Florida is a great place to RV in the winter. If you are able to get farther south than Orlando, the weather is most likely going to be warm and sunny even in January or February. Sounds good to me! We recommend starting your road trip earlier in the year, so you can also take in the beauty of the Panhandle – one of our favorite places!
You don’t want to miss visiting this part of Florida. It is one of our favorite places to visit in the whole country. We highly recommend Grayton Beach State Park and the surrounding area.
The campground is within walking distance to the beach – one of the most beautiful in the country. We can spend a whole day just hanging out here, with its soft white sand and turquoise, crystal-clear water.
Just down the street is Destin. It is a tourist town, but this means there are lots of attractions, restaurants and stores. There are also some great RV parks on the beach, like Camp Gulf and Henderson Beach State Park.
You can’t miss Orlando when you go to Florida. However, I don’t recommend spending a week park-hopping to all the amusement parks. Instead, just pick one or two and spend a couple days there. Then use the rest of your time to explore the other areas of Orlando.
We enjoyed a day at Magic Kingdom and a day at Universal Studios (perfect for Harry Potter fans). We also recommend Legoland if you have younger kids. There is definitely magic in these amusement parks, but also a lot of people.
One of our favorite places to visit when in Orlando is Kelly Rock Springs – perfect for tubing down a crystal-clear river. This place is awesome and we can’t believe it is only 30 minutes from all the craziness of Orlando!
There is the Thousand Trails Orlando resort which is a great location for visiting these attractions or you can’t go wrong with Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. Talk about nice!
Highland Hammock State Park is a beautiful park located in the middle of Florida. The campground is nice and the hiking and trails are amazing. One of the trails takes you through a swamp on a walkway with no railings on it … yes, a little scary, but also cool! This state park is definitely worth a stop.
Miami Everglades RV Park gets you into the Miami area, but far enough away to enjoy some peace and quiet. It is also close to the Shark Valley Visitor Center of the Everglades. At this awesome place, you can take a 15-mile bike ride where you are literally riding your bike right next to HUGE alligators.
It really is a unique experience that also leads you into the middle of the Everglades where you can walk to the top of a lookout tower and see the vast park. Plus, a LOT of alligators! Not feeling like the bike ride? They do have a tram you can take. Tickets sell out, so be sure to buy ahead of time.
A Florida road trip just isn’t complete without a visit to the Florida Keys. However, Hurricane Irma really did a number on the Keys, so hopefully they will be back up and running soon. The Keys are a Caribbean paradise in the U.S. We love the vibe of Key West (even with kids – during the day).
One of our favorite activities is going on the Fury Adventure. Spend six hours on a boat that takes you out to snorkel, jet ski, parasail and play in the water. It is awesome fun for everyone.
Make sure to visit the Dry Tortugas, too. The island is 70 miles off the coast of Key West and well worth the 2-hour boat trip to get there (bring your Dramamine).
Exploring the fort on the island and taking in the beauty of the shells, beach and water is an unbelievable experience. (Check out our video for more).
We have mixed feelings about the Atlantic Coast since the beach just isn’t as clear and beautiful as the Gulf side. That being said, we are going to suggest driving up to St. Augustine.
This city is really cool. We enjoyed exploring all of the historic places and also visiting the Alligator Farm. Plus, there are lots of great restaurants and forts to explore.
We spent six months road tripping through Florida and enjoyed every minute of it. There is so much to see and do in this state. In our opinion, it is the best place to be in the U.S. when it is cold everywhere else in the country!
Since we are living in our RV full time we can’t just survive on hot dogs and s’mores every night. Well I guess we could, but we wouldn’t have much energy to go out exploring! That brings up an important question: What does a family of six who lives in a 23-foot RV full time do for meals?
The truth is we pretty much cook the same way we did in our house. Well, except that our RV could have fit in the kitchen of our old house. What we cook isn’t that much different, we just do it in a smaller space.
Our RV has an oven and a stovetop so we really can cook pretty much anything. The biggest problem is having space to put all of the food after grocery shopping. Yes, there are some RVs that have residential sized fridges, but a lot of them don’t.
RV Kitchen – not much room!
The way we have worked around this is to really simplify our meals and make a lot of the same things throughout the week. If your kids are like mine, they are totally OK with that as long as they are things they like.
We have to be a little more strategic with our shopping due to limited room for storing things. But even so, we still make trips to Costco for some of the essentials that we use multiple times a week. Plus, an added bonus of a small RV is we can easily pull into any grocery store parking lot and load up the RV straight from the cart!
Fitting all this into the RV is kind of like Tetris.
We really try to simplify our meals, so we buy less variety and make a lot of the same things every week. This means we know what to get when we go grocery shopping and where it fits in the RV. Here are some of our staples for each meal:
Breakfast: We keep breakfast very simple with things like cereal, oatmeal, nuts or eggs. Then on a day where we have extra time, we will make pancakes from scratch. All easily made in our oven or on the stove top.
Lunch: We stick to mostly things that can be cooked on the stove top for lunch. Organic mac and cheese is a staple along with organic pasta, red sauce and parmesan cheese. We also do things like ham and cheese sandwiches, salads (the organic salads in a bag are great) or bean burgers. And we try to have a vegetable like carrots or peas as well.
Dinner: A large staple for us are bean or cheese burritos with guacamole and chips. Everyone in the family likes it and it’s very simple to make with a few ingredients. We may also throw in some frozen peppers or onions when we have them. Frozen pizzas are also a favorite along with nachos, cheeseburgers and hot dogs. I will normally make a veggie and bean dish too. We keep putting veggies in front of the kids hoping they will start to like them more.
Snacks: We like to keep snacking to apples, oranges, cantaloupe or any kind of fruit we can. This makes for an easy snack since you can just grab it and eat it or cut it up and put it into a container so everyone can have what they want. Yes, we do also get things like chips and popcorn to have as well and every now and then we splurge on ice cream or other sweets.
We often run into situations where we are boondocking (no power or hookups) and we can’t use the oven since ours is electric. But, as you can see, most of what we normally cook works really well for the stove top too. It is just another one of the planning things to keep in mind when shopping. Will you have power? If not, make sure what you are cooking can be done on the propane stove top.
Yes, this isn’t a big list of things because we often make the same things a couple nights in a row or have leftovers. Sometimes it gets old so we head out to eat or go to the store with a special request.
But for the most part, keeping it limited and simple while choosing organic or natural food as much as possible helps the process and makes it easier for everyone. It allows us to have good meals while traveling in our RV full time.
I don’t think you have to make drastic changes to your meal plan when in an RV (one of the benefits of traveling in an RV versus tent camping or a hotel without a kitchen). You just have to shift your focus to keep meals simplified and easy!
Getting clean and fresh water while you are traveling in your RV can be a challenge. Yes, a lot of RV parks have water hook ups and they say it is drinkable, but you just never know what you are getting.
When we first moved into our motorhome we would drink straight from the faucet in our RV. We quickly realized we were all getting stomachaches and the water just didn’t taste good. We knew about the water filters you can get to go on your hose, but also knew those were just okay when it came to water filtration. We also read about the really good filters, but those cost a lot of money.
After a bit of research, we found the Berkey water filter. The Berkey is the best of the best when it comes to filtered water at an affordable price. Not only is it a filter, but also a water purifier.
Click here for a great explanation from Berkey on what their filters take out of the water. Pretty crazy stuff! It definitely gives us peace of mind when it comes to not only our drinking water, but also knowing our kids aren’t consuming all of that bacteria and other things that come in water.
We also like the fact that by having the Berkey we don’t have to buy and dispose of all of those plastic water bottles or big water jugs. Definitely much more environmentally friendly to have a filter and reusable water bottles.
How Does the Berkey Work?
The Berkey is a stainless steel container with two compartments. The top compartment is where your tap water goes. This compartment also has the black Berkey filters (the part that does all the magic of removing the bad stuff). Then the second compartment sits underneath the first and is where the clean fresh water is filtered into. The second compartment has a spigot which is where the water comes out of. Here is a nice video overview of the Berkey and how it works.
Here are all the parts of the Berkey.
The nice thing about it is you can easily fit it on the counter in your RV. They have a variety of sizes, so depending on your counter space and how high your cabinets are (if you want to slide the Berkey under your cabinet) you can choose which one you want.
We originally had the Big Berkey, which fit nicely in our 39-foot diesel pusher. When we downsized to the 23-foot Winnebago View, we opted for the Travel Berkey which fits better on our counter as you can see below:
Our process for water is pretty easy. Each night we fill up the Berkey with water, then in the morning we fill up everyone’s water bottles. Everyone currently has their own 20oz Kleen Kanteen water bottle.
Another thing we have done is filled up a jug with water at night from the Berkey and then put that in the fridge so the water is cold the next morning.
Benefits of the Berkey Filter
The most obvious benefit is not having to be concerned with the water at the RV parks or campgrounds we go to, since we know the Berkey will deliver clean and purified water.
Next is the cost. Yes, there is an upfront cost of a couple hundred dollars when you buy the Berkey, but then that is it. The filters are good for years, so once you have it you just enjoy the water and don’t have to worry about remembering to buy water when you go to the store!
Portability. If we end up staying at Craig’s parents’ house or rent a house on our travels, we are able to easily carry the Berkey inside and continue to use it. It doesn’t just have to be used in the RV, it is also great for houses!
Having the Berkey has given our family peace of mind that we have fresh purified water, we are being environmentally friendly and aren’t spending tons of money each week buying water.
Last month we took our 23-foot Winnebago View to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, and it was truly amazing! I’ll start by sharing tips for bringing your RV and then get into all the fun things there are to do in Banff.
RVing in Banff
This was the first trip where we did not tow a car, but instead just had our RV. It was the perfect setup for it since Banff is an RVers paradise. They have RV parking all over town, and also a variety of public transportation options – most of them are free or very reasonable.
Granted, having a smaller RV helped make it even easier because we could drive and park at trailheads and in all the RV parking lots. If you prefer not to take public transportation, keep in mind that parking and getting around may be more challenging in a larger RV.
We stayed at the full-hookup Trailer Court RV park in Banff National Park. The park was very clean and easy to get in and out of. Right outside the entrance is a bus stop that runs every 20 minutes into downtown Banff. The ride down is FREE! The ride back costs $2 a person, or if you are in good shape you can take the 30-minute walk back to the campground. But note this is uphill the whole way. It isn’t an easy walk, especially if you’ve been busy walking around town all day.
Working at our campsite (Trailer Court) in Banff National Park.
Once you get into downtown, you can get off the bus and explore the area or jump on one of the other buses that will take you to hiking trailheads or places like Lake Minnewanka. The best thing to do right when you get to the park is go to the Banff Visitor Center (located on Banff Ave.) to get a bus schedule and ask them any questions that you have.
Now that you know how to get around Banff, let me share what we recommend doing while you are there.
1. Banff Gondola
To be honest, I initially thought this was over-priced for just going on a cool Gondola ride. But, I was wrong. The Gondola ride up is beautiful and amazing, but there is much more to enjoy once at the top. There is a hike out to the summit of the mountain. It does take you up a bit, but it is on a nice boardwalk with stairs, so really anyone could do it.
After making the hike up you can return to the Gondola station where you can have a nice sit-down dinner if you would like. Or you could head to the cafeteria-style restaurant to grab a beer or a glass of wine and look out over the amazing view.
Having a snack at the top of the mountain.
They also have a small museum area and a movie that you can watch. Plus, of course, a gift shop. We ended up spending about two hours up there and I was sad when we had to leave! It was so amazing to be up high taking in the views and fresh mountain air, and then being able to sit comfortably and enjoy a snack and a drink.
If you go to Banff, do the Gondola!
2. Banff Hot Springs
Yes, it is busy, but it is one of those places that you have to experience when you are in Banff. It is basically a swimming pool sized hot tub where you can sit in the water and look out over the mountains. It is an experience.
3. Cave and Basin Historic Site
Visit the place where the Canada National Park system began! This is where one of the original hot springs was located, but is no longer open to the public due to invasive species being in the water. However, it is still worth a visit.
There is a nice museum where you can learn about the history of the park and walk into the cave where the original explorers found the hot springs. Plus, you can check out the awesome water color of the basin. Seriously, it looks like someone put food coloring in the water.
If you are looking for a nice flat hike, there is a trail behind the Cave and Basin buildings that is paved and runs along the water for a while and then through the forest. It is a popular bike trail and also where we saw a big black bear! Be aware if you go hiking and always have bear spray with you.
4. Tunnel Mountain Hike
Top of Tunnel Mountain.
If you are looking to hike up, then Tunnel Mountain is the perfect downtown Banff hike. It is a super popular trail that was full of hikers of every skill level.
You hike up the mountain in a variety of switch backs, so it is no easy hike. But once you get to the top, the view of Banff is amazing and the hike down is a whole lot easier and faster!
5. Banff Lake Cruise
Want to get out on that amazing colored water? The Banff Lake Cruise on Lake Minnenwanka is a great option. The boat is totally covered, so even if the weather is cool, you will still enjoy the cruise. You can also go out on the back deck area of the boat for an even more amazing experience, so be sure to bring layers for that.
There is a tour guide that tells you the history of the area and shares some amusing stories as well. It is a great way to get on the water and learn about the area.
6. Peyto Lake
Parking with the smaller RV was no problem here. With a larger one, you may have to look into where the tour buses park. But it is worth it.
You take a short 10-minute hike up to the overlook and WOW! The color of this lake with the mountains in the back makes it seem like you are looking at a picture and that it can’t be real!
7. Glacier Adventure
Want to stand on a glacier?! This is how you do it. With Brewster Canada’s Glacier Adventure you take a tour bus out to the truck terminal and then get on a huge Ice Explorer truck that takes you out to the Glacier. Getting to the glacier is definitely part of the adventure.
Once there, you get 20 minutes to head out and explore the glacier. There is a roped-off area that the crew has checked for safety, so be sure to stay in this area. We saw some not-so-smart people exploring outside the roped area – we definitely don’t recommend that!
Glacier Ice Explorer Truck.
Instead, enjoy your time in the safe zone and touch the fresh glacier water and scoop a handful for a refreshing drink too! Take a few fun pictures and selfies on a glacier. Then stop to just take in the beauty and think about the fact that you are standing on a glacier!
8. Glacier Skywalk
As part of the Glacier Adventure you can buy a dual ticket that also takes you to the Glacier Skywalk. Here you walk out on a platform with a glass bottom out over the edge of a mountain. Yes, it is a little scary, but also really cool!
They also have a variety of facts and ranger talks, so you could spend some time here reading the signs and listening to the talks.
9. Continue Exploring Outside of Banff
There are so many amazing locations just outside of Banff. You can continue north on the Icefields Parkway to Jasper National Park or you could head to Lake Louise, YOHO National Park, or Radium Springs. But each of those deserve their own blog post, so more on that later!
Cheers from downtown Banff.
Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada is an amazing place and really is an RVers dream, so plan your trip there now!
When we first made the decision to travel in an RV full time, our general consensus was the bigger the better! “45 feet? Heck yeah! Look at all that space. I mean, we are going to be living in this thing.”
Fast forward about two years on the road, and we really started to realize that bigger isn’t always better. Yes, there are certain ways of traveling where something larger makes the most sense – like if you are going to be going to one place for months at a time.
If that is the case, and you are basically setting up a home base, I am all for a bigger rig because you won’t have to move very often. However, if you plan to travel and move around a lot, I would highly recommend something smaller.
A couple months ago we transition from our 39-foot diesel pusher motorhome into a 23-foot Winnebago View. This is with my husband and I, 4 kids and 1 dog. Yup, 6 people in a 23-footer!
Here are my reasons why smaller can be better when RVing.
1. Finding Campgrounds
Since moving into the smaller rig, we can always find a campground. With our 39-footer, I always held my breath when they would ask the size over the phone. I knew with a larger rig, many campgrounds couldn’t accommodate something of that size.
With the smaller rig, it is much easier to find a place and less of a hassle to get into our spots! Not to mention, when you try to stay in National or State Parks (which we like to do), a lot of them have size restrictions of 30 feet or less.
Man, in that big diesel pusher it sure felt like every time we drove by a semi our windows were going to hit! Now in the smaller rig, we are more like a car driving down the road and there is more room all around us.
3. Getting Gas
Getting gas with the diesel pusher was always a headache. “Is there a truck stop close by? No? Now what? Well that one has diesel, but who knows what size station it is. If it doesn’t work, is there somewhere for us to easily turn around?”
Getting gas in our larger rig often turned into a logistical nightmare. But with the smaller rig, we can pull into any gas station that offers diesel with ease. It definitely is less trouble than trying to find the right gas station for a bigger rig.
4. City Driving
We always got a kick out of people asking us where our rig was when we were in Key West or some other city. We never felt comfortable driving the diesel pusher in those areas. We wouldn’t fit, and even if we did, it would be way too stressful.
With the smaller rig, we can drive around pretty much anywhere with ease. Yes, we have to be aware of the height of bridges. But for the most part, we can pull in and park on the street or in a lot right in a downtown area. We can also fit in any parking lot, even the small ones.
5. We don’t need to tow a car
There are reasons why having a car is nice. But on the other hand, it simplifies things when we don’t have to worry about towing a car and we can just take our rig.
It also means we don’t have to pack a lot when we go out for the day because our whole rig will be with us! No more packing lunches or getting extra clothes ready. It is all there with us.
6. You can’t carry the extra junk
Yes, we felt it was close to impossible to downsize from 2,700 sq. feet into a 39-foot motorhome when we first moved out of our house. Now that we are in a 23-footer and space is even more limited, it has really made us evaluate each item we have with us.
That means we aren’t keeping the extras we never used. We are also aware of EVERYTHING that we have with us. There are no little hiding places or extra room to misplace something.
7. We are organized
We are more organized now than we ever were. Why? Because we have to be! There isn’t room not to be. By being organized, things are more simplified and add less stress. It is easier to stay on top of groceries and laundry, since everything has to be taken care of right away.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times I wish I could just let things pile up and be lazy. However, I also love the idea of being organized on a level that I don’t think would have been possible in a larger space with more things.
Is a smaller rig right for everyone? No. But if you are having the itch to go smaller and simplify your life even more, I highly recommend giving it a go!
Glacier National Park remains at the top of our list of places to visit in the U.S. When we were there, my husband and I agreed we have probably ruined ourselves for a lot of other locations around the country that just won’t be able to compete with Glacier!
From the gorgeous views to the fresh mountain air and the crystal clear glacial water, this place is simply beautiful! We always considered ourselves beach people, but the mountains of Glacier keep pulling us back. So now we must wonder, is it okay to be beach and mountain people?
There are a variety of things to do in and around Glacier. And, like we always recommend, the way to truly see the park is to get out of your car and go beyond the normal tourist attractions. The best way to do this is with hiking. And don’t worry, not all of the hikes are 6-mile, strenuous hikes. All of them were completed by our four kids, ages 4 to 8 at the time.
Here are the top things to do in Glacier National Park:
WOW. Like really, WOW. This may be the prettiest drive in all of the U.S. You start from the Lake McDonald area and drive through a forest of pine trees before beginning to ascend into the mountains.
Give yourself lots of time on this drive because you will likely want to stop at every pull out to take a picture that was better than the one you just took! It is also important to take this drive in each direction, as you get a different viewpoint depending on what direction you are driving.
As you make the climb, you drive through a tunnel in the mountain and pass a waterfall that cascades down and splashes you if your windows are open. Plus, there is a good chance you are going to see some wild animals!
In full disclosure, there are parts of this drive that can be scary. The edge of the mountain is RIGHT there! It is also important to note that there are restrictions on height and width of the vehicles that are allowed to drive up there. So, be sure to check their website before going.
2. Logan Pass Visitor Center
After you make it to the top of the mountain on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, you will want to stop at Logan Pass to have a look around and take the short 2-mile hike to Hidden Lake. This is an uphill hike with stairs, and it is usually heavily populated.
Be aware that Logan Pass can be a good 20 degrees colder than the Lake McDonald area. It is a good idea to bring an extra jacket, hats and gloves just in case (even in the summer).
3. Trail of the Cedars
This is a short, fairly-flat boardwalk hike to a beautiful waterfall. It can be busy due to its easy access, but it is worth it. This is one of those waterfalls where it looks like someone dyed the grass and water because you can’t believe the colors are natural!
If you are feeling up to it, you can also go on the Avalanche Lake Trail – which starts right off the middle of the Trail of the Cedars. It is an uphill climb the whole way, but seeing the lake at the top of the mountain is beautiful!
Remember how I recommended getting off the beaten path? Here is one of those opportunities that doesn’t include hiking. But it does include a little off-roading (don’t worry, I think your car can handle it).
On the West side of the park, drive about 90 minutes from the Lake McDonald area – some of that is on a dirt road. You will first reach Polebridge Mercantile which is an awesome store with yummy pastries. (In order to get here, you do leave the park for a short time).
From there, you will head back into the park. Then take a dirt winding road through the trees to get to Bowman Lake. Be forewarned, it is a 1-1/2 lane road with two-lane traffic. But, if you drive slowly and stay alert, you will be fine.
They have a campground back there, or you can just park and walk out to the lake area. If you have a kayak or paddleboard, bring it!
5. Many Glacier
Another section of Glacier that will take you outside of the main park is Many Glacier. They have a hotel, campground, and more amazing hikes. Not ready to hike? Even the drive is beautiful, so it is worth a visit.
If you do enjoy hikes, we recommend the Apakunee Falls hike. But, as with any time you hike in bear country, be sure to have your bear spray with you. And check in at the visitor center to see if any trails are closed due to bear activity.
6. Grinnell Lake
Located in the Many Glacier section of the park, you can get to this lake by taking a 7-mile hike or you can opt to take two boat rides to get there. I, of course, will recommend the hike, but totally understand if you want to take the boat.
The boat will drop you off just a short walk to the lake, or you can up the ante and do a 3-mile hike to Grinnell Glacier.
As with all the other hikes in this area, it is breathtaking. And being in the mountains and seeing all the beauty around you makes all the effort worth it!
Looking for a break from all this hiking? Check out Whitefish Resort. It offers a ropes course with zip-line, a luge type of ride and a gondola that you can take up to the top of the mountain. Once at the top, you can enjoy a drink or dinner while looking out over the surrounding mountains and the town of Whitefish.
Whitefish is a quaint little town that is located about 30 minutes from the West Glacier entrance and it has a great selection of shops, restaurants, and festivals throughout the summer. If you are looking to take it easy for a few days, this is a great spot to come!
They also have a public beach where you can rent kayaks and go out on the lake, another fun way to spend the day!
These were a few of our favorites, but Glacier has so much more to offer and we highly recommend staying there for a few weeks, getting your hiking shoes on, and exploring this amazing part of our country!
When we were there, we stayed at an RV park that was about 8-miles from the west entrance of Glacier National Park: Timber Wolf Resort. There were stores, gas stations, internet – everything we needed. Then we would pack up the car and head into Glacier where there was NO internet or cell coverage, which was fine by us!
To learn more about our trip, check out our page on Glacier National Park where we share a variety of posts on things to do.
Hitting the road with your kids or grandkids sounds like a great adventure and an amazing family trip. Then you start looking at the logistics and realize that RVs aren’t really made for kids’ car seats.
Sure, back in the day, kids would just run around the RV and climb up on the beds and basically play while their parents or grandparents drove down the road. In this day and age, that is not what people do. There are many more people on the roads now. And with so much access to online media, you constantly see images of the bad things that can happen.
Don’t worry, there is a solution – or at least a way that we have figured out to make it work.
Please note: I am not a professional and nothing I share here has been approved by anyone official. This is just our journey through coming up with a solution, so we can travel full time with our young kids in a motorhome (not a truck and trailer).
Prior to purchasing any of our motorhomes, one of the main criteria was that it had to come with enough seat belts for our whole family. In our case, that meant six. Yes, there are aftermarket ways you can get them installed. But we didn’t want to deal with the hassle and felt much better going with a motorhome that had factory installed seat belts.
Take note: Just because a motorhome has a booth in it DOES NOT mean that there are four seat belts. There are times when a water tank is located under a seat or the manufacturer did not add a seat belt to each seat at the booth for another reason.
We originally had a large, 39-foot diesel pusher motorhome. In this case, we were one of the largest vehicles on the road, so we were okay with the kids’ car seats sitting on the sideways facing couch – as long as all the car seats could be buckled into a lap belt.
We also made sure that each kid had a five-point harness car seat – even our then 8-year-old, who we had to find a special car seat for that could hold his weight (they are out there!). The lap belt held the car seat in place, and the five-point harness held the kid in place.
Is a lap belt the best bet for installing a car seat? No. Would we rather have a shoulder-strap car seat? Yes. Are there RVs with seats in the back with shoulder belts? No. This was our only option.
When we decided to downsize to a smaller rig – a Class C, 23-foot Winnebago View – we decided that we were no longer comfortable with the sideways facing couch, but instead wanted a table setup. This way two kids could face backward and two forward.
Choosing the car seat over a harness
When we downsized to the Class C, we thought about adding in a harness seat belt – similar to a race car driver’s seat belt. We went down this path and talked to one of the owners of a company that sells this kind of seat belt for people looking for an option other than a car seat.
He actually talked us out of buying his product and instead recommended we stick with the five-point harness car seats and the lap belt. After being a firefighter for many years, he saw a lot of reasons for car seat failure.
Here were his reasons:
• You don’t want to tether a belt down to the floor when it doesn’t have the solid support of a car bucket seat behind it. He said it could have a negative impact if it were only connected with an RV bench seat (which is made of wood) behind it. The reason being, it could put added pressure on the child, since the seat is not strong enough.
• Five-point harness car seats are safety tested with only a lap belt.
• The majority of automobile accidents occur in residential areas. The fact that the RV was a larger vehicle on the road meant that it was more likely for someone to see it coming and in turn, less likely to get into an accident.
• In a head-on collision or a rear-end accident that the kids being in a five-point harness in a forward or rear facing seat were going to be almost as safe as in a car with shoulder belts and tethers. Maybe even more so, since the RV is larger.
• If you are in an accident on the highway – no matter what you are driving – the main goal is staying in the vehicle and not being thrown from it, he explained. With a five-point harness seat and a seat belt, you should be secure in the vehicle.
What about a child who is too big for a five-point harness car seat?
Our oldest is now too heavy for his car seat – granted he is on the larger end of the scale, so your 9-year-old may still be within the range of a five-point harness car seat. This left us with a dilemma to figure out where he could sit.
After talking with the same gentleman mentioned above, we made the decision that our 9-year-old would ride in the front passenger seat. This meant he would have a shoulder belt. I (the Mom) would ride in the back at the booth with the kids with just a lap belt.
The reasoning for this is the more developed your pelvis area is, the safer it is with just a lap belt. Plus, I am taller than him, so the lap belt hits my body at a better place than his.
Is any of this the perfect solution? No. Can we hope RV manufacturers will start to seriously look at car seat safety in RVs and design models with this in mind? For sure! But for the time being, this situation is working for us and we feel comfortable with our kids riding in the RV in their five-point harness car seat if:
• In a large motorhome, they have a lap belt holding the five-point harness car seat down.
• In a smaller Class C, they are forward or backward facing with a lap belt holding the five-point harness car seat down.
• They meet the weight and height restrictions of the five-point harness car seat.
• We drive carefully and cautiously on the road and stay at 65 mph or under.
Here is a video of us putting the car seats into the Class A motorhome (it starts at 42 seconds): https://youtu.be/dGe4BXu9LYk
For more information about the five-point harness car seat that we have for our kids, click here. Be sure to read about the weight. This one is good in harness mode up to 90 pounds and 58 inches in height. It goes higher in booster mode, when the seat belt is used.
When we started our full-time RV lifestyle we didn’t really have a plan on how we would fund it. Crazy – yes! We figured there were other people out there living and working from the road, so we thought we could figure it out. Three years later we never would have thought we would be where we are today.
By selling our house and moving into an RV we were able to pay off credit card debt and really open the door for other opportunities. We started our journey by staying in a campground that was close to our hometown, so my husband could continue to work his 9 to 5. Over the five months, we were at the campground, he started conversations and negotiations with his boss to be able to take his job remote so we could travel full time.
Craig took note that no one else at his job was doing this. He would be the first. His great work ethic, ability to work with anyone and overall positive attitude led to his boss wanting to work with him and keep him – even if it meant he would be working remotely. In the end, he was able to negotiate working three weeks from the road and then having to be back to Wisconsin (our hometown) for one week before heading out again for three weeks.
This worked out great, but we wanted more. After a few months, he went in and asked for eight weeks between each week being back. They agreed! During this time, I also started a virtual business (www.virtualpowerhouse.com), so that I could bring in some extra money. At the time that was all it was.
Fast forward a few more months and we quickly realized that we didn’t like Craig having to sit at his desk (AKA the RV table) all day long while I went out exploring with the kids. This prompted us to have Craig see if he would be able to go down to part time. That is when his boss drew the line and said they couldn’t do it.
It was the push we needed to decide to pursue Virtual Powerhouse full time. For the next six months, we set a goal to grow our savings (while both Craig and I were working) and to build my client base to enough income that could support us if Craig left his 9 to 5.
Figuring out how to make it work when we don’t have an internet signal at the campground and both Craig and I have work to do – Starbucks internet for the win!
It was a tough six months with lots of time and effort going into building the business while also traveling full time and raising our four kids. But we made it work!
Side note: Don’t go stay in the middle of Yellowstone National Park when you are growing an online business. It is beautiful there, but the internet is almost non-existent. Unless you work from midnight to 5 a.m. when everyone else is sleeping or you head to the lodge and pay daily for access to their internet.
The view working from the lodge at Yellowstone.
All that aside, we did it! We built our virtual business so Craig could leave his 9 to 5! When we started this journey, we had no real entrepreneur background and no long-term plans to become entrepreneurs. But what this lifestyle does is show you all of the opportunities and doors out there to pursue IF you are willing to push your comfort zone and go for it!
Here are the steps we took to make this a reality:
1 – We chose a business that would allow us to be 100% remote without having a set schedule, which gave us flexibility on when we could travel and work. No more having to wait for the weekend to move somewhere or go out exploring as a family!
Our business focuses on social media, e-newsletters, blogging, and website design for small businesses.
We also put a lot of focus on making sure that our business is simplified, so we aren’t working 60 hours a week and still have plenty of time to hang out as a family and go exploring!
Craig out paddleboarding with the kids in the middle of the day instead of sitting at the RV table.
2 – We took the leap and focused on getting clients before we were 100% ready. I really think this is a KEY piece to starting a business. If you wait until all the pieces are perfectly aligned or until you feel ready, you will never start. The best way to be ready and to become an expert in your field/business is to get out there and start doing it.
My number one tip for this is to offer to work for FREE for your first client for one month. This gives both you and your client the flexibility to figure out what you are doing and how it will work for both of you. Just be sure everyone is on the same page and knows the free part will only last for one month.
3 – Don’t let the business blockers stop you. The business blockers I am referring to are:
Overthinking – This can kill a business before it even starts. What will my business be called? What services will I offer? How will I make it all work? The list goes on and on. Don’t overthink, just get started and put one foot in front of the other.
Not Setting Deadlines – It goes hand-in-hand with the first business blocker. Yes, you need to come up with a business name, so set a deadline of one day to figure out what the name will be. Remember you can always change it. Same thing goes for figuring out your business or finding clients. Set a timeline and stick to it. As we all know, time flies by and before you know it months can go by without moving forward in your business.
Being Afraid of Not Having All of the Answers – This is a big one. Too many times we think we have to have all the of the answers before we can move ahead. The reality is you will never have all the answers and things change all the time. Instead of waiting until you feel like you know everything there is to know, you need to move forward. I can guarantee you will learn way more from actually running a business than reading about how to run a business and trying to plan it out.
4 – We continued to network and build relationships. This is key to having a successful business. We never even officially launched our business, but instead got clients through referrals or one-on-one conversations. If we saw someone online looking for the services we could offer, we reached out to start the conversation.
Working outside the RV!
When it is your business it is up to you to tell people about it and to show them how you can help them! And referrals are key. This cuts down on you having to look for clients since referrals just show up in your inbox. We always offer a referral fee back to our clients to show them how much we appreciate them sharing what we do.
The journey to starting our virtual business has had its up and downs and continues to ebb and flow, but the freedom it has provided us makes it all worth it!
RVing with kids is fun, stressful, exciting, noisy and quite the adventure! We have been living in an RV with our 4 kids for the last 3 years and there are quite a few things that we have learned. Some things we expected and weren’t that different than living in a house, but a few were a surprise to us.
When we made the decision to travel full-time in our RV, we definitely had visions and thoughts of living a life of being on vacation full-time. Umm…yeah, not quite. Living in an RV full-time with kids doesn’t mean that, all of a sudden, things go perfectly and there are never any problems with the kids.
I will say, in some ways it’s easier being together all the time, because everyone knows each other really well. This leads to each of us knowing what sets the others off and how we should handle that.
At the same time, being together 24/7 is a challenge, too. It’s one of the reasons we chose to live this way. But, as you can imagine, it poses its own issues since there is no pushing anything under the rug. All issues, hard feelings and frustrations need to be addressed quickly or they just continue to grow and grow, and that doesn’t work in such close quarters.
I like that this is part of whole experience and I hope this will lead to us always being a close and open family who are all willing to share their opinion. We’ll sometimes disagree, but we try to figure out a solution that works for everyone.
When you have 4 kids there’s a lot of talking, screaming, laughing and just overall noise. When you are in a house, your neighbors are a little ways away from you and you probably have insulated walls. In an RV, not so much.
We have come to the conclusion that if people are coming to an RV park or campground they know that things will not be quiet. And there are times when we will just be loud. It’s a thin line between being respectful to our neighbors and also letting our kids be kids.
We try to gauge the campground we are at, and who our neighbors are, before deciding where that line’s going to be. But, it’s always nice when a family with kids pulls in next to us!
Picking where we stay
Before RVing full-time with kids, I had no idea that some places charge what we call a “Kid Tax,” meaning that you have to pay extra for each kid that you have. This can range from $2 to $5 a day or a set weekly fee per extra person. That quickly makes the cost of our stay increase. So we try not to go this route.
If there is a Kid Tax, it’s usually a good indicator that they would rather not have kids there. And, believe me, we don’t want to be staying anywhere that doesn’t want kids! So, normally, we pass and find something else.
Boondocking on BLM land or areas like that is a great option for us since we usually have a lot of space around us and not as many rules and restrictions. However, this also means that the other campers there may be up partying all night! It’s a give and take, and as long as our expectations are in place, we are good.
State and National Parks usually lend themselves to being more family friendly, too. The other campers there seem more laid back and accepting of families and kids. I don’t know exactly why, but it’s definitely what we have found.
Plus, anywhere with a playground, laundry room, pool or lake, and room for the kids to run is a BIG plus! This can make or break the week.
Privacy – we don’t have any. We knew this coming into it and were prepared for it. But I can definitely say there are times I miss my big Jacuzzi bathtub and being able to sneak away upstairs, shut the door and take a bath while Craig watched the kids.
Yes, Craig and I still find time at night for each other when the kids are sleeping. But throughout the day, everyone is up in each other’s business. We are okay with this. It works for us and we are all used to it by now. And everyone has found ways to find their own little space either in their bed, outside at the picnic table, or wherever they can find it.
Our kids are really cool
As I mentioned above, we are with them 24/7, so that means we get to see them meet new friends, interact at the playground or pool, experience new adventures and face fears. We feel so lucky that we are here to see this all first hand.
I really think it has helped us learn who our kids are as individuals and people. It also allows us to be here for them when they have a question or problem they need help figuring out. We give them as much space as we can, and as they get older they are venturing out more and more on their own at the campground, museums, etc. But it has been great to be such an important and big part in their lives and to continue to spend so much time with them.
Seeing our kids try something new for the first time or try something that they were afraid of at first is another perk of living this lifestyle. Traveling full-time, we are coming across these situations on a pretty consistent basis and it has been awesome to watch out kids grow into confident adventurers!
So much to see and experience
When you live full-time in an RV, you don’t just go to the RV resorts and the big towns, but find yourself in random locations around the country you probably never would have visited on a family trip. I like this as an individual, but also think it has been great to expose our kids to so many different ways that people live around our own country.
They have seen what it’s like living by the mountains, by the beach, in the middle of nowhere, and in the desert. How cool is that! It’s also helping all of us figure out what environment we like to live in, and luckily we all seem to like similar things so far!
I have one thing to say for travel days: Tablets. Yup, not even going to try to pretend that we don’t let the kids play on their tablets or watch movies the whole time we are driving. We do and don’t feel guilty about it.
Sometimes we have to travel many hours a day and having tablets means that for the majority of the time everyone is happy and content. We will take it. As parents you’ve got to pick your battles!
This is an amazing lifestyle to live with your kids. There’s lots of downtime to just hang out and enjoy each other and tons of adventuring and exploring. Overall, it’s an awesome way to deepen your family bond! After 3 years of living this way, we have always been able to figure out how to make it work so everyone can enjoy this journey we are on!