This is the 5th entry in a ‘Lessons Learned’ series attempting to summarize our experience of living on the road for a year in a 5th wheel trailer as a family of four.
There’s a joke among full-time traveling families:
Q: “How do you know when you’re a fulltime (traveling) family?”
A: “When you have photos of yourself by every national landmark, monument and park and you’re wearing the same thing in all of them.”
RV’s don’t have unlimited space so choosing a wardrobe is a puzzle. Since we didn’t have the budget to go to Cabellas and buy everything new we tried to start out with what we had and adjust as we went on. Here’s what else we learned along the way:
Clothing Lessons Learned
- Just because people “go South for the winter” doesn’t mean it doesn’t get cold down there. We ended up buying winter coats in Raliegh, NC
- Spending more on coats with guarantees makes sense for active families with teens.
- Avoid white as much as possible. Between the lifestyle and the changing quality of the water at laundromats our whites have not stayed white. The other benefit to minimizing your whites is you’ll have fewer separate loads to deal with.
- Think and pack in layers.
- Temps get colder as elevation increases - pack layers if daytripping to higher elevations.
- Use sweats for pajamas so they can be worn in public in a pinch.
- We needed full-brim hats when we got to the west. Columbia versions that are sufficing for now, but they aren’t perfect (brims too floppy in the wind, fit for MsBoyink not great, etc). At some point I hope to get Tilley hats instead.
In addition to (and somewhat as a result of) those lessons learned MsBoyink and I are now moving to a “personal uniform” approach to our wardrobes with multiples of pants and t-shirts in the same color and then just some different top layers - but with everything coordinating.
Our goals are to spend less time worrying about finding a matching outfit and to make shopping for new easier by just replacing the common item and working within a very specific color scheme. I’ve since posted about my personal uniform approach.
Eating presented a learning curve in shopping, preparation, and consumption.
For shopping - when you are constantly on the move you rarely shop at the same store twice. We ended up shopping at Walmarts mainly to have consistency.
For food preparation the trailer had a fully-equipped kitchen until part way through when the oven died. We made do with the microwave, crock pot, electric griddle, electric skillet, and a propane camp stove carried in the truck.
For consuming - the mechanics of eating inside the trailer proved trickier than expected. We had removed the trailer dinette in favor of some freestanding chairs assuming we’d just eat outside at picnic tables. But we experienced poor weather, parks without tables, and pesky insects that kept us inside eating off cutting boards as trays.
- When shopping at a new store go to customer service and get a rewards card application. You get the discount immediately and prices could be ridiculous otherwise.
- There is an iPhone app to store and track the discount cards - sometimes the stores could just scan my iPhone screen instead of the card.
- Some stores are part of larger networks and if they were the cards we had already signed up for would work.
- Pre-cooked sausage links are regional.
- While Walmart is evil in many ways the mostly standard layout is a respite in a lifestyle of constant change
- We left too late in the season to find farmers markets.
- We got tired of sandwiches and wraps while out sightseeing - so carrying a small propane stove in the truck gave us a way to have hot meals and coffee while away from the trailer.
- The Starbucks “Via” instant coffees are pretty decent - much better than the Folgers/Maxwell House singles.
- Adding Ramen noodles and chicken breast to a pack of frozen veggies makes a pretty good stir-fry
- Having a crock pot supper waiting at the trailer after a long day of being out sightseeing is really, really nice
- The occasional splurge on a meal out to taste the local flavors is well worth it
- You don’t have to eat around a table
- You can pull out a drawer and place a cutting board on top if it for a quick place to eat (or use a laptop).
- The more you eat while sitting on the main trailer furniture the more you can expect it to suffer from food stains.
- Living as a family in RV provided plenty of “family time” - so we didn’t sweat meals not eaten simultaneously.