Top 10 Full Time RV Living Tips We Learned The Hard Way
1 – Buy a used RV
You might be surprised by the amount of money you can save yourself buying an RV that is even just One year old, rather than brand new, RV’s depreciate pretty quickly, and with the recent surge in RV purchases, the dealerships know they can charge a premium for a brand new one.
Here’s another Pro Tip: DON’T just shop at your local RV dealer. Use the nationwide RV Reselling Sites, Web Searches and any other national tool you can find. When we purchased the RV we moved into for Full Time Living, we drove from NJ To Indiana to pick it up. Why? Because we saved an additional 10 Thousand dollars, AND it came with the built in Generator.
On top of the money savings for buying a used RV, you are going to most likely save yourself some time. People trade them in all the time, because after some use it turns out it wasn’t a perfect fit, or they find one they like more. If they brought that unit in for any kind of warranty work, or to have something tuned up, that is time you won’t have to spend doing that same thing with your New unit.
2 – It’s Not A Full Time Vacation
A lot of people think that RV Living is just camping every day. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Sure you are at a campground. Sure you are in an RV. Sure you may even decide to wind down every night with a beer around a campfire. But you LIVE here. The RV is your Home. And every home has chores, and good days as well as a bad and boring.
When you first move into your RV and move into your first campground, you may feel like you’re just starting an endless vacation, and that’s awesome! That level of happiness is how you are supposed to feel and one of the main reasons to be in this lifestyle.
Don’t forget that there is still day to day life stuff to be done like dishes and laundry. If you bang that stuff out first thing in the morning, the rest of the day can be that endless vacation that you are looking for.
3 – Get The Whole Family Involved
Lots of time we see an RV pull in, and and everyone stays in the truck while Dad try’s his best to see everything and back it into the spot. Then he starts yelling because there’s stuff in his blind spots, and the kids want to get their bikes, and everyone has been in the truck all day and wants to get out.
If everyone has a ‘job’ when we get there, it helps the whole process. Even though the kids may not be able to tell you which way to cut the wheel, they can be outside the truck where you can see them, and they can keep an eye on that tree stump for ya.
Here is a Pro Tip:
Who ever is backing the camper in, call your Main Spotter on their cell phone. Put your phone on speaker phone or use the Bluetooth through your radio so you can hear them. This way if you are in a position where you can’t see your spotter, you can hear what they are saying without having to be That Couple yelling at each other while parking.
4- Slow Down – Stop And Smell The Roses
Don’t forget that this is your life now. It doesn’t need to be one night by the theme park, then one night at the beach, then one night at the next place. You can, and should, take your time in each area you go to.
Slowing down your travels will have a few advantages. You won’t burn as much fuel every week,. You will have a chance to get that relaxed feeling before jumping back on the road. And you may even come across something that you didn’t even know you wanted to do in that area.
5 – Pack essential tools
DO NOT think that just because your RV is brand new, and you have a stellar warranty, that you aren’t going to need to bring tools with you.
Your warranty doesn’t cover getting a flat tire, or needing to adjust the kids bicycle seat, or a myriad of other things that ARE going to pop up during your travels. At a bare minimum you should have a wrench or socket to fit every nut and bolt on your RV.
6 -RV Roadside Assistance, Triple A Isn’t Gonna Cut It
It doesn’t matter if you are in a Motorhome or pulling a Travel Trailer, or hooked up to a Fifth Wheel. Your standard Triple A coverage that you have had for 20 years is NOT going to be useful halfway across the country.
There are several companies that specialize in RV Roadside Assistance and you should definitely consider having one of them in your back pocket. We are members of Escapees Camper Club, which is credited with being the first one stop shop for getting into RV Living.
They help with getting you lined up with all the service providers you need like Mail Box services, “Home Address” Domicile, and Roadside Assistance. There are many more places out there that do the same, but I’m a fan of one stop shopping for these kinds of things, because its only one company name to remember when I need to.
7 – Use a RV GPS, And Have a PAPER Atlas
We use our phone for everything these days. As much as I tried to fight it when smart phones became a thing, I am guilty of being on it all day myself. We use it for everything including a GPS to get us where we are going.
The problem with doing this in an RV, is that your phone thinks you are in a standard size car or truck. Motorhomes and RV’s can be WAY too big for some back roads that your car would fit on, or WAY too heavy for a bridge over a creek in some areas.
With an RV specific GPS, when you first set it up you can tell it what kind of RV you have, how tall it is, how heavy it is, and it will avoid sending you down a road you won’t fit on, like that one with the covered bridge that’s only half as tall as your Fifth Wheel.
Why the paper Atlas? It is MUCH easier to look at an entire map, with topography when trying to figure out a better route for your truck that has a tough time towing up hill, like down a US highway instead of an Interstate. The other advantage is that the one we use has National Forests and Parks with Camping areas marked on it!
8 – Don’t Just Park And Set Up, Take a Look
We are all guilty of being in a hurry to just get out of the truck after a long drive. But add ‘take a look’ to your set up check list for each new area.
It may sound simple or stupid, but I don’t mean to just look and make sure you are parked in the right spot, I mean make sure you are in the RIGHT spot. Are your tires on your trailer in a low spot that will make leveling it twice as hard? Can ya back up two feet and be much more stable in half the time?
What about the power pedestal, is it in the way of your slides? Will your power cord Reach the Pedestal? What about your garden and sewer hoses? Are they long enough to reach?
9 – Traveling With Pets?
This brings its own set of things to keep an eye out for. Our dog LOVES the RV Lifestyle. There are all kinds new grasses to roll around in, and fields to run in, and other dogs to have fun with.
Well, what if while running through that field, she steps on a snake? She doesn’t even know what a snake is, or to look for a rattle snake in Montana while running through that field.
The first thing we do in each new area, yes really, is look up the nearest emergency vet or animal hospital. JUST so we know where it is. God forbid she actually gets bitten by that snake, I know which way to start driving when we don’t have cell service in the middle of that field.
Another thing we do is keep 10 copies of her shot records in the glove box. Just like you don’t have your normal doctors office on the road, neither do you pets. When it comes time for annual boosters, or an emergency visit you have them handy. We have even been to a few campgrounds where it was a requirement at check in.
10 – Check Lists Are Your Friend
This may honestly be our best piece of advice for the weekend warrior or a full timer. Have a checklist for set up, one for pack up, hell have one for travel day pre-trip stuff.
Even after a year and a half of living in our RV, I can’t tell you how many times we have both forgotten to lock the fridge before driving down a twisting mountain road and had to clean up a dozen eggs that have been cracked on the floor for the last 200 miles.
We each have ‘our stuff’ to do during each process that is second nature at this point, but one small hiccup in the process can easily lead to a missed step. There was one day I was moving quicker than Loretta and decided to help with her list while the RV was going through its auto level process, and because I was half paying attention to the auto level, hooked our garden hose to the black tank flush and started filling our black tank. You want to talk about the fastest you’ve ever realized why, and then run to fix, the fact that there isn’t any water coming out of your sink faucet?
We were only about 15 seconds from that being a Really Crappy day… Loretta has a great article about those check lists you should read next.
Watch us FAIL at our first attempt at boondocking