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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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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:


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.


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


10 RV Essentials You Don’t Know You Need

Erin No Comments

RV Essentials You Don't Know You Need

When purchasing an RV there are many RV essentials you know you will need, like water and sewer hoses, but there are also many things you will need but no one tells you ahead of time. Some items are for comfort, some for safety, and some just to make your life a little easier.

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


1. RV waste tanks all have valves that are pulled to empty the contents through the hose and into the sewer. Unfortunately, these valves can break, leading to waste leaking (or pouring) onto the ground. This can be mitigated with a twist on waste valve at the end of the waste line. If any of the primary valves allow waste through, the Valterra T58 Twist-On Waste Valve will help you avoid a huge mess!



2. Speaking of waste tanks, most sewer hoses come with an opaque elbow to attach to the sewer opening. We recommend replacing that elbow with a clear one, like the RhinoFlex Clear Swivel Fitting. This will allow you to see when the tanks are fully emptied and will allow you to better monitor the tank health.

3. People often complain that their RV moves too much, especially with kids running around. X-chock Wheel Stabilizers will help with stability, as well as prevent the RV from rolling when on an incline.


These X-Chocks have been keeping an 18,000 pound fifth wheel stable and safe for over two years!

4. When at a campground family members will often be coming and going at different times, participating in events and socializing with friends. When no one is home you want to keep the RV locked and secure, but it is a pain to have everyone carry a key. A keyless lock is the solution. Everyone needs only to know the combination to lock and unlock the door, and if you need someone to go inside your RV when you aren’t there you can easily give a campground employee or friend the code.

5. Many things in an RV run off the 12V battery, and fuses will need to be replaced. It is important to have a selection on hand.



6. RV freezers are often small and not as cold as residential freezers. If you like cold beverages, a countertop ice maker is essential. They continuously make and store ice, and bringing a bag of ice to an RVers potluck is a great way to make friends!



Yes! You still can have ice while living in an RV!


7. While cabinets are made to stay closed when traveling, over time some will fail. To avoid finding all your canned goods on the floor after a particularly bumpy road, child safety locks are a great way to ensure things stay closed. These work well for two doors with handles while you will want something like these for single doors.


8. Things will break and zip ties are often a great way to fix them, sometime permanently and sometimes as a patch until you can get the supplies to fix it. It is important to have a variety of sizes as well as some longer ones.


10 RV Essentials

9. In addition to breaking, things will tear and leak. For issues with the roof you will want Eternabond Tape, if your awning tears you will want to repair it immediately to prevent worsening using Camco Awning Repair Tape, while Rescue tape will save the day when you have a leak.



10. The final thing you shouldn’t RV without when traveling with kids is a Fulltime Families Membership. In addition to a variety of discounts, a membership provides access to a fantastic community of fellow RVers through Facebook and access to events across the United States throughout the year.

A membership in Fulltime Families is an RV essential for anyone traveling by RV with children.


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.

Adirondack Experience (Roadschool Guide)

Erin No Comments

Adirondack Experience

Location: Blue Mountain Lake, NY

Reciprocal: NARM, Council of American Maritime Museums (CAMM)

Full Price Admission Cost: $20 adults; $12 kids; under 6 free

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

There’s no denying the fact that the Adirondack Mountains are beautiful. What many people don’t realize is just how rich and beautiful the history of this special place is. That’s where the Adirondack Experience steps in. This amazing attraction brings the culture and history of the Adirondacks to life for people of all ages to see, experience, and enjoy.

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


This enormous museum campus features a number of different buildings. The first is a state-of-the-art interactive museum that introduces guests to the people of the area, both past and present. It explores the Native American tribes that first ventured into the Adirondacks, as well as the many others who bravely followed suit. The new exhibit also explores the many trades people have held in the Adirondacks through the ages, along with some of the customs that have grown from the place. This building is the perfect introduction for those wanting to learn more about the area.

Of course, there is much more to see on the large museum campus. Other buildings and exhibits include a children’s area, a section entirely focused on logging, an exhibit on boating, traveling and temporary exhibitions, and more.

Besides the many amazing exhibits onsite, there is also plenty of awesome scenery and trails to check out. Classes and special programs happen on a regular basis, and meet-and-greets with area artisans are often another option.

As you can probably tell, this is a very neat and informative museum, and we highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the area.

Quick Tips

  • Food is available for purchase on the premises. Outside food and drink is also allowed, and picnic tables are available.
  • Bus parking is available.
  • There are many buildings and hands-on activities. It is easy to spend at least 4 hours here.
  • There are multiple buildings and some of the activities are outside, so it is recommended to go on a nice day. This attraction is only open during the warm months. Be sure to check a calendar before planning your visit.
  • For more pictures of our visit to the Adirondack Experience visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/FulltimeFamilies

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.

Books to Read

For Littles

For Middles

For Bigs

Videos to Watch

Audio to Hear

For Littles

For Bigs

Activities to Do

Things to Discuss

  • What do you think drew people to the Adirondacks?
  • If you were an early Adirondack explorer what would you have packed?
  • Would you like to live in the Adirondack mountains? 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.

For more great roadschool guides written by Chelsea Gonzales, have a look around our blog or visit Wonder Wherever We Wander.

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.


Fulltime Families DIY Kids

GreenHeartAdventure No Comments

Fulltime Families has an exciting new program which is great for kids ages 10 and up! If you are a full-time RV living or traveling family, a member of Fulltime Families, and looking for a fun roadschooling activity to incorporate into your routine, then keep reading! Here is the review from our DIY Kids Coordinators Chris and Dawn Jacobs.

The Jacob’s Family visiting the DIY headquarters

What Is DIY Kids?

Our family has been involved with DIY.org for almost six years.  We are excited to introduce it to our Fulltime Families community so we can expand how our kids can interact with other kids in the smartest of ways!

What do DIY.org and Fulltime Families kids have in common? By DIY’s own definition: “Awesome Skills for Awesome Kids; DIY is a safe online community of creative kids to discover new passions, level up their skills, and meet fearless geeks just like them.”  Basically, it’s a chance for kids to discover new skills, try 100s of challenges, get peer feedback and earn patches.


DIY encourages kids to be creative and share the projects that they did on their own, hence the name DIY.  It’s fun, it expands their interests; it develops skills and the kids earn rewards (and patches) for their efforts!  

Fulltime Families now has a way for our FtF kids age ten and over to be more interactive with each other, sharing and learning together with DIY!  

If you are a Fulltime Families member, joining the Fulltime Families DIY Kids is FREE!!

On the Facebook group Fulltime Families DIY Kids, parents can let other parents know who their kiddos are by sharing their DIY names.  They can also ask questions, share and see what others are doing, and be recognized for their progress.

Example of Challenge

Work Together or Independently to Earn Patches

There will be skills to do together as a group; both independently and some collaborative skills as we gather at hangouts or rally’s.  Many skills could apply to the upcoming FtF STEAM Rally this August in Michigan!  For example, to earn the patch for Mechanical Engineer, kids choose at least three of these challenges to complete the skill that earns the patch:

* Build a Simple Machine

* Build a Catapult or Trebuchet

* Make Real Gears

* Build a Hydraulic Device

* Build a Vehicle

* Build a Stirling Engine

* Make a Rube Goldberg Machine

* Make an Object in CAD

* Create a Gear Ratio

* Build a Robotic Device

* Make a Kinetic Machine

When the DIYer clicks on one of these challenges, they are offered video instruction that will teach everything they need to know to complete that particular challenge. 


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


Why Parents Love DIY.ORG

As a parent, I appreciate that these videos are already curated from YouTube by the DIY Moderators so kids don’t have to search in multiple places or bump into material that doesn’t apply.

In our example, let’s choose to Make a Rube Goldberg Machine.

The challenge is explained: “Make use of the Six Simple Machines by combining them in creative, complicated, and comical ways to perform a simple task.  You must have at least 5 different mechanisms. Capture your best run with a video.”

Along with the instructional video, there will be the videos of other DIYers that have completed the Make a Rube Goldberg Challenge.  

How amazing will it be to have our amazing FtF kids building a Rube Goldberg machine TOGETHER!?  THAT is why our family is so excited to share and bring DIY to the Fulltime Families community and we are eager to encourage your Awesome Kids with Awesome Skills!

DIY - Homeschooling On The Road

Connecting to FTF DIY Club

Once you create and/or log in to your DIY account on the website (DIY.org) check the bottom of your Settings page, look for a section titled “My Connections.”  Click the “Connect an Adult” button and enter DIY@fulltimefamilies.com  address into the form. You will automatically be connected to the Club account. There is no limit to the number of adult dashboards you can link to your kid account.

DIY.org is built to be website driven so the changes in the settings, etc, must be on the website but the DIY App is available to upload videos to share completed challenges.

Build Skills And Community

If you are looking for more Roadschooling or homeschooling ideas beyond the DIY program, then click here.

Summer Savings on all Fulltime Families Memberships

GreenHeartAdventure No Comments

For a Limited Time, Fulltime Families Memberships are on Sale!


From now through Midnight July 16th,2018  Fulltime Families Annual Membership are 25% off!  That brings an Annual Membership to below $40!

For just $33.75 you get access to savings on:

  • A Free Year of Escapees and Good Sams*
  • RV Health
  • Educational Courses
  • RV Service and Supplies
  • Homeschool Classes
  • No Kid Tax at Participating Campgrounds

Plus, find travel companions with our easy to use Fulltime Families Family Finder and join us at Upcoming Events!

There’s even better news for current members! Upgrade your membership during the month of July and save 25% off your upgrade!  To upgrade your account and take advantage of this limited time offer, send an email to jill@fulltimefamilies.com.

We’re excited to offer many new discounts for our membership and more to be launched soon!  Don’t miss out on these great deals!


Don’t miss out on this deal!



This Offer Expires July 16th, 2018 – After your payment processes, your PayPal Account will be credited with the discount rate.  $11.25 for New and  Renewing Members. A custom invoice will be sent for Lifetime Memberships. 

*Offer valid for New Members of these organizations only.  Sorry this offer can not be combined with other savings offers.

Let the Summer Camping Season Begin with Fulltime Families

GreenHeartAdventure No Comments

Are you finally camping this weekend, after a long winter at home, and wishing you could do it more often? Fulltime Families supports traveling families by providing community, education and discounts. If you RV travel with kids, either full-time, on weekends, for vacations, or even just dream to in the future, Fulltime Families is here for you!

Join us today to find your traveling neighborhood, get discounts, and learn how to become location independent before retirement.

Camping on a Budget with Thousand Trails

GreenHeartAdventure No Comments

As you plan your full-time RV adventures, you are probably wondering how to make the RV lifestyle more affordable. Budget camping with Thousand Trails might be just what you are looking for.

Campgrounds can be incredibly expensive, with nightly rates ranging anywhere from as low as $20 to over $100 a night. Some campgrounds offer weekly or monthly discounts for people who want to stay longer and save money, but even with these discounts camping costs add up fast.

Weekly rates tend to start at around $250 a week, while monthly rates vary from $400 a month to $1500 or more, depending on the location and park. A fellow traveling family recently shared that they just paid $25,000 for an annual camping site at a park near the beach in South Carolina. That’s over $2000 a month!  

On average, a traveling Fulltime Family may spend $800 a month on campground fees, which is almost $10,000 in just one year. Thankfully, there is a better way.

Yosemite Lake RV Campground

Budget Camping with Thousand Trails

What is a Thousand Trails membership?

There is a lot of information about Thousand Trails on the internet. While most of it is good, some is bad and some is outdated or inaccurate.  Thousand Trails is a group of 81 membership campgrounds across the country that are all owned by a company called ELS. There are two different types of Thousand Trails memberships available, a yearly zone camping pass or an upgraded membership.

Camping on a Budget - Thousand Trails Pin

The Zone Pass – Camping Pass

For the Zone Pass, Thousand Trails divided the country up into five zones. Members choose which zone(s) they want, and then pay yearly membership dues, currently $460 a year for a 4-year term or $575 for a yearly term,  and can purchase extra zones for $49 per zone, per year.

The membership allows you to stay for free at any of the campgrounds in your zone for up to 14 days at a time. After each stay, you have to be out of the system for 7 days before you can go to another park and stay for another 14 days for free. These memberships have a 60-day reservation window and are renewed yearly.

Upgraded  Memberships

The upgraded memberships give you access to all of the zones, which is 81 campgrounds that are spread across the entire country. It has a one-time purchase price and then members continue to pay yearly dues. One of the biggest benefits is that members have longer stay times (21 days or 28 days) and the ability to go park to park with no time out of the system.

A member could essentially stay in the system 365 days a year and never have to pay a nightly camping fee. There are 3 types of upgraded memberships: the Elite Basic, Elite Connections and the Ultimate Odyssey.

In addition to these memberships, Thousand Trails has come out with a new Encore plan, called the Trails Collection, that you can add on to your Thousand Trails membership. The Trails Collection allows you to stay at 89 Encore parks for free and an additional 18 for only $20 a night!

Rancho Oso RV & Camping Resort

Why do so many Fulltime Families recommend Thousand Trails?

Have More Money For Other Things

When families are able to stay for free at Thousand Trails campgrounds it gives them more money to spend on other things that are important to them.  

What would you do with the extra money that you save?

Would you spend a week or two in the Florida Keys, or take the family on a cruise? Maybe buy the whole family a year-long pass to Disney World or another museum pass? You could take a summer vacation up to Canada, or simply enjoy more of the everyday things along your journey without being worried about money all the time.  

A Thousand Trails membership gives you the freedom to explore your world with all the money you aren’t spending at campgrounds! Think of how much more you could do with your family if you were no longer paying nightly camping fees.

More Than Just Monetary Benefits 

Thousand Trails campgrounds are very family friendly. They allow up to 10 people per campsite, so you will never be charged for your children to camp with you. The memberships also have great family benefits that make it easy for your extended family to enjoy camping too. All of these benefits are great, but there is so much more!

One of the best things about a Thousand Trails membership is all the amazing people you will meet. Thousand Trails parks are a great place to connect with other traveling families that are doing the same thing you are doing, leading to lasting friendships and wonderful memories.

Gettysburg Farms RV Campground

How to Get a Thousand Trails Membership

Getting a membership is easy because we have our very own dedicated Thousand Trails representative who is a member of our Fulltime Family family.

Alisha Deschene and her family have been on the road for over 3 1/2 years. She is a wealth of knowledge and has helped so many other fulltime families understand the programs and get their memberships started. She will answer all of your questions, help you decide which membership is best for your family and get you the very best deal possible to save you even more money.

One of the many benefits of being a Fulltime Families Member is your chance to use Alisha to purchase your Thousand Trails membership. You will receive a rebate from Fulltime Families as our way of saying thank you!

You can reach Alisha at 207-270-1121 or by email at alishaplus8@yahoo.com   

If you aren’t already a member of Fulltime Families, we have many additional benefits you can see here.

At Fulltime Families we connect and support traveling families by providing encouragement, community, and discounts.

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



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