We can’t believe it has been 5 years already! First, we just want to say that overall it has been terrific, and we are so happy that we chose to embark on this full-time RV journey. However, there were growing pains and sometimes we miss the comforts of a traditional home (believe it or not). It has been a learning process and we wanted to share some of our lessons learned along the way. We rarely have regrets in life because even mistakes can cause growth, but we will share one regret that we do have from our full-time RV lifestyle.
Note: It’s been a year since we wrote this article. We updated the post to ensure it is up to date. Feel free to watch the two part video series below or read on for a few more examples and details.
Lesson #1: Find Your Travel Style
Find your own travel style and don’t worry about anyone else. In other words, do you! Do what makes you happy. Ask yourself:
- How far do you want to drive in a day?
- How long do you want to stay in a location?
- What types of places do you want to stay at?
Don’t let anyone tell you there is a right or wrong way to RV. And watch out for social media. It can give you serious FOMO – Fear of Missing Out and lead to travel based on someone else’s ideal rather than your own.
Wondering what works for us?
We are still working full-time from the RV so we like to stay in a location for at least a month. This gives us time to enjoy the area. It also gives us time to go back to places we enjoy — we’re not “one and done” kind of people. If we really enjoy a park, farmer’s market, or restaurant, we’ll want to visit it again.
Because we’re staying in one place for a month (or more in the winter), we usually travel farther in between. We often make big jumps between stops and by that, I mean 12-15 hours of driving time. We’ll typically drive two long days (Sat & Sun due to work commitments).
We typically stay in urban areas. We need to be within an hour of a major airport for work and we need good enough internet for video teleconferences. The Internet has been an ongoing struggle for us over the past 5 years. Click here to read what we’ve tried and what we’re currently using.
We also like to stay at RV resorts that have all the amenities especially a good fitness room, swimming pool, and hot tub. Two of our favorites that we’ve been back to more than once are the Tucson Lazay Days KOA and the Alsatian RV Resort near San Antonio, TX.
We do mix it up from time to time and do a little boondocking, as well as stay at COE Campgrounds or State Parks (Florida has some of our favorites). We do that for 1-2 weeks maximum and usually when we can take a little time off work.
Finally, we have access to military campgrounds since we both served 20 years in the Air Force. We love these because it feels like going home to us. Also, even though the campgrounds don’t necessarily have many amenities besides full hook-ups, the bases usually have great gyms, pools, and more! If you have access to military bases, check out our Guide to Using Military Campgrounds.
Lesson #2: RVs Require A Lot of Upkeep
Not only is there a lot of routine, preventive maintenance, things on RVs break. A lot. And usually at the worst possible time. So, have an emergency fund and try to learn how to do things yourself as much as possible. Here are just a few things we’ve had to pay to get fixed over the last year:
- New truck tires
- 2 new RV tires
- RV refrigerator – although it was under warranty we paid for the mobile repair tech’s service call and some parts when we tried to fix it ourselves. Plus we had to trash the groceries in the refrigerator and freezer.
Of course, you know how things go…a couple of years ago, right AFTER the warranty ended we discovered water damage to the deck on our toy hauler. Neither the extended warranty, nor insurance covered water damage, so we had a hefty $7,000 bill to replace it!
In addition to routine maintenance and repairs, you may want to modify or upgrade your RV systems. A few years ago, we upgraded our power system to include solar panels and lithium batteries. When we downsized to our current fifth wheel earlier this year, it came “solar ready,” but we added panels and moved our lithium batteries over from our previous RV.
Lesson #3: Be Flexible
It’s life. Things are going to happen. I’m a planner and have reservations several months in advance. However, I’ve learned to be a little more flexible and only make reservations at places that have a liberal cancellation policy. In fact, my rule is that I don’t make a reservation at any place that will charge me more than $15 to cancel or make a change.
A couple of years ago, we had to evacuate Florida for Hurricane Irma. When we returned to Florida after the storm, we still had quite a few reservation changes to make because the parks we planned to visit in the Keys had not recovered.
You may also just change your mind about your current itinerary. We did that this year. We were tired of being cold, so we diverted to Arizona after two months in the Pacific Northwest.
Lesson #4: You Don’t Need as Much Room as You Think
We thought because we had a large 2400-square-foot home, that we needed a large RV. As a result, we purchased a 44′ Fifth Wheel toy hauler. Here’s a tour of it:
After a few years on the road, we sold our toy and realized we didn’t need such a large RV. Of course, it took us 2 more years to pay it off before we would allow ourselves to get a new RV.
This year we downsized to a 30′ Arctic Fox Fifth Wheel and love it! Learn why we chose this particular make and model below:
There really is a lot that goes into choosing the right RV for you. I wrote this article earlier this year on some things that everyone should consider when trying to determine which RV to get.
Lesson #5: It Doesn’t Have to Be Forever
We like to say we’re making for-now decisions, not forever decisions. That applies to our full-time RV lifestyle too. Change is really second nature to us after having served 20 years in the military. In fact, we moved so often that our first RV was the longest we ever lived in one home — 4 1/2 years!
So we went into this full-time RV life knowing that we would do it as long as it felt right to us. Once it doesn’t, we’ll move on to the next thing — whatever that may be. We actually never owned an RV before we moved into one, but now we know RVing will always be a part of our life. However, we do think we’ll move back into a traditional home (still small though) one day and part-time RV. Even then, we’ll still allow ourselves the flexibility to change our minds.
One thing that really helps with options, is money. That leads us to our one regret…
Biggest Regret: We Didn’t Start Debt Free
We were so excited to get started on our full-time RV life that we rushed out and financed an RV instead of saving up and buying it. In fact, our RV wasn’t our only debt. We financed a truck, had a Parent Plus loan from one of our son’s college semester abroad, and some credit card debt.
A couple of years ago we read The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, and it changed the way we looked at money and debt. It took us two years, but we are now debt-free. Read how we paid off $139,000 in 2 years while traveling full-time.
It was not always easy that’s for sure. For example, we knew we wanted a different RV, but we wouldn’t allow ourselves to get another until we paid off the last RV AND saved up enough to purchase the next one outright.
So even though we had to really prioritize what was important to us and make sacrifices, being debt-free allows us to save even more money. Our savings provides us with more options for the future and keeps us from stressing out too much when things happen (like needing new truck tires and a new refrigerator in one month). We only wish we had started out debt-free because we know how much farther ahead we would be now. Still, we don’t dwell on that because all we can do is change our future, not our past.
Hope We Helped
We hope this article has helped you as you plan your full-time RV journey. We don’t expect yours to be exactly the same as ours, but hopefully we’ve given you some things to consider.
If you have any questions, please feel free to send us an email. We answer each and every one.
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