We launched our RV lifestyle as complete RV newbies. We knew nothing! But over time, we learned. We learned things we didn’t know we needed to learn. Now we’re sharing our best advice for RV beginners.
How did our adventure start out? With a simple, crazy whim. One idea led us to sell our home, buy an RV, and travel with our three kids across the U.S. and Canada. Thankfully, that idea turned into a lifestyle of new experiences, outdoor adventure, and family memories.
The craziest part of our idea to full-time RV was that we had never traveled in an RV before. In fact, we had never even taken our three kids camping. We were as green as it gets when it comes to RVing and living an outdoor-focused lifestyle.
But you know what? We did it.
Related Reading: How We Moved From House to RV
I posted this photo on my personal Facebook page and said “Just chilling in the HEB parking lot in my new home. No big deal. We did it. We really, really did it.“
After posting that, we received so many encouraging messages. People were excited for us and said things like “You are going to have the most amazing adventure!” and “You are such an inspiration! Can’t wait to do this someday!”
And you know what? If we can do this, so can you.
Related Reading: Is Full-Time RV Living Right For You?
Now it’s time to take a look at things a few thing we learned and what we might have done differently. The one question we are asked most often is what is our best advice for full-time RV beginners.
Advice for RV Beginners: What We Wish We Had Known
These are the top five things we wish we would have known as full-time RVing newbies.
#1 Take it Slow
TAKE TIME TO ENJOY AMAZING LOCATIONS
When people ask us for our number one piece of advice, this is the one Todd and I always agree on. Is it because we followed this advice and went nice and slow on our RVing adventure? Heck no. We did the total opposite.
We went fast. Way too fast. I look back on some of the incredible destinations we went to and can not believe we didn’t stay longer to soak it up.
Are three days in the Florida Keys enough? Not even close! How about a few days in Yosemite? Nope, not enough.
Or what about a week in Glacier National Park? Nope, definitely not enough! In fact, we so desperately wanted more time in Glacier that we high tailed it all the way from Maine to Montana as fast as humanly possible to get back there. (That was the one time I was happy to go fast.)
TRAVELING SLOWER IS A GOOD THING
Going slower allows you to really get to know the area you’re visiting. You won’t feel so rushed to do all the things and instead can plan better.
Going slower also allows you more time to recharge your batteries. Traveling is exhausting. Setting up and tearing down your camping space can be exhausting. Sight-seeing is exhausting! You need time and space in your schedule to just be.
Remember why you decided to live this lifestyle in the first place. Was it to be in a hurry and stressed out? I’m thinking no, that’s not why you want to be an RVer.
Or, was it to live life on your own time table? Do you want to spend more time relaxing outdoors? Perhaps there is a pile of books you can’t wait to read. Many people take to the road to experience more nature and wildlife.
Whatever your goal, our first piece of advice applies. Take it slow. Worry less about the destination so you can truly enjoy the journey.
#2 Be Patient and Learn
THERE IS A LOT TO LEARN, AND YOU WILL LEARN IT
There were so many basic things we didn’t know about RVing that I still can’t believe we pulled off this lifestyle for month after month after month. (And are alive to tell about it.)
We’ve had people ask us if Todd drove big trucks or trailers before we hit the road. Nope. We had a Nissan Altima and a Honda Accord. We have moved a lot and because of that he has driven moving trucks quite often. But that’s it.
And of course, there was the question about camping with our kids… “So, did you guys do a lot of camping with your kids before this?” Again, nope.
Needless to say, we knew a lot about nothing. Which meant we had to be very patient with ourselves and others as we learned all the ins and outs of living a full-time RV lifestyle.
RV DRIVING SCHOOL
As a side note, if you do want to learn more about driving an RV before a cross country adventure, consider taking a class. RV Driving School and RV Basic Training offer instruction at various locations across the U.S. We didn’t go this route, but it may be worth checking out if you’re uneasy about driving, backing up, or parking a big rig.
Also, check with your RV insurance company for any discounts available once you complete a certified driving course.
I’M SORRY FOR WHAT I SAID WHILE …
Have you seen those tee shirts with a message on the front that says “Sorry for what I said while I was trying to park the camper.”
Those shirts exist for a reason. 🙂
I could also make shirts that say “I’m sorry for what I said while I was trying to make dinner in this freakishly small kitchen” or “I’m sorry for what I said while we were in the grocery store searching for a stupid cans of beans” or “I’m sorry for what I said while we were stuck inside the RV for 3 days because of rain and now everything is a hot mess.”
Do you see what I’m saying?
EVERYONE IS IN THE SAME TINY HOME
You will find yourself in some stressful situations and you could get angry with yourself and others. Remember that they’re living in the same tiny home. And just as you see the same people in close quarters day after day after day, so do they.
After a while, even the way they breathe can get on your nerves. That’s ok. Breathe, whatever situation you’re dealing with is temporary. It won’t be long until you’re back out on the trail. The reason you’re out there on the road is for the entire journey. You will find that can of beans and be trekking up to Mount Bourgeau before you know it.
Be patient with yourself and others through the learning process and the day to day struggles.
#3 Select Campground Memberships
One of the best things we did before and during the beginning of our full-time RVing adventure, was to research and invest in RV/Campground memberships.
Todd read up on this topic extensively before we left on our trip. While we didn’t know much about the RV lifestyle, we knew we had to be smart with our money.
CAMPGROUND MEMBERSHIPS HELP YOU SAVE
Memberships for RVers and campgrounds are a great way to save money on park fees. It can also be a big help as you plan your routes and destinations. Look into Thousand Trails, Passport America, and Good Sam Club, among others.
Because of the money we saved on RV parks, we had extra cash for some really fun stuff. Which leads me to our fourth piece of advice for RV beginners.
Related Reading: RV and Campground Memberships You Will Use Most
#4 Splurge on Experiences
We love choosing to spend our discretionary income on experiences instead of material goods. We have done some pretty epic activities at destinations across the country and in Canada.
ENJOY AMAZING EXPERIENCES ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Here is a sample of the activities we have experienced while living a life on the open road:
We did a lot! Reliving all of these incredible experiences we had is giving me goosebumps.
We made the room in our budget to splurge on experiences that have created memories with our kids we’ll hold on to forever. And it was so worth it.
Make a list of some epic things you want to do. Ask your kids what’s on their bucket list and then do what you can to make it happen.
#5 Be Resilient and Flexible
This is related to our top piece advice to take it slow. I thought it would be fitting to end with a this suggestion. Set a plan, but hold on to it loosely. Your priority is about the RV journey, experiences with friends and family, and the people you meet along the way.
Sometimes we do well to let go of our schedule. Sometimes we don’t. What I can tell you is when you’re traveling full-time, then you will have opportunities for spontaneous adventures.
NEW FRIENDS AND NEW PLACES
We made some great new friends in the Florida Keys, but we weren’t able extend our stay. Looking back on that time, I wish we would have adjusted our schedule. I also did not expect to love the Orleans as much as I do. I needed more time to enjoy that area, and taste more beignets. 🙂
There are many moments I wish we would have carved out more time to relax and visit with our new RV community friends.
That said, there have been times when we embraced his piece of advice. Whenever we have changed our plans to take advantage of opportunities, it has always been worth it.
IT’S OK TO STAY A LITTLE LONGER
We stayed in San Diego longer than planned. Our friends let us camp out in their backyard and we late night conversations and laughter on the patio. These friends we ‘kind of knew’ turned into life-long friends.
There was another time when we met a fellow full-time RV family. We instantly hit it off with them. Together we traveled through stunning destinations in Canada that I had dreamed about or seen in pictures. I’ll never forget those two weeks of exploring Canada and the friendships that grew because of it.
That’s a Wrap on Our Advice for RV Beginners
I hope these bits of advice for RV beginners have helped you prepare for some amazing adventures. Just know that whatever your hopes and dreams for this new lifestyle, you can make it happen. Get excited about what’s ahead.
Yes, there will be moments when your plans fall apart or you have to deal with something unexpected and possibly stressful. And yes, you will make it through those moments.
I hope our advice makes you realize that you can do this! Enjoy the journey, friends!
Julie specializes in helping you whip up delicious meals in your tiny RV kitchen, as well as RV organization tips and helping fellow RVers make their RV feel like home. Her favorite RVing spot is in Banff National Park in Canada where yes, the water really is that blue and the people really are that nice.