Real Talk: RV Life Frequently Asked Questions
Why in world would you want to live in an RV?
Ten years ago, I wouldn't have! It was always our retirement plan to travel around in an RV and see the world. However, as we started traveling more with the kids and Tom's health declined, we decided that there was no reason to wait. It may not last forever, but in the meantime, we could travel and see the world and have amazing experiences that would bring us closer together.
Aren't you worried you are going to ruin your kids lives?
Sure! Aren't we all? If you lived thru our family bed blogs, you know that there is no sure fire way to be sure your kids turn out to be healthy adults. However, we do believe that travel naturally cultivates certain character traits that we want our kids to have... flexibility, compassion, work ethic, open-mindedness, and a broad perspective on the world. We believe that the future will look different for the next generation... where a resume may be more appealing when you can add travel, languages, and skills instead of a degree. Times are changing!
How can you afford to travel?
This is the hardest part for us. As a photographer, I ofcourse book sessions. In fact, I would LOVE to photograph your family. I also teach classes, offer mentoring and a variety of other things to budding and experiences photographers through my business OFF-CALL. We also generate income through this blog thru advertising, sponsors, and thru our Shop which sells fine art prints available for purchase. We truly appreciate any love shown through these channels.
Where do you stay?
We are members of Thousand Trails which hosts a number of benefits. For us we were able to purchase a long term full membership which allows us to stay in any park (over 88 total) all over the country. We can stay in each park for 21 days or less and then move to another park in the system. We have access to a clubhose, bathrooms, country store, pools, lakes, fishing, playground, mini golf... and more! We have very much loved it. They have camping passes for almost anyone. Check them out!
How much does it cost to live on the road?
This number is vastly different depending on the family. It is like asking, "How much does it cost you to live in a house?" Well, most people say that the cost of traveling fulltime is roughly the same as it would be for your family in a house. For us, that has been true. However, we always lived modestly and on a very tight budget. If you lived extravagently and were looking to downsize, it would be possible. Even now, we are trying to cut our costs down. While we no longer have a house payment, food is surprisingly more expensive!!! So overall, our expenses have stayed roughly the same. They are just spent differently.
Why don't you have a family bed in the RV?
We wish we did! We couldn't find a camper within our weight limits that would accommodate a bed big enough for all of us. If we could have, we would have! We did settle with all the kids in one room and we remodeled the main living space to have a couch that turns into a queen bed. We spend a lot of our family time there and the kids will often all pile on it and sleep there together. As with anything, you just make do with what you have!
How do you have "special time"?
This again?!?! HAHA!!! Well, we do have our own room with a door that closes now!! We are moving up in the world! However, in all seriousness, a properly stabilized camper moves very little. And when it does, well, that's just part of the gig!
Isn't it crazy hard to live in such a small place?
Surprisingly? No! We have found that our space is very well thought out and that we have almost nothing that we don't consider necessary to our lives. We make very little mess that can't be cleaned up in 5 mins and our RV doesn't change much. We have also found that having a giant outdoor space, pool, family lodge, mini golf, etc at our disposal makes it much easier when everyone is on each others nerves.
How do the kids go to school?
We are currently homeschooling the kids. In our circle, the term is more often worldschooling or roadschooling since a big part of their school relates to travel. We use Math U See, Beautiful Feet, and All about Reading right now. It may change in the future.
What about time alone for just you? Or to work?
Right now we have it worked out so that Tom takes the kids to do different things when I need a quiet house to myself. Typically they swim or go to a national park or spend the day doing the grocery shopping. When that isn't possible, I will often head out to a Starbucks or a library to get quiet time. I have even had a skype girls night out with Ceci in a Panera. I just set my laptop across the table and talked to her while I ate! Tom does the same... time out running errands by himself or time at home alone while I take the kids out.
Do you go on dates?
We do, but they look different than they used to. Since we don't have sitters we know, we typically do dates at home. We will put the kids to bed and then we have a special dessert, play a game together, watch a movie or if we are parked close enough that the monitor can reach, we sit in the hot tub. It actually works great and I feel like our dates are way more quality time and less expensive!
What about internet? Don't you miss Netflix?
We don't miss it because we have it! We rent a Verizon Unlimited data plan that has unlimited data with no throttling. We use a Mifi which broadcasts our wifi signal throughout the RV. We can easily stream our shows, work online, and play on tablets or phone. I will say though that we don't do it like we used to! Most of our day is spent playing outside!
How do you decide where to go, where to stay and which site to pick?
For us, a lot of where we go has been work based at this point. When that is the case, it is set for you. When that isn't the case, we will go to places where the weather is pleasant and we won't have to deal with crazy crowds. We usually stay in Thousand Trails near where we need to be for work. As far as picking a campsite, we look for a few things... Not super close to a busy traffic area so no one gets hit, wide enough to fit both cars without being in the road, little to no hills for Tom to have to go up and down and a bathroom relatively close. If we can also be near a playground, we try! Ironically, sewer hook up is last on the list. If I could get trees, a bathroom and a playground, I would totally sacrifice a sewer! Also, when we can, we look to park near other families... so we look for bikes, toys, mini van, etc. It is the BEST when you end up near another fulltime family.
Is it just like the movie RV with Robin Williams?
In some ways, YES!!! People are super friendly and willing to help. There are lots of unique families on the road and while they found it annoying in the movie, we love it! However, the way they treat the RV is not real!! We did learn how to use our rig ahead of time and are very cautious with it. The working on the laptop in the bathroom? Totally 100% real!!! And just for reference, we have not had any poop explosions yet... THANK GOODNESS!!
How do you deal with such a tiny bathroom?
We actually don't shower in our RV. We just prefer using the bath houses where we stay. We find it easier on everyone. We all take a towel and our shower bag and head down together. There are three showers in the boys and three in the girls at almost all the campgrounds, so we can get everyone done quickly! We also prefer having unlimited hot water. If needed, we may give the babies a bath in our little tub, but it doesn't happen often.
How do you get mail or packages?
Most people use a domicile, which basically accepts your mail and sends it to you where ever you are. We intended to set one up, but we haven't gotten around to it. For now, all our mail is going to my studio, which I still have, in Dallas. We just have someone check it for us for anything important. Really, most things are online nowadays. As far as packages go, we can usually accept them at the campground office. If not, it is only $5 to pick it up at a UPS store. If we know someone locally, we may also ship to their house.
What about kids throwing fits?
Yup. Kids will be kids. And they can throw fits with the best of them. At the beginnning it worried me in terms of noise, but we quickly learned that it was pretty hard to hear them yelling (play or fight) with the doors and the windows closed. We do often remind them to keep it down. Mostly for my sanity.
How do you do your laundry?
Wash, rinse, dry, fold, repeat! Most campgrounds have laundry facilities. We wash then. If not, we can haul into a laundromat. We typically wash every few days. We have enough clothes to go 1.5 weeks without washing, but we don't have enough space for that much dirty laundry!
How do you manage healthcare on the road?
That is tricky for us since Tom has some serious health issues. Our docs all know that we travel. Anything that can be done in 90 days sets is done that way. We plan to be back in Dallas every 3 months to allow for doc visits and dentist and check ups and what not. Tom has to see pain management every 30 days, so he either sees a new doc locally with a lot of behind the scenes support from his doc in Dallas or he flies home to see his doc. Not ideal, but it is what it is. As far as issues that arise, we just do urgent care or the ER.
Do things break down? What do you do then?
Ummm, yes. We have had a crap ton of things break on us! The best thing is to have skills in fixing things (yeah Tom!) and skills in finding them fast and cheap (yeah me!) and having enough padding in your travel schedule to allow for delays. That has been the life saver for us. And then it is a matter of keeping the kids busy while things get fixed. Whether we just go to the YMCA or fishing. And we are constantly reminding ourselves that this is just life on the road.
What is in your storage area?
We honestly don't have a lot in the storage areas. Because we had to get down to such a low weight at the beginning, we purged a lot. We currently have a back storage area that keeps all the useable stuff... TP, Paper Towels, Cat litter (and the cat box), cleaning supplies, BBQ, etc. Up front are all our set up stuff and Tom's tools. Under the couch has a small bag of winter clothes and our heated blankets. Under our bed are the extra shoes, my sewing machine, and a few extra backpacks. Sadly, we don't have room for extra food storage. I think with a bigger RV, it would be possible, but it isn't at the moment.
Did you put stuff in a storage unit? What did you keep?
Not much! I kept a few pieces of furniture that were sentimental or impossible to replace easily. We kept photos and paintings, the kids sentimental possessions and we kept a few things that will rotate out seasonally. For example, we have a bin with winter stuff (hats, gloves, etc) as well as a bin of Christmas decorations. Things that we will need in the winter, but didn't need this summer. Our storage unit is only 5x10, which was the smallest we could get. It was more than adequate.
How do you manage to have cats travel with you?
Well, it has been a challenge in some ways and easy in others. Our cats typically stay inside unless they are harnessed (or they sneak out unseen). However, we lost Rosie on the 4th of July. She escaped when Tom took out the trash that night and we didn't realize it til morning. We assume the fireworks spooked her since even when she escapes, she doesn't go far from home. It was heartbreaking. When we travel in the car, they do great though! We just stop to take potty breaks by putting them in the camper. It works!
Do you feel like you are on the Oregon Trail Game?
All. The. Time. We have laughed about it a bunch. Especially when we were so consumed with weight. We still feel that way when we are deciding to buy something. As non-hunters, we probably put the most towards food. Clothing seems to matter much less than it used to!
Do you get bored? Do the kids expect adventure all the time?
NO! We seriously do not get bored and sort of wish we did. Our travel schedule is so rapid at the moment that we are in a new place with new things to explore at least once a week. Tom and I have said on more than one occasion that we really just want a day to lay on the couch!
Do you eat out all the time since you are on the road?
Initially we did because we didn't plan and were behind schedule a lot. It got very expensive very quickly. Now we plan better and make food the day before we travel. The kids are a little particular, so we typically have sandwich makings (chicken, egg salad, PBJ, and lunch meat) anti pasta salads, hard boiled eggs, and other things that we can keep in the fridge while we travel.
How do you keep the kids from arguing while you drive the entire travel day?
They ride in separate cars! We have two vehicles that we drive. Tom keeps Ben (age 7) and Elijah (age 2) and Bob the Cat in the car with him. I keep Zach (age 12), Izzy (age 9) and Owen (age 4) in the car with me. This seems to stop the majority of our arguments. I mean, they are still kids, so sometimes we just have to deal with it!
What do you do during bad weather?
Honestly, we really try to be in areas during the seasons when there isn't bad weather. Being back in Texas is the most dangerous since we have to deal with tornadoes. However, we are well versed! We do have a weather radio that we keep with us all the time. We have several weather apps that we use to track storms. If we are worried about a storm, we move if time permits, out of it's path. If that isn't possible, we would hotel it or stay with friends. If it came on suddenly, we would head to the nearest walmart/home depot. We carry our 72 hour kits or bug out bags in our mini van. They are always with us in case an emergency arises!
I feel like that is all I can even come up with! I am sure we will keep adding to the list as we hear new questions!