hWe have been living the RV life for 2 months now, and I often get asked “How do you do it with 3 kids?!”
From the moment we announced we were going on the road and living the tiny life, we have heard mixed reviews. Most people have not only been very supportive, but also have marveled at the luck our kiddos have in getting this experience.
A few have said we’re crazy and I am very aware that they are not entirely wrong! ????
Others have asked many many questions that I’m much more prepared to answer now that we’ve actually been living this life.
Just like parenthood, we all have an ideal vision of what life in an RV should be like. How many times did we say prior to becoming parents…I’ll never let my kid do (insert common parenting issue here)!
RV living has become much more mainstream than I could have imagined. The good news about this is that there is a plethora of information out there for research purposes before making this your lifestyle. The bad news….it’s super easy to look at this lifestyle with rose colored glasses. Often when reading another blog or perusing the RV lifestyle fb pages, tons of full timers are raving about living tiny.
So I want to give the nitty gritty of living life full time in a travel trailer with 3 kids, a husband, and 2 bitchy cats.
Our situation is a bit unique to regular full timers in that we will typically stay in one place for 3 months at a time. Often I want to make sure that wherever we do stay, it’s close to where I’m working and there are plenty of things to do in the area for the hubs and kiddos while I’m at work.
Here are just a few of the growing pains we have on a regular basis:
Your kids are going to ask you every single day “what are we doing tomorrow?” This phrase gets exhausting QUICKLY. You think you want to get up and go all the time like you would if you were vacationing, but really sometimes you just want to sit on the couch and Netflix and chill. Children in an RV will not let you do that. They need constant stimulation. We have found a few solutions to this. We try to make sure we are parked in places where the kids can be a little independent. Right now we are on a private property that is all pasture. There is very little for the 3 chickens to get into trouble with. This makes our lives so much easier because they run around outside and play, which tires them out and makes bedtime easier! Other than having freedom to run, we brought our bikes with us so Kendall has been enjoying riding around the 5 acre pasture. Sometimes, though, we just can’t always be outside and active. So we also have a plethora of movies, Netflix, amazon, and Hulu, and then of course the favorite…Nintendo Switch. Between all of these things, plus planning outings to near by swimming holes and hiking, we have found a gentle balance so that the chickens never say they are bored.
The damn laundry is Always. There. You can’t get away from it. I’ve gotten pretty used to going once a week or once every two weeks to the laundromat. But it feels like it never ends. Don’t get me wrong. It felt like that before tiny living too. But it was MUCH easier to ignore it when we had 2500 square feet of living space. Now if there’s even a little pile of laundry, it makes me nuts. And I don’t even have good storage for MY clothing yet. I have actually contemplated getting rid of all of my clothing every week and starting over. Clearly this is not practical…but one can dream. So for now, we do our best to keep the laundry compact and out of the way. I have over-the-door-hanging laundry bags. They are helpful, albeit less practical than I had hoped since the doorways are narrow and the bags fill quickly. And every time I go to the laundromat, it is imperative that the laundry gets put away IMMEDIATELY when I get back. One day I dream to have a portable washing machine that we can hook up to a water source and occasionally do a load at home to line dry….but for now, I just try to use the laundromat as “me time”.
RV parking is harder than it seems. Because RV living has become so popular…it is extraordinarily hard to find a spot to park that is ideal. We like to have full hookups because we try to stay in one place for long periods of time. We need to empty our tanks at LEAST every 2 days if not sooner. We don’t have a portable holding tank yet, so full on boon-docking for long periods of time is impossible. Long term RV sites are super full with long waiting lists and regular campgrounds are EXPENSIVE. We have had lots of luck using HIPCAMP, which is like Air BNB but for campers. In fact with the exception of 2 places, we’ve exclusively used Hipcamp for all our stops. We have loved using this app…we’ve found unique and interesting towns, super wonderful hosts, and even made some friends because of it.
So Many Things….but Where to Put Them? No matter how much you think you’ve gotten rid of in order to make tiny living your lifestyle, I promise you it is not enough. When we left home, we sold a bunch of items we no longer needed, but put much of it in storage in anticipation of our eventual return. We really thought we had this tiny thing ready to go. On the eve of our big journey, we had 0 time left to organize our rig, so we literally threw a bunch of boxes and baskets in and took off. We weren’t even able to sleep in the rig for the first few days! Once we settled down and started to put things away, we realized we STILL hadn’t gotten rid of enough. We were overwhelmed with crap and wondering things like “why did we bring a box fan and where the hell are we going to put it?” (we HAVE used the box fan and we’re actually pretty happy we brought it now, what with the 115 degree temperatures in Washington!). We are utilizing every square inch of storage space in our rig and have had to figure out some fancy solutions for extra storage. We have also given away a lot of clothing that just wasn’t practical. The good news about not having any extra space, is that it stops us from buying crap wherever we are traveling. We have been enjoying more experiences as opposed to buying souvenirs. It’s been quite the lesson for the kiddos, who generally love having new toys. But after almost 3 months of saying no to souvenirs, they’re starting to understand there is greater joy in the things we do instead.
Trying to cook in an RV is like using your kid’s toy kitchen. Cooking in the RV is probably the biggest challenge so far. The oven doesn’t distribute heat well. We had a few full-timers suggest putting a pizza stone in the oven to help distribute the heat. Unfortunately, the stone didn’t like the heat of the gas fire and broke into a million pieces and breaking my heart along with it. The stove top seems to take forEVER to boil water. It appears to be a little powerful flame, but it just can’t keep up with a regular sized Dutch Oven and we often underestimate how long it might take to cook dinner. We can’t run the slow cooker with the A/C and fridge at the same time. Luckily, we have enjoyed grilling a LOT, but the grill is tiny. We can only do about 4 chicken breasts at a time on it. My big wish-list item is getting a Blackstone flat top grill. It is still completely portable, but has a bigger cooking surface AND you can grill things like veggies and shrimp without worrying about them falling through the cracks!
Bathroom time is premium, but don’t take too long in that shower. In our rig, we only have one bathroom, which is extremely challenging with 5 people. No longer can you sit on the “throne” for an extended period of time before someone is banging at the door yelling “I have to poop!” The shower is small and we don’t have a tub, so there’s no such thing as a bath for the kiddos anymore. The shower head isn’t fantastic (hoping to get a new one real soon!) and in order to make sure the hot water lasts through 3-5 showers, we have to use the button on the shower head to stop the water from flowing while we suds up our heads and bodies. “Luxurious shower” isn’t a part of our vocabulary anymore. I used to have aroma therapy bath salts that would melt in the shower….but these are things of the past.
The thing is, RV living isn’t luxurious…and it isn’t glamorous. There are lots of things that we miss on a daily basis. But the things we have seen and experienced have far outweighed the little nuisances. The actual worst part of RV living is finding the place to land for longer than a couple of days. If we were simply just traveling the country and working “from home”, we would have a lot more leeway and wouldn’t necessarily want to land in one place for longer than a week. Alas, working a contract for 3 months at a time has proven to be the biggest thorn in our sides. But…I really love travel nursing. And Peter has gotten quite good at picking up and dropping down in a pinch. So…we keep plugging along, trying to find places to land for longer than a moment, working together to get through the little nuisances, one by one.