How Fulltime RV Families Live Differently

The cruising family over at SailingTotem recently posted an article detailing How Cruisers Live Differently. This is our take on the same topics from a fulltime RVing family perspective.

Groceries

Suburbia

  • Stop by the store on the way home from work, or jump in and drive up to the grocery store as needed. Do this once a week or less on average.
  • Buy during sales or in bulk to save money. Build a bigger pantry and add a second freezer in the basement or garage to add food storage capacity.
  • Have one or two stores that you always frequent. Know the layouts. Recognize the checkouts and baggers. Know the cycle of sales.
  • Have a garden. Do seasonal canning.
  • Shop at Farmer’s Markets.

RV

  • With each new stop, evaluate the availability of a grocery store using campground review apps and Googlemaps. Sometimes a good store is outside the park entrance. Sometimes it’s an hour away.
  • Compare your on-hand inventory against the length of your expected stay. Evaluate risk of running out against time investment of going for replenishments.
  • Buy 3-5 days worth of groceries because that’s all you can store.
  • Regularly shop at a different store chain with a different layout and price points.
  • Collect frequent shopper cards as a hobby.
  • Shop Walmart often because it’s ubiquitous, consistent, and can be combined with an overnight stay.
  • Usually be in the wrong location, in the wrong season, or on the wrong day to shop at Farmer’s Markets.

Garbage

Suburbia

  • Have several smaller trashcans throughout the house that get emptied into a bigger garbage can in the garage or outdoors.
  • Take your outdoor garbage can to the curb on a specific day of the week.
  • Have regular cleanup days for bigger items or yard waste.

RV

  • Have one main trashcan in the kitchen and one small trash can or bag in the bathroom.
  • Consolidate these as needed.
  • Consult each RV park’s map/rules about garbage. Most have per-loop dumpsters. Some pick it up from your campsite. Some have garbage cans on each site or shared between sites.
  • Unbox large items at the store and throw away the packaging before taking it ‘home’.
  • If boondocking, store trash until you can get rid of it at a rest area, public park, Walmart parking lot or other acceptable and legal place to do so.

Laundry

Suburbia

  • Do laundry as needed using your own facilities.

RV

  • Do laundry constantly in your (small) RV washer/dryer, if your RV has them and if you have water and sewer hookups where you are camped.
  • As you route plan, evaluate the state of your laundry against the facilities at or near the campground you are considering.
  • Negotiate shared campground laundry facilities (is it OK to remove someone else’s clothes from a dryer if you need it and they aren’t there?).
  • Stop buying white anything, as it won’t stay white.
  • Learn that laundromats are great places to meet people and have great conversations.
  • Find out that laundromats can also be depressing.
  • Learn that laundry can take 1/4 time when you can use multiple washers and dryers at the same time.
  • Keep all the quarters you get in change anywhere, plus “buy” more each week.
  • Realize that clothes don’t need to be washed nearly as often as you used to think.

Home Maintenance

Suburbia

  • Think you can DIY or hire out as needed.
  • End up DIY’ing because you bought as much house as your income allows (or even a bit more house because hey, the bank said you could) which means you don’t have enough money to hire anyone else to do anything.
  • Be under constant pressure (or HOA agreement) to keep your yard a certain way, your house a certain way, etc.

RV

  • Learn that you are living in an unit designed for occasional camping so usually have things that need to be caulked, reattached, tightened up, painted, or fixed.
  • Find out that when you call the dealer for service work (even warranty work) they say to drop it off and they’ll have it done in 3-4 weeks.
  • Read that the campground “doesn’t allow RV repairs”.
  • Either learn to DIY or call a mobile RV tech in the area.
  • Have no lawn to mow, no garage to paint, no cement to break up.

Personal Care

Suburbia

  • Find and book regular appointments with barbers, hair stylists, manicurists.

RV

  • Don’t (usually) suffer for the lack of choices for barbers, hair stylists or manicurists.
  • Find places that take walk-ins
  • Roll the dice with each new appointment. Use apps like Yelp to get reviews. Get a decent haircut once in a while. Wear hats afterwards otherwise.
  • Decide to learn to cut your own hair.

Staying in Touch/Internet

Suburbia

  • Use your unlimited minutes and unlimited (or virtually unlimited) data plan as needed without a second thought.

RV

  • Hope against hope that the advertised RV park wifi works.
  • Fall back to using your own device when it doesn’t.
  • Manage and monitor your limited-bandwidth connection closely.
  • Learn to say “Turn YouTube Off!” the same way your parents used to say “Turn those lights off!”
  • Learn to have one parent check in at the campground office while the other is checking bars of cell signal on different devices.
  • Each month pay the (&)*& overage fees. Again.

Kid Wrangling

Suburbia

  • Keep a well-organized calendar on Google, shared by parents and available on all devices.
  • Plan ‘play-dates’, homeschool field trips, and community events with other parents.

RV

  • Learn to recognize other ‘bunkhouse’ RVs for potential playmates.
  • Count bikes. More than two, make note of the site number.
  • Prefer sites near to the play structures.
  • Send kids out to explore on their own (and then take a “nap”).
  • Send them with a family radio and the campground map.

Adult Socializing/Leisure Time

Suburbia

  • Know the school, sports, church, vacation, and work schedule months in advance.
  • Plan weekend events. Find time between gradutation parties, weddings, anniversaries, work parties, holidays, and other vacations.
  • Realize you have about 3 totally free summer weekends.
  • Have two of those ruined by bad weather.

RV

  • Drag your chair over to the neighbor’s campfire.
  • Share a meal with neighbors, coordinated an hour before.
  • Enjoy the quiet, empty campground on a sunny and clear Monday after all the soggy weekenders leave.

Clothes

Suburbia

  • Seasonal wardrobes.
  • Walk-in closets.
  • Holiday sweaters.
  • Clothes for when you weigh a bit more or a bit less.
  • Out of style clothes you are waiting to come back “in-style”.
  • Wear clothes once, then put in laundry.

RV

  • Layers/Layers/Layers.
  • Wear the same thing for days in a row (hey, I didn’t sweat in it).
  • Realize you have photos of yourself in front of many national monuments and landmarks, and you are wearing the same thing in all the photos.
  • Develop a personal uniform / capsule wardrobe.

Work/Life

Suburbia

  • Work a consistent 8-5, 5 day a week, 40 hour workweek.
  • Plan all outings, explorations, errands or visits on the weekend.

RV

  • Learn to recognize days of the week by flow of RV traffic (out = Sunday, in = Friday).
  • Get up and go to bed with the sun.
  • Work long hours when the work is there.
  • Take days off in the middle of the week to explore/hike/bike.
  • Work on weekends to make up for it.
  • Think of weekends as mainly that time when other people won’t be answering phone calls or emails.
  • Be OK with choosing to work weekends, but frustrated when clients ask you to.
  • Learn to ignore the “that guy goes camping and all he does is sit on his laptop” stares/comments.

Homeschool

Suburbia

  • Have lots of books.
  • Have dedicated space.
  • Make use of community progams, homeschooling groups, co-ops.
  • Be fairly organized and scheduled.
  • Make use of online video.

RV

  • Worry that the books you want to carry will put you overweight.
  • Start out with a fairly detailed plan, and let that unravel as you travel longer.
  • Realize that National Park Junior Ranger Programs are a pretty decent curriculum.
  • Realize ‘unschooling’ isn’t such a bad idea after all.
  • Evaluate the bandwidth requirements of any online classes that look interesting.
  • Care less about grade levels, state curriculums, or the entire government-run school system the longer you travel.
Wondering just what it takes to live differently in an RV? Subscribe to our newsletter and download our master 'list of stuff" we carry in the RV!

How About You?

What’s your post-suburbia life like? Give us a glimpse in the comments below.

3 Comments How Fulltime RV Families Live Differently

  1. Picture of Marci GimmarroMarci GimmarroJuly 13, 2015

    I had to laugh at the “Pictures at all the National Monuments wearing the same thing” item . . . I have a picture board in the RV with pictures from the previous year’s travels, and I can’t tell you how many time’s Bryce has counted to see who’s wearing the same shirt in more photos!  I think it may have been a tie between Bryce’s MI State shirt and Nick’s Mor-Ryde shirt!  Too funny!

  2. Picture of LyannaLyannaFebruary 21, 2018

    This is so great and very informative! I’d like to hear how cooking, cleaning, showering, sleeping, using the bathroom, and driving are different for RVers too. :0)

Leave a Comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *