Which Type of RV is Right for Me ?

I see this question posted daily on various RV FB sites I follow. Whether you’re interested in full time RV life or weekend + vacations, the type of RV that fits your needs depends on many factors of which I’ll break down in this blog post.

  • Single vs Family
  • Flexibility & Finances

Types of RV’s

Before we discuss which RV is best for you, it’s important to understand the different types of RV’s.

  • Class A: Motorhome, body style looks like a bus
  • Class B: Also known as van conversions
  • Class C: Thought of as a smaller version of Class A and built on a truck or van chassis. These look like more like trucks and have more versatility than a Class A.
  • Fifth Wheel: Known to have the largest floor plans, these are towable with the front raised enabling it to be hitched in the bed of a truck. A Toy Hauler is a type of Fifth Wheel.
  • Travel Trailer/Tow Behind: probably the most common for the weekend getaways, these are as described, “towed behind” a vehicle.

Size Matters

An RV can feel roomy or like a cave depending on its size and number of people living in it. Over the past 6 months we’ve seen many single people living full time class B’s and smaller tow behinds/ bumper pulls. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we’ve seen large families full timing it in 45′ Fifth wheels. As for Class A’s & C’s, the majority of people we see in those have been retired couples. The comments and suggestions I see on various social media sites seem to follow what we’ve seen and what makes the most sense.

We’re in a 45′ 5th wheel toy hauler and while it’s only 2 of us, we’re full time with 4 dogs. With the deck folded down (in nice weather), we have 4 separate areas to relax and not feel like we’re crawling over the top of each other. Currently, I’m typing this blog in the garage that we converted into an office, the dogs are relaxing on the deck and my husband’s in the living room, we all have our own space and it feels quite nice. I’ve heard from and have seen families turn the master into a kids room and the garage with deck into the master as well as the garage into a bunk room with desks. Fifth wheel toy haulers seem to offer the most configuration options as well as space. The con of such a large rig is you won’t fit in most of the national parks or some campgrounds. We don’t feel as though this has had a negative effect on us as we like to mostly HipCamp so we have a lot of space with full hook ups and peace and quiet and we can find them everywhere we’ve been interested in adventuring. Never heard of Hip Camp? Click here for the website and $10 off. It’s how we will be staying the month of December in Florida, with a fenced in acre, on the water.

Flexibility and Finances

Class A’s, B’s and C’s seem to require the most flexibility. RV’s have issues, whether it came with a 250k price tag or 30K, it will have issues. If the truck that’s pulling your tow behind or 5th wheel has an issue you can take it or have it towed to a shop and still have your RV to live in while it’s getting fixed. If your Class A, B or C has an issue you have to first find a place that will work on it as not all shops work on RV engines, then you need to find a place to live (hotel?) until it’s fixed, which could be months. This would be a disaster for us since we have dogs and I imagine a bad situation for large families or anyone on a tight budget. We could still experience a catastrophic failure of our 5th wheel putting us in such a situation but that’s far less likely than RV engine trouble. An advantage though of a Class A or C is you can tow a more fuel efficient car for site-seeing than the fuel guzzling truck you’d be towing your 5th wheel or tow behind with. We travel with E bikes for this reason.

In summary, a single person or couple with a lot of flexibility and financial freedom would be OK in a class A,B or C but large families or those with pets might want to lean more towards a 5th wheel or tow behind.

Is Full-time Rv’ing Expensive?

This has been the golden question as of late. With the price of homes skyrocketing, rentals hard to find and expensive and interest rates climbing, many wonder if full time RV’ing is a more affordable option. There’s no one answer to this question as it depends on may factors. The most expensive way to full time RV would be to live in Arizona or Florida in the winter and somewhere north in the summer. It’s supply and demand, RV parks in the south jack up their prices in the winter as do parks in the north in the summer. With that being said, RV parks (with a few exceptions) have been the most expensive way to camp, in our experiences. You can find a good seasonal rate in either of those places with a 3- 6 month commitment but they are typically booked a year in advance and many places give first dibbs to their current residents. In addition, you typically get charged for power on top of whatever rate you secure. If you have the ability to work remotely as well as commit to a work-camping job at a place with high speed internet, full timing could work out great for you. Or, if you’re retired, have a steady monthly income that leaves the ability to save $500 a month (after any bills-medical, fuel, WIFI, phones, insurance etc..) then full-timing could be an option. Why $500 month? RV repairs can be expensive, you might need to leave the area you’re in or cover a few months if you get ill or injured and can’t work.

My suggestion to anyone thinking about the full time RV life, save up enough money to put at least 25% down on your RV and have the ability to save $500 month. RV and vehicle maintenance can be expensive and repairs (to you and/or your rig!) can come at the worst times. You’ll want to be prepared if you can’t work or need a new furnace, upgraded plumbing or electrical, etc.

With a reasonable budget that allows you to save and the ability to work remotely, full time RV life could cost less than home ownership or renting. We’re full time mobile. Rob is retired military and we were able to sell our home, purchase our 5th wheel and truck and put money in savings. Even so, we’re on a very tight budge to make sure we can continue to save. RV parks are a treat, we mostly use HipCamps and state parks, and stay for at least 2 weeks at a time (mostly a month ) to get long term discounts. For more info on how we save, click here

If you are starting your RV journey and need to know the basic items to have with you, check out my organized RV lists, with product links. For each item, you’ll see 2 choices to compare.

If you plan to RV with pets, please check out my Dog Safety Tips.

Happy RV’ing and/or shopping!

Tornado Warnings, Swimming and New Cool Hobbies

Our three months in Florida were filled with lot’s of “news”. I’ll start with my favorites, swimming in springs, roasting coffee, living on a farm and no climb technical, mountain biking. Springs are now my favorite way to swim open water. I don’t have to worry about sharks, the water is crystal clear and while there may be alligators in the vicinity they stay far away from us humans. Turtles, fish, blue crab and even manatees are all found in the Florida springs.

We started a few new hobbies on the road and roasting our own coffee beans has been our favorite. We buy single sourced organic beans from Mexico and roast them to perfection giving us premium, fresh coffee. The best part, it costs a fraction of lesser quality coffee we had been buying in the stores. Last night we made a batch of fresh roasted beans dipped in dark chocolate and dusted in fine pink Himalayan salt, yum! If you try this, I wouldn’t recommend testing them at 7:30pm…

Our last spot in Florida before heading up north is (currently) on a farm. I would never have thought I’d enjoy this as much as I do. My favorite animal is George the donkey, he he-haws at 7:00am and 4:00pm to remind everyone it’s feeding time. He’s also super naughty. Sometimes he just does own thing when he’s supposed to go to his stall (probably why I love him) and people have to chase him down. There’s something so peaceful about being on a farm that you just don’t feel anywhere else. Imagine watching lightning bugs over the pasture on a clear night. Stars in the sky, lightning bugs over the pond and pasture and alligator eyes lit up by your flashlight. It’s truly been a great experience.

Not too far from the farm is a fun mountain bike area called Santos Trails. Not expecting much for technical trails (Florida) I laughed at the double black diamond signs. I was quickly humbled though as I turned my bike around at the top of one saying to myself, “not today”. The single tracks are lined with many different species of trees, there’s root and rock gardens and lots of “hammocks” which are these wooden roller coaster features. Maybe I’m getting lazy but it was kind of nice to not have to climb at all on a 90 minute ride. We’re headed to North Carolina soon though and I might regret loosing my climbing legs over the winter.

Now for the “news” that I didn’t like. Wind. Wind. Wind. If there’s one thing that makes you nervous in an RV, it’s wind. Fortunately we’re careful enough to not drive in it but the wind in Cape San Blas (we changed the name to Cape Sand Blast) was so intense it shook the RV. This experience has me constantly looking at the wind forecast to be sure we won’t be in that situation again. The other not so fun “new” was a tornado warning, actually, 3 tornado warnings. I hope I never again wake up to a Red Cross warning telling me to take cover from a possible tornado. The weird thing is all the locals acted as if it was just a normal day. Maybe someday it will be normal to me also but I could really do without ever experiencing that again.

All in all, Florida is amazing. I loved it as a kid and love it as an adult and we’ll be back to spend many more days here.

Plan & Save

With no end in sight of the current increase in fuel costs, the common question is, “can we still take our RV vacation this summer/year?” Before you answer this question, are you taking advantage of all the discounts available?

Two of the above excursions were free, hike up Flag Mountain in Desert Hot Springs, CA and fun on the beach in MS. Fanning Springs cost $2 per person.

WEEK with Disc (200 miles fuel, 10 mpg)WEEK without Disc (200 miles fuel, 10 mpg)MONTH (4 weeks) with Disc (800 miles fuel, 10 mpg)MONTH (4 weeks) Without Disc (800 miles fuel, 10 mpg)
Fuel$5.38 x 20=$107.60$5.62 x 20= $112.40$430.40$449.60
Lodging $270$315$1,080$1,260
Groceries$119$147$476$588
Entertainment$25$50$100$200
Cell$35$35$140$140
Wifi($0) using Weboost/hotspot$500$50
Totals$556.60$709.40$2,226.40$2,687.60

By planning smart and taking advantage of discounts you can save an estimated $153 in a week or $461 over a month. Obviously the above changes with your specific MPG, grocery needs, etc but it gives a idea of how much applying discounts can help.

Fuel (diesel)- Discount shown is using the Open Roads /TSD Card (membership is free). This is what we’re currently seeing on our route from Florida to Maine (when we look at the app). Obviously fuel prices will change but we generally save .30 a gallon.

Lodging- this is using the “length of stay “discount. A week without a discount would be 2 or more places within a 7 day period and a month is several places in a 30 day period. Current average for 1 night in an RV Park is $45 (plus tax). Discount would be one night free for a week stay. Assuming 4 nights free for a month (generally what we’ve experienced). This monthly discount rate wouldn’t apply for a 3-6 month commitment, those are *typically* the lowest for monthly rates. We apply the following logic, we don’t stay anywhere without a discount such as length of stay, Good Sam or military. We also try to use HipCamp whenever possible as they’re typically a better experience and price.

A few pics from our current HipCamp in Fort McCoy, FL

For our food comparison we’ll use Walmart and Publix based off this article published in 2019 https://www.cbsnews.com/news/which-us-supermarkets-offer-the-best-value/. The article shows the same basket of groceries cost $147.02 at Publix and $119.44 at Walmart. Since we generally spend around $100 a week for 2 of us, these numbers look good. We’ve saved a lot of money shopping at the discount grocers along our routes. RV Trip Wizard is awesome for finding them.

Entertainment is calculated as 2 paid attractions vs 1 paid and the rest free. We’ll use park entrance fees for paid estimate based on wheat we’re seeing for this (2022) summer. For non paid entertainment check out the local chamber of commerce website for free events. We didn’t take into account dinners out, movies, etc.

Cell is what we pay per month, AT&T unlimited, 2 phones

Wifi- using a Weboost with unlimited data vs adding wifi. We have AT &T unlimited data and a Weboost and haven’t had issues with connectivity. In one place it wasn’t fast enough so I worked at the local library (quiet and really fast wifi). The initial cost for Weboost will run around $520. We also bought one of those handy screen hole things to eliminate having to put any holes in our rig.

Other ways to save:

  • E-bikes for groceries, errands and site seeing (burn calories not fuel)
  • Search coupons for tourist attractions and go during off times/days
  • Hit the happy hours (if you’re planning a night out)
  • Stay on top of RV maintenance to avoid costly repairs (hopefully)
  • Do your best to stay healthy, OTC meds are expensive and having to extend your stay somewhere or visit doctors can really add to the weekly/monthly bill.

Hope this helps add a little help and insight into your summer RV planning. Stay tuned for our interactive RV budget planning tool!

RV Trip Planning & Money Saving Tips

When planning for an RV adventure or full time RV life the big questions are (1) how much will this cost, (2) how can I save money and (3) what do I need. Our RV Gear Shop gives you a pretty good idea of what you’ll need, check it out to get a sense of what the basics will cost. In this blog we’ll cover ways to save money as well as a few trip planning tips.

Saving Money

RV’ing can get pretty expensive if you’re not careful and don’t plan and budget. Before we started full time RV life we were “DINKS” (dual income, no kids). Let me tell you, that life doesn’t set you up for full time RV life. We didn’t need to plan meals, ate out a lot, bought spendy food (lots of pre-made meals) and never really paid too much attention to what things cost. We learned quick that that mindset is not conducive to being able to travel the country in an RV. I mean, we’re not millionaires after-all.

Tip #1

Make a budget, be sure it’s realistic and stick with it. The main things you’ll need to account for are:

  • Fuel
  • Lodging costs (CG fees)
  • Groceries (food, TP, cleaning supplies, etc)
  • Connectivity (phones, internet, TV etc)
  • Maintenance (account for both vehicles)
  • Entertainment
  • Insurance (medical and vehicles)
  • Savings (very important to build a buffer for the unexpected)

Tip #2

Camp by discount. We saved a lot of money by staying in one place for at least a week or month at a time to take advantage of long term stay discounts. This takes planning and can be a bit of a puzzle but is totally doable. RV Trip Wizard is a great resource for planning this way and we highly recommend you join. With this tool you can plan your general route then adjust stays /timelines to create as many 7 day or month long stays as possible. A second great resource is HipCamp. We love HipCamp and utilize it as much as possible, in 2022 we have 90 days on the books at various HipCamp locations. HipCamp consists of places to camp on peoples private land. You’ll find everything from primitive sites to full hookups. Land owners typically do this for money on the side so you don’t run into expensive RV Park costs and an added bonus, you get way more room to camp. Check out this video of our February (current) HipCamp stay in Old Town, FL.

Tip #3

Take advantage of discount programs. In addition to those listed above, there are many more discount opportunities. Here’s what we use:

  • Fuel Card- we use the EFS Fuel card and save $ almost every time we need fuel. The only time it’s not applicable is when we’re not near an interstate/truck stops.
  • Harvest Host- A unique camping experience that allows you to spend a single night for free at select wineries, farms and other businesses. We plan pretty far in advance. Having a Harvest Host membership allows us to stray off our route a bit to spend a night somewhere else without costing us any additional money. It’s $99 year (keep an eye out for sign up discounts as they have them often). If you’re full time mobile or traveling for at least a month, this could be a good resource for you.
  • Good Sam- Kind of a no-brainer, you can join for a year for about $30 and you’ll receive a camping discount at numerous campgrounds and RV parks. We made our membership fee back in a week. You can also use this for fuel discounts at select gas stations.
  • Discount grocery stores. I really wish we would have sought out discount grocery stores before we started this full time RV life. We’ve found great organic produce and all the fancy stuff we like for a fraction of what we used to spend on groceries, I’m talking a savings of around $300 month. You can set grocery stores as a point of interest on RV Trip Wizard. This allows you to research the discount stores on the way to your destination.

Tip # 4

Stay healthy. This is big. Nothing can derail your plans and cost you more money than getting sick. Sometimes we just can’t avoid it but there’s certainly lots of things we can do to help fend off sickness. Over the counter medicine is expensive, having to leave your campsite to find a Dr can also be expensive as is being forced to stay somewhere not planned. The best way to stay healthy is to not treat this RV life like a vacation. Use your entertainment budget for excursions (there are many free excursions too!) rather than restaurants where food is usually over salted, over oiled and oversized. Create an exercise routine and stick with it. In our FREE App we have an RV fitness program (along with RV check lists, fun quiz’s, gear shop, directory, discount links etc). Our app is currently only available on android devices, IOS (apple) should be up and running by March 1st. Here’s a video showing how we use our campsite to workout, this along with 30 minutes of walking a day is a good start to staying healthy on the road.

Bisbee, AZ

Art, hiking, biking, food & fun!

Bisbee, AZ has to be one of the most fun and interesting towns I’ve ever been to. You can’t look in any direction without seeing art. The homes have art built into them, there’s art hanging everywhere and there’s even an alleyway decorated with paintings. The sunsets are their own beautiful piece of canvas with such bright colors livening up the old copper mines. Each day we’d walk around town and notice something beautiful.

We did a few cool “hikes” in Bisbee. Our first hike was up to the famous shrine where many people have made shrines honoring their loved ones. It’s peaceful at the top of shrine mountain and the view of Bisbee from there is amazing.

Sitting atop another mountain is a giant B, of course we had to hike up to it. If you choose to hike to the B, talk to a local first. The trails aren’t t very clear and it took us some time to find it. You get a slightly different view from the B than you do from the shrine as you can see Mexico peaking out behind the copper mines.

Our final “hike” was the famous Bisbee 1000 stair challenge. Bisbee is known for its many long and interesting stairways. Some are metal, some concrete and they all provide for a fun workout. Give yourself a couple hours for this and follow the green arrows as they’re more accurate than the map. This is the best way to see all the cool art that winds throughout the town.

Bisbee has great food & a cool little brewery, the Mexican food was very good. If you chose to visit Bisbee (you should!), check out the Queen Mine Tour. I’m not typically into touristy things but I really enjoyed this tour and the hosts are hilarious.

We stayed at the Queen Mine RV Park, it’s the only RV park in Old Town. It would have been a different experience had we not been in Old Town so try to get a spot there. The site was on the smaller side but we were able to get our 45′ 5th wheel in OK and open all slides no problem.

The dogs loved Bisbee. While the campground doesn’t have much to offer dogs, the hiking was dog friendly and they enjoyed every minute of it.

Bisbee is a town everyone should visit!

Cactus

We left Petaluma on November 15th and headed towards the desert. Our first stop was Desert Hot Springs, CA. We moored (Coastie talk) at the KOA just outside Palm Springs, a great place to be for us adventure seekers. We were about 45 minutes from Joshua Tree National Park and 20 minutes drive/ 45 minutes bike from Palm Springs. A nice surprise was a large desert across the street from the campground that had hiking and mountain biking trails. First I’ll highlight a few cool things about the campground. Our site #54 was huge, there are three hot spring -hot tubs and the pool is over 80 degrees. The dog areas are large, clean and in an area where the dogs could play in the early morning and evening without disturbing anyone, bonus! The campground is well maintained and the staff is so nice. My only tip for people would be to bring headphones for the hot tub/pool as it’s a very family oriented CG… For the most part though it was pretty calm and really only got crazy over Thanksgiving weekend. For the crazy times, I leaned back, shut my eyes and wore my over the ear Beats headphones. They blocked out all of the surrounding noise so it was just Rob, me and my good friend Dave (Matthews) enjoying the springs. *Be sure to look for the fruit stand across the street on the weekend, they had giant papayas and other delicious fruit.

Joshua Tree is pretty darn cool. We did three hikes there, Hidden Valley Nature Trail, Barker Dam and Ryan Mountain Trail. I’d recommend all three as they are unique in their own way. The Ryan Mountain trail will challenge you because it’s up a mountain but worth it because the view from the top is really cool. Bring water, snacks and a hat and be sure to wear hiking boots/shoes.

The trails across from the campground have (man made) desert sculptures and lots of peaks to summit, both low and 1000′ high. We mountain biked on the lower parts which was good exercise and so-so for scenery. The real treat was hiking up Flag Mountain. You can barely make out the flags on top of the mountain from the campground, there’s a US flag, Marines (with pull up bar), Northern Ireland and Canada. This hike is best done in hiking shoes/boots due to loose rock. The view from the top of Flag Mountain is great. We also did a bit of hiking and biking in the Palm Springs area but those trails weren’t quite up to par with the others we explored. I remember Indian Canyon though from years ago and would recommend it. If you chose to camp at this KOA, ignore their suggestions for local hikes, especially the Kim Nicol trail, it had lots of garbage, was mostly deep sand and not very interesting.

There are 3 things that made our long day at Joshua Tree away from the pups, possible:

  1. Waggle temperature monitor. We set the parameters and get a text if the RV goes beyond them. We were also able to keep an eye on the temp throughout the day to be sure it wasn’t rising. It works off our cell network so we don’t have to worry about spotty wireless.
  2. Wayze cameras. We set up 2 cameras facing the dogs and front door. We need to be sure when we’re out that the dogs are OK and not barking. A cool feature of this system other than being able to talk to the dogs is the ability to direct (pan) the camera from my phone.
  3. A temperature monitor and cameras are great but what if we’re more than an hour away? This is where Rover.com comes in. We hired Leighton to take the pups for a short walk while we were out and also as someone to respond in case there was an emergency. Leighton was great with the dogs, we highly recommend her.

While we enjoyed the area, we were happy to leave the California prices. Everything in California was so expensive! If we revisit this particular area, we’d limit our time to a week and instead spend more time where we’re at now (Bisbee). Bisbee, AZ is so darn cool that it needs it’s own blog which I will write it after we pull chocks.

Thanks for joining us on this adventure, maybe we’ll see you on the road?

Who says you, “can’t go back?”

There’s this saying about never being able to go back and about how things change and will never be the same. We arrived here at USCG Training Center Petaluma about a week ago. Our campsite is about 200 yards from where we lived 1999-2003. Rob was stationed here, we lived here and I attended the USCG EMT school and interned with the Fire Department. For 4 years this was a home we truly loved, the area, the people and the endless activities always at our fingertips. There were so many feelings as we drove the final 9 miles along Tomales Rd to the front gate. Would we still love it? Would Rob be sad living on base so soon after the end of his 33 year Coast Guard career? What if it changed? What if it’s true and you just, “can’t go back“?

It only took a couple hours before Rob ran into old friends, we hit the gym and walked the snoops up Texas Hill. We admired, reminisced, laughed and hugged old friends. It was fuel for our soul and like we never left. It was then that we realized that this trip was, is so needed. It’s easier to get caught up in an exhausting routine and sort of lose your way than it is to realize that you need a change and that maybe that change is a bit of reliving some of your best times while throwing in a few new adventures . To see a few pics of the base and our home until November 15th, click HERE

New Beginnings

New beginnings seemed like a good name for this entry because full time RV Life is full of new beginnings ie. new trails to ride and hike, people to meet and areas to explore.

Other then some serious downsizing there was a lot of prep work that led to launch day. Throughout the next 18 months I’ll highlight a few of those things such as building out a forecasting and budget spreadsheet, all things traveling with dogs, back up parts and tools bin, gas discounts card, researching our campsites, etc

We left Kingston, WA on Wednesday and despite our best efforts to not travel through Portland, OR traffic, we ended up passing through Portland at a snails pace at 4:30pm, we got comfortable said our mantra, “Roll With It” and slowly rolled on through. Lesson number 1 ( that I learned from racing), don’t stress over things you can’t control, instead, embrace it and be appreciative for the opportunity to even be there.

We arrived at Champoeg State Heritage area just as the sun was setting and came upon a very tight spot that was apparently large enough for our rig… After a few attempts at getting into it a fellow camper came over and said we were way to big for the spot, he made a call to the Park Ranger, she moved us and the man stayed with us until we were set. We were so thankful for the help and learned quickly that there’s some really nice people at campgrounds.

We’re now in Grants Pass Oregon before we make our way down to Petaluma, CA where we’ll adventure for 2 weeks on the Coast Guard base we lived on for 5 years. We’re looking forward to connecting with old friends, visiting our favorite trails and seeing the dogs first reaction to giant wild turkeys (don’t worry, there will be epic pics of that encounter).

Click here to check out pics of the trails we hiked and biked in Grants Pass.

See you in a week or so,

Beth

Departing Notes

As we zero in on our final hours in the PNW we reflect back to when we came up with the wild idea of selling our home, buying an RV, quitting our jobs and hitting the road.  People’s reactions to our plans have varied quit a bit. Most people reacted by saying they wish to do the same, “some day” and  I suspect  a few of them will.

Others said they’ll work until they’re dead or they could never leave for that long. In short, for all that see this as an exciting adventure ,there’s just as many that see it as risky, unobtainable or something that would result in too much anxiety.

There’s a delicate time balance which we keenly recognize. It’s the balance between being able to do what we love vs waiting too long and trading those things for what we’re “able”to do.

We want to see the country and experience it doing what we love, ie, bike UP the mountains , hike the rigorous trails, paddle the big swells and we can do those things NOW.

What if we waited 10, 15 or 20 years? Our time here on earth isn’t guaranteed but if we’re granted those years  we could probably travel the country, but, could we bike up that mountain? Would we have the strength and/or desire to hike the hardest trails and the courage to paddle the big swells?  Those are big unknowns and the type risk we’re not willing to take.

We suspect we’ll have some challenges ahead but we won’t sit around 20 or 30 years from now saying “what if”, “why didn’t we” or “wish we had”.

We hope you’ll follow along on our journey and who knows, maybe we’ll see you out there!

Beth & Rob