About the author: Ashley spent three years living in her RV full time and is the creator of RVinspiration.com, a website about ideas for organizing, decorating, and renovating RV’s, as well as RenovatedRVsForSale.com, a marketplace for buying and selling remodeled used RVs.
In the past, RVing has often been thought of as a pastime for retirees, but now more than ever, as Covid has forced people to homeschool, work remotely, and cancel traditional vacations, lots of families are discovering RV travel as a way to have fun while spending time together.
In this article, you’ll meet 8 full time families who share what they love about RVing.
Making Memories While Learning
The Hensley family includes mom Kelsey, who is a photographer and graphic designer, dad Nick, an actual rocket scientist, their bookworm son Jackson (age 11), and their “bug-loving ballerina daughter” Emerson (age 6).
The Hensleys take a three-week long road trip every summer with their Keystone Outback fifth wheel, and they also do shorter trips throughout the year. Their favorite things to do on their RV trips are to hike, explore state and national parks, learn about history, visit museums, and eat at local restaurants.
The kids especially love traveling because they get to see new places and meet new friends, and they often take part in planning the family’s trips. Nick and Kelsey love how much time they’re able to spend outside as a family when they camp in their RV.
Kelsey says RVing has been wonderful for their family and she hopes more families will start doing it as well. “In this day and age, families spend more time connected to their devices than they do connecting with each other,” Kelsey says. “RVing is a great way to get outside, unplug, unwind, and make memories with your family.”
Enjoying The Outdoors While Paying Down Debt
Joel and Lanna live full time in their Keystone Outback fifth wheel RV with their two daughters, who are 3 and 5 years old. They decided to sell their home and travel full time as a way to pay down student loans and spend more time traveling and enjoying the outdoors together as a family, and now they spend about half of each year traveling, spending the rest of their time parked in one location. In between work and homeschooling, they enjoy getting out to explore the area, and they especially enjoy hiking and visiting parks.
Lanna encourages anyone considering full time RVing to go ahead and take the plunge, and says she has found that her family is happy owning a lot less stuff than she used to think they needed. “Just get rid of your stuff!” she says. “You won’t regret it.”
Workamping to Spend More Time Exploring
Jordan and Brooke live in their RV full time with their three boys and two dogs, but they didn’t start out that way. Originally they used their RV just for shorter trips, but they never felt like they got enough time on their trips to do everything they wanted, so they finally went all in and became full-time RVers, funding their travels by workamping.
Since their Grand Design Solitude fifth wheel didn’t have a bunk room, Jordan and Brooke built bunk beds themselves in their RV’s living room (which you can see in this article about DIY RV bunk beds). Brooke admits that fitting everyone’s stuff into such a tiny space is challenging. “It’s not all Instagram photos,” she says, “Sometimes it’s just plain chaos.” She also says their boys find it difficult to leave friends they’ve made when they move on to the next place. But they love adventuring, and get along well with each other, and overall the family agrees that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
The Drakes homeschool/unschool their kids, so they enjoy spending most of their time at national and state parks as well as museums and science centers. They like that as full time RVers they can travel at a slower pace, with plenty of time for rest and relaxation in between their adventures. Brooke says, “We started RVing as a way to see more on our way to the destination. Then we realized the journey was our destination.”
Quality Time Off the Beaten Path
Holly travels full time in a 2011 Newmar Canyon Star motorhome with her two sons, ages 16 and 11. She says she decided to RV as a way to make the most of her life after being diagnosed with a chronic illness that has an increased mortality rate as she ages. “I wanted to see the U.S., I wanted to do my bucket list, I wanted to spend more quality time with my last two children that were still at home, I had always liked the tiny house concept, so we went for it.” she explains
Although living in an RV was an adjustment for Holly’s two boys and at times her older son wishes they could stay in one place, they both enjoy their RV life too. They are both homeschooled, and Holly works from her RV (she owns an Etsy shop), so they do work and school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and spend the other days of each week adventuring or relaxing.
Holly says her biggest struggle with RVing is managing the repairs that are inevitably a part of owning any vehicle. She recommends that anyone getting into RVing become well-acquainted with their RV, inside and out (she does most of the repairs on her motorhome herself) and invest in quality equipment that make setup and travel easier, such as a leveling system and a good RV GPS.
In spite of the occasional challenges, Holly loves RVing, and her favorite thing about it is how it enables her family to travel wherever they want. She says they prefer “off-the-beaten-path” destinations in nature, and they recently had solar power installed which will enable them to spend more time boondocking, or camping in scenic locations without RV hookups. They have also done a few Harvest Host stays, and hope to do more next year.
Creating Connections and Sharing a Love of Travel
Kristin and Jarrett RV with their three children and two goldendoodles in a 1976 Silver Streak travel trailer they’ve named Tilley. Prior to buying this camper, they owned two pop-up campers and a bunkhouse model travel trailer, but they always liked the idea of restoring a vintage trailer, and when their Silver Streak came up on Craigslist, the gold accents and classy interior caught their eye. After researching and learning about the excellent craftsmanship characteristic to Silver Streaks, they were sold.
To create sleeping accommodations for the whole family, Jarrett converted the master bedroom into a kids room with a bunk bed on one side and a single bed with cabinets above on the other, and storage underneath both beds. The living room doubles as a master bedroom for the parents, who sleep on an Ikea sofa that converts to a bed. To make getting ready for bed easier, they leave the sheets on the bed while it’s folded and put a slipcover over the sofa during the day.
Jarrett and Kristin did some camping together before their kids were born, but started traveling more seriously as their kids started growing up and they began to realize how limited their time with them was. Kristin explains, “We wanted to share these amazing travel opportunities with them before they grew up and left home, but we realized we needed to be intentional about plotting these adventures if we wanted them to happen.”
The kids love the traveling and all of the exploring they get to do. Kristin says they especially love visiting National Park Service sites and becoming Junior Rangers. “They each have a ‘bucket list’ of places they want to go to before they graduate from high school. Currently Alaska is even on the list–that one might be a challenge to fit in, but we are hopeful!”
Kristin loves how their travels have provided a way for them to create family connections, and encourages families interested in RVing to experiment with different ways of RVing. “There is no ‘wrong’ way to RV.”, Kristin says. Even though she says sometimes there’s a little “too much togetherness” and can feel a bit claustrophobic, she says if you’re willing to get creative, you can find ways to overcome the challenges.”
Quality Time with a Full Time Family, Unplugged and Outdoors
Nick, Lorna, and their four kids are a full time RVing family known on YouTube as Travel Vibe Chasers. The family decided to move into an RV in order to be able to spend more time together, since Nick’s job had him on the road and staying in hotels for 4 days out of the week. Even though Nick was at first reluctant to downsize from their 4,000 square-foot home in San Diego, he now loves the opportunities full time RVing has given him to spend quality time exploring the outdoors with his family, away from TV and electronic devices.
Even though living in an RV can present challenges such as little privacy and alone time, Lorna has organized their Forest River Saber 36FRP so that everyone has their own space to personalize and make their own.
Nick and Lorna’s kids love traveling and RVing. He says, “The kids absolutely love the RV lifestyle. They are always ready to see the next location and explore the area and have felt that way ever since they watched the first YouTube video of families traveling full time. Together they even started sharing one room about four months before we decided to leave, on their own, so they could see what it would be like living in a smaller space.”
Since the kids are homeschooled, the family likes to spend time visiting places where the kids can learn while they’re exploring, and they really like doing stays at breweries and wineries with Harvest Hosts. Nick says, “It’s such a cool way to experience RV life without having to be on a traditional RV site.”
To families thinking about purchasing an RV, Nick says, “Really take the time to research the RVs you’re thinking about. Go touch them and see them. Definitely try to rent an RV and see how it feels.”
World Travelers Exploring Their Own Country
Kris, Andy and their two sons have always enjoyed exploring and traveling. During a few months they spent living abroad, they would spend each weekend exploring new places and seeing as much as possible of the country they were living in. When they returned to the United States, they realized they could do the same thing in their own country, and that RVing would give them that opportunity.
Now they live fulltime in their Keystone Fuzion 424 toy hauler, splitting their time between work and school and getting out to explore whatever area area they’re in. Kris says, “We typically love to stay in state parks and campgrounds that are heavily treed and “woodsy”. We usually stay in a location for about a week, sometimes longer. Our typical day involves me and the kids roadschooling in the mornings while Andy works, then spending the afternoons exploring the area we are visiting. We love taking advantage of local cuisines a few nights, and always aim for a Friday night fire at our campsite.” Kris has written a course on roadschooling for families who would like to learn more or need resources to help them get started.
They really enjoy and highly recommend Harvest Host stays, as well. “We often use Harvest Host sites as overnight stays between campgrounds, especially on longer hauls,” Kris says. “We have stayed at distilleries where the kids got to tour the distilling process, an Alpaca farm where we got to feed baby alpacas, and wineries. Each host offers something new to experience which makes each stay unique and memorable!”
Kris says her favorite things about RVing are how it has brought her family closer together, and how it enables her to offer her kids the world to explore. She says, “There is just something about seeing the world through your child’s eyes–the amazement, the wonder, the curiosity–it elevates the experience to a whole different level.”
Leaving the City to Reinvent Their Lives
Marcus, Nicole and their two daughters, ages 7 and 4, are a full-time RVing family from Chicago, Illinois, who decided to start RVing as a way to reinvent their lives. “We really got tired of the everyday rat race of life,” says Marcus. “Dealing with the stresses of work, school, business and family was just beating us up. We needed to make changes because we were in control of our life. ” To decompress and unwind, they would often often spend time watching the YouTube channels of full time families. This introduced them to the online community of families “roadschooling,” “world schooling,” and “unschooling”, and they began to dream of doing this themselves one day.
This year they decided to take the first step, at the beginning of the summer they purchased a 2010 Keystone Outback travel trailer, and began taking it on long weekend trips. They immediately fell in love with RVing, and decided to hit the road as a full time family, working remotely and homeschooling their kids from their RV.
So far the whole family loves their new lifestyle. The kids love that their home is on the road and that they are getting to explore the country and meet new friends at the campsites where they are staying. Marcus loves that they get to spend more quality time together as a family. “I am closer with my girls,” he says. and “I feel like I spent years going through the motions of being a dad. I am more mindful with every interaction.”
He also says RVing has also strengthened his marriage as it has forced him and his wife to become better at communicating and to learn to laugh at their mistakes and mishaps. “Our communication skills are always tested whenever we have back up our 33-foot travel trailer into our campsite space,” says Marcus. “We also get to spend a lot more time working on our business and side projects and continue to dream together.”
Since embarking on their adventure in July of this year, they have been staying at campsites for 2-3 weeks on average, and also enjoy doing Harvest Host stays or boondocking on BLM land. Their current goal is to follow a route from Chicago to the Pacific Coast, then travel south visiting all the major national parks along the way. They have especially enjoyed their Harvest Host stays, which have included overnights at three different wineries, two museums, and two farms, including an Alpaca farm. “The girls have learned so much about farming,” says Marcus. “It also allows us to help businesses that were hit hard during the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic. I would definitely recommend it to other families. I really like how they are continuing to add more locations.”
Tips for Getting Started in RVing
Ready to start RVing? A great way to try it out before investing in an RV purchase is to rent an RV for a short trip through a website like RV Share or Outdoorsy. When you’re ready to purchase an RV, visiting an RV show is a fun way to tour lots of different types of campers to get a feel for what type of RV your family needs. Visiting local RV dealerships to walk through both new and RV’s is a good idea as well. If you want an RV that looks modern but a new RV isn’t in your budget, you can always renovate an older one, or if you aren’t up for a DIY project, you can buy a used RV that has already been renovated.
Considering full time RVing? Plug into some online RV communities such as Full Time Families, Escapees, and The RV Entrepreneur to start learning about the lifestyle and figuring out the logistics to make it happen.
And once you do have your RV, don’t forget about Harvest Hosts, a camping membership that will save you money while providing you with unforgettable experiences.
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