10 Things We’ve Learned After One Year RVing
Well, it’s been one year of RVing! This has been a big learning curve, but looking back it’s been incredibly worth it. I want to share what we’ve learned after RVing for a year.
It’s always important for me to be transparent about my life and experiences. I think the truth is, you have to learn from your mistakes when RVing. I absolutely love it and the benefits outweigh the cons, but it’s important to know they are there! It’s definitely a different way of traveling, and that’s important to note.
Although… right now is an interesting time. Not because we are having RV issues, but because our Jeep broke down twice at the beginning of a 6 week trip to Colorado and Idaho. You can see all of the mishaps on my Instagram, here.
It’s important to note that we don’t live full time in our RV. I know many that do and love it, but even when we lived abroad and traveled a ton, I always preferred having a home base. This is what works for us.
One of the biggest decisions to make when RVing is the type to choose. There are so many options! We have a travel trailer. Specifically, we have a Flagstaff Microlite Travel trailer. We spent years researching and picking this company and model. You can see my full guide to why we chose this model and why we picked a travel trailer over a motor home.
This past year we’ve gone to some incredible places around the USA and it’s been a wonderful way to see more of the world. Traveling with an RV has its challenges, but it’s extremely rewarding. Being able to have your home (and office) on the road, our dogs with us, and to stay for free is amazing.
We’ve had our RV for a year and have taken 8 trips. Some of these tips have lasted a month+ and others have been about 2 weeks. We prefer to take longer trips when we are in the RV and we have the luxury of working from on the road. That’s one thing I truly love about the RV that I don’t experience with traditional travel: I can truly work from the road.
Because of technology and improvements in manufacturing materials, right now is the best time to RV. There is so much information out there and you can truly find what works for you.
I want to share what I’ve learned, mistakes I’ve made, and the good, bad, and in between of traveling in an RV for the past year.
1. RVing is wonderful! But there is a learning curve.
Now that we’ve been doing this for a year, we feel like we have the RV lifestyle down. When we first started, our very first trip, a month-long journey through Wyoming and Montana, was a bold move. I really thought about throwing in the towel. The process of hitching and unhitching, finding places to camp, dumping, packing, and all the ins and outs of this kind of travel. As a well traveled person, I thought this would be easy. But there’s a lot to learn. Give yourself patience and realize what works for you.
It takes time to learn all the ins and outs. Questions will arise and you don’t have to have all the answers. “Where can we get diesel, what meals can we cook, why isn’t the fridge working, are we level, can we fit under this bridge?” When we traveled through New England there were tons of low hanging bridges that didn’t say how tall they were. Luckily we were told about an app called Campendium that warns you about things like this on your route. More on apps in #5!
Looking back over this past year, the first couple trips were a challenge. Now, I feel like we have it down. Sure, sometimes problems arise, but now we have a system that works for us. And we fight a lot less!
Remember it’s okay to ask questions and to ask for help. What I love about RVing is that there is a sense of community.
2. Boondocking is key for saving money because RV parks are expensive!
As I’m writing this I’m currently set up at an RV park. This is great as a stop off for our trip. We can fill up on water, do laundry, and have access to WiFi and electricity, but it’s not cheap. RV Parks can range anywhere from $25- $150 a night. To me, the point of having an RV is that you don’t need to pay extra. At that point, you might as well stay in a hotel.
Our RV makes it very easy to stay on public lands and boondock. No, we don’t have access to power. But, we also don’t have tons of RVs next to us, we aren’t right near a highway, it’s quiet, dark, and usually beautiful. Our RV has solar panels and we still have lights, a working fridge, can charge our phones, and even use a computer since we have a cell WiFi booster. We can also turn on our inverter during the day to charge devices.
However, I highly recommend that you do stay in RV parks from time to time because it’s a great learning experience and great community. So many people are willing to talk with you and help you!
Places to camp and campgrounds vary widely depending on where you are.
3. Slow Down
This is something I have a very hard time doing! But we learned very quickly after hopping from spot to spot in Wyoming that this was just too overwhelming for us. Now, we are learning that it’s just so much better for us to camp in one spot for at least 2-3 days. Having to tear down and reset every day is more work. It’s nice to set up and feel like you have a home base. Even if it’s for 2 days, it’s much easier.
I’ve always been a go-go-go traveler. I still am. But it’s also nice to remember to take it easy and just enjoy.
4. Have doubles & leave stuff you don’t need behind
My husband and I are full time bloggers. We work from the road. I know that sometimes when we’d take 2 week long trips via plane, at the end I’d start to get stressed about needing to get work done. I no longer feel that pang in the RV. We travel with our laptops, a monitor so I can have two screens, keyboard, and mouse. This really allows me to get work done more efficiently.
We also have pots, pans, silverware, towels, bath mats, etc, that all stay in our RV. I love this. I don’t want to have to pack and re-pack EVERYTHING again and again. It makes getting ready to leave so much easier. I’m working on an RV packing list to help you make it even easier.
And while I love having doubles, we try to not overpack. So many people have all the bells and whistles when they RV. But the point of RVing for us is to get out and see the world. We rarely turn on the TV (in fact, we only have once in the past year) and we don’t really need a griddle for pancakes. The non-stick skillet works just fine! We learned to bring less as we go. And Michael reminded me, we didn’t quite need 8 decorative pillows.
Don’t forget to think about where it will go and where you will store it. If you’re fully stocked without any room either remove something or don’t buy it! You truly don’t need everything you need in a house.
5. There’s an App for That
When in doubt, there’s usually a really helpful app for almost everything related to RVing. It’s actually pretty incredible (and stress-relieving) to know there’s an app for almost all your worries. From big tasks like finding free places to camp in the wilderness to smaller tasks like where is a station nearby to dump.
I made a list of all of the apps we use and love. Some of my favorites are AllStays for finding places to stay, and it gives reviews from other RVers. And Harvest Hosts, which, for one or two nights you can stay for free at places like breweries, farms, and wineries. It’s totally free, save for the annual membership fee, but the idea is that you visit their shop or buy a drink. For example, when we stayed at Bragg Maple House we stayed for one night and the next morning we learned all about the maple syrup process then bought tons of maple syrup, a maple creamy (must have if you go to New England), and even purchased a t-shirt. This is a great option that RVers should fully take advantage of.
6. You better like the people you RV with!
If you really want to get to know someone, travel with them. And there’s no better way to get to know someone than to RV with them. This is a smaller space than a home, obviously! You’ll be spending a lot of time in close quarters together. The bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen are in one small spot. So you learn what will work for both of you. Privacy is at a minimum and it can be hard to get “alone time.”
Michael loves mountain biking so he will go on a ride while I stay in the RV and write. This is a good balance for us so that we each get time to ourselves to do what we love.
The beauty is you get to spend time with the people you love most while seeing some incredible things along the way.
7. I Love the Freedom
With our style of RV we can go virtually anywhere! I always love traveling to cities and staying in hotels. That doesn’t change. But it is so nice to be able to see the stars, be in nature, and roam wherever our heart leads us.
Today I was falling asleep listening to cows moo and whispy trees rustle in the wind like waves at sea. I felt so peaceful. I sleep so incredibly well in the RV. I also feel so safe. Being out in nature and away from the busy-ness of big cities is so much fun.
Believe me, I’m a city girl, but having a real escape is totally worth it. Also, we travel with a cell booster so we’re pretty much never without internet!
8. Choose the Right RV
It’s really important that you choose the right RV for you. There are so many options out there but it’s easy to look around. I wrote an entire blog post about how we selected ours and did a comparison of many. I highly recommend going to dealers to look inside and also going to RV shows. It’s a great way to get a feel for what you want.
Make a list of things you care about and take a look at reviews. Not all RVs are created equally. A good deal on an RV can sometimes be too good to be true. Stick with well known, quality brands and look around before making a purchase.
We spent a solid year checking out different models and I’m so glad we picked Flagstaff. It’s been extremely reliable, has an awesome floor plan, and is just the top of the line when it comes to RVs in this price range.
9. Plan but know that Things can (and will) change
We bought the last two train tickets for the scenic ride from Durango to Silverthorn, Colorado. We were thrilled about going! But our car broke down so we had to cancel our tickets and stay where we were in Colorado. Things can and will change and you have to be a little bit flexible when you’re RVing.
I had no idea our car would break down… twice… on a mountain overpass. But you have to be flexible when planning your travel. We make a loose plan and decide on what we want to see and do in and around each stop.
Other things can arise like the weather. Heavy winds, extreme heat, hail, will all hault or deter your trip. But that’s travel, things happen and you have to adapt!
10. This is one of the best ways to see the world
One night camping we decided to get up to check on the stars. The sky was ablaze with twinkling lights and we could even see the milky way. In the distance we heard an owl hoot and were able to experience nature like never before. The next day we went on a hike, straight from our RV. Yes, there are some challenges, but being able to be part of nature is a wonderful experience. I’ve been impressed with every place we’ve been to. For example, Arkansas totally shocked me. So much so that we went back a few months later.
There is tons to see and do, we’ll never do it all. And that’s wonderful to know.
Whether we are hiking, hanging out with the dogs, or just enjoying nature, RV life has been an incredible experience. I’m so excited to see where we go next!