Our First RV Rally - Lessons Learned

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Is a Rally of RV Families Worth Going To?

New to the road? Or thinking about it? Or have been on the road a while and not met any other traveling families?

Attending a rally might just be what you need.

We attended our first RV family rally last week and lived to tell you about it.

The Road Can Be Lonely

It’s true.

We don’t know for sure how many ditched families are out there. It’s easy to find others online (one Facebook group has >15K members), but out in the real world we are often the only fulltime RV family in the park.

We’ve written about how to find other families. Now we have one more experience to share.

Details

We attended the Fulltime Families 2017 Family Reunion. It took place at the North Florida Fair Grounds in Tallahassee, FL on February 2-5, 2017.

Our cost was $215.85 and included:

  • 4 nights of camping
  • 3 per-person admission fees for rally events
  • 2 barbecue dinners

Last we heard there were 84 families registered for the event.

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There was so much going on I can’t even begin to cover the entire experience. Potluck dinners, after-dark teen events, bubble soccer, kids crafts, kids marketplace, ukulele lessons, a church service, vendors, topical presentations, and more.

tl;dr

Here’s the quick summary of our experience:

  • The location and time of year worked well.
  • The price was well worth it.
  • The venue was workable (but without full hookups and no nearby showerhouse).
  • The overall rally size was bigger than we’d prefer.
  • We reconnected with old friends and made new friends, but were frustrated we couldn’t meet everyone.
  • The younger kids were having a ball at the activities and earning rally cash to bid on prizes.
  • Miranda enjoyed the teen activities, but also had times where it was difficult to connect with other teens.
  • We’d highly recommend attending a rally, but would look for a smaller one.

Lessons Learned

Being our first rally we learned a few things. Here are our lessons learned:

Be Prepared for Confusion

The pre-rally communication got overwhelming with schedule changes, the number of forms to fill out, and the requests for volunteers. It was hard to keep track of during an already-busy time with client work and travel.

If we did it again I’d wait to register until just a week or two before the event. That way a lot of issues would already be smoothed out.

For this rally the venue was big enough we wouldn’t have risked not getting a spot. If the rally is going to be a smaller one with more limited space this might not be a wise idea.

Arrive Early

We arrived early afternoon of the first official day of the rally. Just about everyone else was there already.

There wasn’t an official rally person out to greet us or show us where to go. We had to look on Facebook.

We ended up getting a campsite outside of the main group. We had to purpose to walk into the main area to engage with others as nothing really happened around our RV.

On the upside, it was a quieter place without as many younger kids running around our trailer.

Overall we wish we would have gone at least a day earlier, if not two. We could have been in the main group. And people were easier to connect with when outside the official rally schedule.

Stay Late

We stayed one day longer than the official rally end date. Many others did as well. Some of the best conversations happened after the official schedule was over.

I would have liked to stay one more night to interact with the smaller crowd. At $28/night the camping costs were reasonable. But we’re on a schedule to get to Texas so would have had to make up that night with a shorter stay elsewhere.

Divide and Conquer

The rally schedule was FULL. We skipped out on many of the bigger events and still felt busy. And like we didn’t meet everyone.

When the main hall was full of people and the PA system was in use it could be loud and overwhelming.

We weren’t the only ones opting out. Every time we wandered into the main campground during a big event we’d find smaller groups of people doing the same thing.

Have a Blog

Having a blog made introductions a lot easier. And helped conversations flow.

It can be a little weird to meet people that have read everything we have ever written. But it was rewarding and humbling to have so many comments about our work here on Ditching Suburbia.

The kids marketplace was a busy time at the rally.

The kids marketplace was a busy time at the rally.

MsBoyink connecting with some blog readers.

MsBoyink connecting with some blog readers.

The dump station parade was my favorite event.

The dump station parade was my favorite event.

Our spot at the rally - a bit apart from the main action.

Our spot at the rally - a bit apart from the main action.

Another all-group event at the rally.

Another all-group event at the rally.

The kids posing.

The kids posing.

Bubble soccer was a popular sport for the adults.

Bubble soccer was a popular sport for the adults.

Kids having fun at the rally.

Kids having fun at the rally.

Photo credits go to Kaycee Newmann Hannen, Brooke Spilchen Foster, Kimberly Travaglino, and possibly Heather Logsdon (I kinda lost track).

Choose Strangers

When we did go to the larger group events (like the potlucks) we made efforts to sit with people we didn’t know. We later realized we never bumped into those families outside the potlucks, so we were glad we made the effort.

Open Your Home

One activity at the rally is a “parade of homes” where people tour each other’s RVs. We opted into the tour when we registered.

When we heard there were 84 families at the rally we second-guessed that decision. That’s a lot of people to imagine coming through your small home.

We considered pulling out of the parade right up until a few hours before it was scheduled. We decided to do it - and are glad we did.

We didn’t have the biggest, nicest, most customized RV at the rally. But I think it was good to show that you don’t need anything big and customized to ditch suburbia.

We didn’t tour the other rigs, but rather stayed at ours and engaged with people coming through. Again, we met people during this time that we didn’t otherwise. And we had conversations later that started during the rig tour.

Be Present

I hardly took any pictures. Most of them on this post are borrowed from the rally photographers.

I was engaged in face to face conversations. I wasn’t thinking about future blog posts.

And that’s ok. There’s plenty of time to think about the blog later.

Speak

Choose a topic and offer to speak on it. We spoke on our WWOOFing experiences. We had a lot of interest. We even reprised the presentation in our trailer for a few folks who missed our main presentation.

It was another good way to meet people we wouldn’t otherwise.

Use Hand Sanitizer

We totally missed this.

During the rally you will be in contact with a whole bunch of people. It’s now been a few days since the rally and we are seeing messages of people getting sick.

We’re fine so far, but in retrospect should have been more careful.

Bring hand sanitizer and use it liberally.

All in All

So, considering all our lessons learned, what’s our take?

If you are:

  • Thinking about fulltime RV life
  • Newly launched and fresh on the road
  • Hardened veterans of the road

Go to a rally!

If you are researching fulltime RV life you can meet others, get advice, and see lived-in rigs vs. the generic RVs on sales lots.

If you are currently on the road a rally can super-charge your social connections. Your kids will have a blast and you’ll get some much-needed adult interaction time.

If you are a veteran, you can be a great resource for a new family. Many of them are hearing negative feedback from their friends and families about their decision to ditch the suburbs. Your voice of experience and reason will be a blessing to them.

Elsewhere on the Web

My photos hardly do the event justice. Here are some videos that better capture the rally vibe:

Have You Been?

Have you been to a rally? What was your experience?

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8 Comments Our First RV Rally - Lessons Learned

  1. Picture of David GeigerDavid Geiger February 10, 2017

    Michael- great to meet you (briefly, during the parade of homes). I’d heard of you and read your stuff, so I was jazzed to see that you were there. Thanks for showing off your rig and your thoughts on wifi and 4G internet on the road.  Hope to run into you again.

  2. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael Boyink February 10, 2017

    Hey David - good to meet you too (although it’s a bit of a blur..:).

    Definitely ping us if it looks like we’re close - we’d love to follow up some of those all-too-quick rally visits with longer ones!

  3. Picture of Sandie siemensSandie siemens February 10, 2017

    It was great meeting you after reading your newsletters for the past year!!! Hopefully we will connect again one day on the road!!

  4. Picture of Joel PrattJoel Pratt February 10, 2017

    It was great to meet you both!

  5. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael Boyink February 10, 2017

    Thanks Sandie and Joel - glad we met you guys as well. We’re glad to have more folks to look for as we travel..;)

  6. Picture of Less Junk More Journey Less Junk More Journey February 11, 2017

    Thank you for opening up your home and it was great meeting your family at the rally! Hope to see ya on the road again soon.

  7. Picture of Michael BoyinkMichael Boyink February 12, 2017

    Thanks Nathan/Marissa - glad you guys captured the event better than we did! It was nice to have your videos to point to.

  8. Picture of Liz @ lizwilcox.comLiz @ lizwilcox.com February 15, 2017

    Thanks for the review and the links to the videos of the rally.
    I bet it can be super overwhelming and a blur to meet people that “follow” you online!

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