Welcome to Miami! Yes, there is Beach Front Avenue in Miami and it is pretty close to what all the TV shows and movies portray (big muscled men and women in little bikinis). But there is also so much more to do in Miami!
Shark Valley Everglades National Park
The top item on our list is Shark Valley – part of Everglades National Park. What an unreal experience! If you have bikes, bring them. It is a 15-mile roundtrip bike ride that takes you 7 ½ miles into the middle of the Everglades. That in itself is amazing.
But the really cool part is that it should be called Alligator Valley, not Shark Valley since you ride your bike right by HUGE alligators. Plus, alligators of all sizes – even babies. At one point, we had to stop to wait for the alligator to move further off of the paved trail. This guy was over 10 feet long!
At another point, we had to ride through the water with an alligator just a foot or so away in the swamp area. CRAZY. But also super cool.
When you get to the checkpoint in the middle of the trail, there is a lookout tower you can climb up to for an unbelievable view over the Everglades.
Although a bit longer, it is a pretty flat trail. Just be aware if it is windy you may be riding into the wind for quite a while. But, if you aren’t feeling up for the bike ride, they do have a tram that runs. But I don’t think the experience is as cool. We saw the tram flying by and everyone on it missed seeing some alligators since it was going so fast.
Wynwood Art District
This is an up and coming part of Miami that is filled with amazing graffiti artwork on the sides of almost every building in this part of the city. The artwork is beautiful. They also have a lot of cool stores and restaurants. It is totally a hipster area with a really cool vibe.
You can drive through the area or you can find somewhere to park and walk through to take your time looking at the artwork and to grab a bite to eat.
Knaus Berry Farm
If you are a fan of cinnamon rolls, you can’t miss this place! These cinnamon rolls are some of the best we have ever had. Be aware that everyone in the area knows that and sometimes they sell out. So get there early.
I highly recommend you make a visit to Little Havana when you are in Miami. Cuba is such a part of the culture and vibe of the area, and Little Havana is a great representation of that.
We got delicious ice cream at Azucar, danced on the street of the famous Calle Ocho to some amazing live Cuban music and walked over to checkout the people playing dominos in Domino Park.
If you and your family are into visiting zoos and love seeing animals, then Jungle Island should be on your list. When we first walked in, we got a chance to have a parrot sit on our shoulder. How cool is that?
The whole place makes you feel like you are in a jungle as you are walking through. Make sure to check out the show schedule too and try to catch a couple while you are there.
Note: Due to hurricane Irma be sure to check to see if they are open before going.
Where to Stay?: Miami Everglades RV Park
Miami is such a cool and unique area. When we were there, we stayed at the Miami Everglades RV Resort which was a perfect choice since it took us away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city and out into the country section of Miami. It was cool to see this part of the city!
The Resort has decent sites that are pretty close together, but also a nice large pool and hot tub, one of the best mini golf courses we have ever seen, and a nice walking trail around the whole resort and plenty open space to run and play.
We have been on the road full time for over three years with our four kids and dog. Over the years, we have learned a variety of things. Some of them were specific to RV Living, but the most surprising ones are the things we have learned about ourselves throughout this process.
1. The Challenge of Freedom
Choosing to live this lifestyle, have our own businesses, and basically be free to go where we want when we want has had its challenges. There isn’t “anyone” telling us when we have to get up or where we have to go.
It is a beautiful thing and also very challenging. It leads to having to make a lot of decisions each and every day and to having to do research to decide what those decisions should be. But the beauty is, we have the option to make these choices.
Now that we have had a taste of this lifestyle it would be really hard to go back to having someone else control our life.
2. Balancing Different Personalities
When you live so closely together and are with each other almost 24/7 there is a lot of interaction that is happening. Our goal has always been to raise our kids to have strong personalities and to make their own choices.
But, when you have five different choices coming at you it can be a challenge! My hope is that throughout this process the kids are learning about sacrifice, how to compromise and to really appreciate each other and us as people, not just parents, and all of the opinions we have . . .
It is sometimes ugly and there is lots of yelling and arguing, but the good thing is, we work through it. When you are together so much, you don’t have an option to ignore things. Instead, things have to be figured out so everyone can live happily together.
3. Dealing with Confusion
To be honest, there are times I wish we never got on the road full time. The reason being, now that we know this lifestyle is out there, it would be hard to be content just staying in one place.
This doesn’t mean we don’t get burnt out with traveling, because we do. We have even considered our next move being renting a place to stay put for six months. This back and forth can get confusing – should we stay on the road or settle for a little while? It is a constant thought and conversation that we have.
4. Missing out on Extracurricular Activities
Both Craig and I grew up playing sports. Having our kids not be involved in these activities the way we were has always weighed heavily on us. Is it okay? Should we not travel so they can do these things?
When we made the decision to travel full time the kids were 6, 4, 4 and 2. We figured we had time. Our oldest isn’t really into organized sports, so it doesn’t bother him. The other kids do have an interest in it and enjoy it.
We normally travel somewhat quickly with moving to a new location every week or every other week which makes it hard to get involved in sports in the area. However, we have done a few longer stretches back in our hometown and the kids have joined some classes.
I am still not 100% sure if it is okay that they aren’t in these activities consistently, but on the other hand, our kids have hours and hours of free time. That is an amazing thing, especially because we hear all the time about how kids have no free time now-a-days.
That is definitely not the case with our kids and we love that they have hours upon hours each day to play outside, explore their interests, or just hang out.
5. Working on our Marriage
Having four kids and a successful marriage is a feat in itself. Add in traveling full time and running a business together and things can get a little shaky.
This year has been a lot about Craig and I growing our relationship. Like I talked about above, when you are together 24/7 there is no way to push issues under the rug. Instead, we have to face things head on and work through them together.
It has been a challenge, but it is causing us to continue to work and grow our relationship. It is a consistent work in progress as we navigate this crazy, free life. But we are committed to figuring it out together and for our relationship to be a prime focus.
6. Making the Most of our Time
Time really does fly. I can’t believe we have been on the road for over three years. It seems like just last week we were packing up and selling our house. On the other hand, we have grown so much as people and all of our eyes have been opened more and more as we continue to explore and meet new people and learn about different parts of the country.
Our oldest is now 10. I can’t believe it. This lifestyle takes a lot of time for planning and traveling. We have to stop ourselves at times to remember one of the big reasons we chose this lifestyle was to enjoy a lot of time together as a family. And to slow down and just focus on enjoying each other.
Now that we have been on the road for over three years and we have had a taste of the freedom, a taste of exploring our amazing country (and yes only a taste – there is still so much more for us to see and do), and tons of time to spend with our kids, we can see that the world is our playground.
It is up to us where we want to go and what we want to do next. It is a really amazing feeling to know you can figure out and do anything that you want to and that we can do it together as a family!
It’s time to pack up for the family RV trip with the kids! What to bring? With kids, it always seems to turn into packing everything and the kitchen sink. But, that doesn’t have to be the case.
We travel full time with our four kids and dog in a 23-foot Winnebago View. Given the size and weight limitations in something that small, we have had to learn how to narrow down what we have in the RV to what we really need and use. Here is the list of the essentials when packing for your family RV trip.
Yes, we will start with toys. We are firm believers that you need room for toys for the kids. They want to have fun just as much as we do. And we know having a few toys along will make it better for everyone.
We like to include our kids in the process of selecting what toys to bring with. What we have found works is giving them each a backpack or bin and letting them bring anything that fits in it. Since they are making the choice about what to bring, they usually aren’t disappointed about what is left behind.
The staple toys that always come with are: Legos, Magna Tiles, Dolls, and figurine toys (like dinosaurs and hot wheel cars). Then the kids will add a few of their current favorites, given they fit. We also like to have a few card games and board games.
Outside Toys & Gear
We have an outside storage area that is dedicated to outside toys and items. In here you will find things like Nerf guns, ropes, adventure packs (satchels that they can fill with their ropes, leaves, binoculars, etc.), baseball and bat, frisbee, and balls. I sometimes feel like this stuff gets used way more than the indoor toys, so it’s definitely worth having a collection of outside toys.
This also includes sand toys and pool toys (goggles and swim rings) if we know we will be by water or a beach. Plus, we always bring our slackline and hammock! The kids love both of them and so do we.
We only bring two adult-size chairs with. We have found over the years that the kids rarely sat in their cute little outdoor chairs. Instead having our two chairs allows us and the kids to rotate through and almost everywhere we go has a picnic table and that is usually where everyone ends up sitting.
We got these amazing chairs from Tiny Big Adventure that fit into a little bag, yet the chairs are still comfortable. Perfect for saving on space!
We have gone so basic on all of this that it feels great! We are literally down to one of everything for everyone and that is really all we need. Here is a list of what to have for your kitchen:
1. Pot for boiling water, cooking pasta, etc. We have one large cast iron pot that we use for everything.
2. A large skillet with sides. We have a cast iron skillet that we use for all other cooking.
3. Griddle (important for us). We make a lot of pancakes, cheese quesadillas, grilled cheese, etc.
4. Oven pan. If you are going to use the oven, we recommend a 9×13 pan or smaller depending on what will fit in your oven and one cookie sheet that will fit in your oven. We have found that a 12-inch pizza pan works better than a cookie sheet in our size convection oven.
5. One plate, one bowl and one cup for each person in our family and one set of silverware.
6. One large mixing bowl that can be used for mixing or for sharing chips or popcorn.
7. The basics: like a coffee pot, can openers, spatula, large spoon, a good cutting knife.
8. Berkey Water Filter. Our Berkey filter means we get good, fresh, clean water anywhere we go. For us, it is a must and we wouldn’t travel without it. Plus, the kids all have their own water bottle, so we can easily take water on the go.
Yes, only bringing a small amount of kitchen supplies means we have to stay on top of our dishes and no, we aren’t laying out a beautiful spread with cute plates and serving bowls. But honestly, when you have kids that is usually the least of your worries. It is more about getting the food out fast enough when everyone is hungry.
When we had a larger RV (39-foot diesel pusher), we put together this post on what we had in our kitchen. It really isn’t much different now, minus the donut maker and toaster.
Bedding & Towels
Everyone has one pillow and one blanket and then we have a few extra blankets we bring with in case it is cold. Same thing with towels. We have one towel for each person. Most campgrounds or RV parks have laundry facilities and if they don’t, you can usually find one in a nearby city.
This is another one that can get out of hand really quickly. What is nice, and what you want to keep in mind, is that most RV parks have a laundromat! This means you can bring the least amount and know you can just wash things if you have to.
We all have 1 bathing suit, 1 sweatshirt, about 5 shirts and 5 shorts, and even less pants and long sleeves (we mostly travel where it is warm). We also all wear the same clothes a couple days in a row. Yup, I said it. And, yes, we really do it! Our kids just wear their clothes from during the day to bed at night and then get up in the morning and run out the door.
We do keep a couple nice outfits set aside so if we are going somewhere that we need to look presentable we will get those clothes out, wear them, then put them away. All their other clothes are there to get dirty. And yes, if they are covered in mud or dirt at the end of the day we will change them. But a lot of the times their clothes are fine and they can easily sleep in them and wear them the next day.
Just like everything else, if you keep your clothes to a minimum you have less to maintain while on your trip, less to pack, and less to clean up when you get home!
The other thing that is a necessity when on the road is a decent tool bag. Notice I said decent there. As with everything, there are a few essential items that you should have, including a screwdriver (we have one that has multiple bits and configurations, so it can be used for different applications), a hammer, a good knife, a foldable saw (can also be used to cut up firewood for kindling), duct tape, WD-40 Silicone spray, and zip ties.
The overall idea when packing for your family is to keep it very simple. This takes the focus away from taking care of all the things you have and instead puts the focus on enjoying the time with your family and kids! I can guarantee they would much rather be spending time with you throwing a ball around or playing with their toys than caring if they have a gourmet meal or a nice serving dish.
Next time you are packing for a family RV trip, we challenge you to think minimal and bring LESS than you think you need. You may be surprised how little you can get by with even with kids!
Do you have any must-bring items when you travel with kids? Would you agree that bringing less would be a good thing?
San Diego is a great destination to visit year around and especially in the winter if you are looking to avoid the snow and ice! Granted, in winter you are probably not going to go swimming in the ocean. Then again, our kids were riding the waves in on their boogey boards, so I guess you can if you don’t mind the chilly water. But never fear, there are a lot of things to do in San Diego with kids besides just go to the beach!
You have to visit the adorable sea lions in La Jolla. These adorable animals sun bathe on the beaches and rocks all around the ocean. I think they know how much people like to watch them, so now and then they will get up and move around. But for the most part, they are totally kicked back and relaxed.
I recommend going to the Children’s Pool (it really is called that) in La Jolla to check them out. You can walk out on this small walkway over the water and get pretty close to them. Plus, this area is just so beautiful with the palm trees, ocean, and cliffs surrounding the beach area.
USS Midway Museum
This huge U.S. aircraft carrier sits in the water and welcomes visitors to come on board to explore. The boat is HUGE and there are so many different places to go and see you can easily spend hours here.
One of our favorite things were the WWII Veteran volunteers who walked around and explained things to us and had stories to share. This is how I want to learn about history – from visiting amazing places like this and walking through them and getting a first-hand experience of how these ships operated and worked.
The USS Midway has multiple levels that you can explore and lots of buttons for kids to push. That was what made it so much fun for the kids. You can even go up to where the captain of the ship would sit.
Old Town Trolley Tours
The longer we travel, the more I appreciate these city tours. They are a great way to sit back, relax and learn about the city you are visiting. On this tour the trolley takes you all over the city and during the ride they talk about the history of the area and point out landmarks – like where home plate use to be for the Padres stadium that sat right next to the water.
The trolley was also hop on hop off, which means you can get off and explore the different parts of the city and then get right back on and continue your tour. If you want to learn more about San Diego, this is how you do it.
San Diego Zoo
This is THE Zoo to visit in the U.S. and it did not disappoint. The zoo is huge and has so many amazing animals to watch. We happened to get lucky and visited the hippos right when the zookeeper was going to do some water play with them. The habitat was set up where we could see them under the water and they were so active swimming around and coming right up to the glass. It was really amazing.
We also visited the apes, koalas, lions, and tigers. They really do have almost every animal you could imagine at the zoo.
We have to talk about Donut Bar. These donuts were ranked #1 in the state of California for good reason. 1. They are delicious, and 2. they are humongous! Each donut is about the size of your face and they come in a variety of fun and yummy flavors.
I highly recommend the made to order french toast donut. They take one of their glazed donuts and make french toast with it and it is out of this world! Just remember you do have to request it.
If you are looking for some indoor fun, Balboa Park has more then 17 museums. Yes you read that right, 17! We really enjoyed the Fleet Science Center and actually went twice while we were there. We also checked out the Natural History Museum and really enjoyed it too.
Balboa Park is a beautiful area outside too. I highly recommend bringing a picnic lunch and sitting out on the grass and then spending some time walking around this pretty area of the city.
San Diego is filled with craft breweries that offer a variety of different flavors and kinds of beer. What was great about most of them is they have board games for the kids to play, plus root beer so it can make a trip to the brewery a family event! We always have fun going and getting a couple beers for us and root beers for the kids and then playing a family game of Jenga or cards.
Where To Stay
A lot of the time it can be hard to find an RV park close to a big city that is nice and still has good-sized sites. But San Diego has an amazing option: Sweetwater Summit Regional Park. It is about a 25-minute drive to get to the beach, so you are still very close to all of the action. But the park is set apart from the city and the sites are nice and large with cement pads and situated up on a hill.
Traveling full time with our four young kids has been quite the crazy adventure! There have been so many amazing moments, but there have also been a lot of really hard times too. We always like to tell people it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine and we are by no means on vacation all the time.
I know it seems obvious that space with six people and a dog in a small RV would be a struggle. And we are reminded of that challenge when we are tripping over each other or when two people have to use the bathroom. When you see the hashtag #vanlife all over Instagram you see these amazing beautiful pictures of their awesome van setup – when it is clean and organized, not when it is being lived in. The reality is space can get tight.
The upside of this is it pushes us to learn how to use the space more efficiently and to spend more time outside where space is not an issue. It also means we all have to figure out how to get along since we can’t go hide in another room when we are arguing!
If we were living in a house we would go to Costco and stock up! Not the case when you don’t have a pantry or a place to store food. Instead we have to stop at the store more often and not over buy since we have no where to put things. (Read more about how we meal plan here).
Beyond that, the cooking part can be difficult with minimal counter space, but as we spend more time in this lifestyle we figure out ways to make it work. When we live in such a “bigger is better”, culture it has been eye opening and informative to be in a situation where we don’t have the option to go bigger, but instead have to figure out how to work with less space and less things.
When our kids were younger, this wasn’t as much of a concern because they weren’t looking to be away from us. Instead they just wanted to be by us all day. Now that our oldest is 10, things are different. He wants to be able to spread his wings and we want him to be able to. The hard thing is, when we are moving to a different campground every week or two, it is a little scary to give him that freedom.
If we were in a house in a neighborhood where we felt comfortable letting him roam it would be different. Or if he was in school and away from us, he would get a chance to branch out more. We are still working through this and trying to figure out what makes sense, so he can have the opportunities he is looking for while still being safe and smart about it.
4. Toys, Clothes, Shoes
As you can imagine, with six people we could end up with a lot of belongings. In order to keep this under control, we go through and do another round of purging and donating every couple of months. This can be a struggle and takes time to do. Living a simplified/minimalist life takes work!
But, it has been great to see our kids adjust so well to this way of living. And, in most cases, they have no problem donating a toy they haven’t played with in a while or getting rid of clothes they don’t wear much or like anymore. The biggest challenge is when we go into a store and all of us (Craig and I included) want to buy something just because those stores know how to advertise things!
It is hard to say no to ourselves and also our kids because we just don’t have the space. On the other hand, this is a perfect reason not to go into those stores and instead make do with what we have!
Making choices where six people get a say in what we are going to do can be a challenge! One kid may want to stay around the campground all day and hang out, play Minecraft and go to the park, while another may want to go out exploring or hiking. When you don’t have a babysitter around and you are together all the time as a family it can be a challenge to make sure everyone gets a chance to choose what we do.
Luckily when we do pick what we are going to do and head out as a family, usually everyone comes around and enjoys it. Although, getting out of the door can be a challenge!
What I love about this lifestyle, is that our kids are getting to experience and try things that maybe they didn’t think they wanted to, but since one of us recommended it and they went out and tried it, they see that they really do like doing something they didn’t know they liked.
Living a life of full-time travel has continued to make everyone in our family grow and stretch as people and has made our family unit stronger as we work through these struggles and challenges together!
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.