When we first latched onto the whimsical idea of hauling off into the great unknown, I was the first to say, “Hey… let’s do an RV. We both know to drive, how hard can it possibly be?!” We started going to RV shows and hanging out on RVTrader.com on the weekends. We bought books and talked to everyone we knew with any experience. All that preparation and we stilled missed a few things. Here is our list of things we wish we would have known before we started (and why):
If you have onboard power (a generator and/or solar) and a decent water tank, do it. Before we set out, we planned to stay in a campground or a Walmart parking lot every night. Finding boondocking was a game changer for us.
When we boondock it embodies the feeling of free. The dog can be off the leash. We hear nature. We don’t have to see other campers if we don’t feel like being social. We get visits from wild animals. We see the stars better than we’ve ever seen them. We actually make really great friends (ironic, right?! Boondockers are a surprisingly social group). We also save hundreds of dollars (or more) every month. We still go into a campground once a week or so for supplies and to clean up (no one likes to smell) but we absolutely spend more time out in nature than in a campground.
Coming from New England, I had no idea how accessible the land is to us Americans. The idea of parking somewhere off the beaten path just doesn’t exist in the East. Every bit of land is accounted for in some way and you can be sure, unless you’re a paying customer or friends of the proprietor, you’re decidedly not invited. Who knew there was all the land we’re actually invited to enjoy it?!
To find free camping we use:
2. The Infamous Campground Restrictions Haven’t Applied (Much)
+10 Year Rv Age Limits
When we told people we were looking at an ’85, we got a lot of… “Oh, you know, a lot of parks don’t take rigs older than 10 years.”
Not true. While there may be places and parks that this is the case, we haven’t found one yet.
BUT: We’ve seen the signs often.
We ask about them every time because I don’t want to be some place that doesn’t want us. Inevitably the answer is the same, “Oh, that’s just so we can turn down someone driving something that doesn’t look safe.”
I get it, you don’t want the actual vehicle from the Beverly Hillbillies. We get a lot of compliments about how well the Chief looks and runs. Don’t let the age, in an of itself, have an impact on your decision about the vehicle.
+If Your RV Is Over xx Feet Long, You Won’t Get Into Many Parks
We also worried about the length of the RV. There are plenty of warnings about national parks.
Not being planners, it hasn’t been the length of the RV that has kept us out of the national parks, it’s been our total and complete disregard for planning. That’s ok.
That’s how we discovered boondocking.
When I’ve called national parks to inquire about availability the answer has always been, sure we have spaces but they aren’t available until X date.
The only place we ran into trouble was Humbolt State Park in CA. We wanted to say in a state campground inside the park. Two of the campgrounds were closed for the year and the third couldn’t accommodate anything longer than 24 ft. In that case we had to suck it up and stay at a campground just outside the park for a mega $55/night. Highway robbery but they had plenty of business. Supply and demand. I support capitalism in all it’s many faces.
The point here is to not try and jam your whole family (whatever that looks like) into a 24 ft RV, just so you can visit National Parks. If they just don’t have something that will accommodate your RV, a private park is usually outside the gate.
3. The [Insert Important Feature here] Doesn’t Have to Matter
When we were looking at RVs, we spend a lot of time mulling our options. Like every other full-time family out there we went back and forth on the merits of a 5th wheel or a travel trailer or a motorhome. Everyone starts out looking for the “perfect” Rv.
We learned that being on the road is most important of all. Yes, having a nice bathroom and shower is great, but don’t get hung up on it. We see posts in RV groups almost daily for people looking for specific layouts and features.
It’s a personal choice, of course, but I’d prefer a less than perfect layout and no payment than the opposite. Face it, this isn’t a Sticks & Bricks home and some compromises will be made. The fun and adventure far outweighs those compromises.
One of Scott’s major concerns was the size and layout of the bathroom. He wanted the toilet and shower on one side vice split and he wanted a roomy shower. (Still does) So…. he didn’t get what he wanted. The bathroom is split and both the shower and the toilet are tiny. It’s just something we’ve adjusted to.
Those are the three big ones we and many New RVers focus on. We’ve found that compromising in the RV and being on the road, far outweighs getting locked into a payment or waiting just to be able to afford the “prefect” RV.
I’m happy to entertain questions about the list if you have any. I’m also interested in any dissenting opinions. Cheers.