With a handful of RV trips under our belt, we’re still amateurs by all accounts, but are beginning to find our groove as we navigate part-time RVing. With every trip, James and I have become more efficient with different tasks, such as planning, packing, and hooking up our fifth wheel. But despite our growing familiarity with RV traveling, we’ve also encountered a few twists and wildcards along the way. Through our up-and-coming experiences, along with trials and errors, here are six RV life lessons that I learned quickly:
RV Life Lessons #1: RVing with kids is not a vacation
Contrary to what many may believe (and how it may look in my photo album), when kids are involved, RV trips are anything but a relaxing vacation. In reality, traveling with kids is harder than living at home with them, because there is less familiarity with our surroundings, especially outdoors.
Our eyes are always scouring the ground for dangers of all kinds: snakes, poison ivy, and broken glass. And when we look up, we’re constantly reminding our 4-year-old and 3-year-old boys and our still-wobbly 18-month-old daughter, to stay away from the campground road or slow down as they leap over roots and rocks. RVing with kids is definitely adventurous, but the opposite of a parenting break.
RV Life Lessons #2: Take your time
We chose to begin RVing not just for adventure, but to set our own pace and detach from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. On every trip, there is an adjustment period as we remember to savor the small moments and practice slow living. I remind myself that we don’t have to plan out activities every day, but instead leave time to explore on a whim.
And this anti-rush concept also applies to traveling. We take our time hooking up our RV, towing it, backing into spots, and setting up at the campsite. One hurried, careless move could put our vehicle in the shop. So it’s worth it for us to take our time.
RV Life Lessons #3: Plan meals
Whether you’re full-time or part-time RVing, meal planning can save not only time and money, but also your sanity. Most RVs have small fridges and limited pantry space. So planning out meals and snacks will not only make your mobile kitchen more organized, but your traveling lifestyle more efficient.
I plan out all our meals ahead of time, packing easy items like bacon and eggs for breakfast and sandwiches, yogurt for snacks, and hotdogs for lunch. If I have time, I prepare a couple dinners so that they’re ready to pop in our small portable oven. For other dinners, I pack meat to make hamburgers and pre-marinated chicken, then plan on simple sides such as salad, baked potatoes, or roasted veggies. I’ve found that ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook meals, or those that only require 10 minutes of prep time before grilling or cooking, work best for our family.
RV Life Lessons #4: Make it work on the budget you have
Unless you are blessed with a six-figure budget for your RV lifestyle, there will always be something you wish you could improve. For us, we only have one A/C unit for our 41-foot fifth wheel, so we are making it work this summer by utilizing fans for air circulation and vent pillows to block out the extra heat from the skylights. Also, our outdoor kitchen doesn’t include a grill. So we’ve adapted by using a large, two-sided griddle as our main outdoor cooking appliance.
If we didn’t have these issues, it would be something else. Unless you have a customized RV, it is an on-going quest to make your rig fit your family, your lifestyle, and your personal preferences.
RV Lessons #5: Always plan your route
I’ll never forget the first piece of advice we received when we bought our fifth wheel: never turn into somewhere that you can’t see your way out of. And despite keeping that tidbit top of mind, we’ve had many close calls. Like that time our navigation took us up a new road that ended suddenly and without warning. Or that time we came upon a rock tunnel bridge that was luckily 4-inches higher than our RV roof. For those who want to be smart from the start (unlike us), there are several apps to help you plan your RV route to avoid low clearances, weight-limit restrictions, dirt roads, etc.
RV Life Lessons #6: Expect the unexpected…and roll with it
There are so many changing variables to RV life that you have to roll with them and laugh it off. Of course, this is much easier to do if you’re not dealing with expensive mistakes. On our most recent trip, we drove through a torrential storm, brushed a guardrail, and ran off the side of the campground road in pouring rain. The next day, the power went out from another storm—in the dead-heat of summer.
You prepare for RV traveling as much as you can, but sometimes you’re hit with wildcards that are out of your control. Thankfully for us, our overall RVing experiences outweigh the wildcards.
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