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How to Downsize and Simplify for Full-time RV Life

How to Downsize and Simplify for Full-time RV Life

Erin No Comments

During the process of transitioning to full-time RV life, one of the very first things you’ll need to do is downsize and simplify. After all, an RV might feel huge as you’re driving it down the road, but when it comes to living in one, even the biggest RVs with the most slides can feel teeny tiny.

Unfortunately, many people find the idea of downsizing daunting. They take one look at all the stuff they’ve acquired through the years and feel completely overwhelmed as they wonder what they should keep, what they should get rid of, and where to store things they can’t keep in the RV.

If all of that sounds familiar, this is the article for you. Here we will discuss the ins and outs of simplifying your life for RV living, so you can feel the sweet freedom of leaving the stuff behind for a life of adventure.


This article may contain compensated links, please read our disclaimer for more information.


The Purging Process

Let’s begin by discussing purging. This is probably the most stressful part of downsizing as it means getting rid of the things you’ve likely held onto for years. What we’ve found is that it’s best to take this process one step at a time, breaking it down into little pieces rather than looking at it as a whole.

Start in one room, open one drawer or cabinet, and sort through the stuff there. As you come across each item, ask yourself if it is truly useful to you in your day-to-day life. If it is, put it into a “keep pile”. If the answer is “no” and if the item is not an important paper or sentimental piece, it should go immediately into a “donate”, “sell”, or trash pile depending on what it is. Important papers and photos should go into a pile of their own, as should sentimental items.

Some items may strike you as being potentially useful “down the line.” In these cases, you’ll almost always want to get rid of the thing in question. Anything that isn’t used on a weekly basis probably doesn’t deserve your valuable storage space. Besides, most things can be replaced pretty easily if you do find you need said item in the future.

Once that first drawer or cabinet is finished, move onto another and do the same thing. Repeat this process until you’ve gone through every drawer and cabinet in a room, making six piles:

  1. Keep
  2. Donate
  3. Sell
  4. Trash
  5. Important papers/photos
  6. Sentimental

RV Living - Minimize your stuffWith every storage space in the first room cleaned out, take a look around that room and sort through any stray items that may be on the countertops or floor. Wrap up that room by tossing the trash pile and donating anything in your “donate” pile, then move onto the next room, using the exact same process to clean through each and every item.

Paring Down the Rest

Once your entire house has been sorted through, you should be left with items to keep, items to sell, a stack of important papers, and a collection of sentimental items.

 

Selling the Excess

Getting rid of the “sell” pile is easy enough to do and can make you some extra cash, giving reluctant sellers some motivation. You can choose to have a yard sale to get rid of this pile, or you could list those items on Facebook or Craigslist.

Downsizing to experience Full Time RV Life

Whittling Down the Sentimental Stuff

As far as sentimental items go, start sifting through the collection again. Consider how you would feel about parting with each item. Would a photo or scanned copy of the thing suffice? If not, could you put it in storage and part with it temporarily? Do you have a loved one who might keep and care for the item for you?

As you ask yourself these things, make smaller piles by sorting the sentimental items according to what you will do with them, then hand off things you won’t be keeping as soon as possible in order to keep it quick and painless.

 

Sorting the “Keep” Pile

At this point, your “keep” pile should be fairly small. Go through this pile again and be brutally honest with yourself, asking yourself if you truly need to have each item. Make sure to get rid of doubles of things such as cooking utensils and hairbrushes, cut back on things such as craft supplies, and remember that if things are lost or broken, they can always be replaced.

 

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Dealing with Papers and Photos

As you go through things you will probably come across an enormous number of important documents, as well as hard copies of photos. Many of these documents and all of the photos can be scanned and stored digitally using a scanner such as this. This will save a ton of space and cut down on the weight of your rig.

Sort your photos when moving into an RV full time

When storing documents digitally, be sure to save them in multiple places. For instance, some people choose to keep these important papers on their computer and a thumb drive, as well as saving them somewhere in the cloud like Dropbox.

Some documents which you’ll want to keep hard copies of include the titles to any vehicles or other property you own, your passports, social security cards, birth certificates, other forms of ID, and insurance verification. That said, it doesn’t hurt to have digital copies of these items as well. These should all be stored in a fireproof container in a cabinet in the RV.

If you prefer to keep hard copies of some photos, consider purchasing some boxes such as these to keep them safe during your travels.

 

How to Store Things

As mentioned before, you do have the option of leaving some stuff in storage. This is a great option for those who are hesitant to get rid of certain items. That said, unless you have a family member who is willing to offer you storage space, you will want to consider the cost of keeping a storage unit before making this decision.

How to store things for full time RV living

If you do decide to put some stuff in storage, be sure to store things in such a way that they will not be destroyed in your absence:

  • The boxes mentioned above are perfect for keeping photos safe in a storage unit.
  • Meanwhile, a bigger fireproof safe can be used to leave some important documents behind if you wish.
  • Vacuum bags are awesome for saving as much space as possible when putting things into boxes to store, and they also help keep pests at bay while helping to keep moisture off of fabrics.
  • That said, you will want to add some mothballs to each box to ensure the bugs and rodents leave your stuff alone.
  • Additionally, including some Damprid will help prevent mold and mildew from cropping up while you’re away.
  • Furniture bags are great for protecting big pieces.
  • All smaller items should be sorted well and kept in tight-sealing boxes.
  • All boxes should be labeled to make finding things easy when you return.

What to Replace

Some items are very useful in day-to-day life, but are too bulky to be practical for RV living. In many cases, these bulky items can be replaced with smaller versions of the same thing. You might also consider replacing single-use kitchen items with gadgets that have multiple functions.

For instance:

These smaller multi-use items will allow you to get the exact same things accomplished without using so much of your cabinet and counter space.

Helpful RV Storage Tips and Products

The final step is moving everything into the RV. However, before physically moving anything, make a note of what you need to store in the RV, along with the cabinets and drawers you have at your disposal.

Sit down and figure out where each and every item will live, ensuring there is a place for everything before you ever lift a finger. Doing this will help reduce stress during moving day, as you will be able to put things away immediately and won’t be left with a pile of stuff on your tiny living room floor.

Planning ahead is also helpful because it will give you a chance to figure out what kinds of storage and organization products you need to buy. Here are some of our favorite storage products.

Of course, not all of these items are useful to all people or in all rigs. Carefully consider what you really need before making a purchase in order to avoid wasting time and money.

 

More Quick Tips

Toys

When paring down toys, give kids a box or some other container they are allowed to fill. Let them know that they may only keep what fits in that box, meaning you will likely need to implement a “one thing in, one thing out” policy.

 

Clothes

A capsule wardrobe (or something like it) is ideal for tiny living. This involves choosing a single base color—such as black, brown, or navy—and owning a few key items in that color. All other items must mix and match with these key items, meaning you can keep just a few things but have plenty of different outfit options.

 

Books and Movies

Keeping books and movie in digital form can save a ton of space. Subscription services such as Kindle Unlimited and Scribd can help ensure you always have new things to read, and streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu are great for keeping your movie and TV show options fresh. Another great option is to use your library card to borrow books and sometimes even movies from the Overdrive app.

 

Simplifying for Full-Time RV Life

Simplifying your Full-time RV life_

Hopefully, this article helps you feel more confident as you dive into the simple yet rich world of RV living. Taking those first steps may feel overwhelming, but once you do it you’ll never look back!

What steps did you take to get started RVing with your family that you found helpful? Share it in the comments below!


Fulltime Families is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

Yellowstone National Park With Family

Visiting Wyoming’s National Parks with Family and Friends

Erin No Comments

While full-time travel as a family is amazing, it is even better when friends and family want to fly in to experience a bit of your life. If you can’t met up with a another Fulltime Family, then invite family to meet up with you on the road.

Visit Yellowstone and Grand Tetons With Family

A great place for multi-generational fun and learning is National Parks, and Yellowstone and Grand Tetons are two of the best, and because they are so close to each other it is easy to see both in one trip.

Junior Ranger Books

Make sure to pick up Junior Ranger books on the way into any National Park. They are a great way to get in some fun roadschooling activities. Oh, and despite the name, they are available to all! So they can be a great project for grandparents or aunts and uncles to work on with the kids.

Junior Ranger Badges at National Parks


A special thanks to Eagle Peak Lodge for hosting our stay. All opinions are our own.


While Yellowstone could take months to fully see and appreciate, even a day trip is still worth the time.

What To See In Yellowstone

Entering from the west entrance brings you past rivers and fields full of elk and bison. Heading south on the Grand Loop, you will pass a variety of geothermal features culminating at Old Faithful, about 30 miles from the entrance.

On the way, it is worth stopping at Lower and Midway Basins to spend 30 minutes to an hour walking each boardwalk.

Yellowstone National Park With Kids

The Old Faithful area can easily take all day. It includes a Visitor’s Center and museum, several restaurants and stores, the lodge, picnic areas, and of course Geysers.

Yellowstone with kids

The Old Faithful Visitors center has predicted times for several geysers. This is a great place for a picnic lunch or restaurant dinner before heading back out of the park. If you leave in the evening you will likely be driving into an amazing sunset, remember to keep watch for animals!

Yellowstone National Park

What to See In Grand Teton National Park

Take a day, or more if possible, to visit Grand Teton National Park.

The loop for this park can be done in a day or two, with some stops for views and short hikes. From the South take Moose Wilson Road to Teton Park Road, then return on 191. If time allows, pass 191 and go a few more miles to Coulter Bay Village, where you can turn in your Junior Ranger books. For the ride back, 191 will give a different, more distant view of the peaks and ends in Jackson, Wyoming, which is a great place for dinner.

Where To Camp Near Yellowstone And Grand Teton

There are many options of places to stay while visiting the popular National Parks, and they are hours apart. There are accommodations at the north end of Grand Teton (just south of Yellowstone) that have a great location but are out of budget for many travelers, especially when trying to find an RV park with a hotel or cabins nearby.

Ashton, Idaho is the perfect compromise between price and location if you are trying to visit both parks during the same trip. The drive to West Yellowstone is about an hour and to Grand Teton one and a half hours. Yet the drives are beautiful and worth the views!

National Park wildlife

Ashton is a small town in Idaho named the Seed Potato Capital of the World. There is a small, but reasonably priced, grocery store in town to get the times you need. It also has a gas station and a fly shop/liquor store. Be warned that there are few options for eating out, but there’s a car wash large enough for trucks and RVs!

When traveling with family, our challenge is finding an RV park for our family RV and cabins for the extended family. Often times, many full-time RV families would be happy to find some BLM land to boondock on while traveling out West. Yet, in this instance, we were looking for Cabins.

Cabins are great because they often have a kitchen area as well as separate rooms for sleeping and relaxing. We stayed at Eagle Peak Lodge and RV.

They offer both a hotel and an RV Park with cabins. The full hook-up $30-RV sites are level with gravel parking areas. The $180-cabins are new and clean and include daily cleaning.

The RV park sits well back from the main road, so there wasn’t a lot of road noise. Directly behind the park is farmland, with the Tetons in the distance. There are few trees but there is enough room between sites to sit at a fire and enjoy the sunset.

Camping Outside of Grand Tetons

If you have a day without plans, the Mesa Falls scenic byway, with a stop to view both Upper and Lower Mesa Falls, is worth the one-hour loop drive. Idaho Falls is less than an hour south and has a variety of stores and car rentals.

The closest airports are Bozeman, Montana (2.5 hours), Salt Lake City, Utah (4 hours) and Boise, Idaho (5 hours). There is also a small airport in Jackson, Wyoming. Decide what else you would like to do in the area before choosing the airport, as it can be a bit spread out.

Despite the driving times, a visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks is a great way to spend a multi-generational vacation.  We recommend checking out Eagle Peak Lodge in Ashton Idaho as a clean, well-priced option for both the RV park and cabins. If you make a trip of it, comment below and let us know what you think. Or,  tell us about it on our Facebook Group! We love to hear about all the fun our members are having!

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Fulltime Families Invites you to Full-Time Freedom Week

Erin one comments

Fulltime Families joins the largest online event for RVers.

 

This year Fulltime Families members have traveled all over the U.S., met up for rallies and hangouts, visited national parks, and even caravaned to Alaska! Part of our mission is to provide RV education and community to families who love to RV, whether full-time, on vacations, or on weekends, which is why our owners, Jill and Dustin Denkins, are teaming up with 30 full-time RVers and industry experts to create an incredible FREE virtual event called Full-Time Freedom Week.

 

Full-Time Freedom Week is a completely one-of-a-kind 5-day mega-event that teaches everything you need to know to become or remain a successful RVer.

 

Here are a few of the things you’ll learn November 19-23 during Full-Time Freedom Week:

 

• Choosing the Best RV for you
• Downsizing for your new lifestyle
• Overcoming adversity and embracing a non-traditional life
• Building community on the road
• Preparing yourself financially for full-time travel
• The emotional journey of transitioning to a full-time travel life
• Running a business on the road and/or earning remote income
• The financial costs of full-time RVing and saving money on the road
• Full-time RVing with children and road-schooling
• Solo female RVing
• Helpful RV memberships
• RV renovations, modifications, and gear recommendations
• And so much more!

 

With the free pass you will have access to new videos each day (for 24 hours), as well as a chance to win one of over $2,000 in giveaways. These videos will be from experienced RVers including:

 

Nate and Marissa Moss of Less Junk, More Journey
Bryanna and Craig Royal of Crazy Family Adventure
Cheryl Turnbull of RVing with Special Needs
Dan and Lisa of Always on Liberty
And many more!

 

You can also choose to purchase the All Access Pass for only $47 that includes:
Lifetime access to all the videos
Coupon book with exclusive discounts and free gifts

 

We are so excited to help new and experienced RVers learn more about this incredible lifestyle, and we hope you will join us. Click here to sign up now.

 

Join Fulltime Families for Full-Time Freedom Week

Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home (Roadschool Guide)

Erin No Comments

Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home

Location: Dixon, IL

Reciprocal: None

Full Price Admission Cost: $8 adults; $5 kids; $5 veterans; active duty, LEO, firefighters, under 5 free

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This educational tour begins with a brief movie about President Ronald Reagan’s life growing up in Dixon, Illinois. It’s the perfect introduction to the man, and makes visiting the house itself much more interesting.

Ronald Reagan's Boyhood Home in Dixon Illinois

 

After the movie, visitors head next door for a tour of the house. This was the home Reagan lived in while growing up in Dixon, and has been restored to the way it was when he lived there. Every detail has been thought of and the house has been meticulously maintained, helping guests feel as though they are stepping back in time when they enter. Considering Reagan and his brother visited the house during Reagan’s presidency, we’re guessing the people who restored the home created a pretty accurate final product.

The guide for this tour was very knowledgeable and able to answer questions about the town, the house, and Reagan’s childhood. This was great because it expanded upon the educational aspect of the visit.

Although the tour took less than an hour, we still recommend it. Not only is it interesting and entertaining, it’s also a good stop to stretch your legs when traveling on I-88 through Illinois.

Quick Tips

  • No food is available for purchase. There is however a small park nearby that could be used for a picnic. No seating is available at the park.
  • All parking is on the street. Plan accordingly.
  • Take a drive around town to see statues of Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, along with Northwest Territory Historic Center.

 


This article may contain compensated links, please read our disclaimer for more information.


 

Books to Read

For Littles

For Middles

For Bigs

Videos to Watch

For Everyone

For Bigs

Activities to Do

  • One of Reagan’s favorite snacks were jelly beans. He particularly love the Jelly Belly brand. Eat a few jelly beans, and try making jelly bean art with the rest.
  • President Reagan loved horseback riding. If possible, find a place to take a horseback ride. Otherwise, create a stick horse to ride.

Things to Discuss

  • What were some of the most important things that President Reagan did during his time in office?
  • How do you think Reagan’s childhood motivated him to do all of the big things he did?
  • What do you think it would be like to be a Hollywood star? Would you enjoy it?

Other Area Attractions

Below are some of the other great attractions in this area. We try to keep things affordable, sticking to free and cheap attractions and/or museums and zoos on reciprocal lists. If an attraction is affiliated with a reciprocal program or offers free admission, I have noted that beside the attraction listing. To learn more about saving money using reciprocal programs, see this post.

Closest Places to Stay on a Budget

For information on camping memberships, see this post.

Related Attractions in Other Areas

 

For more great roadschool guides written by Chelsea Gonzales have a look around our blog or visit Wonder Wherever We Wander. A wanderer and lover of new experiences, Chelsea enjoys traveling full-time in her RV while writing about her experiences and roadschooling her son.

Statue of Ronald Reagan at boyhood home in Dixon, Illinois

 


Fulltime Families is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

 

 

Boondocking 101: Camping Off The Grid

Erin No Comments

RV set up for boondocking

Why would you camp without hookups (water, electric, sewer) when there are SO many nice campgrounds across the country with those amenities available?

Because you can. Because you want to. Because those campgrounds can be expensive. Because having close neighbors can lead to a case of claustrophobia. Because there is something empowering about knowing that you can live and ‘camp off the grid.’ Because boondocking is fun!


This article may contain compensated links, please read our disclaimer for more information.


Boondocking 101

‘Dry camping’ is a generic term for camping anywhere without hookups, typically for free but sometimes may incur a nominal fee. For example, you dry camp at a Walmart parking lot. ‘Boondocking’ is more specifically referring to camping in nature without hookups. Lastly, ‘moochdocking’ is camping without hookups in your family or friend’s land or driveway.

While all of these types of dry camping are similar, we will specifically focus on boondocking.

Boondocking 101 and Dry Camping

Boondocking Resources And Tips

So, you’re ready to try boondocking. First, you need to know where you can go and how long you can stay. Our favorite two sites for finding boondocking spots are Campendium and Allstays which also has a phone app. We try Campendium first. For example, you’ve decided to go to Grand Teton National Park. You type “Grand Teton, WY” into Campendium, select price: ‘free’ and hookups: ‘dry camping’ and start scrolling through the results.  You’ll see numerous National Forest camping sites with reviews and details.

Often these reviews contain GPS coordinates, info on cell phone coverage, and spot sizes. It’s always good to check out the satellite view of the area on Google Maps too. Also, don’t forget to research how long you can stay there; most Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Forest Land has a camping limits of 2 weeks.

Pro tip: 

When boondocking it’s always good to have a ‘back up’ spot too in case your primary area is full or sites are already taken. These aren’t campgrounds so there are no reservations. You’ll have no idea if you will be there only people there or if it’s totally full. The best policy is to move there mid-week, especially if trying to boondock during the busy season of an area (or head over with your tow vehicle or toad first to check it out).

3 Main Elements To Consider

OK, we’ve decided on a boondocking spot. For this example, we will choose “Upper Teton View, Moose, WY.” It has 40+ reviews on Campendium and seems like a solid choice. We pulled in and are ready to camp. Now what? When you ‘plug’ in at the campground there are 3 things you ‘hook up’ right away. These are the 3 main elements you’ll need to consider (and learn to conserve) for boondocking: water, sewer/grey water tanks, and electricity.

 

An RV boondocking near Grand Teton National Park Upper Teton View

1. Water While Boondocking

When boondocking you need to know how big your fresh water tank is. How big this tank is will enable you to calculate how long you can go without needing to refill it. (If you’ve never used your freshwater tank then you will need to sterilize it with bleach first. You’ll have to first figure out where to fill up on fresh water. We typically plan our camping to fill our fresh water tank at a campground we are staying at before boondocking. In general, we have found many campgrounds will ‘let’ you fill freshwater sometimes with a small fee. We find that calling nearby campgrounds to ask about this (just use Google to search for campgrounds) or checking sanidumps will be successful. If we are already parked in our boondocking spot we like to use our Aquatank 2 storage bladder (we have the 150 gallon size) vs. hauling our rig over to get fresh water. We place the large water bladder in the bed of our pick up truck and fill up on water, then pump it into our rig with a water pump.

Pro tip:

Change all your water faucets (Bathroom sink, shower, kitchen sink, etc) to low-flow aerators to help you save water. This is a relatively inexpensive change that can have a big impact on daily water usage. Also, consider switching off the water in the shower when you’re lathering up with soap so the water isn’t running constantly. In general, conserving water is great for the planet not just when boondocking and is something we have incorporated into our daily living.

 

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2. Sewer and Grey Tanks While Boondocking

Again, you will want to know exactly how big these tanks are too. Hopefully, you have tank indicators to know when they are full (if your indicators stopped working you can always tell the tanks are full when they start to back up). Dumping tanks on the ground is typically illegal, although some will argue dumping ‘grey’ water is fine if using biodegradable soaps; we bring wastewaterswaters to the dump station.

To find where you can dump your tanks we use Campendium (sometimes the reviews on boondocking sites mention where campers dumped their tanks). We also use sanidumps or we check with a nearby campground to see if they have a dump station. So back to our example: Upper Teton View in Moose, WY. The closest zip code is 83012. Type this into Sanidumps and you can find that there is a Shell station in nearby Jackson, WY that is ‘big rig’ friendly and its $5 to dump.

Pro tip:

Call ahead to any dump station to verify location, cost, and hours that it is open. It’s also good to look at it on Google Maps to get an exact layout of the dump station.

As far as dumping is concerned we have a 5th wheel and we use our ‘blueboy” (a 4-wheel tote-along plastic portable waste tank typically blue in color). We use our macerator pump to empty our tanks into our blueboy in the bed of our pickup truck and then drive it to the dump station. You could also physically bring your rig to the dump station but remember to leave something marking your boondocking spot so you don’t go back and find that someone else has set up camp where you were!

Pro tip:

Remember to bring your propane bottles with you when you go to dump to have those topped off too so you only make one trip to town.

 

Flying a kite with boondocking rvs in background

 

3. Electricity While Boondocking

What do you need to power and where will you get your power from?

The largest users of power in any camper are electric/residential refrigerators, air conditioners, microwaves, space heaters, and dryers. We have a propane refrigerator so we run our fridge on propane when we are boondocking. If you have a residential fridge you will need to account for that when deciding how much power you will need for your set up.  Air conditioners are typically out of the question when boondocking unless you have a ridiculously large power array, so consider that when deciding where and when to boondock.

Pro tip:

Do not plan to boondock in the blazing heat and humidity of summer! We’ve been there, done that and it’s not fun.

Microwaves can be used while boondocking with sufficient power. For heat, we tend to use our Mr. Buddy propane space heater. Camper furnaces are notoriously inefficient both on electric power and when running on propane so we rarely use it.  Finally, as far as the clothes dryer is concerned, we usually only run the dryer when the sun is shining brightly or do laundry at the laundromat.

Pro tip:

Change all the light bulbs in your rig out to LEDS to further conserve energy.

What Do You NEED To Boondock?

You will need either a generator, batteries, solar, or even better: a combination of these systems.

Generators

Most people, including us, boondock to enjoy the peace and solitude of nature. We don’t want to be near noisy neighbors and that’s why we left the campground in the first place. Boondocking etiquette calls for minimal use of one’s generator or if using only a generator, parking far from any other boondocking neighbors.

The unwritten rule is if you are using your generator non-stop then it should be practically inaudible from 30 steps away. Just as a ‘bad’ neighbor in a campground is one that has a loud dog that barks 18 hours a day right next to you, a similar ‘bad’ neighbor when boondocking is one that runs a 70-decibel construction generator right outside your door 18 hours a day. If you must use a construction generator be sure you are parked as far away from others as possible.

Batteries

When the genny isn’t running or the sun isn’t shining these are what you rely on to get you through until the next charge. There are basically three types and the cost of each doubles the previous (in general): Flooded Lead Acid (FLA), Absorbed Glass Matt (AGM), and Lithium. We won’t get into the details of each here, but the main focus for all three is getting as many amp hours (Ah) of storage that you can.

Inverter

This is what you can use to create 120 Volt AC from your batteries for running anything from a laptop charger to a dryer. There are many types/sizes: from one that can fit in the palm of your hand to one capable of running your entire rig.

Solar

The key to achieving tranquility! Similar to inverters, solar panels & chargers exist in many shapes and sizes. From a basic portable ground deploy system to a fully covered roof, there is a system out there that can fit your budget and needs. This is a good starter system for keeping LED lights and some electronics charged.

 

Solar panels on a boondocking RV

 

And that’s that! All that’s left now is to sit back, relax and take in the view!

With a little practice and preparation, boondocking will be only slightly different from camping with full hookups (honestly!) and will open up a whole new world to you. Imagine camping at the foot of the Badlands? Or at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta during a Fulltime Families Rally. Or right outside the Grand Tetons? How about beside the Yellowstone River? All for free. Unobstructed views for miles!

Peace. Tranquility. Nature. And believe it or not: we’ve met numerous families with children while boondocking too.


Fulltime Families is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

Ridleys, an RV boondocking family

About the authors: Emma and Kevin Ridley have been traveling full time with their two young daughters since 2016. They live in a 43 ft 2011 DRV Elite Suite Manhattan 5th wheel. Freshwater: 100 gallons. Grey water: 150 gallons. Black tank: 50 gallons. Solar: 10 panels (1600 watts total). Onboard generator: Onan 5500 propane. Batteries: 4 large AGM deep cycle batteries. Inverter: 3000 Watt hybrid inverter. They can boondock 10 days without dumping tanks or getting more water, living ‘normally’ without roughing it (i.e. ‘camping’). They typically boondock 40-50% of a year. They are by no means boondocking experts, just passionate about campground alternatives. Emma and Kevin maintain a small blog about their adventures for family and friends ‘back home in Maine’ at:  wickedwanderers.net  and are active members in the Fulltime Families “Boondockers Anonymous” branch. If you’re interested in boondocking they highly suggest that you join.

RV Maintenance Essentials

Erin No Comments

Camping Outside of Grand Tetons

 

RV maintenance!  We all dread it and don’t want to do it, but we also know that it is very important to ensuring the longevity of our RV’s and keeping our families safe.

While it can seem overwhelming, we’ve tried to put together this blog post to address some of the key areas that need to be monitored and included a schedule that can be used to ensure your RV is in tip-top shape!  Of course, all RV’s are different and while this article outlines what the author thinks is the most important, you should always read your owner’s manual and follow any special steps your manufacturer has outlined.

 

>> Want to learn more about Fulltime Families Membership? Head here for more details and learn more.! <<

 

This blog post is geared towards towables (travel trailer or 5th wheel,) however, many of the same tips apply to Class A, B and C’s.

We’ll start by going over some of the key areas that need to be maintained, along with basic steps that should keep you rolling!  In just about all cases, maintenance is about keeping water out, moving parts lubricated and attached items secured.

It should be noted that these maintenance tips are assuming full-time RV living.  If you don’t use your RV all the time, it will change the frequency of some of these items.

 


This article may contain compensated links, please read our disclaimer for more information.



Roof

There are a few different types of RV roofs available, however by far, rubber is the most common.  We recommend a monthly check on the roof, which just involves getting up there and looking around. You’ll want to pay special attention to any discoloration, soft spots or areas where it looks like water might pool.  As you know, water is the enemy and you want to make sure it can’t get in! You’ll also want to keep it clean with a periodic sweeping and cleaning with mild detergent, water, and a stiff brush.

In most cases, you will see puddles of white, self-leveling lap sealant covering all the points where vents, air conditioners, solar panels, etc. are attached to the roof and where water can potentially get in.  You’ll want to check these areas carefully for cracks or separation. If you notice any, they are easy to fix! You’ll need to clean the area first with a mild detergent or degreaser, let it dry thoroughly, and then apply new lap sealant right over the old.  While you can usually apply right over the cleaned lap sealant, if your pool gets to be too large, you can always strip it off carefully with a putty knife and apply a fresh coat of lap sealant. You can purchase lap sealant at just about every RV store as well as on Amazon and other places online.  If you need to build an area up, you can also get a non-leveling lap sealant as well, which will hold its shape better than the self-leveling.

RV Maintenance Roof

Photo Credit: Jason Simpson

If you come across any tears or holes, Eternabond is a permanent rubber tape that can be applied right over it. Eternabond is very strong, so apply carefully to avoid wrinkles – once you stick it down, it is VERY hard to get back up!  I like to keep an extra roll of Eternabond in my toolbox as it has proven to be useful in a lot of different, unorthodox places.  BUT, that’s probably a whole other blog post…

The final thing to point out about the roof is to NEVER apply anything with silicone in it to your roof.  The issue with silicone is it can’t hold together when the RV is moving and twisting. So, it will separate and allow water to get in.  If you accidentally applied silicone, or if a previous owner did, you’ll need to remove all traces of it before a lap sealant will stick.  To remove it, I’d recommend a plastic putty knife and mineral spirits or silicone remover.

You can get many years out of a RV roof, but eventually, it may require replacement.  There are a few options out there, but RV Armor is highly recommended. They can give you an estimate and come to you to repair or replace.

Awnings & Slide Covers

An RV awning is a great way to create some shade and help keep our interiors cool.  In addition to your awnings, some RV’s have slide covers that look like awnings and cover the slide from leaves, pine needles, rain, etc.  I’d typically recommend periodic cleaning, using the same soap you wash your RV with, or just some dish detergent in warm water. For the awning, you’ll want to use a softer brush – or just gentle rubbing with a stiffer one. Unfortunately, awnings can get mildew or mold fairly easily.  If you don’t extend yours often, water just sits in the rolls and can’t get out.  Using the awning periodically on sunny, dry days can help ensure it is kept dry. If you do get mildew or mold, you can normally get it off with just some basic scrubbing and if not, there are quite a few products made to help remove them.  I’ve had some success with Star Bright Mildew Remover and would recommend giving it a shot if the regular soap and water don’t work. Just make sure that when you are done, you rinse well so it doesn’t stain your awning after a long exposure to it.

As with any moving parts, a lubricant on the awning arms can help keep things moving smoothly.  For this type of application, I like to use something like Fluid Film, which is a lanolin based lubricant which also helps to inhibit rust.

Water Heater

RV water heaters can be propane, electric or a combination of both.  The easiest way to tell is to look at the unit – propane based units will have a copper propane line entering it.  If there is also a black on/off switch, that’s probably a good indicator that it has electric as well.

For a unit that has a propane burner, it’s a good idea to periodically clean out the burn chamber with a small vacuum to remove any built up rust or dirt.  You’ll also want to observe the flame when ignited, to ensure the flame is a solid blue – if you see an orange flame, something is wrong and it will need to be checked out.

Your water heater will accumulate sediment in the bottom of it, which can really impact its ability to heat properly.  About once a year, it’s a good idea to drain and flush the tank to get it all out. You can use a small piece of hose, or purchase a water heater tank rinser to get it all out.  While you are doing that, it’s a good idea to put a new anode rod in, if you water heater has one. The anode rod is a “sacrificial” piece of metal that corrodes due to electrolysis, so the exposed steel in your tank doesn’t corrode itself.  Anode rods are used in most Suburban propane heaters, but not in Atwoods.

Slide-Outs

Maintenance for your slides is pretty simple.  On a fairly regular basis, I’d recommend a dri-lube, like this one, which is made for lubricating your slides.  You’ll want to clean the metal parts of your slide, then apply the dry lube to keep it from sticking and screeching. While there are a few different types of slides, lubricating any metal parts that move is the easiest way to ensure you are protecting all the essential parts.  In addition, you can also add a conditioner and protectant on the rubber seal going around the sides and top of the slide.

Electrical Parts

RV’s typically have two forms of electric – 110 volt, for when you are plugged into shore power or have a generator running, and 12 volt when you aren’t.  For your 110, there’s not much maintenance required, but you’ll want to regularly inspect your power cord for signs of wear, fraying or melt/burn marks on the receptacles.  In addition, you can wipe some protectant and lube on the plugs to help keep them from corroding and make it a bit easier to plug in and unplug.
As for your 12 volt, it depends on your battery types.  You’ll want to inspect regularly to ensure you don’t see any swelling or leaking.  If you have lead acid, non-sealed batteries, you’ll want to check the water level and top off with distilled water when they get low.  Batteries won’t last forever, so eventually they all have to be replaced.

Tires

You’ve got a lot riding on your tires, so it’s a good idea to pay special attention to them!  You want to make sure you maintain the proper air pressure and you’ll want to inspect both the outside and INSIDE sidewalls – which will require you to crawl under your RV with a flashlight.  You’re checking to ensure you don’t see any cuts, cracks or bulges. If you do, it’s time to replace. Don’t forget your spare tire(s)! They’ll require air and maintenance as well.

While traveling, it’s a good idea to keep any eye on your tire temperature.  During stops, an infrared temperature gun is a great way to check the sidewall and tread temperature.  You can diagnose potential tire issues by ensuring the temperature isn’t too high and that all your tires are in the same temperature range.

In addition, check the tread depth (you can use the same penny trick as used with vehicle tires) and that the tires are wearing evenly.  If you see uneven wearing, it can be an indicator of a bad tire, bad bearing, your axle being out of alignment or the wheel needing to be balanced. You’ll also want to know your tire’s age – Since RV’s can spend a lot of time stationary, you want to make sure they don’t get too old.  Tires may look great, but if they are 4 years or older, you’ll want to consider replacement to avoid blowouts. Tires will typically have the manufacture date stamped right on the sidewall.

One last tip on your tires – The RV tires that come on new RV’s can be truly awful!  It’s not a bad idea to check the brand and do a quick Google search to see reviews. It’s truly unfortunate how many new RV’s have blowouts due to the cheap tires that are included.  Blowouts can be scary, cause accidents and tear up the bottom of your RV! While expensive, it may be worthwhile to consider replacing them before they cause a problem for you.

Wheels, Bearings & Brakes

Probably one of the most overlooked sections of an RV is the wheels, bearings and brakes.  Starting with your wheels, you’ll want to inspect regularly to ensure you have no cracks or stress marks.  I also make it a habit to count my lug nuts on moving day, just to make sure they are all there! It’s also a best practice to ensure you use a torque wrench anytime you remove your lug nuts, to make sure they are securely tightened – and then stop every 50 miles or so to re-tighten, until they don’t loosen up at all. Your wheels are attached to your hub, which encloses your bearings, spindle and brake pads (on most trailer setups – of course if you have disc brakes, your setup will be different).  The spindle sticks off your axle and is what your bearings spin on. Those bearings are spinning anytime you are moving and require grease to ensure they don’t overheat and can rotate easily.  To keep those bearings greased, you’ll want to re-pack them roughly every 10,000 miles or yearly (whichever comes first.) A lot of RV’s come with “EZ-Lube” hubs – which means you’ll find a zerk fitting at the end of the spindle, where you can attach a grease gun.  This is a great way to add some extra grease between re-packing and can extend how long you can go before re-packing. While some would argue that using your EZ-Lube hubs, you don’t need to remove your bearings, I would still recommend you periodically remove the bearings to check for grooves or damage.  Bearings are cheap to replace and for safety reasons, good to keep an eye on.

While you have your hub off to re-pack your bearings, it’ll give you a good opportunity to inspect your brake pads. They should be wearing evenly and can be replaced while you have everything apart. A quick search on the internet will show you that it’s much easier (and cheaper) to buy the whole brake assembly, instead of trying to replace just the pads.

As with your tires, it’s a good idea to keep an eye of the temperature of your bearings and brakes while traveling. Using that infrared temperature gun, you’ll be able identify potentially dangerous situations if your brakes or bearings get super hot.

Maintaining your bearings and brake pads may sound intimidating, but it really isn’t.  Watch a few YouTube videos and you’ll be re-packing your own bearings and replacing your brake pad assemblies in no time!  Also, ask around – you probably know someone that already knows how to do it and would be happy to show you.

Hitch & Kingpin

Whether you have a 5th Wheel or a travel trailer, you’ll want to inspect both the RV and truck connection points regularly to ensure nothing is loose, cracked or damaged.  A little electrical protectant and lube on the electrical connection will help inhibit rust and ensure your trailer lights and electric brakes work as they should.

For your 5th wheel hitch, you’ll typically find a zerk fitting to lubricate the locking mechanism – I’d recommend a few pumps of grease every few times you hook up.  In addition, a teflon plate on the kingpin helps to provide some protection from scratching and rust.

For a travel trailer, a little grease on the ball will help the trailer slide on and off and rotate correctly.

Water System

Your water system maintenance should be fairly straight forward.  I’d recommend sanitizing the whole system every 6 months, if you are using it full-time, but if not, it’s probably a good idea to sanitize it after it sits for more than a month with no use.  Sanitizing is as simple as putting some bleach into the system, ensuring it gets into all the lines, letting is sit and then rinsing until you can’t smell any bleach.

In addition to sanitizing the internal lines, replacing your external water hose once a year or so is also recommended.

Black and Gray Water Tanks

The best maintenance for your black tank is to ensure you use plenty of water during regular use, keep your black tank closed except to dump when at least 3/4 full, and flush the tank often.  If your RV didn’t come with a built-in flush system, you can either purchase a RV tank wand or just fill up your tank with clean water a few times and dump.

As a personal tip, I’d recommend adding a gate valve to the end of the system – this way you’ll never be surprised when you take off the cap!

Summary

We hope you’ve found this to be helpful!  In just about all cases, a quick Google search will give you more details on any of the maintenance items described above.  We’ve also included a basic maintenance schedule below. Just remember, every rig is different and you may need to tweak these recommendations based on yours!

If you haven’t heard about Fulltime Families, click here to read more about the benefits of our membership and the support you receive from our private Facebook groups regarding RV maintenance and so much more!

 

Item Everytime you Travel Monthly Bi-Yearly Yearly
Roof Check edges to ensure nothing is torn or ripped Inspect for damage, discoloration or potential leak points. Clean all sealant and reapply a fresh coat on top. Or, remove old sealant and apply a new coat.
Awning & Slide Covers Ensure they are secured for travel Inspect for damage or tears. Clean with soap and warm water.

Lubricate moving parts.

Hot Water Heater Check flame color – should be blue. Flush tank.

Replace anode rod.

Slides Lubricate with dry lube every other time you move the slides Apply conditioner/protectant to rubber seals
Electrical Add electrical lubricant/protectant to plug

check battery water level (if needed)

Tires Check air pressure

Check sidewalls for cracks, cuts & bulges

Check to ensure tire is wearing evenly

Check tire temperature regularly while traveling

Check tread depth

Check manufacture date

Wheels, Bearings & Brakes If equipped with EZ-Lube, add 2 pumps of grease every other travel day

Check hub temperature regularly while traveling

Clean and repack/replace bearings

Check brake pads and replace if necessary

Hitch & Kingpin Inspect for damage Add grease to ball or kingpin zerk fitting
Water System Sanitize water system Replace external water hose
Black/Gray Tanks Flush black tank

 


Fulltime Families is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

 

About the Author: Todd Muller, who is originally from upstate New York, has been traveling in a fifth wheel with his wife, 3 children and dog since early 2016. He is half of the RVing Dads Podcast team. Give them a listen at rvingdads.com.

RV Maintenance from full-time RV living families

The Best Money Saving Reciprocal Memberships

Erin one comments

Children explore while parents save money

One of the best ways to save money on the road is to invest in memberships that offer reciprocal benefits. These are great because they give you free or discounted admission to a number of attractions, meaning you can see a lot but only pay a little.

 

>> Want to learn more about Fulltime Families Membership? Head here for more details and learn more.! <<

 

That said, choosing which memberships to buy can be confusing to say the least. There are dozens of options, and each one has its own set of pros and cons. In this article, we are going to do our best to help you understand what each reciprocal program offers, and the best ways to go about joining these programs.


This article may contain compensated links, please read our disclaimer for more information.


 

Reciprocal Museum, Zoo, and Garden Programs

Reciprocal Memberships

Let’s begin by laying out the various museum, zoo, and garden reciprocal programs out there. These programs are awesome because they give us roadschoolers access to educational attractions all over the country.

Amusement Park Reciprocal Memberships

Of course, a little bit of fun for the sake of fun never hurt anybody. That’s where these awesome amusement park reciprocal memberships come in to play. Invest in one and play at a collection of amusement parks all season long—or in some cases, all year!

Fulltime Families annual field trip to Legoland Florida

  • Merlin Pass — All Legoland locations, as well as Sea Life Aquariums, Madame Tussaud’s, and a number of other attractions are included on this pass. Parking is included.
  • Cedar Point Platinum Pass — Thrill seekers love the fact that this pass includes all 16 Cedar Fair parks. Free parking is also included.
  • Six Flags Gold Pass — Every single Six Flags park in the country is included in this pass, as is free parking. Considering how many Six Flags parks there are, this is an excellent value.
  • Busch Gardens Florida Platinum Pass — Busch Gardens parks, Aquatica water parks, Sesame Place, Water Country USA, and Adventure Island are all included on this pass. That said, only Florida residents have access to this particular option.
  • Herschend Pass – Herschend owns such favorites as Silver Dollar City, Stone Mountain Park, and Dollywood. Almost all Herschend attractions offer season or annual passes, and most include reciprocal benefits at other Herschend attractions. On top of that, some of their season passes include reduced admission to local attractions.

Natural Park Memberships

Last but not least, we must mention the option of reciprocal memberships for seeing the amazing natural wonders of the USA. Memberships to natural parks—such as our country’s national parks—are some of the very best investments a roadschooling family could make.

A family visits Big Bend National Park with the America the Beautiful Pass

  • “America the Beautiful” Pass — Did you know you can spend a mere $80 for an “America the Beautiful” pass and receive free admission to almost every National Parks System site for an entire year? You can! In fact, those with children in fourth grade and families who have special needs may even be able to get one free of charge.
  • State Park Passes — Not every state offers a state park pass, but the state park passes that are available tend to be a good deal. Therefore, if you’ll be spending a lot of time in one state, this is worth looking into.

Finding the Best Value

In order to get the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to carefully consider which memberships you buy and where you buy them from. Here are our best tips.

Overlapping Memberships

In order to take advantage of the museum, zoo, and garden reciprocal programs, you must choose a participating attraction to become a member of.

Many people simply choose the museum closest to them at the time of purchase, but this isn’t usually the best option. Some museums participate in more than one reciprocal program, so it’s actually possible to join one particular museum and still gain access to numerous reciprocal programs!

Looking for the best options for museums that offer access to multiple reciprocal programs? Try these:

Pricing

Besides the overlapping reciprocal program aspect of things, you’ll also want to keep prices in mind. Within many of these programs, the price of membership varies from one attraction to the next, but the reciprocal benefits available through these attraction memberships are exactly the same. Therefore, it makes sense to shop for the cheapest membership in order to obtain those benefits.

The only programs that retain the same pricing regardless of purchase location are:

  • Merlin Pass
  • Cedar Point Platinum Pass
  • Busch Gardens Florida Platinum Annual Pass
  • “America the Beautiful” Pass

Here are the best prices we’ve found on some of the other programs:

  • Buy Six Flags Gold Passes at the Baltimore or St. Louis location.
  • For a full-benefit (not just 50% off) AZA standalone pass, go through Ellen Trout Zoo in Lufkin, TX.
  • Those who want ASTC only should purchase the family membership offered through EAA. Additionally, EAA has a free ASTC option for kids ages 8–19 and their families. It requires the student to take part in one of their free “Young Eagles” flights.

Limitations

As with anything, there are some limitations and rules attached to all of these reciprocal programs. Knowing these limitations will help you make the best decisions for your family.

  • Most of the museum/zoo/garden reciprocal programs do not honor the reciprocal benefits at locations that are within 90 miles of your home address OR the address of the museum the pass was purchased from.
  • Most of the museum/zoo/garden reciprocal benefits are good for up to 6 people. That said, this varies from museum to museum, so call ahead.
  • Parking is not included as a reciprocal benefit in many cases. Be sure to keep this in mind when planning.
  • Most attractions don’t offer free admission to special events, tours, add-ons, or performances to those using reciprocal benefits.
  • It’s always a good idea to call before visiting any location. Because many programs allow participating attractions to withdraw at any time, visiting without calling could lead to disappointment.
  • Read the fine print before purchasing anything! It’s important to know exactly what you’re getting so you can ensure that it’s the best solution for your traveling tribe.

Are we missing a reciprocal program you love? We want to hear about it! Please comment with your valuable reciprocal membership info below to help other Fulltime Families keep their travel affordable and educational.

 


Fulltime Families is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

 

About the Author: Chelsea Gonzales is a wanderer and lover of new experiences, and enjoys traveling full-time in her RV while writing about her experiences at Wonder Wherever We Wander and roadschooling her son.

Best money saving reciprocal memberships for museums, zoos, and parks

 

Fulltime Families at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

Erin No Comments

Balloons fly at the Albuquerque Ballon Fiesta

The first alarm went off at a quarter to 4am. After staying up a little late the night before chatting with friends, I couldn’t help but hit snooze. As I lay there, I felt the camper wiggle as my daughter was buzzing around, she was too excited to stay asleep. Pretty soon all four of us joined her and got ready for the early morning ahead. As tired as we were, we stepped out of the house around 4:45am into the cool air and headed for the shuttle bus. After a year of excitement building, we were about to help launch a balloon!

Fulltime Families Balloon Fiesta Rally

But, let’s take a step back and talk about how we ended up here. We went fulltime in June and when October rolled around, the Fulltime Families Facebook groups were abuzz with posts and fantastic pictures of hundreds of hot air balloons and balloons flying over RVs. I knew in an instant that I wanted to join the fun.

It took two years of changing plans for us to finally make it. We were very excited to finally be able to attend, but we were ecstatic when we were able to join Fulltime Families for a mini-rally (called a Hangout at the time). Events are fun when you’re on your own, but especially fun when the kids and us get to reconnect with friends and make new ones.

Friends gather at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

 

Camping Options

There are a few camping options for the Balloon Fiesta. You can either stay on the fiesta grounds (who wouldn’t want to stay on an old dump site?) or you can stay at an RV park in the Albuquerque area. After my experience staying on the grounds and seeing the traffic around the fiesta, I wouldn’t bring myself to even consider an off-site RV stay.

Rooftop View of dry camping at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

On the Fiesta grounds, you have a couple of options for campsites. The most expensive is water + electric sites that overlook the launch field; these are crazy expensive at something like $175/night! Next is dry camping that is close to the launch field. I can’t really justify the cost of these sites as they do such an excellent job with the shuttle service.

Over across the road, they offer water + electric sites for people who are simply unwilling to consider dry camping. (Though, don’t fear it! You’ll have lots of friends helping you get through.) And then you have 2 levels of dry camping: Box View surrounds an open area where balloon pilots may land and Standard sites for everybody else. I’m not sure the Box View sites are worth the extra $10/night as you can always just walk down. Feeling adventurous? Go help CATCH balloons as they land. The pilots love the help.

The Fulltime Families rally were Standard sites. Affordable and surrounded by friends. That’s the way to go.

Dry Camping at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

 

Dry Camping with Friends

We went from solely using RV parks with full hooks to dry camping for 2 weeks at the Fiesta. And let me tell you, we went into it with an air of trepidation. To prepare, I had done some upgrades to the camper to be better prepared for dry camping (additional batteries, bought a generator, got a fresh water bladder, and got a sewer bladder. A nice part about camping with friends is the range of experiences all around – from the folks who just showed up with no preparation at all up to the families who have solar on the roof and built-in generators.

Generators ready for boondocking

If you haven’t dry camped before, don’t be afraid. Worst case, the Balloon Fiesta offers water fills and tank dumping for a fee. Best case, the true community of Fulltime Families shines through. Families helped each other from everything from refilling fresh water tanks to working together to empty gray and black tanks (yep, the poops!).

Heck, you want to know how crazy awesome the Fulltime Families community is? One of our members LITERALLY HAD A BABY AT THE FIESTA IN THEIR RV (with a bit of help from the other families)!

Fulltime Families baby born at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

 

Wait, What About Helping to Launch a Balloon?

That’s right, that’s how I started this post – the early morning that we were up and out by 4:45am where my daughter and I were going to get to help launch a balloon. Fulltime Families was in contact with the Carried Away balloon team who was looking for a crew to help launch their balloon, chase it, and then catch it. And better yet, they let everyday Joes and Janes sign up to help!

So, what’s that like?

It starts with a training/overview session. Here you meet the pilot and crew chief (aka, his wife). They explain the process of launching the balloon from setting out the ground cloth to configuring the basket, about Zebras, and what to do once they’re up in the air.

Morning of Crewing

You start stupidly early in the morning and it’s incredibly cold at that time of day! The days warm up as the sun gets higher in the sky, so be prepared with layers. The grass had frosty dew giving the littles cold tootsies.

Crewing can be a lot of “hurry up and wait”. You hurry to your spot but may have to wait for your wave of launches. Then once your wave gets called, you may have to wait for your turn to actually be launched.

The hurry up is where the fun lives, though.

Setting up the balloon is a matter of putting out a ground cloth to protect it. Next, you get the basket out of the trailer and start to configure/set it up. While that happens, some other folks start to unroll the balloon itself out onto the tarp. From there, the balloon’s top needs to be affixed (lots of colors + numbers that have to be matched up between two pieces). Once the balloon is attached to the basket, the task of inflating (not “blowing up!”) the balloon begins. One lucky person gets put onto the guideline from the top of the balloon to control it while it’s being inflated: just imagine that you’ve lasso’d a … well … hot air balloon!

Inflating a hot air balloon

Once the pilot launches, the ground cloth needs to be folded up and put back into the trailer. The chase crew then loads up in the truck to follow the balloon (mostly using apps like Glympse and texting back and forth). Once the balloon lands, this smaller crew helps safely stow the balloon and basket back into the trailer.

By the time you get home, a nap sounds mighty fine! Because it’s a rally and you’re surrounded by friends, you need to be well rested for any festivities that occur.

Pro-tip: look for things to do; just start doing and helping. The morning my daughter and I helped, we were busy most of the time. My daughter even helped the neighboring pilot. We walked away in love with the experience. Another family wasn’t as proactive at finding tasks and expected to be asked to do things. Unfortunately, I heard them complain that the experience was a huge letdown.

The Launch Field

When you aren’t crewing, you can pay for entry to the launch field. We bought our entry passes in packs from Costco at a discount vs. what individual tickets cost. If you don’t have a Costco membership, don’t fret- the FTF community pulls through there also with people buying for others.

Balloon launch

The launch field has a row of tents along one end. These tents have everything from food to gear. We ate at quite a few of the tents and really didn’t have a bad meal.

Food at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

The southern end is the most crowded with people because that’s where the entrance is.  It gets a bit wall to wall at times. The further you get from this area, the more the crowds thin out.

Balloon launch field

It’s absolutely remarkable how close you can get as crews inflate and launch balloons. You get to be right under them as they pop into the sky.

The crowd whoops and cheers each time a balloon takes flight!

Balloons take flight as a crowd cheers

Balloons Overhead

Even if you don’t head over to the launch field, you may luck into a show of the Albuquerque Box which is where the balloons launch and fly at a low altitude south over the RV park. Once they fly for a spell, they then increase their altitude and will be pulled back north.

Some years, the balloons fly over the park only a couple of days over the span of the Fiesta. We lucked into a year that it happened almost every morning.

Balloons over RVs at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Hot air balloon over RVS

On the days that they fly overhead, you can’t help but be drawn out of your camper by the noise of the burners and hearing the voices of the pilots talking to RVers. It entices you out like a mermaid’s song. Heck, you might find yourself on the roof of your rig for a better look!

Watching balloons from RV roof

Fulltime Families Rally

As I mentioned, we joined up with the Fulltime Families rally while we were there. For us, it was great to see old friends and we even made new friends. It’s a mix of scheduled activities and a lot of spontaneous fun.

Some of the fun times we had:

  • Nerf gun battles
  • Potlucks + birthday cake!
  • Dance party
  • Games (teen and multi-age)
  • Crafts
  • Movies
  • Baby Born! (Ok, this one might not happen regularly…)

And simply, finding groups to hang out with. We spent some great time just sitting and chatting. I love the organized activities but treasure getting to know one another while sitting around the proverbial campfire (just without the fire due to Fiesta rules).

Families socialize during the Fulltime Families Balloon Fiesta Rally

The kids play hard when at rallies! I know my son sure rests well by the end!

 

About the author: Doug has been a fulltime RVer with his wife and kids for the past few years. Before that, their family traveled and camped extensively. He started the site to help friends and family to get started RVing. Check out Learn To RV on the web, on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

 

Roadschooling – How To Homeschool While RVing

Erin No Comments

Homeschool Resources

What is roadschooling? How do children learn while full-time RV living? I need help learning how to homeschool while RVing, where should I look?

If you’ve asked these questions, then you’ve come to the right place.

Most full-time RV living families consider their home education style roadschooling, a way of homeschooling that at least in part utilizes the unique benefits of traveling in a child’s education.

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘homeschooling’ is – to teach school subjects to one’s children at home. 

Members of our Fulltime Families organization vary in their styles of educating their children on the road. Some families homeschooled prior to hitting the road, while others started their homeschool journey once they began RVing with their kids.

We hope to help you make that transition easier by answering some of the most common questions regarding how to start homeschooling while traveling.


This article may contain compensated links, please read our disclaimer for more information.


Homeschool Styles

There are a variety of homeschool philosophies and styles. While it is important to learn about them and decide on one prior to beginning your homeschool journey, it’s also important to keep an open mind as children grow and change and you acclimate to your new lifestyle.

Roadschooling - How to Homeschool While RVing

School at Home

School at home is exactly what it sounds like. Parents teach from a packaged homeschool curriculum while children sit at a desk or table during specific hours each day. The curriculum generally is either a traditional format, similar to public school or a classical approach, which is liberal arts and history based.

The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer is an excellent book to read to learn more about the classical approach. Some advantages to this style are that parents often feel more confident teaching from a curriculum, and in the case of a traditional format, it feels familiar to those who have attended school.

It also has the benefit of feeling like the child is staying on pace with other children their age, making reintroduction to school easier.

On the other hand, packaged curriculums don’t accommodate different learning styles and school at home is not conducive to taking advantage of the opportunities that arise while traveling. Additionally, this approach generally requires a lot of books, which are heavy and difficult to store in an RV.

Literature-Based School

Charlotte Mason is the most common form of literature, or living books, curriculum used for literature-based homeschool styles. It emphasizes quality books, nature study, and art. There are a variety of curriculums based on Charlotte Mason’s teachings, both free online and available for purchase, religious and secular.

Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook is a great book for all parents to read, and especially those considering a literature-based approach to education. Even math can be literature based by using the Life of Fred series.

Some advantages are that various ages can learn together, it is flexible, and can be adapted to individual interests. However, it is book-heavy and doesn’t follow a traditional scope and sequence, potentially making it more difficult to enter public school later if that is a goal.

Roadschool students listen to a story

Children listen to a story at the Fulltime Families Showbiz Rally.

Unit Studies 

A unit-studies based approach to homeschooling or roadschooling involves teaching children with all subjects on one topic. History, English, Math, Science, Art and more are all based on a book, field trip or topic of interest.

Unit Studies are often used by roadschool families because they can base all learning on a location they are visiting. Unit Studies generally allow for a lot of child-directed learning and don’t require a lot of books at a time. Children often use more of the internet, field trips, documentaries, and art supplies.

Homeschool Programs and Ideas for traveling families

Unit Studies allows children of different ages to work on the same topic at different levels. Some parents don’t like it because it requires a lot of preparation by the parents, which can be difficult for families who wish to follow a traditional scope and sequence. There are pre-packaged literature-based unit study curriculums, such as Five in a Row, for those who want to base their schooling on books instead of locations.

Unschooling

Unschooling is a form of homeschooling and learning approach without coercion and completely child-directed. Parents provide opportunities and facilitate learning when requested, but children learn naturally and from their environment.

The Unschooling Handbook is a great primer on this style of learning. Unschooling is particularly well suited to full-time travel because the environment is constantly changing, with new things to learn at every move. Also, when living in an RV children are usually more a part of the day to day running of the home, which provides natural learning through repairs, cooking, trip planning, and more.

Unschooling requires parents to trust that their children will learn all they need to without instruction or coercion, which can be hard. Some families use unschooling in elementary school and then switch to a more structured approach when nearing high school.

Unschooled roadschooler helps with repair

A high school student helps repair her RV.

Eclectic Education

Taking an eclectic approach to homeschooling is a combination of a variety of styles that we’ve mentioned above. Some subjects may be traditional while others are literature-based.

At times you may use unit-studies, while during busy times you may choose to unschool.

Unschooling while traveling_

This style is great for roadschoolers because you can relax and allow your environment to determine your style. If you are stationary for a month in a place with not a lot to do, you can do literature-based unit studies. The next month when you are surrounded by friends and activities, you can use a less structured and unschooled-like approach.

Online School

Enrolling your children in a form of online school, or online homeschool, is a way to make sure that they meet state standards while still being able to travel. Many parents would argue that if you do have your child enrolled in online school full-time, that you are not exactly ‘homeschooling’ or ‘roadschooling’ them. In some cases, they might be enrolled full-time in a public or private school online within the state that they have residency.

Most Roadschoolers Identify As Eclectic 

Due to the flexibility necessary when living a full-time traveling life, roadschoolers are more often than not eclectic homeschoolers. Those who chose a school at home approach often fit the traditional subjects into four days of studying, leaving one weekday for field trips or travel.

It is important for each family to decide what style works best for them and to be willing to reevaluate and make changes as needed.

Benefits of Homeschooling and Roadschooling

 

Regardless of the style chosen, deschooling, a period of time similar to unschooling, but with a specified end, is an important precursor to any shift from school to homeschool. It’s especially important for families who are simultaneously transitioning to an RV lifestyle. The rule of thumb is one week of deschooling for each year of traditional school, where you live like you are on summer vacation.

Legality Of Homeschooling

Every state has different homeschooling requirements and laws. Depending on which state is your residence, you will need to follow the guidelines required. Some states do not require any reporting at all, while others require yearly testing and monthly grading.

Many fulltime families chose Texas or Florida for their state of domicile because they are full-time RV living friendly and have beneficial homeschooling laws.

How to homeschool your child while traveling_

While Texas has no requirements, Florida allows enrollment in umbrella schools which only require parents to report attendance quarterly. Both states have online course options for elementary through high school, as well as an opportunity for high school students to take college classes for free or a reduced rate. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association recommends following the laws of any state you will be in for more than a month, but make sure you research both your state’s laws and the laws of any state you will be in for more than a couple weeks.

Each state has different rules regarding diplomas. Some homeschoolers take college courses beginning in high school, and while some colleges want to see a diploma from a school most are willing to evaluate homeschooled students on other criteria. If you have a child approaching high school with a dream of a specific college or military academy you should research their requirements.

Homeschool Resources for Roadschoolers

Homeschool Resources

Most RV families invest in a museum or zoo reciprocal membership to allow frequent visits to locations across the country, a National Park America the Beautiful pass, and a Fulltime Families membership, which will provide opportunities for events and field trips with other families.

Books will be necessary regardless of style, but you will often find quality options at used book and thrift stores or digitally on a Kindle or e-reader. It can be helpful for each family member to have access to a laptop computer or tablet for online learning and reading, but even an inexpensive Fire tablet can be an effective choice.

As a member of Fulltime Families, you will also have access to the private and very active Roadschoolers Facebook Group.

Logistics of Roadschooling

When and where traveling families roadschool varies greatly. When one parent works from home and the children are small, it can be hard to do it all in under 400 square feet in an RV.

Some RV families set up a school area in the bunk room or toy hauler garage so there is a dedicated space away from the central living area. Some children do their school work in their bed or on the couch. Other families gather around the dinette or picnic table after breakfast each day. Many families change it up at times and go to a local library or coffee shop, use the campground rec center, or do school in the vehicle on travel day.

Regardless of the style of roadschooling your family chooses, it’s important to remember that it’s different from homeschooling because of the neverending opportunities to learn from the constantly changing environment.

National Parks, zoos, museums, nature centers, amusement parks, and even grocery stores can be a classroom!

Many traveling families like to call it worldschooling, labeling ‘everywhere’ their classroom.

How to homeschool your child while RVing

Most families with children will have some supplies from books and art supplies to manipulatives and games. Common storage locations are in the dinette benches, the cabinets above the couch, under the master bed, or in individual backpacks hung in each child’s personal area.

Often members of our Fulltime Families Roadschooling Facebook Group will share pictures of where they learn and store their supplies. The group is also a great place to discuss curriculum, technique, field trips and more. Be sure to join Fulltime Families so that you can join the private group and begin planning to meet up with other roadschoolers in person.

Community While Roadschooling

What about socialization?

One of the missions of Fulltime Families is supporting traveling families through a growing and welcoming community. In addition to Facebook groups, we have rallies, hangouts and field trips across the country and throughout the year where families can come together to form their traveling neighborhood. It is during these meetups that families find their tribe and build some amazing friendships.

Fulltime Families Community - Socialization at Rallies

Families often leave a rally or meetup planning to travel with new friends or meet up down the road.

Technology allows children to communicate with friends from home and the road through video chatting, email, and online gaming and so much more.

>> Want to learn more about Fulltime Families Membership? Head here for more details and learn more.! <<

Fulltime Families members have access to a dedicated Minecraft server with weekly meetups to play together. Children who enjoy scouting can join the Fulltime Families DIY group, or participate in our upcoming Explorers program, a scouting program designed for full-time RVing kids.

There are even opportunities to learn dance online, through Aistear Mobile Irish Dance Academy. Many Fulltime Families spend the winter in central Florida or southern California, so planning your route to meet up with other families is a great way to form relationships. There are also opportunities in towns you travel through. Look into local homeschool groups, churches, community centers and libraries for drop-in activities.

Fulltime Families Rally roadschooling

Hopefully, we have answered many of your questions about traveling full-time with school-age children. If you need more answers, would like to be part of a roadschooling community or want to be inspired by other roadschoolers, we invite you to join our Roadschooling Facebook Group and check out our Roadschool Guides below.

Roadschool Guides

Ronald Regan Boyhood Home – Illinois

James Madison’s Montpelier – Virginia

Grant Cottage State Historic Site – New York

Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation – Michigan

Adirondack Experience – New York


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Grant Cottage State Historic Site (Roadschool Guide)

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U.S. Grant spent his last days sitting on this porch while writing his memoirs and waving to passersby.

Grant Cottage State Historic Site

Location: Gansevoort, NY

Reciprocal: None

Full Price Admission Cost: $6 adults; $5 kids; 62+ $5; under 6 free; active duty military free

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Ulysses S. Grant isn’t a president we hear a whole lot about these days. That said, he was a fascinating man who led a highly interesting life. Additionally, while the man did have his flaws, he is quite underappreciated, considering his successes. For this reason, a visit to Grant Cottage in Gansevoort, NY is highly recommended in order to dig deeper into the life of this intriguing president.

Every visit begins in the visitor center, which is home to an excellent movie everyone should take the time to view. After the visitor center comes the main attraction: the cottage tour.

The tour starts with an informative talk that acts as a great introduction to our 18th president, and an excellent opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Because the talk takes place on the front porch of the cottage, it’s a great opportunity to get a look at the grounds and enjoy the outdoors for a bit while learning something new.


This article may contain compensated links, please read our disclaimer for more information.


 

Grant's deathbed and clock

The room in which Grant died, preserved exactly as it was when he passed.

After the talk, guests are shown the interior of the cottage. This part is absolutely amazing. Because it was made a memorial within months of his passing, the cottage includes all of the furnishings and most other items that were in the home at the time of Grant’s passing, making it a truly unique and remarkable experience. Some of the most notable items in the home include the clock that Grant’s son stopped at the time of his death, the flowers from the former president’s funeral, which were preserved through the use of beeswax, and the many notes he used to communicate with his family when he couldn’t speak.

Funeral arrangement at Grant Cottage

Grant’s Funeral Arrangement, preserved for over 130 years.

Possibly the most interesting artifact was the jar of liquid cocaine that still sits on the shelf over 130 years after last being used. Grant had lost all his money shortly before being diagnosed with throat cancer, and knew that completing his memoirs was the only way to ensure his family’s solvency. Because of his dedication to that goal he was unable to take most pain relieving medication of the time and remain lucid enough to write, so he used topical cocaine for pain relief.

Grant's sleeping chairs and medicinal cocaine

The arm chairs Grant slept in sitting up in front of the cabinet containing his personal items and a jar of liquid cocaine for pain relief.

Although this tour is on the short side, it is well worth experiencing in order to get a better handle on who President Grant was as a devoted family man, as well as what he did to change our nation.

Quick Tips

  • Food is not available for purchase on the premises. Outside food and drink is allowed though, and a grassy area is available for picnics.
  • A parking lot for large vehicles is available down the road from the visitor center. Call ahead for directions.
  • Watch the movie in the visitor center.
  • Walk to the overlook (less than half a mile, round-trip).
  • Plan for about 1.5 hours of time spent on the grounds in order to get the full experience.
View of Catskills, Green Mountains and Adirondacks from Eastern Outlook of Grant Cottage

The Eastern Outlook, with views of the Hudson Valley, the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the Catskills.

This post may contain affiliate links. By purchasing through our links you will help Fulltime Families bring you more great Roadschooling Guides, at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclaimer  for more information.

Books to Read

For Littles

For Middles

For Bigs

Videos to Watch

Activities to Do

Things to Discuss

  • What is one of the most important things President Grant did for the country?
  • If you were president in the late 1860s and early 1870s, what would you have done differently?
  • If you were around when President Grant ran for president, would you have voted for him? Why or why not?

Other Area Attractions

Below are some of the other great attractions in this area. We try to keep things affordable, sticking to free and cheap attractions and/or museums and zoos on reciprocal lists. If an attraction is affiliated with a reciprocal program or offers free admission, I have noted that beside the attraction listing. To learn more about saving money using reciprocal programs, see this post.

Closest Places to Stay on a Budget

For information on camping memberships, see this post.

Related Attractions in Other Areas

For more great roadschool guides written by Chelsea Gonzales have a look around our blog or visit Wonder Wherever We Wander. A wanderer and lover of new experiences, Chelsea enjoys traveling full-time in her RV while writing about her experiences and roadschooling her son.


Fulltime Families is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, amazon.ca. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

 

 

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