5 Things I Learned RV Traveling Full Time for 2 Months

August 11, 2019
Wandering Hills Boondocking

Everybody thought I was crazy when I presented the idea that we take the entire summer and travel full-time in our RV Travel Trailer, my wife included. Here are some of the questions we got:

  • As a small business owner, how will you afford to take that much time off?
  • How will you handle laundry?
  • As a family of six, how will you survive in such a small amount of space?
  • Don’t you have to dump your tanks every day?
  • Where are you going to stay?
  • and the list goes on…

Despite all of the doubt, we made it, and it was the experience of a lifetime for most. We traveled and stayed in Nevada, Southern Idaho, Montana, Northern Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and then back down to Modesto, California where we currently live. To be honest, two months was not long enough. We drove through some of the most amazing places and just didn’t have the time to stop because we had to make it to our next location. The trip went by so fast.

With that said, there was a lot of takeaways from this trip. Being relatively new to the world of RV Travel, I learned a lot and was glad that I planned as much as I did. I have so much that I want to share on this site, but I am going to start with 5 Things I Learned RV Traveling Full Time for 2 Months. Let’s jump into it!

You don’t need as much space as you think

Interior photo of the trailer the day we purchased it.
Interior photo of the trailer the day we purchased it.

After the first meltdown one of my kids had, I was wishing for some extra space. One thing I quickly realized is that with less space, you have no choice but to handle situations more effectively. You can’t just send your kid to their room, because that is only a few feet away. I tend to put my kids in a timeout so they can cool off. When they are just feet away, I was more quick to go to them and talk through what just happened.

I realized that even at home, we didn’t spread out that much. If we were having tv time, we were all on the couch together. If the kids were playing toys, they were all within a few yards of each other. When my wife and I were trying to cook dinner, the kids were all up in our business. So there wasn’t much of a difference between being at home with 1,800 square feet of space or being in the trailer.

We did realize that unless you are intentional, just because you are closer to each other in a trailer doesn’t mean you are getting closer as a family. It makes sense, nobody has room to escape from each other. You have to go out side to make that happen, which isn’t really that bad of a deal when outside is beautiful.

There are so many places to RV camp

Our off-the-grid spot we found through Boondockers Welcome in the middle of the forest.
Our off-the-grid spot we found through Boondockers Welcome in the middle of the forest.

I had every location we were staying booked in advance. The first month of our trip was booked a little over four months before we left. At that point, I still had not convinced my wife that we were making the right choice. I was however, fully committed.

I did learn as we drove that there are countless RV Campgrounds. They are everywhere. When booking the locations we would stay, I did my research. I looked at Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and photos in Google image search. I even went on Instagram and searched for the location to see what images people were posting there. I was determined to make sure the places were safe, clean, and full of friendly people. What I would come to realize is just how little we actually needed from an RV Campground.

Some RV Campgrounds have exceptionally clean bath and laundry rooms, which was nice. At some of the RV Campgrounds, we would shower in the campground bathrooms because they were clean and the hot water was unlimited. As time went on, I would end up showing in the trailer because it was right there, and our trailer produces hot water pretty quickly.

The most frustrating thing was knowing that I did a bunch of research to plan ahead only to see tons of great locations we could have camped along the way. I would have planned less had I known this, but the only way to really know that is to have traveled those roads before. Most RV Campgrounds are not marketing experts so their online presence is lacking making them pretty hard to find.

I also felt that we needed full hookups as often as possible. I had thought that we would only be able to make it a full night without needing to dump our trailer tanks. Later on in the trip I would find out that we can actually go closer to five nights if we conserve.

RV Campgrounds with full hookups are going to be much more expensive. We could have made the trip significantly cheaper had I been a bit more brave and relied more on what we had onboard instead. Regardless, the trip was still not as expensive as a weekend at Disneyland.

It’s not as glamorous as Instagram portrays

We stayed in a parking lot one night. It had a slight slant to it.
We stayed in a parking lot one night. It had a slight slant to it.

Early in the planning process, I started following a bunch of full-time RV Travel families on Instagram. Most of these families share their highlight reel which is full of continuous exploration and adventure. I kind of bought into the idea that we would either be adventuring or sleeping. I knew that some of the time I would have to work while the family went off exploring, but I didn’t realize just how much of that exploring I would have to lead, or it wouldn’t happen.

Don’t get me wrong; there were a few days where my wife and kids went out exploring without me, but only a few. As we got further into the trip, this got a bit better, but we still spent a lot of time at the locations we stayed at, and that’s ok.

Your kids are still going to say, “I’m bored,” even though there are endless opportunities is right outside the RV door. They will still complain about food options. All of the frustrations of parenting will still be there. I, however, was of the mindset that I would rather hear I’m bored from the middle of a beautiful campground in a forest than at home in 100+ degree Modesto. You can’t always pick your battles, but you can pick where they take place.

We started an Instagram for our travels to share our adventures with our friends and family back home. I had this vision of sharing multiple photos of amazing adventure each and every day, but that was not realistic. When you are traveling for two months on the road, you have to have some normal moments. There has to be some sort of “regular” to life, and that is ok. Not every moment needs to be picturesque.

You don’t need as much stuff as you think

Set up at our first campground of the two month trip in South Lake Tahoe.
Set up at our first campground of the two month trip in South Lake Tahoe.

We didn’t pack as much as we could have. Compared to the amount of stuff we saw others with, I would say that we did pretty good at not overpacking. We quickly realized just how few of the things we did bring actually got used. By the end of the first month, my wife had a give-a-way pile going. There were things we realized we just didn’t need, so we got rid of them.

I packed a bunch of photography gear because I planned to do a lot with my photographer, but I ended up using a fraction of my gear. I could have left a lot of it behind. I just didn’t need it.

The kids brought some of their toys, but they played with a small amount of what they brought. It’s funny how that works out. We think we need all of these things, but we don’t end up using them. How much of the stuff in your home do you use daily or even weekly?

I brought all of these BBQ tools and stuff I thought I would need only to use a fraction of it. We even brought more clothing than we needed despite the trailer not having much clothing storage. It’s not that we “got by with less,” it’s that we didn’t need as much.

The experiences become infamous stories forever

Single lane rocky dirt road we drove up seven miles to our campsite with barely enough room for our trailer to get through.

Traveling full-time for two months is going to result in some stories. There are definitely some stories that will live on forever between my wife and I that the kids don’t notice, like driving down a narrow single lane dirt road up a mountain not knowing if there would be a spot to turn around. Stuff like that.

There are countless stories that we relive with the kids from little adventures to fun people we met. You just can’t put a price tag on that.

Will we do it again?

Boondocking in the middle of a private forest.
Boondocking in the middle of a private forest just outside of Olympic National Park.

Yes! For as long as we can. The trip was such an experience and we learned so much. There are things we would have done differently, but that’s for another post. The time spent together can’t be traded for anything. You just can’t get the youth of your children back. Once it is gone, it’s gone forever. My wife and I saw this trip as an investment in our children rather than our bank account.

If I can pass on one piece of wisdom from all of this it is to consider what you can cut back on so you can afford to spend time with those closest to you. We all seem to be racing towards retirement only to find out that there is nothing there waiting for us but a void of time. Invest now, not only in your own wellbeing but the wellbeing of your children.

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