the RV, but I don’t think I had a true grasp of all the gadgets and gizmos you need (but mostly want) in order to make life on the road more comfortable. We are constantly finding new things that make RV life easier. You can read our post on what you NEED to get on the road, and soon we’ll write a post with some things that you don’t necessarily need, but will make life easier.
2. There is more downtime than you think.
My friend Bryanna over at Crazy Family Adventure was the first to warn me on this, but honestly, I did not take her seriously. In my mind, we would be busy working, moving, and playing tourist at all the beautiful and exotic places we went. While all these things are true, we have actually decided that the more downtime for us the better as our kids love just being kids, riding their bikes, playing at the playground and meeting new friends. We do not see the downtime as a negative. It has been one of the most enjoyable parts of our journey.
3. You will dread rainy days.
I cannot even begin to emphasize how awful rainy days can be. Take four active kids who are used to being outside and playing from morning until night and then all of a sudden confine them to a small RV. It can be a recipe for disaster. Most days we embrace it and find fun indoor activities or head to the campground’s family center if they have one. Sometimes we’ll even get lucky with an indoor pool. Other times we just sit around seriously question our sanity. An added bummer about rain, most campgrounds become muddy, sandy, dirty messes with rain.
4. Hot water is sacred.
When you’re on the road, you’ll quickly learn to plan your showers. Again something I kind of understood could be an issue before we left, but not to the full extent. It doesn’t take long to learn that the first shower is the best, and you also learn the exact time it takes for your water heater to fill back up.
Hot water aside, with this lifestyle you actually learn gratitude and appreciation for the things you used to take for granted. For example, we just got done staying at one of our favorite campgrounds ever, but it only had electric hookup. We were quickly reminded of the simple joy of running water and being able to easily clean your dishes. We also recently stayed at a campground with only 30 amp power as opposed to the 50 amps we are typically used to. When you are playing the hokey pokey with choosing which appliances to run without tripping the breaker (hint: air conditioners and microwaves running together is a no-no) you appreciate full power hookups so much more.
5. You don’t need it.
We downsized and downsized to get our family into the smaller space of a 5th wheel trailer. It took us months to decide what made the cut to come on the RV, what went to storage, and what got donated. We got rid of so much stuff and it felt great. It is really liberating to not have so much stuff. After a few months on the road, we are still downsizing. It is amazing how much we had that we literally didn’t need. We don’t really miss any of it.
6. You will sharpen your communication skills.
The learning curve is an encompassing process for every part of your new lifestyle. You need to learn how to back up an RV, empty the tanks, proper RV maintenance, how much food your new fridge can hold, how to cook with no counter space, how to stay up on laundry, how to homeschool and work on the go and so much more. On the other side, we have noticed that there takes a lot of communication and trust to live this type of lifestyle with your spouse. When he is backing up the RV he relies on my communication to direct him where to go. When we are putting down leveling blocks it takes my trust to know he will stop when directed so that he doesn’t crush or run over my hand as I get them placed properly.
7. You are together ALL the time.
For reals. ALL THE TIME. We get pretty good about taking turns taking the kids to the playground, pool or on little trips so we can each get work done. The smaller space can wear on you a little at first especially if you’re used to a larger house. In an RV it’s difficult to go to the bathroom without running into someone along the way. While at times it can be a negative thing, it’s also a positive for us. We have so much quality family time and it has been good for us. We do try to be understanding when someone needs space and make adjustments along the way.
8. You learn to appreciate little things.
For instance, Ikea daycare and Chick-fil-A playgrounds. Because you’re always together sometimes you’ll need some space and simple things like these become a luxury. We can sneak in a break by dropping the kids off at the Ikea daycare and heading to the cafeteria for some meatballs and an hour of shopping. A Chick-fil-A playground is great for occupying the kids while we talk and enjoy kidless conversation or bring our laptops for getting work done.
9. Flexibility is KEY.
I have never been great at being flexible. I have always needed the right balance or anxiety starts to set in. When you are traveling full-time in an RV with small kids things come up and you have to adjust. Sometimes we felt like we would really like to head into one area and felt like we should go a different place instead. Other times we have worn our kids out with a fun day and we needed to change plans and give them a day off. We are constantly reminding ourselves that this is not a vacation this is life.
10. You will grow in so many ways you didn’t expect.
I figured growth would happen but it always happens in ways I didn’t think it would. When you are on the road you hit different challenges than you would if you were stationary. Some weeks we feel like we are constantly problem-solving and that part is not always fun. Sometimes I just want to hide in bed with the covers over my head and other times we are up for and dominate the challenge. Some examples of this are surprise repairs, parks no water hookups or the wrong power hookups, or when the cell service was non-existent and we rely on the internet for our livelihood.
Bonus thing we have learned?
Toll roads cost a lot extra pulling an RV (especially if you have a dually). There really is no fun thing about that. We also learned hard way to always have cash on you on moving days for toll roads.
Being a full-time traveling family is a dream come true for us. It’s not always lemonade even though there are some days that are full of lemons. Overall it is worth it for us, but for some, they find out after a short period of time it’s just not for them and that’s ok too. I will say that after two to three months we felt like we were adjusting to this lifestyle. At first, you will feel like you are on vacation and then you adjust to feeling like ok this isn’t a vacation, I still need to work, I need to grocery shop, I need to clean toilets and then you just figure it out.