Buckle up, this is a long one. (No pun intended)
Once we decided to make the jump to live full-time in an RV as a family of 6, we knew we had a lot to learn. Tony and I began reading everything we could!
I have searched all over the internet for great tips and advice regarding living in an RV full-time, living in an RV with children, and ways to live like a minimalist. I want to share a little bit about what we have learned with you all here. 🙂
The term “RV” stands for a recreational vehicle. There are motorhome RV’s such as a Class A, Class C or Class B that you are able to drive. Many people who purchase a Class A or Class C motorhome often tow a small vehicle (called a toad) or drive a second vehicle along with the motorhome.
There is a different class of RV’s called trailers. These are made up of Fifth Wheels, Travel Trailers or Pop-up trailers that need to be towed by a vehicle, most often a truck.
When Tony and I first began reading online, we thought that we would absolutely NEED a Fifth Wheel. I learned that many full-time RV-traveling families with children travel and live in Fifth Wheels. They are large and most often have a front master bedroom with a solid door for privacy, a living/dining/kitchen area in the center and a back bunkroom with another door for the kids to share. Some may come with a second bathroom, a kitchen island, an outdoor kitchen and a large ‘garage’ space under the front bedroom for outdoor storage. Basically a 2-bedroom apartment on wheels. When we knew that we’d be downsizing from a large house to a small RV we thought, this sounds perfect!
Then we both began reading and talking about how frequently we want to move/travel, where we hope to stay and what the prices are of those campgrounds. As we were researching places on our ‘bucket list’ we realized that MANY State and National Park campgrounds have limits to the length of your RV in order to camp there.
We learned that if we had an RV over 38 feet long, we were going to have a very hard time finding a campsite in most National and State Parks across the country. If you kept your RV under 35 feet we’d have a much better chance of finding a site!
Next, I began reading about what ‘moving-day’ might look like for a typical family. I learned that it can take upwards of 2 to 3 hours to pack up/load up and get on the road each ‘moving day’ with a Fifth wheel, and sometimes just as long to park and set up once you reach your next destination. Also, it can be very difficult to take a potty break as the length of the truck with the fifth wheel hitched on can make it very difficult to stop at average gas stations for a pit stop. Often times you need to wait to find a truck stop or rest stop.
Yikes! We were hoping to travel at least once per week, and it sounded like those with Fifth wheels end up ‘slow’ traveling. Which is often defined by the full-timers at moving once every 3-4 weeks.
Lastly, we talked more about our ‘why’ of traveling full-time in an RV. (see more about Why here) We want to spend more time outside, being active and living like minimalists.
Tony and I discussed this at length and decided in all honesty, that our family will thrive as a fast traveling family. We asked the kids and Riley even told us that he thinks we will want to move at least once per week! We agreed with him, ‘moving’ about once per week will be our way of travel as we have a lot that we want to see! Or at least, we’ll want the OPTION to travel fast if we like. We also really like the idea of staying in many State and National Park campgrounds and living simply while purging SO many of our unnecessary things! (Stay tuned for a post about how great it feels to purge 90% of our things and begin living a simpler life)
The next dilemma was understanding how to keep our gas and campground costs down if we want to move frequently. Again, Tony and I have spent a lot of time discussing different scenarios while typing up our expected budget on spreadsheets. We decided that we would really like to boondock frequently.
You may be wondering….what the heck is boondocking?!
Boondocking, we learned, is a term used to describe an RV staying for ‘free’ without any hookups overnight. There are many options for boondocking. You can boondock in a friend or family member’s driveway, in some National Forests, most BLM land (Buero of Land Management), in Walmart or Cabela’s parking lots, or even on some vineyards across the USA. There are great websites and apps for your phone available to help you find and connect to some of the amazing sites such as Boondockers Welcome, Free Campsites, Harvest Hosts. We decided that staying on BLM land outside of some beautiful National Parks, or in some beautiful National Forests, or even in family or friends driveways while we are traveling around the country visiting with loved ones on the way, was exactly what we’d like to be able to do!
Our RV searching then changed into another direction!
I began to ask many full-timers in the online discussion groups Tony and I frequented and facebook groups such as Full-time Families, what types of ‘rigs’ are best to boondock with and are not as difficult to set up and clean up on moving day. Tony and I also read many different blogs and forums and came to the same conclusion. It sounded like a motorhome would be our best bet. More specifically a Class C motorhome.
For those of you who don’t know me well, I’m a list maker. I like to try to keep my thoughts organized by making lists. This was no different. I made an A list of features the RV HAS to have, a B list of the features we WANT to have and a C list of things that we would LIKE to have but is not necessary. I’ll share with you all what my google-Docs list said:
HAS to have (A-list)
1. Bedroom for Tony and I with a door (not a curtain) for privacy
2. A separate bunk/sleeping space for Riley (as he’s our only boy) from his sisters
3. Designated sleeping spaces for each family member separate from the common areas (not having to change the dinette into someone’s bed)
4. Ability to hook-up to a generator for boondocking
5. Affordable payments
Really WANT to have (B-list)
1. Shorter (under 38 feet) RV in length, so that we can get into most State and National campgrounds
2. A double sink with covers in the kitchen
3. A dresser or closet in the master bedroom that could be converted into a desk for work
Would LIKE to have (C-list)
1. A full-size refrigerator
2. A bathtub
We looked over our lists, talked a lot, visited a few dealerships and attended an RV show at the US Bank stadium and toured A LOT of RVs. What we learned was that we really wanted a Class C with extra bunks for the kids.
Tony’s extended family (2nd cousins I believe) own and run Hilltop Campers and Trailers in the Twin Cities area of MN. We spoke with Hilltop and we were able to set up a time to see in person the 2017 Jayco Greyhawk31FS. Once all 6 of us were inside, I knew it was perfect for us!
The Greyhawk 31FS has a separate master bedroom with a door in the back with a large wardrobe that can easily be converted into a stand-up desk in the future. It also has a double sink with flush covers, a large over the cab bunk bed for Lilya and Gwendolyn to share and a slide with 2 bunks for Riley and Jasmine. It also has an onboard generator and is perfect for boondocking! It basically meets all of my A-list and B-list items!
It’s only 32 feet long and 11 feet 6 inches high so it can fit in most State and National parks without any issues. It also is a Jayco make, which offers a 2-year warranty which sounded perfect for us, as Tony and I are not the type to want to do huge modifications or handyman/woman things to an RV.
So….after going back to Hilltop a second time to allow Tony to take the RV on a test drive, we decided that this was the rig we really wanted!
Our plan is to keep our Toyota Siena minivan that I’ll drive separate from the RV with the bikes on the van’s hitch, while Tony drives the RV. Eventually, I’ll become comfortable driving the RV and we can trade off, but I’ll let him start out driving it 😉
You may be wondering why we don’t plan to tow the minivan so that we can all ride in Class C together and save (a little) on gas?! Well, I’ll tell you….it all comes down to the Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC).
We learned that most Class C’s do not have a high CCC and can become damaged if you overload them. That includes the weight of people, food, clothes, gasoline, propane, fresh water and anything that you towing.
You may be wondering…….why not go with a Class A then? It’s bigger and tows more while staying within its CCC! Well, we steered away from Class A’s for 3 reasons.
1. They are often too big to get into many of the smaller spots we were talking about regarding State and National Parks.
2. They are much more expensive to purchase and to maintain than a class C.
3. A class A layout does not allow for 6 people to sleep in designated beds without having to turn a couch or dinette into a bed each night for someone.
So after a very lengthy explanation here is the big announcement……………..we went ahead and put a downpayment on the 2017 Jayhawk Greyhawk 31FS!!!!
We are officially picking up our new RV on May 10th!!
Here are a few more pictures in case you’d like to see more of the set-up in our new RV! I appoligize for the quality of the picutres, they were taken with my phone which doesn’t always give the clearest quick pictures.