Updated: Jul 24
The day we left Salt Lake City, Utah on our first full-time RV trip in September of 2017.
People usually have two reactions when I tell them that we are full-time RVing with our kids. The most common reaction is, “Wow! Really? I’ve always wanted to do that!!” The other reaction is, “Wow! Really? How do you do that? Especially with kids?”
Even though it can be a wonderful and exciting adventure, I’m not going to paint full-time RVing as all sunshine and rainbows and fun…there’s planning and work involved (and sometimes not much privacy) and it’s not just an endless vacation. I promise, I’m not just sipping tropical drinks by a pool everyday, although many RV parks offer very nice amenities and I do reward myself with one from time to time!
So why did our family decide to go full-time RVing for the first time back in 2017?
Our kids were in public school, but we weren’t very pleased with the school they were attending and we didn’t feel very welcome or happy in Salt Lake City, Utah. We were also very concerned by the increasing air pollution problem and the health problems it was causing members of our family, such as asthma. We lived in a home in Salt Lake City where my husband was working as a Software Engineer in-office. Fortunately, he was able to become the first remote engineer for his company and we were able to pursue our dream of full-time RVing. We quickly sold our home and bought a 43-foot Jayco North Point fifth-wheel.
The day we left Salt Lake City, Utah on our first full-time RV trip in September of 2017.
It was very stressful because of how fast it all happened, and it was difficult to decide what to sell, give away, store, and bring with us. We ended up bringing much too much and had to pare down stuff as we traveled to avoid cluttering the RV. Even though it was a huge RV, there were five of us in it and it felt like I was constantly moving our things from place to place, which was annoying and tiring.
I filed the appropriate paperwork, chose our curriculum, and began homeschooling our three children ages 4, 10, and 12. The kids enjoyed being able to sleep in, explore new places, and learn about history, science, and nature concepts they used to just read about in textbooks. However, there were days when it was frustrating and challenging homeschooling three children in a smaller space, and our oldest child missed the socialization of school and struggled with feeling lonely. It was always exciting when we met another full-time RVing family or families with kids visiting RV parks. I will be honest, there were days when I just wanted more space, more privacy, and some of the luxuries of my home back (my big bathtub and my dishwasher!).
We loved visiting Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Sedona, Arizona.
Despite these challenges, It was exciting to travel across the U.S. and wake up in a new place to explore. We started in Utah, went down through Arizona and Nevada, then stayed in California for a few months, then started our road trip across the U.S. to Florida.
We stayed in Southern California and Northern California for a few months on our first trip.
My husband was stationed at NAS Pensacola for his USMC Avionics training years ago and he wanted to show us the beautiful Gulf coast of Florida. Once we visited the Emerald coast, I was smitten with the beaches. The stunning aqua-green water and powdered sugar sand of Destin made me fall in love with Florida!
The beautiful Emerald and Gulf Coasts of Florida.
We continued down through Florida all the way to Southwest Florida and stayed in Bonita Springs. We had planned to do more traveling, but we loved the area so much that we decided to stay for a few months. The longer we stayed, the more it felt like home. Our oldest daughter was also ready to take a break from full-time RVing. We built a beautiful home in Estero, Florida and our kids went back to public school. We have lived there since 2018.
Taking the leap (again) for our second full-time RV trip in 2023:
I love my home in Florida, but we have been talking about doing another full-time RV trip for the last couple of years and decided to plan another RV adventure. To be perfectly candid, I had terrible anxiety about it for several weeks before we left. I was leaving behind family and friends, some of our pets, and many of the comforts of home. I felt guilty and wondered if I was making a bad choice. Now that I’m on the trip, although I miss family, friends, and pets, I feel that choosing adventure was the right choice and I’m very excited to plan and experience our trip. We have so many incredible experiences to look forward to with our kids. In just one week, we’ve already had many beautiful beach days on the Gulf coast, peaceful nature hikes to see endangered plants and animals, and visits to historic areas from the Civil War era.
Pensacola Beach Pier
After reading about our experience, you may be asking yourself at this point, is full-time RVing right for your family? Is this something you could do? Here are some pros and cons of full-time RV travel that might help you decide whether this lifestyle could work for you and your family.
Pros of Full-Time RV Living:
My children visiting Utah's National Parks and climbing in the red rocks.
If you are self-employed or have a remote position, you can work from the road while traveling. Internet connection is important. Checking ahead with the RV parks you will be staying in is a good idea. The more remote, obviously the more difficult it will be for you. We installed Starlink on our RV so we will always have internet while traveling.
Your children can be homeschooled on the road. You file the appropriate paperwork with your state and can either choose your own curriculum or choose an online virtual school. We use Florida Virtual School (FLVS) and have been really pleased with the teachers and courses.
Your family can have diverse cultural experiences as you visit different states. Our kids have learned to appreciate many different cultures and the diversity we find as we travel. Travel really is the best education and opens your mind to different experiences you might not otherwise have staying at home.
Full-time RVing provides change in your daily routine. Life is definitely more interesting, with more variety when you travel! I love that we can be in several states in one day sometimes. Just recently we were in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana all in one day! I enjoy waking up in a new place and thinking of the new places I will explore.
Travel gives you the opportunity to try new foods. This has been fun for our kids and has led to them enjoying a wide variety of diverse foods from different cultures. Our kids have tried just about everything from African food to Vietnamese! They are excited to eat Cajun food now that we are in Louisiana.
Getting to see national parks, state parks, and nature preserves. We have visited so many beautiful nature areas where our kids have seen native wildlife they had never seen before. For example, our first visit to Louisiana, the kids had a magical first night watching fireflies glow in the misty and mysterious swamp near our RV park.
We have visited places we had only ever seen on TV or in books. We enjoy having living history and science lessons. While we are in Louisiana, we will be visiting a plantation so that our children can understand more about what enslaved people experienced in the South.
We have lots more outdoor time in our RV. Because you are in a smaller space, you have to get out and enjoy the outdoors. We walk our dog Zorro, go swimming, walk around the lakes on property, and try to find RV parks with playgrounds and activities for our kids to enjoy. Some even have miniature golf-courses, lazy rivers, and adults-only pools for when you need time without the kids!
There is less time on screens for our kids because they want to do more outdoor activities. Our kids enjoy going swimming at the RV parks and meeting other kids, using their RC cars, and bike-riding. Some RV parks also have arcades or pool tables, miniature golf, and sports courts.
More family time! We find that we don’t all split up into different areas like we did in our home. Because we don’t have as much room, we are more often together in the same area of the RV. We have more time to listen to music together and have long conversations as a family during our drives from location to location.
Teamwork makes the dream work! It’s cliché, but it’s true. Everyone needs a job to keep things running smoothly on the trip. Kids need chores to learn responsibility and our kids do the same chores in the RV that they would do at home. Each time we get ready to leave for a new location, everyone has a job to do that helps the process go quickly. Our record time getting our 43 foot fifth-wheel prepped and ready to go is 35 minutes! We call it “buttoning up,” and it involves securing doors, putting all fragile items away in a secure place, and moving anything that could get caught in our pop-outs that close before we leave on the road.
You can bring your beloved pet along! We have gone RVing with both our dog and our cat. We’ve even seen people with their parrots along for the trip! Most RV parks are very accepting of pets, particularly dogs. They may have restrictions on certain breeds.
You can still get your mail and your Amazon deliveries. We use a mail service called Earthclass mail that receives all of our mail for us. We can see it online and they can store it or shred it for us. If we need it, they can send it directly to us. Amazon and other packages can be delivered to the main offices of the RV parks where we stay.
Cons of Full-time RV Living:
Our kids learned to entertain themselves outside and there weren't always other kids to play with.
Not everyone is going to have the flexibility to do a long full-time RV trip because of their jobs. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to travel because my husband has a remote engineer position and I have my online photography gallery and travel/nature blog.
Sometimes if there is stormy weather, you can get stir crazy being stuck inside a small space. It’s good to have some indoor activities to keep kids occupied for inclement weather or a plan for indoor activities in the area you are visiting.
There isn’t a lot of privacy in an RV! Sometimes you just want some time to yourself, particularly with kids! I take a walk by myself or have some time to myself in my master bedroom so I can take a nap or read.
RVs are notorious for having problems on the road. Lots of things can break and stop working properly due to the constant shaking and movement while driving on long trips down bumpy roads. We are currently working on repairing one of our AC units. It’s not so fun to be without proper air conditioning in the middle of an excessive heat warning across the South!
Any repairs must be made yourself or you must find a mobile repair person, which can be expensive. Getting parts ordered can take time, which can be difficult if you’re staying in an area for a short time.
Sometimes a lack of socialization can be hard on kids when the places you’re staying don’t have any other kids staying there. It can be lonely sometimes, so kids do need to be able to entertain themselves. We bring some small toys, arts and crafts, bikes, RC cars, and they have access to Kindle books, video games, music, and movies with our Starlink. We have almost constant internet access unless there is a huge storm.
Driving long distances can be quite exhausting and uncomfortable. Kids and pets can get very restless. If you can plan shorter drives from location to location, it's helpful to everyone! We try to drive to our next location on Sundays so we don't interfere with work or school and we attempt to keep the trip no more than 4 hours between destinations. We've had a few 8 hour days and it was very tiring.
Not all kids will enjoy doing homeschool or online school and not all parents will enjoy being a homeschool teacher! It takes some adjustment and a daily routine with breaks to make it work.
Space can be a challenge. Everything has to be planned and organized to fit because you don’t want too much weight in the RV and you don’t want too much clutter. This was a lesson learned on our first full-time RV trip. It’s not pleasant to constantly move things from place to place inside the RV. Keeping an RV clean and organized with 4-5 people in it requires teamwork as a family. Everyone needs a chore to help keep things running.
Driving an RV requires a lot of concentration and some skill and practice, especially for large rigs when you are backing into tight spaces. We have watched some disastrous RV back-ins, so make sure you are comfortable and take the time to practice.
Full-time RVing requires planning ahead, particularly during busy seasons like summer. Some RV parks are easy to book ahead online, but often you must call to see if there are available spots at the last minute or if they can fit a larger rig. I enjoy researching and planning trips, so it’s always exciting to decide on places to stay and plan itineraries for the places we will visit. I was the child that planned an itinerary for our family trips to Disneyland, so this is what I do for fun!
I hope this helps those of you who have considered trying this lifestyle adventure! Even though there are challenges with full-time RV living, I wouldn't trade all the amazing experiences and memories our family has made for anything. I love going back and looking at all the photos I have taken of our journeys. It brings a huge smile to my face and makes me want to start planning the next great travel adventure!!
Happy traveling! Get outside, love wild nature, and make some amazing memories with your family!
Copyright @ 2023 Love Wild Nature, Lorien Villucci Nature Photography