For many families RVing is an affordable and convenient way to travel, but how do you know if it is right for your family? If you had asked me three years ago, I would have been doubtful. I was raised as a resort girl. My parents were not into RVing or camping or any style of travel that appeared to be more work than pleasure. Although the thought of hitting the open road in an RV did intrigue me, it was just outside my family’s travel comfort zone of no stress, no mess holidays.
Then one day my sister approached me with an opportunity to get a family RV and try it for a year. I was hesitant, but excited at the prospect. We both had small kids and loved to travel together and it seemed like a cost-effective way to get away once a month with our large family. Turns out we loved it, the kids loved it and my parents (surprisingly) loved it too. Our year quickly turned into two and now we are on our third year with a new and improved ungraded RV.
For a group that knew nothing about RV life, we have become quite the little rambling family and have learned so much from our experiences and are still learning every time we take a trip. If you have ever wondered about RVing, it is important to know all your options and gather as many tips as possible before embarking on your next adventure.
So, you want to go RVing? Here is what you need to know.
Rent vs Own: You don’t have to buy an RV to experience this style of travel. If you are a rookie or just don’t plan on hitting the road that often, then renting is a good option.
Benefits to Renting:
- Little financial commitment: When you are renting an RV you are only spending money on each trip rather than making monthly payments on a trailer, maintenance, or RV storage.
- Less manual labor: When you are renting you don’t have the maintenance responsibility that comes with owning. What about setting up camp? You may not even have that to worry about either if you rent from companies like Luv2Camp.com. They take all the work out of RVing by delivering, setting up and taking down their trailers for a fee. All you have to do is show up and have fun. My friend, who is a single mom, loves this service and uses this company a couple of times a year. Another option is to rent from private owners through companies like RVShare.com, where you can typically find good deals.
If you find you love this style of travel and plan to take more RV trips, it might be wise to buy.
Benefits to Owning:
- Cost Effective: The cost to renting the RV and renting the RV site will add up long-term, especially if you plan to travel often. The low monthly payment of the trailer added with the RV resort rates are still less than staying in hotels.
- Tax write-off: Owners get to write their RV off, which helps during tax time.
- Make it your own: When you own your trailer you can decorate, customize and turn it into your home away from home.
- Passive Income: Instead of being a renter, you can rent your trailer out when you are not using it.
Booking Your Trip: Okay, you’ve decided whether you are going to rent or buy and now you are ready to book a trip.
- Book in advance: For popular RV resorts, you will have to book in advance if you want a spot. Some sites require reservations a year in advance, especially for holiday weekends. Before you get crazy trying to book your whole trip in ahead of time, keep in mind that most RV resorts require you pay in full, upfront. So pace yourself.
- Book for the off-season: The best advice I can give you is trying to book off-season for the more expensive RV resorts. Beach front sites are often pricey, but you can score an amazing spot for less if you book during the right time. For example, in California peak season is June through September and rates for beach sites are outrageous. Why? Everyone is on break and summer is guaranteed to get hot, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great time the rest of the year. California has great weather year round, so enjoy the sun, surf and sand at a fraction of the price in March.
Tubes, Hookups and Poop. Oh my. No one wants toilet and sewer issues on vacation. Make your trip enjoyable and know about the hookups.
- Keep it down hill: Make sure that everything is running down hill with nothing obstructing the flow of the tubes.
- Toilet paper: RVs require special camping toilet paper, which can be purchased at outdoor shops, Walmart and other stores that have a camping section. What makes it special is the fast disintegration rate, so clogs and backup issues don’t occur.
- Septic tank drops: These little guys break down waste and prevent orders. A must.
- Keep number 2’s outside: When we RV we try to keep the big jobs away from the RV restroom and reserve it for the kids’ use. This just keeps things cleaner for the guy stuck cleaning out the tubes at the end of your trip.
- The black tank vs the grey tank: When cleaning up to leave camp make sure unhook the black tank first then the grey tank. The grey tank holds the liquid used to clean out the black (or solid) tank at the end of the trip.
Tips for your Trip: Every trip we learn something new or realize what we need to make the next trip better. I always say it is better to learn from other’s mistakes rather than your own, so here are some things I’d like to share with you to make your trip easier from the start.
- Bring the shade: No matter if you sought out the shadiest lot at the campsite, the sun will find you. Bring a few EZ Ups and set up all over your lot.
- Bring folding tables and chairs: Depending on the size of your group it is important to have plenty of places to sit, eat or set out food.
- Rugs: Have a nice outdoor rug to make you site comfortable. Some sites are asphalt or dirt and you’ll need something to lay over the ground, especially if you have kids who want to sit and play.
- Ice maker: We love this little guy! We go through so much ice, especially on hot trips and having a little portable ice maker has been our favorite device. No more having to run out for bags of ice.
- Fire pit: Have your own portable fire pit. Some sites don’t provide them or they might be too far from the trailer. When the kids fall asleep in the trailer, we like to have adult time by the fire close by. We like to bring our own and set it up where we want it.
- Propane: Know your propane tank size and what it is capable of. If it is small you will want to avoid dry camping (sites without hookups). Also, know when to change out your tank.
- Mobile Pharmacy: Stock up your first-aid kit. This is very important when traveling with kids. Every single trip something happens to one of the kids that requires minor medical attention. Bug bites and sunburns, rashes and cuts are all a possibility. Have fever medicine, creams, ointments, Band-Aids, Benadryl and swimmer’s ear astringent on hand.
Time to Eat: The best part of camping (or any vacation) is eating! After being outdoors all day, you will work up a major appetite and you don’t want to be left hungry on your trip.
- Plan meals: When RVing it is important to prepare your meals ahead of time. This discussion usually happens between my sister, mom and I over tequila. We break down each day and what meals we need to plan for, who is responsible for what and what groceries need to be purchased.
- Keep food simple: When you are RVing you already have a lot to do enjoying the outdoors, you don’t want to spend a ton of time preparing meals. My advice is to bring finger foods; things that you can easily pick up and eat on the go. This is great for the kids while they are out playing. Also, prep as much as you can at home, so when you are RVing you only have to assemble or cook a small portion of the meal.
- Stock up the bar: Don’t neglect your mobile bar. Think of what you’ll be sipping on from sun up to sun down and prep for it. I love Bloody Marys’ in the morning, so I make sure that is available to me. Beer, wine and staple spirits like rum and whisky are always good to have on deck. The kids love having fun beverages too. Have juices and soda that the kids can enjoy as a treat and can double as mixers for the adults. Most important is to bring plenty of water! Stay hydrated my friends!
So, are you ready to take the family on an RV adventure? You are pretty much an expert now! You’ve decided whether to rent or own a trailer, maybe you’ve booked a couple sites, you know the restroom rules, you know what you need and your meals are planned. Loaded with these great tips and feeling confident, pile the family in an RV and hit the open road. It is time to make memories, bond by the firelight and just have fun outdoors. Let’s go RVing!