In our GoGear segment, contributors share one of their favorite products for life on the road and tips for using it. These are items they have tested out during their own travels and enjoyed enough to recommend to others.
When it comes to RVing space can be challenging. That’s why Sabrina and I really appreciate when there are items that take up less space without losing function. That’s what we love about our “Sea to Summit” kitchen gear. These include collapsible items such as plates, cups, bowls, pots and more. This saves a great deal of space when the items are not in use.
Putting Sea to Summit to the RVer Test
We purchased our kitchenware before we moved into the RV and they have taken a lot of abuse in that time, yet some of the items still look as if they are brand new. Everything is made out of food-grade silicone with a nylon base, with the exception of our X-Pot which is silicon with a hard anodized aluminum bottom for use on the stove top.
We own a set of cups, plates, bowls and a single pot. We love that they not only save space, but are light weight, durable and quiet when stacked on top of each other in the cabinets while we travel.
The plates can double as cutting boards and since the edges fold up, they are great at keeping food on my plate and not on the floor. The cups and bowls have measurement markers inside them, so you can use them as measuring cups, although the markers are not as visible as I would like them to be.
Our One Change
We love everything about our kitchenware except for the lid that came with the X-Pot, I liked that it had holes in it to be used as a strainer, but it was plastic and did not take long for me to break it. Sea to Summit did send me another one free of charge, but I broke that one just as easily. I decided to replace the lid with one that I found online that is made of glass, but still had the holes for straining. However, we have owned this set for two years now, so maybe by now the lid is hopefully designed a bit different and able to stand up to more abuse.
How to Get Your Own Set
Due to their space saving and light weight design the Sea to Summit kitchen gear appears to be marketed more towards backpackers and hikers, but we feel they are perfectly suited for RVers for the same reasons. You can find these kitchen items on the Sea to Summit website, Amazon, and outdoor stores like REI. They have sets as well as individual pieces available.
This is Part 2 of our two-part preventative maintenance and care article series. In Part 1, we looked at outdoor checks to keep you RV in good shape and in this part of the series, we are going to move onto the inside of the RV, and also talk about the electrical and plumbing systems.
It is important to note that we are full-time RVers, so some of the timelines mentioned may need to be adjusted for your travel style. We also want to remind everyone to take the necessary safety precautions before doing these checks and if you aren’t comfortable doing any of these, seek a professional for help instead.
Let’s start with as we enter our RV, our steps double as a housing compartment for our chassis battery and our two house batteries. They are easy to forget about, but they are incredibly important. Our house batteries operate all of our 12-volt systems in the RV and when we turn on our inverter, the power that it creates is drawn from those same house batteries. So, we want to keep them up and running in the best condition possible.
We do a monthly check on the water levels of our batteries and add distilled water as needed to bring the levels back to above the charging plates. It is also important to keep your batteries clean. I have read that dirt that sits on top of your batteries can actually cause your batteries to slowly discharge over time.
However, keep in mind that if your batteries say “maintenance free” you will not need or be able to add distilled water to them, as they are sealed. Maintenance free only means that you cannot add water, you should still periodically clean and check your cable connections.
Next let’s talk about the 120-volt system. But before you do anything, turn off your main breaker and shore power breaker, unplug from shore power, and make sure your generator is not running.
With all power disconnected, I like to check as many of the wire connections as possible. I do this every 10,000 miles because our RVs get bounced around a lot on the road and it is easy for things to work themselves loose. I just started doing this recently due to an issue we had with our automatic transfer switch. If I would have been doing these checks sooner, I would have caught this issue before we lost power one night.
The two main areas I check are the connections in the main breaker panel (ours is located under our bed) and our automatic transfer switch. If any of these wires would become loose, they can begin to arc and cause serious damage.
While checking these connections to make sure they are tight, take a look at the wiring as well and look for any discoloration, such as white wires turning brown. This is an indication that there is something causing resistance, such as a loose wire. Resistance will cause excessive heat and damage those wires.
While you have your screw drivers out checking the connections of the wires, now would also be a good time to go around and tighten cabinets, light fixtures, door handles and anything else that may be vibrating loose. We once had our dinette lamp fall down from so much road vibration. Luckily it did not break, but a simple turning of the screws once in a while prevents things like this ever happening again.
For the plumbing system, I like to look under the cabinets of our sinks on a quarterly basis for any signs of leaking – especially at any connections or signs of water damage at the bottom of the cabinet floor. I remove and dismantle our water pump every six months to clean out not only the strainer, but the diaphragm as well.
I also sanitize our fresh water tanks with bleach on a quarterly basis, this is not only for our safety to drink the water, but it also helps prevent bacteria from growing inside your water pump which will eventually cause it to clog up.
Onto the maintenance of our appliances, starting with our refrigerator. There is not much to do other than to defrost it every so often. Keep an eye on the metal fins in the back of the fridge for frost and ice buildup. A small amount of ice and frost on the fins is ok, but you don’t want it looking like a glacier back there. Excess ice buildup will make your refrigerator run less efficiently and no one wants their ice cream to melt or freeze up.
Our stovetop is another appliance I keep an eye on by performing a propane leak test. This test may not be for everyone, since you need a gas pressure kit and not everyone has one on board with them. But, I use one made by Yellow Jacket and it works great. This test is not only checking the stove top for leaks, but the entire RV. The test takes about twenty minutes to set up and get the readings. If it shows any drop in pressure, then you have a propane leak somewhere in your RV and it’s time to start looking or smelling around to find out where the leak is located. I perform this test every six months.
However, working with LP gas is not for everyone. If you do not feel you have the knowledge or desire to safely perform an LP pressure test, please contact a professional.
Daily Visual Inspection
Finally, I like to do an overall visual inspection of everything in the RV, this can be done every day just as you walk through your RV. As you use your RV, try to be mindful of the condition of your equipment and how everything is working.
During heavy rain storms, I also like to open all of our cabinets to look for any signs of water coming in through the ceiling. A lot of times, cabinets can hide any evidence of water damage, so I open all of our cabinets and search the corners with a flashlight.
As I’ve shared in these blog posts, I am always trying to catch an issue as it is beginning rather than waiting for it to fail completely. I hope you found this two-part maintenance series to be very helpful and I wish everyone safe travels as they continue to enjoy the RV life.
For more tips, check out the “Self-Help Tools” section on the Winnebago Service page: https://winnebagoind.com/service
No matter how you use your RV, maintenance is very important. But, for full-timers like us, using your RV more often means you will need to be even more diligent about preventative and scheduled maintenance. However, these are tips every RV owner can benefit from, you may just need to adjust the timetables to suit your travel style.
We consider two big components to our RV maintenance: the powertrain/chassis and the home that sits on top of it. Our RV is not only our home, but often our commuter vehicle as well. It is what we rely on to take us from one work assignment to the next. And because of this, our RV needs to be kept in top condition.
We move every seven to nine days and have put over 30,000 miles on our RV in the last year, so maintenance has become just part of the routine to keep not only the chassis and powertrain running great, but the home half as well.
Maintaining a Rolling Home
In this article, I am going to concentrate mostly on the home portion of the RV, because I believe most people know how important it is to keep their vehicles running with routine oil changes, as well as tire, brake and fluid level checks.
I will add though, that our chassis does need to be greased with every oil change and we also recently did a fluid analysis from JG Lubricants on our engine oil, transmission fluid and generator oil to be sure everything was not only clean, but also that there are no problems starting to develop in our engine and transmission.
We cannot stress this enough: catching small problems or issues early before they become full-blown issues can not only save time by keeping the RV out of the shop, but also money.
Every time we take the RV down the road we are basically subjecting our home to mini earthquakes. There are so many systems in the RV and they all work together to keep us safe and comfortable. It is important to check each major component regularly to avoid future issues. In this first part of my two-part series, I’ll focus on what you should be checking for and doing outside your RV. So, let’s start at the top and work our way down.
I try to get up on our roof as much as possible and check over caulk, seals and the overall condition of the roof. (Just be very careful while you are up there!)
Caulk: I am usually looking for peeling, cracking or separation of caulk, not only around items such as vents and antennas, but along the perimeter of the roof line as well. As I mention in this RV wash tutorial video, I often do most of these checks while cleaning the roof. Inspecting a clean roof will help you better identify small problems before they become big issues. No one enjoys rain inside their RV!
Air conditioning: While I am up on the roof with our RV unplugged from shore power, I also remove our air conditioner cover and inspect our A/C unit to make sure the fins are clear of any debris. I also inspect to make sure the fins are straight and in good condition. I do the A/C inspection twice a year and clean the filters that are located inside the RV weekly.
Slide toppers & awning: Next, I take a look at the condition of all our slide toppers and awning fabric, making sure there are no signs of stress or tearing.
Window seals: Moving down from the roof, I inspect our window seals, again looking for peeling, cracking or separation in the caulk.
Fridge & furnace: I remove vent covers for our fridge and inspect them for bugs and nests. It is also important to check that the drain tube is clean and clear, however, this is not applicable for a residential-style refrigerator. Speaking of clean and clear, I also do a visual inspection of our furnace exhaust to make sure we do not have any hitch hikers in there.
Awning & slides: I inspect our awning arms and use three-in-one brand silicone spray to keep all of the joints lubed. This is also a great time to inspect the condition of your slides. I try to keep our slide tracks dry and clean, I will wipe them down with a terry cloth, then spray them with the same three-in-one silicone spray to keep them running smooth.
Steps: I clean and lube our retractable steps every three months using the same silicon spray, I also check and tighten any bolts on the steps as we have noticed they tend to work themselves loose over time with all of the bouncing around we do going down the road. One thing you can do to prevent this is swap out some of the hardware with Nyloc nuts, they have a nylon inert that will help stand up to vibration from all of the traveling we do as full-timers.
The Feet of the RV
The tires and jacks are inspected weekly. We recently purchased snap pads for our jacks, we think of them as shoes that not only protect the surfaces of parks and campgrounds we visit, but they are protecting our jack pad as well.
Jacks: What I am looking for the most while inspecting our jacks are any signs of rust or discoloring on the arms of the jacks. I am also looking for any hydraulic fluid leaks.
Tires: For the tires, I am also visually inspecting them for any signs of abnormal wear, drying or cracking. I try my best to inspect the tread for any nails or screws that we may pick up going through parking lots or gas stations. Sometimes you can have a screw in a tire and not have it affect its performance till down the road somewhere.
Our generator is a gas Onan 4,000 and I change the oil in our generator every one hundred hours. If you are using your RV in a seasonal manner, and not reaching one hundred hours often, then it is suggested you change it at least yearly and use your generator at least monthly. You can do this by starting up the generator and letting it run thirty minutes or so with an electrical load such as running the A/C unit or hot water heater.
I also inspect our air filter along with our spark plug every six months, and change if needed.
This wraps up the first half of our routine care and preventative maintenance of our RV. Our next blog post will continue on to the inside of the RV and will include electrical and plumbing.
For more tips, check out the “Self-Help Tools” section on the Winnebago Service page: https://winnebagoind.com/service
When you consider traveling, one thing that always comes to mind when planning is if you are able to bring your pets with you along for the ride. When Sabrina and I decided that we needed to make changes in our lives to spend more time together, we came across several options. One of those ideas was to live out of hotels across the country while Sabrina was working on assignments. We thought we could save money on housing and living expenses since the hospitals she would be working at would pick up the cost of the hotels while she was working.
This sounded great except for one little 25-pound issue, our furry friend Belle. Belle is our small dog, and she is not welcome everywhere in the hotel industry. Even when she is, there is usually a non-refundable pet fee that can cost anywhere from $75 to $200 to welcome her. Hotels also lack large green spaces nearby. Sure, the hotels usually have grass patches here and there, but nothing like a campground where you can step right out your door and go for shaded walks or go to a dog park where she can run off leash.
So, with Belle’s help the decision was made to live out of an RV and it has turned out to be a great option for us. Belle now gets to tag along with us everywhere we go and recently we found an RV park that is designed just for her. When we heard of this place and looked it up, we knew Belle would love it. What we didn’t know is how much we would too! Sabrina had some free time off from work, so we packed up the RV and tagged along with Belle for our first trip that was all about her.
First impressions of the campground
When we arrived at 4 Paws Kingdom Campground & Dog Retreat in North Carolina, we were greeted by an extremely friendly staff and escorted to our site. They have very large sites with some pull throughs as long as 110 feet, making it very big-rig friendly. (Prices start at about $40 per night).
We had a great shaded, full-hookup, pull-through site that included a fire pit, picnic table, 30/50 amp service and the best part of all … a private fenced in area for Belle to hang out off leash. Belle has never had her own yard and she loved it! This was her own space she could roam around in or just sit and wait to bark at the golf carts passing by.
The yard was a treat for us too. Now when we wanted to let Belle out, all we had to do was open the gate and then open our RV door and she would run right into her yard.
Another wonderful thing we immediately noticed when we arrived was how quiet the campground was. It was so calm and completely peaceful, we suspect this was due to the fact that you must be 18 years of age to be allowed on the property. This meant it was going to be not only a great trip for Belle, but it was going to be a retreat from the standard campground for us, too. Just Belle having her own play area would have made this a wonderful experience, but we quickly found out there was so much more to this campground.
For the dogs
We will start with the group play areas they have for all of our furry friends, there are eight dog parks in all. There is the main dog park which is very large, well shaded, and includes an area for us to sit and relax while the dogs play and chase each other. This was probably Belle’s favorite park since she loved that occasionally there were brave squirrels that would try to run through the park. If it was not for them being able to run up the trees, they would have been goners.
They also have a large pond park. This is probably the largest of the parks and I would say it is at least the size of two football fields. In the center of the park is a large pond where the pups can go swimming or if they are like Belle just put their paws in. There is a decent amount of shade in this park as well as a large gazebo.
Four Paws Kingdom also has a small dog park for dogs under 30lbs, a tiny dog park for dogs under 15 pounds, an agility park with plenty of obstacles, as well as a private dog park where only one dog is allowed in the park at a time. Now is probably a good time to point out that the RV park is all dog breed friendly, too! There are no restrictions at all. As long as your pup can behave and not cause trouble, they are welcome.
The last two parks are game parks, one is the ball park where they have two kiddie pools filled with balls. Belle loves to play catch, even though she is not all that great about bringing the ball back.
The final park we want to mention is the lure park. This is where the staff can tie a bag on a cable that runs in a loop around the park. They are able to operate how fast the bag travels and are even able to change its direction while the dog chases it, to say this is a big hit with the pups would be an understatement.
Some of the other great features to this park are the amenities they have set up for our furry friends. There is an outdoor grooming station as well as climate-controlled indoor bathing stations. This was especially nice for us, since it made cleaning Belle a breeze on the elevated station.
We would also like to add if you know someone who has dogs but no RV, the campground has cabins, yurts and even travel trailers that can be rented out for a truly one of a kind camping experience.
This was a fantastic experience for us, with scheduled social activities for the humans, as well as so much to do for the dogs. We were able to play all day and then retreat back to our campsite to unwind for the night.
We will be back for sure, in fact this will now be our go-to place for when we are in North Carolina. If you’d like to see Belle enjoying the park, Sabrina and I have a short overview video of the campground here.
Take care everyone and safe travels!
Windrock Park will always be very special to Sabrina and me. When we were thinking about purchasing an RV, we first rented a Class A motorhome and took it to Windrock Park campground to see how we would like the RV lifestyle. We also rented off-highway vehicles, also known as ATVs, for a weekend while we were there. The RV rental itself was in horrible condition, but the experience was amazing and locked in our decision to hit the road.
We now have been living in our RV for a full year and we wanted to do a trip to celebrate our nomadiversary. What better way than going back to Windrock Park where it all began? We wanted to make this trip extra special, so we invited our friends Dave and Katie from RN-RV Chronicles to meet up with us at Windrock for the week and our friend Mark came along with us and stayed in our RV. To say we had a blast would be an understatement.
Windrock Park campground in Oliver Springs, TN, is a unique camping experience where you can rent side-by-side ATVs and drive them like you own them. You can even park them overnight at your campsite if you rent for multiple days, which you just may want to do if you plan to see all 300 miles of trails.
The trails come in three different levels: easy, moderate and difficult. We never stepped up to a difficult trail, but some of the moderate ones felt difficult to us novice riders.
Getting the ATVs
It all starts at the camp store and the experience is very similar to renting a car, except they walk you through the operation of the vehicles before you drive away with it. The instructor showed us all the features of how to engage the four-wheel drive, how to change it from high to low, as well as how to lock all the wheels in case we would really get stuck.
He then showed us any damage that he noted on the vehicle and asked us to look it over as well. While inspecting the roof he pointed out the damage on the roll bar and said it was from the previous group who rolled the vehicle completely over. This was a nice reminder to us that these can roll, and we should be cautious out there.
Going off road
With our helmets strapped on, we took off into the mountains. It had rained pretty hard that week and the trails were extra muddy. This really added to the fun for most of us, although Sabrina asked if I could strategically hit the puddles, so the mud would only splash on me and avoid her. Sometimes we were crawling up hills being careful not to let our tires lose grip and slip back down the hill. Other times, we were slowly going downhill, being careful not to tip over. But there were also moments where we could really pick up the pace and slide around corners letting our rear tires dance around on top of the dirt.
Most of the trails were very scenic, and as a passenger it was fun just to take in the sights – especially at the top of the mountains that let you see for miles. My favorite parts of the trails were the thick green areas that looked like the jungle. The small waterfalls would cross over the trails and at times it looked like we were driving through Jurassic Park. I kept a sharp eye out for any raptors that might be lurking in the woods. We really felt like we were on an adventure and loved it!
We did have a few close calls where we felt like we were going to tip over or get stuck in some of the deep mud, but for the most part I think we all handled ourselves very well. Our toughest challenge turned out to be trying to read the map, so we did not get lost. Since we had trouble navigating during the day, we were always sure to start making our way back to camp before dark, so we wouldn’t get lost for good.
Back at the campground
The fun did not end on the trail. Back at our campsite, we had plenty of room for our RV, car, two ATVs and all of our friends. We did cookouts and swapped stories about our adventures on the trails while sitting around our campfire. We laughed at being more lost than found on the trails and how every small hill climb was a huge victory. We hope to make this a yearly tradition and continue to invite more people out with us to enjoy this adventurous experience. One day we might even learn how to read a map.
If you are looking for more than the standard campground experience and want a bit of adventure in your next RV getaway, then we think you will love Windrock Park and all it has to offer. We also have a six-minute video about our experience, if you’d like to see a little more from our trip.
When Sabrina and I were shopping around for our RV it was easy to find dealers and RV shows where we could walk through various RVs and get a good feel of what it would be like to spend our days in the space. When walking through the RVs, we could tell which brands were using materials of high quality and which ones were not. We were quite impressed by Winnebago and the impeccable fit and finish of the things we could see.
But what about things we couldn’t see? I worked in construction for over a decade and knew the materials we could not see were just as – if not more – important than what we could see. We wanted to know how the wiring and plumbing were installed and we wanted to see the steps taken from a bare bones frame to a finished product.
After a quick search online, we found that Winnebago offered a factory tour in Forest City, Iowa. At this point, we were serious about buying and thought it was a must to find out what went into the construction of the space we would be calling home.
[Note: Photos are not allowed during the Winnebago Factory Tour. All photos of the tour included in this article were provided by Winnebago Industries.]
Factory tour experience
The tour started at the Winnebago Visitor Center where there was plenty of car parking and even RV parking available. You can even stay in one of the complimentary campsites nearby for up to three nights. There is electric at each site and there is a sani station and potable water down the street at Pammel Park if needed.
Free tours are offered twice daily (Monday through Friday) April through October at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. – except for holidays and the week of July 4th. Reservations are recommended for groups larger than six people, and they ask that you do not wear open-toed shoes. (For contact information and other details, check here: https://winnebagoind.com/company/visit).
When we entered the visitor center to sign up for the tour, we were not expecting a free museum about Winnebago’s fascinating history. We arrived early for the tour and spent an hour and a half in the museum before the tour even began. When the tour was ready to begin, a bus picked us up at the visitor center. Our driver/tour guide greeted us, and we were on our way.
The factory sits on 60 acres, so it’s nice to be shuttled around for the two hours. We were impressed right away with what we saw. We had no idea that so much of the RVs were built in house and by hand. We were also impressed by the attention to detail the employees were putting into their work.
We enjoyed going up onto the catwalks and looking down onto the assembly lines, it really gave us a nice aerial view of the raw chassis coming into the building all the way to the finished ones going out the door. You really have to watch carefully to see them even move as it goes so slow. This tour is exactly what we were looking for!
From up high we could watch the tile installers laying all the flooring down and the cabinets coming into place. We watched them carefully install the windows, add furniture, and we were able to see that the appliances were bolted into steel and the steel studding going into the framework and walls. It really looked like they were building a home that just happened to sit on wheels.
We were glad to learn that our captain’s chairs are bolted to a steel frame rather than a wooden one. Surprisingly, this is not standard with all manufactures. Another thing we liked was that the fresh water and holding tanks were custom made in house and in all different shapes and sizes. Instead of just having a stock rectangle, they are able to make them fit perfectly around obstructions in the build – such as plumbing and support structures – this allows for larger tank capacities than most other RVs.
One of our favorite areas was the Stitchcraft building, we really enjoyed walking through it and being able to touch and see all of the fabrics in their raw form before the seamstresses began turning them into finish products. Prior to this, we thought for sure that pillows, blankets and cushions were something that would have been outsourced.
While on the tour we met a retired couple on the bus who worked in the Winnebago Factory for 30 years and came back to see the tour. They were telling us how wonderful their time was with Winnebago and how much they enjoyed working for the company. I know that does not improve the build quality directly, but I’d like to think that happy employees take more pride in their work than disgruntled ones.
The deciding factor
Sabrina and I really enjoyed our time on the tour and after seeing how the RVs were made, we knew that Winnebago was the right choice for us. We have put over 30,000 miles on our Vista and have traveled all over the country this past year and our coach has been the key to us having safe and fun travels.
If you are considering purchasing a Winnebago, we highly suggest taking this tour to get more insight into what you are buying. And if you already own a Winnebago and have been thinking about taking the factory tour, now is a great time to start planning your trip!
During this year’s Grand National Rally (which begins July 23rd), Winnebago will be offering special building tours including tours of the Cabinet Shop, Chassis Prep & Metal Stamping, Motor Home Assembly, Stitchcraft and Rotocast-Plastics.
Sabrina and I will also be doing a live presentation at this year’s GNR at 9 a.m. on July 24th. We would love for you to come out and say hi and let us know what you thought of the tour.
Also, if you are wondering what else there is to do in Forest City while you are there, we did a short video of where we went after our tour of the Winnebago factory.
We hope to see you this July and wish you all safe travels!
Let’s start with why you would want to sleep at a rest area when there are so many nice campgrounds out there to choose from. Sabrina and I move around a lot, we have put over 30,000 miles on our RV since last May. And when we are traveling for her work, we cover a lot of ground in a short period of time.
This means most of our days are spent in our cushy captain’s chairs rolling down the road. When it is time to stop for the day, we are usually going right to bed, waking up early the next morning and getting back on the road again. It just makes more sense for us to pull over for the night, rather than pay for a campground we will never see. The rest areas are easy for us to pull into and get back out again and most of them have clean bathrooms, as well as picnic areas where we can have dinner before turning in for the night.
How to have a more comfortable stay at a rest area:
So now that we have the why, let’s get to the how. We have stayed at many rest areas in the last 30K miles and have come up with a few helpful tips on how to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
Prep your RV
Before we even arrive at our stop for the night we always stop to fill our gas tank and make sure we have plenty of propane. Depending on the weather conditions, you may be running your generator for A/C or propane for heat. We travel in a Class A motorhome and when our fuel gauge reaches a quarter tank, it shuts down our generator to prevent us from running out of gas and being stranded. Those of you who do not have a hardwired generator, making sure it is plugged into your coach and ready to go before you arrive at the rest area can help you avoid any late-night trips outside the rig.
Arrive before dark
Once the RV is ready, we do our best to arrive at the rest area before dark. This usually gives us a better selection of spaces and ensures we will be able to find at least one spot open. There have been times when we have arrived after dark and the rest areas are usually filled up and we have had to keep driving down the road until we found one with open spaces.
Picking the right location at the rest stop can really make a difference. If traveling with a dog, we recommend choosing a spot near the grass, so you have easy access for potty breaks. And when you pull into the space, stay as far back in the lane as possible without sticking out. This will keep your RV as far away as possible from the noise of the diesel trucks starting up and shutting down when they park next to you. This also helps other RVers easily see that the lane is already taken while they are searching for their space.
Setup for the night
With a spot chosen, it is time to setup for the night. We personally do not put our jacks down. We do not want to give the appearance that we are camping at the rest area and also our jacks can damage the tarmac by leaving imprints or even possibly cracking it.
One of the things we do inside the RV to block noise from trucks and other RVs is turn on a white noise app on our phone. The app we use is called Relaxio, and if we place our phones on airplane mode it does not use any data. Running your phone all night will drain the battery though, so we also use a portable charger called an Anker. This allows us to run the app all night and still wake up in the morning with a full charge on our phones. The Anker is capable of charging both of our phones at the same time.
One other thing we did shortly after we bought our RV was spray paint the vent cover in our bedroom black to help make our bedroom darker. This helps block the parking lot lights from bothering us and has helped Sabrina sleep during the day while working night shifts.
Our last tip is a bit controversial and will not be for everyone. Sabrina likes to sleep with earplugs. I do not care for them, but then again, I am a much heavier sleeper and almost nothing wakes me up. The controversy with earplugs is the fact that some people say they block out too much noise and you will not hear an intruder or smoke alarm going off. I know for a fact that Sabrina still hears everything with them in and it just tones things down for her. We also travel with our dog Belle who will not even let anyone walk around the outside of our RV without letting us know, let alone have someone trying to enter it. We have heard from many other RVers that they will not travel without their earplugs. But, this is a personal decision.
The most important tip
Our final tip is to trust your instincts. Sabrina and I have a rule that if either of us has a bad feeling about a place we will leave and look for another spot. This rule has not failed us yet.
Keeping our RV clean and well maintained is important to us. When we started to travel full time we were surprised by how many campgrounds would not let us use their water to wash our RV, so we had to come up with another way to keep it looking good.
Initially, we tried to take it to a truck wash where they used pressure washers. After watching them spray pressurized water into various exhaust vents, I decided to start washing it by hand with FW1 waterless cleaner/wax. I have been using this product for the last five years on our cars and it performs very well.
I also use washing the RV by hand as an opportunity to inspect the overall condition of the exterior of our RV. Looking for any signs of wear and tear along caulk joints, slide toppers, window frames and more.
We hope you find the above video helpful and we wish you safe travels!
Products used in this video:
[Note: All products mentioned here and used in the video are being recommended by this GoLife contributor. Winnebago is not associated with any of the products listed.]
When Sabrina and I decided to start living out of our RV, it was a big decision and one that we did not take lightly. There were a lot of things to consider and it took us almost a year to get everything in place before we could make the transition. We used that time not only to shop for our RV, but also to question “Is it right for us?” In this article we are going to share some of the questions we asked ourselves in hopes that it helps you decide if this is something you would like to pursue.
Before we start, let me say that if you are planning on keeping your RV in one spot for long periods of time with full hookups, then we really do not feel there is much difference between living in an RV versus an apartment or condo and you will be just fine. We change locations a lot in our RV, usually as often as every eight days and this is where we think some lifestyle adjustments will come into play.
Do you bend, or do you break?
I think it is important to know your tolerance level for when things go wrong. Sabrina and I are exact opposites when it comes to RVing. The whole world needs to be crashing down around us before I even sit up to pay attention, Sabrina not so much. The better you are at going with the flow, the easier it will be to enjoy and even laugh when there are things going wrong with your RV, campsites, road, traffic or even the weather. Not every day will go as planned, and we feel its important to be able to make small adjustments quickly to stay on track.
How are you with downsizing and living small?
This can be a big hurdle. Some people go “all in” by selling or donating most of their belongings and some put stuff in storage just in case. Either way, you will have to get accustomed to living with less. Sabrina and I decided to let go of nearly all of our possessions, meaning everything we now own fits in our RV and tow car. When we first started downsizing it seemed easy, but as time went on and we had fewer items to choose from it became more difficult to figure out what stayed and what had to go. Our best advice on this subject is to give yourself plenty of time to downsize. Even now, we look around and say we have too much stuff!
How will you support your new lifestyle financially?
Sabrina had already started traveling full time for her work, so adding the RV to our life actually made things easier. This may not always be the case, and you may need to come up with a solid plan for making income on the road. Maybe even a backup plan in case your first idea does not work out.
Can you say goodbye to friends and family?
When you pack up and hit the road you will most likely be leaving many people behind. This will not only affect you, but them as well. You will no longer be able to text your best friend and say, “Hey let’s meetup!” or tell a family member, “Stop by Sunday for the game!” Luckily, with today’s technology and social media you will be able to do video chats with loved ones and keep in touch daily. They will even be able to follow your adventures and live vicariously through you. When it comes to a holiday or big family event, you’ll be able to pick everything up and roll on over to them. Additionally, you will now be meeting and making new friends with every new place you go.
How will you handle maintenance and day-to-day upkeep?
It does not matter if you purchase a new RV or a used one, there is always maintenance that needs to be done. If your RV is new, you may need warranty work. Or if it is used and you do not feel comfortable doing work yourself, you will have to bring your RV to a dealer to have work done. This will involve scheduling appointments and bringing the RV to a shop where they could have it for hours or even days and you will have to find alternative living arrangements during those time periods. If you are a little handy, you may be able to save money and continue to work on your RV yourself while you live in it, but this still means you might have to change your plans to allow for the extra time to make repairs. Which brings me back to, do you bend or do you break?
Living in an RV can be a very rewarding experience. But, answering these questions will help you be realistic about what to expect and prepare for any potential challenges – which makes it much more enjoyable. What other questions would you ask while thinking of going full time in an RV?
I guess the first thing you are asking is “What is a domicile and why do I need one?” As full-time RVers, even though we travel all over the country, we still have to choose one state as our domicile. This is the state that is seen as your permanent home and where you have significant connections to. It is where you will file your taxes, register to vote, obtain your driver’s licenses, get health insurance and use for your estate planning.
People have asked us what our reasons were for choosing to domicile in Florida. Of course, the answer is that we wanted annual passes to Walt Disney World! Well, that was one of the reasons, but there was a bit more to it than that.
Why Choose Florida as a Domicile?
We were living in the state of Virginia when we purchased our RV. When we decided to live out of our RV we were suddenly able to choose what state we wanted to use as our home state. Sabrina has always been partial to Florida because that is where she grew up. So, we started to research Florida to see what advantages there would be for us to move our home to Florida.
The one advantage that peaked our interest the most was no property tax on RVs! In Virginia, everyone pays property tax on vehicles. Including, you guessed it, recreational vehicles. Moving out of Virginia could potentially save thousands of dollars a year. Another advantage is Florida has no state income tax. While this did not help us too much since Sabrina works in multiple states with state income taxes, it may be a plus for others.
Florida also does not require vehicle inspections which would help us avoid special trips yearly back to our domicile state. The last reason was that Florida offers health care plans that allow us to use health care services outside of the state other than just for emergencies. We felt these reasons made Florida the right choice for our domicile.
Setting up a domicile can be a bit tricky and it took us some time to research how to go about making it happen. If you are thinking about making Florida your domicile then hopefully this will be helpful. As with all things, there may be some new information since the time we set this up, so we recommend you always check the state’s website for up to date information.
This is how we became Floridians step-by-step:
- Set up a mailing service. We chose Escapees Mail Service based on their great reputation and reviews. They forward our mail to wherever we are in the country as we travel. The set up was all done via telephone, email and mail and did not require us to actually go to a particular location, which made it easy. Their service provided us a mailbox as well as a street address in Florida to be used as our physical address. People always ask if we get anything for recommending them and we don’t, we just like their service.
- Update Address. Once we had a physical address, we then changed our bank/credit card addresses as well as our cell phone billing address to our new Florida address. You will need to do this so that you can use your statements as proof of residency when you go to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV) for your new driver’s license. Be sure to make these changes over a month before your trip to the DMV to give the monthly statements a chance to update with your new address.
- Change over auto insurance. Florida requires a vehicle to be insured in their state before you are able to do the registration of a vehicle.
- Call the DMV. Once you have decided which DMV location you would like to use, give them a call or check online before just showing up, many of the DMVs in Florida are by appointment only and we don’t want you to waste a trip.
- Verify VIN & Odometer. We were then ready for our trip to Florida. Before we went to the DMV we stopped at a bank in Florida with a parking lot large enough for our RV. We needed to get the paperwork to verify our vehicle’s VIN and odometers notarized. We were able to download the form from the Florida DMV website. If you have a small enough RV and can fit it in the DMV parking lot you can just bring it to the DMV and they will send someone out to do this.
- Go to the DMV. You will need to bring two proofs of your residential address to the DMV (we used a bank statement and a credit card statement). You will also need primary identification (this cannot be your driver’s license from your previous state) and you will need proof of your social security number.
- Establish connections. To solidify that that this is your actual home state you need to now obtain health insurance in the state and establish those significant connections by finding physicians as well as lawyers for estate planning.
Those are the exact steps we took to make Florida our home state and it went very smoothly. Our final tips are to be aware there is an impact fee for each vehicle you register in the state, so be sure to check the updated cost so you are prepared for it. Also, bring cash or a check to pay for the DMV services as they will charge you a fee to use a debit or credit card.
We hope this info helps anyone who is looking to make Florida their new home state!
Have you ever noticed that RVers are extremely happy? That was one of the first things that caught our attention when Sabrina and I started going to campgrounds. Perfect strangers would come right up to us and strike up a conversation. Some would even offer to help us set up our coach – I guess we looked really clueless while fumbling around with our connections at the beginning.
So, what makes the RV community so happy and friendly? Does dumping your own waste really put you in that good of a mood??? I have a few theories and I hope to hear some ideas from readers as well.
My first thought was most people at the RV parks are on vacation and the feeling of getting away from it all would, of course, put most people in a good mood. I thought this was a solid reason except for the fact that a lot of RVers aren’t on vacation at all. Some use their RVs to travel for work, or they live in their RVs and own a mobile business.
Plus, as far as vacations go, we have stayed at many hotels and resorts and it’s rare that someone comes up to us and starts a conversation and wants to know everything about us, let alone says “Hey do you need help settling into your room? I can carry your bags for you.”
Sabrina takes a ride with our Youtube friends, Camping with the Kelly’s. They also travel full-time and always have their toys with them!
Rolling in Green?
Maybe it’s a money thing. RVs can be expensive, so people who have them must have more money than they know what to do with, right?
This made sense at first, until we started talking with people at the campgrounds and found out most of them were able to RV on the cheap. They had smaller RVs or travel trailers or they purchased used ones and fixed them up themselves. Many people also dry camp or boondock often and just do the occasional campsite to recharge and empty their tanks.
It quickly became clear to us that the type, size or cost of an RV did not reflect the good vibes we picked up from everyone or why they were so happy.
This family of five does extended trips in their 15-ft travel trailer. Look at those smiles!
A Stress-Free Life?
Could RV travel be considered a less stressful way to vacation? Most of the RV parks and campgrounds we go to are very tranquil. When we take our first steps out of our door and breathe in the fresh air of a new day, it is wonderful and just melts away our stress.
Also, in our case we literally have everything we own on us at all times. There is never that moment of panic of forgetting to pack something since we can bring it all with us. We can even bring our pet with us to join in on the fun. Belle, our little dog has never been turned away at a campground and she gets to experience and smell all the new places we visit. After all, we are pretty sure she sees the world through her nose. So, it must be a stress-free lifestyle that puts everyone in an awesome mood!
Although the pups are usually happy, RVing isn’t always stress-free for the humans.
Sadly, I feel like I need to debunk this reason as well. RV travel can be stressful at times. There can be mechanical issues while traveling, roads you can not travel on with an RV, there are crazy drivers around you that you always need to be aware of, and there will be times that you pull into a rest area ready to stop for the night only to find there are no spots left.
So, if it’s not freedom from stress or any of my other theories, what makes us so happy to be in our RV?
This brings me to my final thoughts, and what I believe is the answer. RVers are out doing what they love – even though it may not be perfect all the time. That, combined with the feeling of exploration as they travel to new locations and experience everything a new area has to offer, makes it hard to be unhappy. Most importantly, they are doing this while being surrounded with other like-minded people.
Thanksgiving get together with four groups of full-time RVers.
When we are out of that element and tell friends or family that we are planning on spending a few days somewhere off-grid with no water or electricity, they give us a crazy look and ask why we would want to go back to the middle ages. When you tell someone in the RV community they say, “Oh you’re going to love it, and you should spend more than just a few days!”
The RV community is very supportive and always ready to lend a helping hand. They want you to succeed and share this wonderful experience with others. The positives of RVing far outweigh the negatives. The freedom and sense of adventure that it brings, as well as the satisfaction of being able to work around a problem on our own or with help from others, is very rewarding.
Happy RVers getting ready for the weekend!
Smiles are contagious, and we love when we pull into a new campground and are greeted with so many smiling faces and friendly waves. So, keep them coming and pass them onto others as they enter this wonderful, happy community.
You can follow along with Kenny & Sabrina’s happy adventures on their YouTube channel: Moving Forward.
When Sabrina and I started shopping around for our first RV, we quickly realized there was a lot of equipment that goes into one – from mechanical to electrical to plumbing! So when we then decided to buy a used RV, we were even more concerned about how we would be able to recognize potential problems. We did not know how all the systems worked and we sure wouldn’t have known if they were working properly just by having a salesperson walk us through the RV while we were distracted by the floorplan.
Self-inspection vs. hiring a professional
We continued shopping and hoped by the time we found an RV we would know enough to do a thorough inspection ourselves. That was the plan anyway, until we found one in Ohio 400 miles away from us. It was the perfect match for what we were looking for, a 2016 Vista with only 5,000 miles on it and it was priced $10,000 less than anywhere else in the country. Our first thought was, “What’s the catch?”
We contacted the dealer in Ohio, Shafer’s Truck and RV Sales, and asked for additional photos and more info on the RV. Everything sounded too good to be true. We heard the RV Geeks mention in one of their YouTube videos that when shopping around for an RV to use a third-party inspector before you purchase one. We did not even know that was a possibility!
We then did an online search for RV inspectors and found the National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association (NRVIA) website. There we found Rick Amos, an inspector in Ohio that would be able to drive out to the dealer for us and look over the RV. That was huge for us! This saved us the time and the cost of traveling out of state for an RV that could have been a mess in disguise. We also liked that the inspector had no emotional attachment to this RV and his mission would be purely fact finding. We really wanted this to be the one, which could have blinded us to potential problems if we had tried to inspect it ourselves.
We liked that not only were there check boxes, but photos of what was inspected as well.
Setting up the inspection
Sabrina and I talked it over and, before calling the dealer, we said if they did not allow the inspection then we should probably walk away from the RV. We contacted the dealer and they said it was not a problem, just let them know what day it would be and they would bring it inside and hook it up so the inspector could test it all out. Right away we thought that was a good sign. We did have to pay the dealer a $100 deposit to put a two-week hold on the RV, so no one could swoop in and buy it out from under us while the inspection took place. It would also give us some time to travel there and make the purchase if the inspection went well.
We emailed Rick and he took over from there, setting up the time and day of the inspection. All we had to do was wait to hear what he found out about it … hopefully nothing bad. Rick emailed us at the end of his inspection day and said it went well and he would have a full report for us within the next two days. That actually made us nervous. We were thinking what did he find that would take two days to put together in a report?
One of the many detailed pages of the report and a photo of an outlet that was not able to be used.
The report came in and wow was it detailed. This report was amazing. He inspected things that we would have never even thought to check. Overall, he only found minor issues with the RV and he also had photos documented in the 28-page report. We were very happy with Rick’s findings. Not only did he give us plenty of information to help us comfortably move forward with our decision to buy, but we learned so much about our RV that day.
We called the dealer and told them that Rick had found a few items. The dealer told us that Rick spent 9 hours looking over the RV. We had no idea that he had put that much time into it. The dealer asked us to send a copy of the report and they would take care of everything that was found.
Report showing awning pulled out of track and possible caulking fails.
The inspection cost us $500 and it was well worth it when you consider the price of an RV and how many horror stories there are out there of RV failures shortly after a purchase. We would have never been able to do this level of inspection on our own.
We kept thinking sticks-and-bricks homes are inspected before purchase, so it only made sense to have a big purchase such as this also inspected. Luckily, the RV did not have any major issues and has proven to be a great buy for us. We are about to hit 20,000 miles on our Vista and have only had minor issues caused from shaking and rattling down the road.
When we arrived at the dealer, I was able to use the info from the report and check that all was fixed as promised.
If you found this article helpful, we also have a Youtube video about the inspection.