10 Families Share Tips for Living Full-Time in an RV
Full-time RVing can seem daunting to those living in the comforts of a traditional home. If you’re dreaming about life on the road, we’ve got good news! These full-time families share why they decided to move into an RV and tips for making it easier.
In December 2018 we made the decision to sell 90% of our belongings, including our home, and move into an RV with our three little boys to travel full-time around the country. The next four months were a whirlwind and in April 2019, this dream became a reality when we moved into our 2005 renovated (by us) 33-foot fifth wheel trailer. We have been living tiny ever since, and visited 24 states and 11 national parks in the last year!
The fulltime RV life appealed to us for many reasons. Rather than waiting until we were retired, we wanted to have the opportunity to explore our beautiful country with our kids while we were still young and without having time constraints (such as limited vacation time off work). We also are from the suburbs of Chicago and wanted it to be easier to be outdoors and in nature year-round. Additionally, we love to hike and be active and wanted the chance to enjoy these hobbies more!
But ultimately, we chose those this lifestyle because we were tired of the daily grind and wanted to spend more time together as a family. And the funny thing is, being together 24/7 has been both the best AND most challenging thing of RV life! But it has brought us much closer and now we can’t imagine life any other way.
There are two main things we’d say to someone who wants to pursue this lifestyle. The first is: Go all out. Choosing to downsize to an RV is unconventional and takes a lot of work. If you don’t “go all out,” it will never happen . . . simply because life will continue to go on as usual. The second piece of advice is: Learn to be flexible. It may sound cliché, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from this lifestyle, it has been learning to expect the unexpected. This lifestyle is wonderful, but still has its challenges, just like any other walk of life. But the adventures and memories we are making together have made the journey 100% worth it.
Road It Up
We are Catherine and JF. We have been traveling for the past 6 years with our 3 daughters (16 yo
twins and a 14 yo). JF and I both grew up in Québec, Canada, in francophone families. We moved to
the Yukon when we were 25 and the girls were all born in the land of the midnight sun. We are a
pretty active family and it is one of the main reasons why we chose to live on the road: to be
outdoors and enjoy the activities we love the most together and as often as possible. We mostly
mountain bike and the girls take part in mountain bike races. JF and I both work as translators. The
girls have always been homeschooled/roadschooled and really love their nomadic life. So basically,
we've raised kids that can easily live without running water or electricity, but not so much without
Survival tip number 1: Stay organized. Just kidding, we live with 3 teenagers. Embrace the mess and clean up together when you can’t stand it anymore. If you’re a clean freak, travel alone in your van or you will NOT find this lifestyle relaxing. Same goes for laughing. If you can’t laugh at how ridiculous it sometimes feel to be stepping over each other’s toes – and the dog – in a messy bus
after 3 rainy days, you will be quite miserable.
One thing that we find very important as an active family with members that easily get hangry is to
stick to 3 meals a day, every day, even on long driving days. We share the meal planning, the
cooking and the dish washing.
Live outside more. It’s easy to get lazy when you have all you need for cooking inside, but we never regret taking our meal prep and cooking outside.
Also: always shot gun the shower before your sister so you don’t have to wait to get hot water.
Fix things yourself: Over the years, JF has learned to fix many things on the bus, the westy and the bikes by himself. That has saved us tons of money and our sanity on many occasions. It also means
carrying hard-to-find spare bus parts and a bunch of tools for when (or if) we break down in remote areas. Also: get a good roadside assistance program.
I’ll state the obvious: open communication and empathy go a long way. JF and I go on a walk with our big mastiff Stout every morning and connect during that time. Being active outdoors is a must for all of us. Our bus might seem big, but it’s actually pretty small for 5 adult size persons and a
I (Landis) am a lawyer and I had my own practice for almost 20 years. The stress was moving into every aspect of our lives. We had a no-frills pop-up and the difference in the energy of our family was night and day. I jokingly said “We should just live in the pop-up”. That started the spiral into alternative ideas from our life in the suburbs. We explored tiny houses and the financial freedom we would have To travel if we had a tiny house or rented an apartment. But, I knew if we only rented an apartment or bought a tiny home, we would never buy that first plane ticket because there would always be something keeping us rooted. So we combined travel with tiny living and decided to live in an RV. I closed my law office (Jeremy already worked remotely), sold the house and all the things, started unschooling our 9 year old and here we are….9 months later. I never knew this kind of happiness existed.
Living an alternative lifestyle that we have been conditioned to strive for is tough, bucking the norm. But it so worth it. It is not all rainbows and unicorns, I mean you have to learn all about dumping your sewage, but when the ocean is your back yard and your view will change the next week, you just have to go for it. No amount of stuff will bring this kind of peace and joy!
It was about three years ago when I realized my daughter was about to leave home and head off to University. You can say that the idea of living in an RV was spurred by the realization that time goes so quickly and the hours in a day didn’t seem enough.
I was sitting on the floor and looked up at my husband and said, “Why don’t we buy an rv and truck and travel the USA?” We had been all over internationally due to my husband’s prior military service, but hadn’t really gotten to explore what our own country offered. Luckily, my husband usually goes along with all my crazy ideas and said, “let’s do it.” That was the start of saving our money and paying cash for our trailer and truck. Now, I feel like we are truly living.
Our travels originally were planned for my husband, son, & I with our daughter visiting on breaks. But, that changed when my younger brother who is 13 joined us on our maiden voyage. He stayed with us for 7.5 months and now my other brother- age 14 is with us.
A few survival tips-
- Go with the flow. I call myself a reformed planner. If we’ve learned anything on the road it’s that plans change and have changed often for us. We had to learn to be flexible and in turn it has truly given me the freedom from anxiety that I had before this life.
- Make sure to use lots of water in the black tank when you flush. Nobody enjoys a poop pyramid- trust us.
- Invest in a good surge protector. It saved us thousands when at two different sites we were at had power surges.
- Use a trucker’s GPS. Nobody wants to be faced with a bridge too low for their rig while driving down a one-lane road. Again, trust us, many tears were shed after we got out of that situation.
- Have a checklist for packing up and setting up camp. Designate certain people for specific tasks. Before setting out, have everyone double-check their duties were done.
Hi! We’re the Russells. We sold our home in beautiful California to find a new place to call home. Once we hit the road we soon realized our hearts belonged wandering. Our love for adventure and new landscapes continues to grow strong and we couldn’t imagine life stationary ever again.
Our biggest survival tip is be proactive. Before travel day, check your route at different times of the day. Be sure to check tire pressure and condition on both your rig and vehicle. If you plan on stopping, scope out your stops using Google Map satellite view. Plan entrances and exits accordingly. Using street view allows you to almost walk the entire property assuring you have enough space for your rig. By being proactive, it can mitigate costly mistakes and repairs, as well as eliminate additional stress on travel days.
The Ours Family
Hello. We are the Ours Family. Our pursuit of the “American Dream” was turning into a nightmare. Working more shifts, to make more money, to buy more things was leading to less family time and was becoming a bad habit that we wanted to get away from. We started looking for a solution which led us to the full time traveling lifestyle. Six years in and we are still going strong with no desire to “settle down”.
After all this time, we have learned a few things to help us “survive”.
Don’t be afraid to pare down. Junk can accumulate fast. If you don’t know if you need it… you probably don’t.
Have your own designated space. As much as we love being together… Each person still needs a space they can call their own.
And finally… ALWAYS make sure to leave your black tank closed.
Joe and I both work remotely…so we thought…why not work, remotely? Down the rabbit hole we went. We immediately knew we wanted to sell our possessions to travel with our 3 kids, but the harder part was deciding how we wanted to see the world. Enter, the school bus. We loved the idea of bringing our home with us wherever we went. Being able to return to the comfort of our home at the end of a long day out exploring is the most soul-warming thing. Sleeping at Yosemite? Home. Sleeping in BLM land? Home. Sleeping in a Cracker Barrel parking lot? Home. Especially with 3 young kids, having the familiarity of home has been great. We chose a school bus for its safety and for the ability to completely make it our own. The nostalgia it brings when we meet new people has been pretty heartwarming as well.
Survival tips? Get ready to really, really, and I mean really know each other. This aspect has probably been the most amazing part of our travels. We have all grown so much closer together. Example, we got to stay at a rather large AirBnb while getting work done on our bus. Kids were bonkers excited to have big bedrooms all to themselves. Come 7:30pm, they were all about snuggling with each other, together, in one bedroom.
The Globe Trekker Family
We hit the road fulltime in June 2014 after we retired from the Air Force. We sold our home, vehicles, and most of our belongings and never looked back. On the road, we’ve grown as a family (we even had a surprise addition), we have become much closer, we have learned so much more than we’ve ever imaged, and we have much more experienced and educated views of our environment, world, country, and society. We’ve explored all 50 states, all of our incredible National Parks, and almost 200 National Monuments. We’ve taken countless factory tours to learn first-hand how things are built and how things work. We’ve experienced unbelievable natural phenomena such as witnessing baby sea turtles hatching and racing to sea, dancing under the Aurora Borealis, even tornadoes, a hurricane, two earthquakes, and a tsunami warning. It has been the opportunity of a lifetime and will definitely be remembered as the best, most free time of our lives.
The Globe Trekker Family’s 5 tips for survival are:
- Stop stressing about planning out your entire route and making reservations. We did this the first six months and changed our plans so many times because we just didn’t give ourselves enough time to adequately explore an area.
- Slow down. Unless you’re on a 6-month or 1-year road trip, you’ve got time. Don’t miss out on finding the hidden gems out there because you were moving too fast.
- Don’t stress about the kids’ schooling. I was so intimidated to homeschool and nearly lost my mind the first year. I stopped stressing and realized they’re getting an education from the things we’re doing, and they’re just fine. When the oldest started high school last year, we enrolled him in an accredited online program where he had actual teachers for each subject and would be schooling from 8am to noon Monday through Thursday. After 6 years of unschooling, he is still a straight A student, so don’t let home-, road-, world-, un-, or whatever kind of schooling you’ll be doing stress you out.
- Every six months or so, go back “home”. By home we mean your home state. Visit family, friends, or whatever. This will give you time to not only see family and friends, but get doctor and dental appointments done, have RV repairs done, plan for the next six months, and just decompress and process what you just did, maybe even get caught up on that blogging or social media you haven’t had time for.
- Buy the extended warranty. Not everyone will agree with me, but ours saved us almost $10,000 in repair costs. If you’re able to get a good extended warranty, do it, it’ll save you money and give you peace of mind.
- Bonus tip: Enjoy the journey. You’re in for the adventure of a lifetime. Not many people get the opportunity to travel fulltime. Embrace it. Enjoy it. I’d love for you to reach out to me on social media and let me know how we can follow your adventures so we can cheer you on. Have fun!
We started full-time traveling as a family basically by accident. When we moved to the states almost 6 years ago, we figured we’ll travel around a bit to find a place we’d like to settle down. The longer we traveled around though, the more obvious it became that the place we felt most home at was the open road. So after a while we stopped looking for “the place” and enjoyed the ride and we’ve been home ever since. We’ve explored most of the east coast, all southern states and most of the west. There is still so much to see though, and as the kids get older there are new ways to experience it all. Each visit to a National Park is different, because we can do longer hikes or explore more, so I don’t see us being “done exploring” anytime soon.
We’ve grown into this life with the kids, we started with an 18 month old and now we have a 7 year old and a five year old. It’s the life they know, and it’s the parenting we know. Living on the road our priorities may be different: resources are limited and if you have to choose between driving an hour to the laundromat or reusing that t-shirt, you may not always choose the laundromat. Other things are just the same. Our backyard and playground and grocery store may change weekly or daily, but we still sit together for lunch and dinner and argue about cleaning their room and remind them to brush their teeth and practice their reading.
A hammock is worth ten toys, from lounging area to swing to gymnastic tool, the kids will be entertained for hours. The same goes for our activity box they share for long car rides, with books and stickers and drawing supplies. Because – gasp – even toddlers get tired of the tablet every once in a while. Unlimited internet is a lifesaver for both kids and parents and no matter how small you go, a place to call their own is worth so much. A room, a bed, a tent, anything they can seek refuge in from their annoying sibling and parents. And even when they are small, they’ll remember so much. They might not know which National Park we “did that one hike where there was that bighorn sheep that wouldn’t let us pass”, but they’ll have the experiences. Our kids love taking their camera wherever they go and look back on the pictures they took.
Hi we are the Schannep family! We have been living full time in our school bus turned tiny home for the past four years and have crossed the country 8 times! We chose this alternative lifestyle for ourselves and our 5 children so that we can live life together as a family and infuses our family culture with a sense of adventure and flexibility. Two of our five kids have been born into this life and all seem to really enjoy it!
Parking is one of the biggest questions we get asked about. We have used Campendium A LOT to find overnight parking and that is not an exaggeration!! Getting creative when it comes to overnight parking has become our superpower! If you can be flexible and a tad bit adventurous you’ll rock this lifestyle!