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Fulltime Families visits the Escape Code

GreenHeartAdventure No Comments

This spring, 50 traveling families headed to Branson, Missouri, in the Ozark Mountains, to host the Fulltime Families Showbiz Rally.  While Branson is popular for its entertainment theaters, it has a wide variety of other attactactions to choose from. Ranked as one of the best escape rooms in the country, the Escape Code was top on our list.  This was our first visit to an escape room, so we were all very excited for the experience. The children spent considerable time volunteering their strengths before attending. The 5 year old volunteered to fit into small spaces.  The 12 year old volunteered to do all the reading. The 11 year old volunteered to yell very loudly. The 9 year old wanted to be master of the keys.

 

The Escape Code, 4560 North Gretna Road, Branson, MO 65616,  is located in the Shoppes at Branson Meadows complex. When we arrived, we were greeted by the staff and explained what was about to happen.  After signing the waivers to play, we chose the “The Guest House” experience. Tasked with solving the mystery of a houseguest who disappeared.  Once we were ready to play, the staff lead us to a large open room with couches and puzzle games to watch a video about the experience we had chosen.  

 

As we entered the room, we were handed a note and a key to get us started. The timer began when we closed the door.  With the experience we chosen, we had an hour time limit to complete the game. The room was small and filled with all kinds of items. During the first five minutes the kids turned over anything that could be moved and tried all the keys in every padlock. After that, we figured out a better strategy and began to work as a team. Everyone was able to participate on some level.  Our kids are ages 12, 11, 9, and 5.

 

Each of the kids took turns figuring out the clues.  Our daughter was really good at the color clues and our oldest son really was excited to crack codes of letters and numbers. “ I told you” was our 9 year olds favorite line.  Our youngest, just wanted free clues, of which were unlimited but in order for your time to count on the leader board you needed less than 4. The time passed very quickly. As the clock kept running down, everyone became a little more concerned we were not going to escape.  But with only three minutes remaining, we escaped!

 

The Escape Code is a perfect family and team building experience.  As a family, we especially enjoyed the experience together. Not only are children 5 and under free, but the games are perfectly sized for a family.  Our family of 6 received a dedicated game room, and really enjoyed it. For the hours and more details check out https://www.escapecode.tv/.  Fulltime Families is a membership organization that connects and supports traveling families by providing community, education and discounts.

 

Fulltime Families visits Dolly Parton’s Stampede

Erin No Comments


On Tuesday, May 1, we attended Dolly Parton’s Stampede in Branson, MO with 4 adults and 7 children, ranging in age from 5 to 15. In its 24th season, this “most-visited dinner attraction in the world” includes a line up full of music, friendly competitions, comedic capers, equestrian showmanship, and a 4 course meal. Fulltime Families was charged a discounted media rate in exchange for this review, and provided with some of the photographs included.

Prior to the show we found a seat in the Carriage Room to enjoy the White River Wranglers, a folk band made up of three brothers playing folk, bluegrass, gospel, and even some Justin Timberlake, and snack on nachos and popcorn, purchased a la carte.

After the thirty minute show everyone was led to the arena for the main attraction, where we were seated in individual chairs in front of a counter. Each row of about 25 people had a waiter who served from a designated walkway in front of the counter, allowing them to walk back and forth during the show with little disruption to the view.

The sides of the arena were divided into North and South, and guests rooted for their side in a variety of competitions, ranging from professional equestrians trying to pop balloons from horseback, to pig races, to children from the audience trying to be the first to get their assigned chickens across the finish line. Mixed in was some comedy, magic, dancing, and tricks on horseback. A favorite part of the show was Canine Capers, where two teams of dogs competed in agility, stunts and jumps. The best part was that all of the dogs in the show were rescued from shelters and trained to perform in the Stampede. We also learned about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that sends one book a month from birth until age 5 to children in certain communities.

During some carefully timed breaks in the entertainment food was served, including rolls, creamy vegetable soup, corn on the cob, potatoes, a whole rotisserie chicken, pork loin, and dessert. Be warned – there is no silverware provided, so if you have a child in braces you may want to bring a plastic knife for the corn (there is a bag check on the way in). The food was well made and plentiful, and they provide doggy bags. Vegetarian meals are available if pre-ordered, and soft drinks are included and unlimited.

Our entire party enjoyed the one hour dinner show. There was plenty of variety and it moved quickly, so even the five year old was captivated, while the teens and adults were entertained as well. After the show we exited through the gift shop where there were a variety of souvenirs, then past the horses, along with many of their riders, who were available to answer questions.

Most shows in Branson seemed to be aimed at older adults, so Dolly Parton’s Stampede stands out as a family friendly option when visiting the area with children. It will entertain children through grandparents at prices range from $29.99 to $34.99 plus tax for children and $49.99 to $54.99 plus tax for adults.

Top 10 things to do in Branson Missouri for Families

GreenHeartAdventure No Comments

Branson Missouri is the Live Show Capital of the Midwest.  A micropolitan area of 83,000 people, with 11,000 living in the city of Branson.  Branson is a destination area catering to tourists, starting in 1950 with square dances hosted in the Marvel Cave.  Branson has hosted two Fulltime Families rallies and provides many enjoyable activities. The following places have been used by other Fulltime Families and are easy to recommend to other traveling families.     

Branson Landing

Perfect for an evening out or an afternoon adventure. The water shows start on the hour, and are similar to the famous Las Vegas water shows.  The Outdoor mall space at Branson Landing has plenty of shops and restaurants. Visit the arcade for a chance to encounter Zombies, Werewolves, or Mechanical Bots on the 7D laser ride. (Recommended by other FTFs)  Stroll along the riverfront and enjoy the watershow.  (Free)

Hiking

There are several good hiking trails in the Branson area.  The Branson Waterfall hike is a .8 mile hike to a waterfall following a river.  Great hike for families with small kids with great photo opportunities. The Homestead Trail is part of the Ruth and Paul Henning State Forest.  This trail is a 3.5 mile loop rated as a moderate hike which has some elevation change and small waterfalls. A fun hike with older kids.

Pickin Porch Restaurant

Friendly Staff and amazing food. Try a Burnt End sandwich if they haven’t run out. Kid friendly seating in a unique market atmosphere.  Free live music on weekends. A new favorite BBQ place.

College of the Ozarks  

Don’t miss a tour of this unique educational experience. A beautiful campus where students work to pay for their education.  Try some ice cream at the creamery or splurge on a delicious meal at Dobyns Dining Room. The food features farm to table food, all prepared by students at the college. (Free to tour)

10 Things to do in Branson Missouri

Escape room

Challenging but fun! If your family likes to work together to solve things, this place is for you.  No matter if you break the code or not the Escape Room will not disappoint. Family friendly.

BillyGail’s

Do not miss this hidden treasure of the Ozarks with pancakes larger than platters. Come with an empty stomach and leave with a smile.

Country Market

This local grocery store in Branson has everything you will need.  

iMax Branson

Visit iMax Branson for a look back at the Ozarks in pioneer days with Ozarks: Legacy & Legend or see the latest Avengers movie in 3D.  Branson’s #1 ranked cinema is family friendly.  Stop by McFarlain’s Family Restaurant located in the same complex for lunch or dinner.

Dolly Parton Stampede

This dinner attraction will not disappoint. If you only do one live performance while in Branson, the Branson Stampede is a must.  An amazing extravaganza joining horse stunts, musical productions & special effects with a home-cooking dinner.  Come hungry and get ready for a lively show of live animals, special effects and some humor.  Perfect for all ages.

America’s Best Cafe @ ABC Campground

If you want a delicious meal for a great price this is the place for you.  This delicious cafe is walking distance from ABC campground, co-located at the Celebrity Station.   From Burgers to Mexican, Cheese It Up will not disappoint. America’s Best Cafe is open most days for Breakfast and Dinner.  Prices are already incredibly low, for a tourist town, but Paul and family is especially kind to other Families. Mention Fulltime Families!

If you RV often with your family and are thinking about hitting the road full-time, then be sure to check out our Fulltime Families membership benefits. We look forward to connecting with you!

Which RV Membership is Right for You?

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One question we get asked a lot is “Which RV memberships do you recommend?” With so many out there offering many different benefits it can be quite confusing to determine which campground memberships or RV memberships are the best ones for your family. Read our 6 most popular memberships for Fulltime Families members and see if they are right for you.

RV memberships

 

Be sure to read to the end to find out how you can receive several of these memberships at a large discount, just by joining one!

 

1. Thousand Trails

Website: https://www.thousandtrails.com

Thousand Trails is a membership-based campground system with 81 member parks and 100 additional parks available through their sister program, Trails Collection.

Leavenworth Thousand Trails in Leavenworth, WA

Photo Credit: thousandtrails.com

Benefits

  • Free nightly stays at member parks (some charge $3 per night for 50amp service)
  • 81 Campgrounds available nationwide
  • Up to 20% savings at Encore Parks
  • Membership Rebate available for FTF Members

Cost:

  • $575 annually for a single zone
  • $49 for each additional zone
  • $199 for the Trails Collection
  • Additional membership upgrades with extra benefits are available

The Pros to Thousand Trails

One of the biggest perks of the Thousand trails system is the pricing.  After the initial membership cost and annual dues, members can stay at the 81 parks for 2-3 weeks at no cost.  This is why we consider the Thousand Trails system very budget friendly and a good place for many traveling families to rest for a period of time after more expensive explorations.

Another wonderful benefit of the system is the convenient online reservations.  You can make reservations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can change them at any time without a cancellation penalty.  We have found this to be very convenient as it allows us to be flexible but still have reservations, so we are never without a place to stay.

Our favorite benefit with Thousand Trails though is one that isn’t listed anywhere on their site and that’s the opportunity to meet fellow Fulltime Families!  Many of our families use the system so there are wonderful opportunities for meetups and play dates while staying in the system. So many use the system in fact, that we have a meetup group dedicated to the Florida parks, simply because in the winter they are hopping with FTFs!

South Jetty Thousand Trails in Florence, OR

Photo Credit: thousandtrails.com

The Cons to Thousand Trails

One con that we hear from time to time is the parks are out of the way or not near a major city.  We have found this to be true in some areas and in others, found them to be in the perfect locations.  For instance, TT Diamond Caverns is located in KY and while it is technically out of the way, it is at the entrance to Mammoth Cave National park.  We really enjoyed our quiet stay there and it made exploring the National park a breeze. Another great location we have enjoyed was TT South Jetty, nestled in a tiny coastal Oregon town, we were just outside the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.  TT Williamsburg is also another amazing location, located in the historic triangle in VA, you are close to Yorktown, Jamestown and Williamsburg while nestled in a gorgeous tree-filled park.

We have also heard complaints of the quality of upkeep at some of the parks and have experienced this ourselves on occasion.  Overall, we feel that the price we pay is on par with the quality we receive. We always have a safe place to stay for the night and we have seen them working steadily at improving the parks since we joined several years ago.  This year we saw them upgrade more sites at TT Orlando to 50amp and add a new pickleball court, work on leveling sites at TT Oaks, new playgrounds and fire pits at others and many other improvements.

The memberships can be confusing!  Over the years, Thousand Trails has had many different membership levels with many different benefits.  This creates a sea of confusion on the internet and even when discussing amongst members. The best way to overcome the confusion is to work with a member specialist who can help you navigate to the best membership for your family.  We recommend working with Alisha Deschene, Fulltime Families dedicated Thousand Trails representative. She can be reached by email alishaplus8@yahoo.com or by phone at 207-270-1121.  Working with Alisha not only guarantees a smooth transaction but qualifies you for the FTF rebate on your membership.

Orlando Thousand Trails in Clermont, FL

Photo Credit: thousandtrails.com

Is Thousand Trails Worth it?

For most Fulltime Families, absolutely!!  Between the benefit of low-cost camping, ease of changing reservations and opportunities to connect with other traveling families, it is a no-brainer to make this one of most used memberships in your arsenal.

 

Passport America

Website: http://www.passportamerica.com/

Discount programming saving you 50% off campgrounds in their network.

Benefits

  • 50% off Campgrounds
  • 1800+ Campgrounds
  • Basic Route Planning to show member parks on route
  • FTF Members receive a discount

Cost:

  • $44 annually
  • $79 for 2 years
  • $109 for 3 years

The Pros to Passport America

The low cost of this program and potential savings are the biggest pros.  With most campgrounds in their network costing an average of $35 a night, this program takes those nightly rates down to $17.50 a night.  This means that the return on investment will be realized in just 3 short nights.

Another benefit to the program is the volume of parks that participate, with over 1800 parks across the US, Canada, and Mexico, meaning that there are plenty of places to choose from.

The Cons to Passport America

One of the biggest cons are the rules for the discount are set by the campgrounds.  Some of them are very generous while others only let you stay a night or 2 at the discounted rate or the rate is only available on weekdays.  Be sure to read the rules for the campground you are looking to stay at, to ensure there are no surprises in cost.

We have heard also complaints of the quality of certain parks.  We find using RV review sites helps us to better pick parks and we have stayed at some really cool and interesting ones, like Faywood Hotsprings, an RV park and Hotsprings resort.

Faywood Hotsprings in Faywood, NM

Photo Credit: Instagram.com/theroaminghome

Is Passport America worth it?

If you are traveling, absolutely!  Since it’s so quick to pay for itself and there are so many locations, we highly recommend it.

 

Good Sam

Website: https://www.goodsam.com/club/

Discount programming saving you at campgrounds, Camping World and Pilot/Flying J

Benefits

  • FREE SHIPPING at CampingWorld.com – No Minimum Purchase Necessary
  • Save up to 10% Every Day at Camping World SuperCenters! Plus, Members-Only Specials & Double Discount Days
  • Save 10% on Camping World Installation Fees
  • Save $10 on the Posted Hourly Service Rate at Camping World SuperCenters
  • Save up to 10% Every Day at Gander Outdoors Retail Locations! Plus, Members-Only Specials & Double Discount Days
  • Save 5¢ off gas & 8¢ off diesel instantly at select Pilot or Flying J locations
  • Save 10% off Good Sam Campgrounds
  • FTF Members receive a 1-year membership for free

Cost:

  • $27 annually
  • $50 for 2 years
  • $79 for 3 years

The Pros to Good Sam

One thing we love about this program is its FREE for one year when you join Fulltime Families!  And who doesn’t love a free membership! But seriously, the biggest pro to this program are the discounts and free shipping from Camping World as well as the discounts on gas, diesel, and propane.  While the campground discounts are nice, your return on investment if you were to buy this one would be longer if you only used it for the camping discounts

The Cons to Good Sam

As we mentioned above if you are only using it for the camping discounts, it won’t save you as much but as travelers, the savings on the gas or diesel and the savings at Camping World make up for it.

Is Good Sam worth it?

Maybe, since you receive a free year of it with FTF memberships it’s worth seeing if it would pay off for your family.  For ours, most years it does based on the shopping discount at Camping World alone.

 

Escapees

Website: https://www.escapees.com/

A support network for RVers

Benefits

  • 10-50% Discount on club affiliated parks
  • 19 Escapee parks that offer low member-only rates
  • Discounts on mail service that provides a domicile address
  • FTF Members receive a 1-year membership for free

Cost:

  • $39.99 annually
  • $895 for a lifetime

The Pros to Escapees

Many Fulltime Families use their mail service and address as a domicile.  They offer addresses both out of FL and TX and you must be an Escapees member to utilize their mail service.

Other benefits we love are the private Escapee parks, while there aren’t many of them, they are well maintained and we have found the staff and other campers to be very welcoming to families.

The discounts on the club affiliated parks are also a nice perk, just be sure to check with each park as they set their own prices

The Cons to Escapees

Isn’t that the club for retirees?  Yikes! we have heard that one a few times over the years and while yes for years Escapees served mostly those who were retired, they are now embracing the younger generation with their Xscapers club.  Membership in Escapees gives you access to both and the Xscapers are an active group hosting rallies and meetups themselves.

Is Escapees worth it?

We feel it is, for those looking for a trusted domicile and mail handling but also for those looking for education, weighing services and for the park discounts.  Members of FTF receive their first year free with Escapees

 

Harvest Hosts

Website: https://harvesthosts.com/

Harvest Hosts overnight stays are a special opportunity to meet people and enjoy wine tastings, farm tours and museum visits.

Benefits

  • Free overnight stays with hosts listed on the site
  • FTF Members receive a discount on membership

Cost:

  • $49 annually ($45 if you sign up for auto-renewal)
  • $115 for 3 years
  • $300 for a lifetime

The Pros to Harvest Hosts

Gorgeous settings for overnight stays are certainly a big pro for Harvest Hosts.  Instead of camping in a Walmart parking lot for your quick stop over you can settle in between the grapes for a quiet nights rest.  

We also love that we get to support small businesses and learn about their business. We have found them to be very welcoming to our family at all the hosts we have stayed with and loved chatting with everyone we met.

Harvest Host site in Virginia

Photo Credit: facebook.com/theroaminghome

 

The Cons to Harvest Hosts

Harvest Hosts may sound like a dream. Free camping and wine tasting, what’s not to love right? Well some of our members have mentioned that having to arrive during the businesses operating hours can pose a challenge on long travel days if you aren’t an early riser.

Others have mentioned that it’s not technically free as you are asked to support the business with a purchase.  We don’t really see the con in this as even if you aren’t a wine drinker, most sell other locally sourced products to purchase.  We enjoyed blueberry pie at one, scored some delicious wildflower honey at another and dined at a café at another.

Is Harvest Host worth it?

For our family it has been worth it.  We spent last Memorial day bouncing around California’s wine country, avoiding the crowds and spending time with some amazing winemakers.  FTF members receive a discount off of the annual membership and with the cost around the price of a single night a resort, it pays for itself quickly.

 

Fulltime Families

Website: https://fulltimefamilies.com

Fulltime Families is the only RV organization dedicated to supporting Fulltime Families in their unique journeys.

Benefits

  • Private members only forum
  • No Kid Tax (extra fees for children) at 350+ campgrounds
  • Planned events, rallies, meetups and hangouts
  • Family Finder, locate other traveling families
  • Discounts on accounting, doctors visits, and much more
  • Free year of Escapees and Good Sam’s
  • Discounts on Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, Passport America
  • Rebate on Thousand Trails
  • Over $1000 in value

Cost:

  • $65 annual membership
  • $345 for a lifetime membership

Photo Credit: fulltimefamilies.com

The Pros to Fulltime Families

The pros are numerous!

First, you receive both Escapees and Good Sam memberships for the cost of your FTF membership. This is a $67 value for you right there. Then you also receive discounts off of other popular memberships like Passport America, Harvest Host, and Boondockers Welcome. Fulltime Families also gives you a rebate when you purchase a new Zone pass or upgrade your Thousand Trails membership with their dedicated Thousand Trails representative, Alisha Deschene!

Another perk that can’t be translated into a dollar figure is the support and community that families receive. From the many events that Fulltime Families hosts annually to the online community and support in the private Facebook Groups you will have the opportunity to build the community you dream of on the road.

In the forums, you can pick the brains of those with experience and make lasting friendships. Fulltime Families hosts several in-person events each year all over the country, from large rallies to smaller hangouts to field trips.  After attending these events most families find that they have made friends for life and have started to establish their mobile neighborhood.

If you can’t make it to an event or if you are just wanting to see if there are other fulltime families around you, we have a tool for that….the Fulltime Families Finder.  You can update your location and share a little bit about your family and then see other members locations. You are always in control of your information so you can share the exact park or just the city you are in and because it’s only available to other FTF members you don’t have to worry about prying eyes knowing your location.

Photo Credit: fulltimefamilies.com

The Cons to Fulltime Families

Could FOMO (fear of missing out) be considered a con? Perhaps, I know it’s something we experience.  Seeing all the amazing pictures of our friends in other gorgeous locations, knowing that time won’t let you make all the rallies and meetups (though some of us try really hard) can cause those feelings.  

Or perhaps that you might have to drop your very well-planned route, cancel all your reservation and head in the exact opposite direction to meet up with friends or attend an exciting event.

Is Fulltime Families worth it?

We absolutely believe it is! With over $1000 in savings and the community and support you gain as a Fulltime Families member, your membership will be worth it.  Finding the connections on the road, meeting a circle of friends who can become your traveling neighborhood, is priceless. 

19 Ways to be Prepared for your First Fulltime Families Rally

GreenHeartAdventure No Comments

 

Are you getting ready to attend your first Fulltime Families Rally? Or, are you thinking of signing up for one but do not know what to expect? Our full-time RV living and traveling family of 6 just attended our first rally and had the time of our lives!

Yet, we didn’t quite know what to expect. So, I wanted to help you get a jumpstart and share with you 19 ways to be prepared for your first Fulltime Families Rally.

 

If you haven’t joined Fulltime Families, learn more here about how you can become a member and receive access to the Fulltime Families rallies and events!

19 Tips for your first rally

 

19 Tips for your First Fulltime Families Rally

 

1. Join the Facebook group specific to the rally you will be attending.

If you use Facebook regularly, you will most likely see there is a Fulltime Families public page, a Fulltime Families Members page, and several other smaller groups and topics. Yet, if you are like friends of ours and choose not to use Facebook at all, then you will miss out on a wealth of helpful information before the rally. So, I suggest setting up a Facebook account and joining the specific group to the rally you will be attending such as ‘Fulltime Families 2018 Under the Sea Rally Attendees’.

 

2. Book camping at the location of the rally for at least a few days BEFORE the start of the rally and at least 1-2 days AFTER the rally ends.

We did not do this and missed out on opportunities to meet people before the rally began. You see, once it begins there are so many amazing things on the schedule that there isn’t a whole lot of ‘down’ time to just hang. If you want that opportunity, then I suggest arriving early and staying later as some families do.

 

3. Take off work for the entire rally!

Whether you work a 9-5 job remotely, are still looking for creative ways to make money online while traveling, or you are an entrepreneur and can set your own schedule, I suggest that ALL parents take time off work during ALL the rally days. Not only is it worth it for everyone to participate in the amazing events, but it can also get a bit hectic with the kiddos. Having an extra set of hands from a second parent, if available, will make your experience less stressful and so much more fulfilling.

 

4. Make meals ahead of time and freeze them.  

You will be very busy with events, activities, games, campfires, coffee talks and more during the rally. Or, you may find a new family that you want to talk with for a bit longer than it gives you to make a meal. This leaves little time to do things such as cook, do dishes, clean up, etc.

So, think of quick and easy meals that you can have each day, or make some things ahead of time and freeze them. We had chili and chicken tikka masala in our freezer ready to go and I was so glad that we did!

 

5. Buy paper products and snacks ahead of time.

Stock up on paper products to help decrease how much time you need to spend doing dishes. Also, do a quick Costco run to bulk up on produce or snacks that are easy to grab and leave little mess. Life can get so busy, in an exciting way, that you are not going to want to have to run to the grocery store while at the rally.

 

6. Take a week off your homeschooling, worldschooling, roadschooling etc.

All the families that I spoke to at the Madison, FL rally took the week ‘off’ of school to enjoy themselves. There just isn’t time and the kids are learning so much anyway. From great social skills to arts and crafts, the kids learn a great deal at the Fulltime Families rallies. 


7. Use radios, walkie-talkies, watches or cell phones for the kids – Or be ready to follow them everywhere.

During rally-time, there are many opportunities for kids to run off and play together. From hanging at the playground to playing a game in the field to playing Legos together at a picnic table, they will be busy playing if there isn’t a planned activity.  We used walkie-talkie radios to keep track of our 9 -year old while we were at the rally.

 

Having 4 kids with different ideas of fun things they want to do can sometimes be a bit challenging, so we found our radios very helpful.  

When our son wanted to play Ga-Ga ball and I wanted to attend a coffee talk about Kombucha, my husband stayed with the girls while they did a craft at the back of the coffee talk room and held a radio to listen in if Riley needed anything at Ga-Ga ball. Another great option is to purchase one of the several watches you can get for your children that connect to your cell phone. I saw several children wearing the watches at the rally. Those would have been really helpful too!

 

8. Increase vitamin C and probiotics – Boost those immune systems.

Late night campfires, all day of running around, swimming until their lips are blue, and eating foods at the potlucks that we are not accustomed to make me so thankful that we decided to boost our immune systems before we arrived.

Extra vitamin C such as Elderberry syrup or Vitamin C powder mixed into a spoonful of honey is the way our family supplements with vitamin C. We also drink kombucha daily. I know there are many other ways to do what works for your family to help everyone stay healthy during a fun week at the rally.

 

9. Adult Marketplace – Think about participating!

I loved attending the adult marketplace at the rally. I visited tables from other traveling parents with goods and services such as essential oils, cupcakes, cleaning products, jewelry, and marriage and family coaching. It was a great way to connect with other fulltime family members and show each entrepreneur support.

Do not hesitate to participate if it’s your first rally. It’s a great way to market your goods and services and make those connections I keep talking about.

 

10. There’s a Kid’s Marketplace too – Get creative and think ahead.

We had no idea what to expect with a kids marketplace.  Wow, it was a huge turnout of children selling their goods!

Anything from homemade jewelry and cookies to selling their toys or painting your nails for you. Be creative and get involved if this is offered at your next rally. The kids LOVED the marketplace and talked about it well after it was over.


11. Save your ‘giveaway’ items to include in the Swap table.

Do you often go through your RV with a plastic bag grabbing things left and right getting ready for a Goodwill donations run, or is that just me? Living in such a small place we all know that we need to purge quite often. Yet, it sure is nice to find the next size up in jeans for your kiddo or a new screen door handle for your RV door. 

The Swap table is set up one day of the rally for everyone to bring things to contribute and take things as they like or need. It’s a great way to help a friend out and find something that you may not have been able to find during your last shopping run. 

 

12. Attend the coffee talks – You learn so much!

 

The coffee talks were a great time for adults to get together and listen to a fellow fulltime family parent speak on a topic of interest. From talks about making Kombucha to tips on keeping a marriage strong while traveling fulltime, I walked away from each coffee talk with so much more knowledge than I expected.

 

13. Potluck – be ready to contribute if you want to.

Look on the Facebook page or watch for a message to be sent your way from Fulltime Families about what to pack and bring to the rally for the potluck dinner. They usually assign you to a potluck group so that you can plan what meal you will contribute. Everyone does their best to help accommodate food allergies and preferences too. 

 

14. Wear your nametag!

I found it SO helpful when I was speaking to an adult and he or she had a nametag on. You will be meeting so many new faces that it can be embarrassing when you forget their name. Yet, if they have a name tag on you are golden. Also, you will earn rally cash if you are caught wearing your nametag!

 

15. Get rally cash!

Rally cash is used on the last night of the rally to put into the raffle drawing for awesome prizes. The prizes included children’s toys, essential oils, free camping passes to campgrounds, discount on Fulltime Families memberships, and donated items such as the chainsaw art that we won at the rally in Madison, FL!!

Rally cash is given out to adults and children throughout the entire rally for all sorts of good deeds. If you wear your nametag, help clean up, volunteer, or just overall do a good deed then you will earn some rally cash! You then put your family’s last name on the back of each ticket before arriving at the raffle to put the tickets (cash) into the different drawings. Many families work hard to earn their rally cash and a lot of kids get really into it. 

 

16. Enjoy the dance and feel free to dress up!

 

Along with the raffle, there is a dance the last night of each rally. Many kids and adults dress up to follow the theme of the rally. Feel free to brainstorm fun ways to get all glammed up, or just come as you are ready to dance. Just be aware that the evening can run long for the little ones and you may not be able to stay to the end of the dance if they woke up early that day ready to play as mine did.

 

17. Be flexible with bedtimes at the Fulltime Families Rally.

This one was hard for us, as our kids really were wiped out and ASKED to go back to the RV so they could go to bed by 8:30 most nights! The days are packed full of fun and excitement, so I totally understood. Yet, it was hard on us parents who were looking forward to the bonfire conversations that evening.

My husband Tony and I took turns going back with the little ones so the other could stay out a bit longer to visit with the other adults. However, if your kids can keep going then I suggest pushing the bedtime and staying out to socialize. Make connections with other families so that you can plan to meet up again down the road!

 

18. Plan for a lot of visiting time with new friends.

If you are an introvert, it’s okay. Just know that we extroverts will be open to walking up and introducing ourselves at your picnic table to start up a conversation.  Rally-time is a time to meet new friends, reconnect with old friends, learn together, and grow those connections with other families that are SO much more like us than we realize. 

We may live in different priced or sized rigs and have different religious or political beliefs, but we all understand what life is like living in an RV with kids. We are all fulltime families and it’s SO great to connect with others who just ‘get you’.

Pro Tip: It’s okay to let your RV be off-limits to visitors inside. If you need a ‘sanctuary’ to go cool off for 30 minutes, then take it. Do not sweat about a messy home. We ALL have messy homes, especially during rally week.

 

19. Parade of Homes – you can participate but don’t feel obligated!

The parade of homes is an opportunity to show off your rig and help inspire other families with ideas on fun RV hacks and remodeling tips. It’s also a great time to NOT show off your home, but instead just walk through other’s knowing that yours is a hot mess.

Oh wait, that was me!

If you don’t feel up to keeping a tidy place ready to show, then don’t sweat it. Just know that we are all curious as everyone’s rig is set up a bit differently for a family. From homeschool areas to kitchen setups, to custom made bunk beds, it’s fun to see what others do to their rigs.

 

Fulltime Families Rally – Here I Come!

If you haven’t experienced a Fulltime Families rally, I hope my tips will help you to decide to do so. You will drive away feeling so glad that you did! Be ready to meet some great people and build some amazing friendships.

Feel free to connect with me, Jill Greising-Murschel, at Let’s Travel Family if you have any questions or have any concerns that I did not touch on here. I’d be happy to help! Or, connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or Twitter.

Fulltime Families Ambassador – The Simpson Family

Sarah James No Comments

What is a Fulltime Families Ambassador?  The goal of the Fulltime Families Ambassador Program is to continue to build a meaningful, inclusive and strong community on the road. To achieve this, we find a family who will:

  • Be warm and welcoming both online and in-person.  An example of this would be to continue what you already do, by Welcoming new members on Facebook group as they are announced.
  • Share about Fulltime Families wherever they go and encourage membership.
  • Help current FtF Members to connect with each other.
  • Be well versed in the benefits of Fulltime Families and share events, updates, new products, partnerships and FtF news via their personal website, and/or social media avenues.  
  • Look for ways to be inclusive of others, by hosting potlucks, field trips, and potentially Fulltime Families events as opportunities arise.  
  • Communicate with Fulltime Families Corporate how the membership can be enhanced and other ways to make FtF even better.

We currently have 9 FtF families in the Ambassador program that we will be introducing to you!

The Simpson Family

Meet the Simpson’s; Jason, Stephanie, Caroline, Lydia, Ian, and Eliza. They have been on the road for 6 years. They left their hometown in the middle of June 2012.

About 4 years prior to leaving, Stephanie mentioned that she’d seen something about a family who was traveling fulltime in an RV and thought it looked fun. “What if we did?” Jason said. “When do we leave?” As they waited and considered the option to travel in an RV, they had two more children. When Eliza, the youngest, was around one year old, they decided to make this dream happen. They spent the better part of 9 months researching and planning and another 6 months getting rid of stuff and selling all their things.

Their research and planning paid off because 6 years later they are still in the same trailer! (That is very rare.) Jason said, “We did extensive research, but still went in blind. Our current set up is great. If I were picking a rig now, I’d be more picky.” “We intentionally tried to make sure that we didn’t have regrets. Some of that stems from Stephanie’s father passing. Part of why we got on the road is that her parents said that once they retire they will get on the road. They retired in their mid 50’s and would travel some, but Stephanie’s dad’s health wasn’t good. Then, he was killed suddenly in a car accident. So the things they planned for their whole life, they didn’t get to do. Stephanie’s mom stopped traveling when her husband died. So Stephanie and I decided at that time, if we can do it now we will. I don’t want to look back and say I regret that we didn’t get to do anything. The timing was never going to be perfect and if we hated traveling we could stop, but we could at least say we tried it,” explains Jason.

When they launched they thought three to five years of travel was sufficient, but soon after they knew that wouldn’t be enough time. The kids have now traveled most of their lives and don’t have specific ties to one location or one community so they don’t need to settle down. They all enjoy being out in nature. They explore national parks or botanical gardens. They also go to a lot of museums. Recently, their families favorite pass-time has been Disney World! Jason’s favorite thing about the nomadic lifestyle is being able to go where they want or be around who they want to be around. He thinks it’s much more simpler to change their location or company if they don’t like their circumstances. Stephanie says, “It’s much easier to move when we’ve stopped appreciating our location and when we move we can appreciate a new location much more because we aren’t there all the time.”

The Simpson’s have learned some amazing problem solving skills over the years of traveling. “Any problem big or small isn’t the end of the world,” Stephanie stated. “Get out of the ‘woah is m’e mentality. We just think when we see a problem and decide what we are going to do.” Jason agrees by saying, “Something is going to break, so ‘lets just figure out how to fix it mindset’ can make things a lot smoother.” Things that broke or went wrong in their first few months of travel were devastating. The same things have broken just recently (ie. their truck), but this time they were able to look at the situation calmly even though they weren’t planning for it. “We have to pull up our boot straps and figure out what we are going to do about it,” Stephanie says. The Simpson’s have things break all the time, but they just don’t stress about it anymore. Jason says, “Old people do this and they survive. We just had to change our mindset to be flexible and just solve the problems when they come.”

Jason, Stephanie and their kids were on the road for about 6 months before they realized that they weren’t the only traveling families out there! They met Pieter and Clementine Hartog/Bak at a campground in the middle of the week in November in Colorado. You must know, this is usually a sign that they aren’t just a family on vacation! The Simpson’s noticed the Hartog’s kids stuff and wondered if they were a like-minded traveling family. The two families met and Hartog’s connected the Simpson’s with the Fulltime Families community; other families who traveled like they did.

After joining Fulltime Families, Jason and Stephanie realized how fortunate they were to be able to move more slowly than others. “When we traveled our first few years, we were in locations for several weeks to several months because we were following Jason’s contract work. We were forced into moving slow from the beginning. Now that we have more flexibility, we still move slow. Now we travel by picking one thing we want to do and then filling in the itinerary from there,” explains Stephanie.

The Simpson’s love being part of the Fulltime Families community because they have met people that have become friends and some that have become family. They never imagined that they would constantly be able to be around other families that they enjoy!

Fulltime Families highly values the Simpson family. They are always willing to lend a hand or provide comedic relief! Our community has benefitted many times from their family and we are proud to have them as part of our membership! Thank you Simpson’s!

Each Ambassador family is so important to us and we look forward to introducing the next one to you soon.

Harnessing the Power of the Sun with a Spartan Inverter

Kimberly No Comments

Soon after our family hit the road we found that some of the best stops are the ones off the beaten path, where there are no hook ups; just you and nature. Whether it’s a week at the beach or a few days at the edge of a butte being off grid gives your family the opportunity to unplug.

Just one minor detail, how can a power hungry modern day full-time RVing family get electricity out on the open range? I need to keep my electronics charged for work. Of course, we’re gonna run the instant pot? Shoot and what about the furnace or some fans? Running the generator sort of defeats the purpose of enjoying the quietness of it all – so that’s out.

Ahhh – I know let’s get an inverter, better yet a whole solar system. We’ve already covered what we did with Northern Arizona Wind and Sun in an earlier post. As a recap, we have 4 panels on the roof providing up to 1100 watts coming down into the Midnite Solar 150 (a 100 amp charge controller) and we currently have 4 6v 220 ahr batteries (bought those at Costco for $87 a piece). So, we have a little more than 400 ahr, which means really only about 200 ahrs that are usable – because we don’t want to discharge these below 50%.

Now – THE INVERTER

When looking for the right inverter we knew right where to go. The folks in Reno, NV at Spartan Power have been in this market since 2003. For our application they sent us the 3300 Watt inverter/charger

Overview

The Spartan Power SP-IC3312 3300 Watt 12V DC to AC power inverter/charger is a low frequency inverter that has a built-in 100A charger, 50A transfer switch and comes with a two year warranty. The SP-IC3312 is great for use at home or in RV, Marine, Fleet Truck, Emergency and many other renewable energy application environments. The SP-IC3312 is packed with unique features and is one of the most advanced inverter/chargers on the market today. The Spartan Power IC Series features power factor correction, sophisticated multi-stage charging and pure sine wave output with unprecedentedly high surge capability to meet demanding power needs of inductive loads without damaging your equipment.

How Does it Work

When utility AC power cuts off (or falls out of acceptable range), the transfer relay is de-energized and the load is automatically transferred to Inverter Mode. Once the qualified AC power is restored, the relay is re-energized and the load is automatically reconnected to AC Bypass Mode. Additionally, the inverter can also be easily customized to Battery Priority via a DIP switch. This helps to extract maximum power from the battery in renewable energy systems such as solar and wind.

Installation

Now let’s get this installed…can’t wait! When working with electricity please be careful.

If you’re more of the “show me how to do it personality” click here for our step-by-step video tutorial.

We started by unplugging power to the rig and turning off the battery cut off for the RV. We needed to upgrade the battery

 

cables so Spartan Power sent us some 1/0 cables. They are rated to withstand up to 3500 Watts continuous. By the way – they manufacture their own cables and I highly recommend using these quality cables.

We also installed a battery cutoff and a slow burn 100A fuse between the batteries and the inverter so at any time we could de-energize the system and the fuse is used to protect the inverter from getting hurt.

Then we had to figure out where to mount this. I chose a solid spot in my front bay had plenty of room for wires and was out of the way of anything else that could possible fall and damage the unit. *PRO TIP – I’ve used this type of trick before…find yourself a large piece of cardboard – place it on the back of the inverter and then mark your screw holes. Then you can use the template to pre-drill exactly where you need to hang the inverter. We used nuts and bolts on the top of the mounting and self-tapping screws on all the other holes.

Next we had to identify which circuits would need to be inverted. I chose four circuits which basically power everything in my rig (convection microwave, and all outlets). My water heater and fridge will run on propane while I’m drycamping. I chose not to wire in my AC’s at this point because my batteries wouldn’t support the load very long and I have a generator as back up if needed.

We basically moved those four circuits from the main panel to a subpanel that is now controlled or powered by the inverter. We also installed a 30A circuit on the panel so we can control when these four circuits are powered by the inverter. So, when we’re plugged into shore power we can flip that switch and use our inverter and the sun to power those circuits. Why would I do that you ask? Because sometimes you may be in a park that charges for your electricity – or you may be limited to 30 amps at your site. By doing this you can eliminate tripping the main breaker.

Finally, we had the tedious task of threading all of the wiring into the right spots on the inverter. The instructions were clearly laid out in the manual, but the thinker the gauge of wire, the harder it is to mold those lines to lay perfectly. Don’t stress it – take it slow and make sure it’s done right.

Now it’s showtime! Everything runs perfectly and nw I’m ready for boon docking! Thanks to our partners at Spartan Power – you can find out more about their team and line up of products here: www.spartanpower.com

Want to install this product own your own?  Check out the installation video!

Fulltime Families Ambassadors – The Foster Family

Sarah James No Comments

What is a Fulltime Families Ambassador?  The goal of the Fulltime Families Ambassador Program is to continue to build a meaningful, inclusive and strong community on the road. To achieve this, we find a family who will:

  • Be warm and welcoming both online and in-person.  An example of this would be to continue what you already do, by Welcoming new members on Facebook group as they are announced.
  • Share about Fulltime Families wherever they go and encourage membership.
  • Help current FtF Members to connect with each other.
  • Be well versed in the benefits of Fulltime Families and share events, updates, new products, partnerships and FtF news via their personal website, and/or social media avenues.  
  • Look for ways to be inclusive of others, by hosting potlucks, field trips, and potentially Fulltime Families events as opportunities arise.  
  • Communicate with Fulltime Families Corporate how the membership can be enhanced and other ways to make FtF even better.

We currently have 9 FtF families in the Ambassador program that we will be introducing to you!

The Foster Family

Meet the Foster’s; Ian, Brooke, Sierra, and Aayla.

The Foster’s downsized and started traveling part-time in 2011. Brooke said, “We wanted to travel, ditch the rat race and have a more simplistic life. We wanted to enjoy life for the girls.”  Ian and Brooke knew they were working too much which meant they didn’t see the girls enough. They decided they wanted to be closer to their family (each other and the girls) and travel. “At the end of November 2015 a realtor randomly knocked on the door to see if we wanted to sell our house!” Brooke said. So they sold the house and started selling everything else to get ready to travel on the road. Then, they went full-time in January 2016.

The Foster’s are valued members of Fulltime Families. In the Foster’s opinion, the number one benefit to FtF is the community; finding friendships on the road and online. Brooke commented, “There’s a whole basis of people out there and if you have a question theres’ a whole group of people for you.” The Foster’s have been able to build stronger bonds with other Fulltime Families than in their “sticks & bricks” home. “This is not a vacation, this is a lifestyle,” Brooke replied.

They also enjoy the freedom to go where they want. “It’s nice to be one place one day and if it’s not working, you can just pick up and go some where else. And I always have my house with me wherever we end up. It gives us a bit more normalcy to always have the comforts of home.”

Their family usually picks places to stay near the water . It could be any water; lake, pond, stream, ocean. Brooke said, “It doesn’t matter, just water! It’s calming and peaceful serene.” They like kayaking, canoeing, and going to the pool. Their family has other interests as well. Brooke likes hiking, Ian likes anything technical (like drones), Sierra likes horseback riding, and Aalya likes Shopkins and meeting friends.

Sid Turcotte Park in Mattawa, Canada is the Fosters campground! They sold their business in 2011 and retired at that time. They bought the campground to have something to focus on because, “it’s boring having nothing to do after all,” Brooke said. They love hosting anyone, but especially FtF families!

You may not know, but, Brooke is an introvert!!!  However, she is thankful for the FtF community because it’s good. It draws her out and makes her comfortable. She said, “There’s no pressure so she can just ‘be’. Just because you are an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t be involved!” Brooke has been involved in many, many ways with our community and even during events. She enjoys being the event photographer and does a fantastic job!

Sierra and Aayla are unschooled. The girls were in the traditional school system but they didn’t fit in the traditional box. They lost their creativity after 1st grade so Ian and Brooke decided to pull them out. Unschooling helped the girls learn again and gave their mom and dad a chance to help their own kids learn how to love to learn! Their family takes the girl’s interests and runs with them by learning everything they can together. It took Brooke and Ian a long time to teach themselves to have the freedom to allow their girls to learn for themselves and let it go. But now, they learn as much as the girls, because they learn alongside them.

The biggest lesson that the Foster’s have learned since they started traveling is the be able to adapt because things change over time. They also know that they wouldn’t do anything different. If Brooke could recommend anything it would be to put a lot of time into the living space of your RV. See what is important to you and your family. Figure out what parts of the day are important to being together as a family. She suggests putting a lot of research into the space you choose and how you will use it before you buy!

The Fosters are a wonderful family and we are proud to have them as part of our community!

Each Ambassador family is so important to us and we look forward to introducing the next one to you soon.

Fulltime Families Ambassadors – The Anderson Family

Sarah James No Comments

What is a Fulltime Families Ambassador?  The goal of the Fulltime Families Ambassador Program is to continue to build a meaningful, inclusive and strong community on the road. To achieve this, we find a family who will:

  • Be warm and welcoming both online and in-person.  An example of this would be to continue what you already do, by Welcoming new members on Facebook group as they are announced.
  • Share about Fulltime Families wherever they go and encourage membership.
  • Help current FtF Members to connect with each other.
  • Be well versed in the benefits of Fulltime Families and share events, updates, new products, partnerships and FtF news via their personal website, and/or social media avenues.  
  • Look for ways to be inclusive of others, by hosting potlucks, field trips, and potentially Fulltime Families Hangouts as opportunities arise.  
  • Communicate with Fulltime Families Corporate how the membership can be enhanced and other ways to make FtF even better.

We currently have 9 FtF families in the Ambassador program that we will be introducing to you!

The Anderson Family

Let me introduce you to our FtF Ambassador’s, the Anderson’s; William (aka Bill), Lisa and Jea (aka Bird). Bill was a truck driver and always missed his family while he was away. His lifetime dream was for his family to travel with him. Once Bill and Lisa found out they were pregnant (at 36 weeks with Jea, mind you!), they put their lifetime dream on hold until their daughter was older. They decided to go fulltime on the road. It took them 4 months to get everything in order to leave their home base and pulled out on May 1, 2016. They felt like they were returning to original plans, their life-long dream!

 

Bill and Lisa have enjoyed their travels, they enjoy exploring the National Parks with Jea, but their #1 reason they love this lifestyle is the community they have found within Fulltime Families. “It’s a way of connecting with other like-minded families; adults and kids alike. It’s a community full of other people that understand our lifestyle,” they said. The Anderson’s also enjoy staying places up to 3 weeks because then they’ve had enough time in that area and are ready to move.

When asked what their biggest lesson learned on the road, Lisa answered, “Be flexible. Things will break, plans will change, just go with it and move on.”

After the lessons learned and the seasons traveled, Bill said, “I would have gone fulltime sooner,” and Lisa said, “I would have developed our own remodel plan instead of having the manufacturer do it. It’s not that hard to remodel these things by yourself and now I would make different changes because I didn’t realize our actual storage needs or functionality needs at the time we were purchasing our home. Don’t be afraid to do it yourself!”

Lisa put a timeline on traveling in the beginning (said they’d only travel a year) and now wishes she hadn’t done that because if she’d gone fully in she wouldn’t have limited them so much, especially on things like only being able to travel on weekends.

Bill’s advice, “Even if you don’t have any interest in this lifestyle, you have to try it!”

The Anderson’s are a fun family and we are proud to have them as part of our community!

 

Each Ambassador family is so important to us and we look forward to introducing the next one to you soon!!!

Fulltime Families Game On Rally Wraps with Huge Success – Video Recap

Kimberly No Comments

Last week Fulltime Families Membership Club wrapped up it’s 17th nationwide event, The Fulltime Families Game On Rally.

Led by the fearless Rally Leading Benson Family (who were first time ralliers) and supported by, The Boudreaux Family, The Skeat Family, The Dougherty Family , The Jacobs Family and The Thomas Family, as well as the helpful hands of the event’s attendees, the game themed 4 day weekend took place at the Wilderness Lakes Thousand Trails in Menifee, CA.

Sponsors for the event included:
Workamper News
RVInsurances.com / Marty Adair
CreateLaunchMarket.com

Pre-rally activities included a roadschool field trip of the Nixon Presidential Library and knitting baby hats for the New Beginnings Charity Program.

Official Rally Activities Included family games, arts and crafts, teen specific activities, pot lucks, a talent show, a dance, seminars and q&a sessions, as well as the highly anticipated “Parade of Homes” (click for a video from Less Junk More Journey featuring this event).

 

Honestly, if you’ve never been to a rally – there’s no better way to experience it then by just jumping in with both feet!  But if you want a birds-eye-view – check out this awesome video recap from the Fummins Family Road Trip Youtube Channel:

Want to make your own Rally Memories?  Join Us for Our Next Event!

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