The article was originally published July 26, 2016. It has been updated as the RV company we used closed.
With as much driving as we do, Doug and I had always said we wanted to buy an RV. Nothing could be better, we imagined, than a small rolling house on wheels. No stopping for bathroom breaks ever hour! Make your meals while you cruise down the highway! No more single night hotel stays! Before making such a big investment based solely on what we thought, we rented a Class C RV from a local company in Iowa, to get some real RV experience.
Looking for a local RV? Check RVshare.com to find privately owned RVs for rent near you.
What We Learned From Our First RV Trip
Living in an RV will remind you of your first apartment. My first apartment was tiny, with a kitchen I could barely turn around in, a bathroom that no more than one person could occupy at a time and a living area that doubled as a dining room. In fact, it was probably about the same square footage as our 29 foot RV- but I had it to myself. Organization is the key. A place for everything, and you figure out really quick what is- and what isn’t -necessary.
At 11 pm, when you’re still miles from where you wanted to be, Walmart is the most beautiful thing you’ll see. Miles upon miles of road construction- and the back up that joins it- slowed us down quite a bit. By the time we made it to North Platte, Nebraska, it was nearing midnight and we couldn’t imagine driving another 3 hours to our intended overnight stop of Scott’s Bluff. We found the closest Walmart and were thrilled to see half a dozen RVs, travel trailers and semis in the back of the lot. As a courtesy, Doug went into the store and spoke with the manager who welcomed us- and mentioned that the donuts would be fresh about 5am.
Even with all that room, your kids won’t stay away from each other. Truly, after all the “She’s touching me!” and “Quit looking out my window!” bickering, one would think that, given space, the kids would spread out. But no, they mostly sat, side by side, watching a movie or playing with toys. But not once did we hear bickering. Maybe it was the the fact that they could get away from each other that made it all ok?
The bed above the front seats? Best. Thing. Ever. At least when you are under 10. The girls couldn’t wait to sleep up there- and wanted to even after we returned home and real mattresses awaited them.
Not re-packing every day is awesome. My husband, the king of dry sarcasm, told my mother that packing up to get on the road in the mornings was horrid. Tip: make sure all the outer storage compartments are closed and locked. We almost learned that one the hard way. But, truly, not worrying about leaving anything in a hotel room? Amazing.
No matter how much food you have with you, all-you-can-eat pancakes for $2.50 will win every time. We stocked our fridge and freezer with “road food”, but the Mount Rushmore/ Hill City KOA tempted us with its restaurants (hello, buffalo meatloaf!), breakfast tent ($2.50 pancakes), coffee shop and pizza place, and not a single meal was eaten in our RV. Granted, we were only there overnight, but wow…
Just because you have room to work doesn’t mean you will work. Maybe it was the excitement of our first RV trip. Maybe it was the My Little Pony reenactments that were going on beside me. Either way, I didn’t get much work done while Doug drove seemingly endless miles through Nebraska and Wyoming. But I could have…. comfortably.
You start noticing little tricks the full time RVers use. A rug just outside the door for all that dirt on your shoes. Containers on every shelf. Solar lights staked around the “patio”. And you file this information away because, someday, you’ll have an RV of your very own.
RV gas tanks are huge. To fill the gas tank on the RV we rented was $174. Definitely not cheap. I think it cost us about $1100 in gas for the trip to Bozeman, Montana and back. But, we were gone for 10 days. 5 of those days the RV didn’t move. So it averaged $110 per day. Less than the cost of a nightly hotel room. Sweet.
You begin saying “When”. As in, “When we have our own RV, I want it to be a little bit smaller.” (Yeah, I really thought I would want a bigger one. Maybe when it’s our only home!) Or, “When we have our own RV, we should be able to store it at my grandmother’s farm.” Or even, “When we have our own RV, what are we going to do when family wants to borrow it?” Because they will want to borrow it.
Do you RV? Or do you want to? I would love to hear your thoughts and tips! Leave a comment and let’s chat!