We’re home! After over 3.5 months of our first full time RV living, we’ve returned home for a little while before we head out on our next adventure. While it feels great to be back in our home, we’re already missing parts of RV life.
How We Became Full Time RVers
I wrote extensively about why we decided to join full time RV life right here. In short, we have parents with significant health risks who live across the country from us, a couple of whom hadn’t met our 5th baby. It was going to be mega expensive to rent an RV for a family for an extended period of time, so when we found a deal, we decided to purchase it.
Here’s how we figured out the car seat situation in our RV with kids!
Which Full Time RV We Used
We used a 9-seat (7 sleeping spots) Class C RV for our travels with our family of 7 (2 adults and 5 young children). I wrote more about how and why we chose this vehicle right here!
With that said, here are 10 lessons that I took away from our full time RV life. We’ll be holding onto our family RV for several years, so we’re excited for more adventures long and short, and look forward to building more memories and learning more about each other and about the world!
This post about lessons from full time RV lifecontains affiliate links, but all opinions are 100% my own. That means I earn a small commission if you purchase through my link, but doesn’t change your price.
10 Lessons From Our Full Time RV Life
1) We need less space and stuff than we think.
One of my biggest concerns when we started out full time RVing was fitting 7 people into less than 300 square feet. But it turns out that really wasn’t a problem at all. We each had plenty of dedicated sleeping space, as well as sitting space when we were moving. And when we were stopped? Well, we didn’t spend much time in the RV!
Time spent in there was sitting and doing school work or work work, or practicing instruments. Occasionally, we’d eat dinner inside if it was dark/cold out, which was really the only time it felt cramped. (It gets a bit tricky cooking in a tiny kitchen with all of us around.) But other than that, it really didn’t feel too cramped.
Similarly, there really wasn’t much stuff that we missed at all. The kids found plenty of pinecones and sticks to occupy themselves in the absence of “real” toys. I missed my beloved blow dryer brush, but honestly, it was nice to not have the option to spend time styling my hair. It turns out we were really content with a very minimal RV lifestyle.
2) Easy to get dirty, easy to clean.
The thing about living in such a small space is that it gets dirty and untidy quickly. We come in from a hike and bring in some dust on our feet. Just the kids’ journals and math books lying around can make it look like a mess reeeeal quick.
Despite that source of frustration, it’s also easy to tidy and clean quickly. It only takes a few minutes to vacuum the entire RV. I can clean the entire bathroom in 5 minutes flat. We can put all the craft supplies away in minutes.
So even though we need to clean and tidy very frequently, it takes a fraction of the amount of time to do it.
3) It’s wonderful to have a constantly changing backyard.
While we obviously don’t have a set backyard with full time RV life, it’s really nice to have a constantly changing one! Whenever we want, we can wake up to new scenery and new experiences and new places to explore right from our doorstep. It’s so fun to have easy access to a huge variety of places right from “home.”
4) Things WILL go wrong and/or break down.
It’s inevitable. Just like with living in a house, things will sometimes break and go wrong. The fridge will go out or you’ll need new spark plugs or the generator will stop working. A part won’t be in stock and you’ll be delayed 2 days while you wait. You’ll get a flat tire.
And while it might feel more inconvenient since you’re on the road, it will work out. You’ll get it fixed, just like you would at home. And you’ll be able to appreciate the fact that you have flexibility in your schedule to work around it.
I find that when I just expect that things will occasionally go wrong but recognize the gift we have of being on the adventure anyway, I’m much less annoyed about it. It’s all part of the full time RV living journey.
5) “Tape fixes everything.”
At one point, we realized we didn’t have the cover that conceals the table leg when it is stored away (which is always for us, since we always had the table down to have room for car seats). The leg kept falling out of its little compartment since we didn’t have that cover. So Dan duct taped over it so it wouldn’t keep falling. He said off-handedly, “tape fixes everything!”
Naturally, the kids totally glommed onto this phrase. In particular, we have one child who LOVES tape (we actually gave him a 12 roll pack and his own dispenser for his birthday last year, and he was over the moon). He thought this was just about the funniest phrase in the world. It was repeated no fewer than a hundred times in the subsequent weeks.
And though we joke, it’s kinda true. Tape – duct tape, painters tape, Scotch tape, packing tape – we used it all. Frequently. Even when our old sewage hose broke and we had to wait for another one to be shipped? Duct tape to the rescue.
6) I prefer “home lite” to “camping plus.”
One of the biggest reasons I personally prefer an RV to a campervan is that we have a full shower and bathroom. Not everyone prefers this – some like the mobility and reduced bulk of not having them and just using public facilities or an outdoor shower. But for me, as someone who isn’t really interested in feeling like I’m semi-camping all the time, I much prefer to have the basic amenities of home on a smaller scale.
This makes it so that we can manage full time RV life for an extended period of time in a way that is comfortable for us. Others might be perfectly content with an extended time of “camping plus,” or an upgraded camping experience. For me, I much prefer a “home lite” experience, or one with the basics of home on a much more minimal scale. I like having a full bed that I don’t need to share with my children, a full bathroom and shower that I can use after my kids are asleep, and storage space for clothing and supplies.
I don’t fault anyone at all for preferring a more pared down mobile lifestyle. I also support anyone who wants a much MORE luxurious rig with fancy interior features and several rooms, but with length that required more effort and planning for parking and places you could go. For me, the middle road was just right.
7) I want real food that’s simplified.
Over our time full time RVing, we tried several different eating styles. We tried doing mostly pre-prepared foods, which we rarely do at home. We tried cooking more time-consuming meals. We tried eating out a good bit.
Through it all, I realized I really prefer cooked family meals with lots of veggies and nutrients. I didn’t feel good when we were eating a lot of packaged and processed stuff. I wanted plenty of fresh food.
But I also didn’t want to spend an hour or two preparing meals every night in a tiny space when there were places to explore right outside our door. I love our little oven that cooks quickly and allows us to roast veggies without a lot of time. It’s great having an awesome blender that makes smoothies with frozen fruit in just a few minutes. I have zero shame in using bagged salad so I don’t need to chop a bunch of veggies with 2 square feet of counter space.
There are some short cuts that are totally worthwhile that still use fresh ingredients. And there are plenty of things that go too far and just make us feel yucky.
8) Leave room for spontaneity.
Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I’m about the least spontaneous person on the planet. In fact, even from reading here, you can probably tell that I’m a mega planner.
On any normal trip, there’s not a chance I wouldn’t have the itinerary, lodging, activities, and even food planned well in advance. So I wondered if full time RV life would be really stressful in that regard.
Turns out, when we had our accommodations and enough food with us, I was able to let go a little and trust that we’d be fine. Without specific flight dates, I could open myself up to the possibility of changing plans, changing Parks, changing dates. I could suggest extending a couple days when we stopped at a state park we ended up loving. We stayed at the campground there and enjoyed our stop thoroughly. And it was one of the most magical times of our trip.
9) Humor helps, as does personal space.
RV living entails small spaces. You’ll be around each other a lot. It will get really old, really quickly if you can’t learn to laugh about a few things. You’ll probably annoy each other and be a little too close. When it feels like that, get some space.
10) “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” Family time is a gift.
By far and away, the most significant gift of full time RV life is the time with family. And I love this quote from John Wooden that epitomizes so much of fulltime RVing. Being in an RV full time has lots of advantages – you can get to places quickly, stay close by, and explore right from your front door. You can see SO MUCH.
But in trying to see a lot, it’s easy to get bogged down with checking things off. It’s easy to want to try to cram in more – more hikes, more sites, more states, more landmarks. And while it can be fun to an extent, the magic is really in taking the time to drink it in with people you love. More important than the 31 states and 18 National Parks we visited over those 3.5 months was the small moments of connection and conversation. Whether on a trail or just chatting on the bed before going to sleep, the times of communication and connection made the trip.
That family time is surely a gift. It has its stresses and frustrations, but not more so than normal family life. What it does do is provide plenty of opportunities to connect through exploring and through closeness. I will always cherish that time.
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