Spending the holidays in your RV is a great way to spend time with family while still having the chance to travel. Whether you’re full-time RVing, traveling for vacation over the holiday season, or visiting family, there are tons of way to keep you holidays festive in a small space.
Last year, I filmed the video version of this blog post. If you’d rather watch instead of read, video is below for you!
spending Christmas in your RV, there’s no reason you can’t have a Christmas
tree! Albeit, it may be smaller than what you would have in a house, you can
certainly decorate one. We travel with our tree and ornaments year round. We
store them in the storage space under the couch so they’re always out of the
way, but easy to access when we’re ready to decorate.
tips for decorating your RV Christmas tree:
Keep it simple, don’t overdo it
Make sure it is something you can just lay down on a couch, a bed, or
the floor if you’re on the move
holiday decorating tips for your RV:
Command strips and ribbon can be your best friend for holiday decorating
We place command strips on the inside of our pantry doors, tie ribbon to them and pull the ribbon over the front to hang our stockings. Use a pretty ribbon that matches the rest of your holiday décor to tie it all together
Keep your décor lightweight and easy to box up
Don’t forget to decorate the outside of your RV, too! Many RV parks have an RV decorating contest for Christmas.
of our favorite things about holidays in RV parks – particular in our winter
snowbird park – is all the holiday potlucks. If you’re traveling in an area
that has a lot of snowbirds, come prepared knowing there might be a holiday
potluck you can attend while you’re traveling. It’s customary to bring a dish
if you’re going to partake so don’t show up empty handed! Many RV parks host
these events for people who are traveling and won’t be with their family for
the holidays. It gives everyone a chance to come together as part of the RV
community and it typically gives you a chance to have a full holiday meal with
your family without having to cook everything. Everywhere is different, but our
current RV park actually provides the turkey and rolls for holiday potlucks.
All the RVers bring a side dish or dessert so you end up with a full meal at Thanksgiving
or Christmas without all the hassle of cooking all that good stuff in your RV.
I highly recommend searching for local holiday events wherever you find yourself. When we found ourselves in Gila Bend, Arizona for the Christmas season, the town hosted a little holiday parade a few weeks before Christmas. The RV park puts together a float for the parade and everyone not walking in the parade goes out to support the town and cheer on everyone in the parade. Many zoos also have night time events with lights around the zoo for the holidays so we always look into Zoo Lights options as well. There’s tree lighting ceremonies in almost every city in the country along with holiday plays, Christmas light displays, and holiday themed train rides depending on where you find yourself. There is so much to see and do and there are new things in every part of the country. Wherever you’re traveling, be sure to do some research on what they have going on in the area.
PS. Santa always finds you. Even when you’re out in the RV!
We get a lot of questions about how we make a living and stay connected while on the road. As full-time RVers and full-time employees, we have to make sure we’re connected at all times so we can work remotely no matter where we are located. We’re a little (ok a lot) untraditional in that all 3 of us have work-from-home jobs that allow us to be wherever we want to be. That gives us the freedom to live in the RV, travel the country, and work from wherever we are at the time. The downside to this is not having a home internet connection and a constant source of reliable internet.
First off, we use Verizon Wireless as our cell carrier. We did a lot of research about whether we should stick with Verizon or switch carriers and it seemed Verizon was the most reliable option for our traveling needs. They haven’t failed us yet so that’s been good so far. We each have an iPhone and we also have a MiFi 7730L Jetpack for our WiFi needs. We’re currently using about 300 GB of data each month so that one Jetpack is not enough. Thank goodness for companies renting out unlimited cellular plans. We would get throttled a lot if we only had the single Verizon Jetpack. We rent a truly unlimited data plan from someone that allows us to video conference all day, every day.
The most important item we own is the WeBoost Drive 4G-X RV Signal Booster. This thing has saved us on more than one occasion. We’ve never been out of cell phone range with Verizon, but sometimes in rural areas, it can be quite slow. Being in the social media field, I’m constantly uploading large files and documents online and with a weaker signal, it takes much longer than it should to upload these files. The 4G-X RV booster has allowed me to join video conferences when I would not have been able to do so with our Verizon coverage. The 4G-X is used by a lot of first responders who need to ensure they have a constant connection – with that being said, we trust this device a lot.
Installation was pretty simple, but also a little bit scary because you do have to drill a hole in the outside of your RV (yikes!). They provide a cap that keeps the moisture out of the camper and seals off the hole you drill. It is pretty basic installation for the most part. After you figure out where you want to put the inside booster antenna and the outside antenna, you drill the hole and run the cable through. Plug in your booster and get rolling! Ok, so there’s a little more to it than that but not much. It is pretty simple!
One major thing to note – the inside antenna booster only works within a few inches of the device you’re using. So if you’re using it to boost a cell phone, you pretty much have to hold the cell phone and the booster near each other to achieve any boost. For me, I use it for my MiFi Jetpack. I’ve figured out the sweet spot of where to place the booster and where to place the Jetpack to get optimal boosting. When talking on the phone, I generally leave my phone near it, wear my Apple AirPods, and walk around while I’m talking.
We love our RV booster so much that we also have the same booster, but the car version – the WeBoost 4G-X. It works just as well, but doesn’t require any drilling or semi-permanent placement like the RV version. The original car version has a magnetic antenna for the roof of the car rather than a large bolted on booster like the RV.
The WeBoost really has allowed us to continue this lifestyle on the road while working full-time. It really wouldn’t have been possible without it. First responders trust it enough to use it for their jobs and emergency calls – it works that well and it works with all cell phone carriers.
We also each have designated work spaces. I have a desk in my room, Mom has working space in her room, and Dad utilizes the living room area. We have doors that close off each area allowing us to all three take phone calls. The set up is perfect for us and allows to be a full-time RV family!
With so many RV Clubs out there, how do you know which ones are worth it and which ones aren’t? Depending on your travel style, the clubs that work for us, may not be best for you and vice versa. Here’s a rundown of the clubs we’re members of and the value we see in each of them. If you’d rather watch in video format, I filmed a video for Campers Inn about RV Clubs last year that I’m embedding below.
Good Sam Good Sam is what I consider the “catch all” of RV clubs. While not every park offers a Good Sam discount, a good majority of them do. The club is cheap to join and it gets you a discount on merchandise at Camping World which, truthfully, probably provides us more value than the discounts we receive at campgrounds for being Good Sam members. The campground discounts are almost like an extra perk of receiving the club member discounts at Camping World stores. The campgrounds that offer Good Sam discounts are normally only about 10% off and while that’s better than nothing, a $50/night only goes down to $45 with your discount which isn’t really that great of a deal. We don’t actively seek out Good Sam parks like we do some of our other memberships, but we will stay at a Good Sam park over another park if the rate is decent.
Thousand Trails Thousand Trails is the most expensive camping club to join, but if you use the club right, you can really save a ton of money. You can’t join this club for less than $500, but if you take advantage of some of their specials, you can get extra months added on, extra regions, and a variety of other things based on their deals that typically fall around holidays or new seasons (fall special, President’s Day special, etc.). If you’re attending an RV show, that’s always the best time to buy into Thousand Trails because you’ll get the best deals there. If you’re looking at buying into the club and there’s an RV show happening soon that you can attend to buy in, it is well worth the drive to the show and the cost of admission for the extra benefits and discounts you can get.
We don’t use our Thousand Trails membership as much as we
probably could, but when we do, we take full advantage of it. In 2018, we
stayed at the Hershey Thousand Trails park during the Hershey RV Show. The cost
to stay at any parks in the area were inflated because of the popular show;
however, we stayed our maximum amount of 14 nights there and that more than
paid for our cost of membership which we bought for 3 years. Now, for the next
3 years, anytime we stay at a Thousand Trails campground with our membership,
we’re staying for free and in the positive based on how much we paid for our
Thousand Trails does come with a few cons though that you
should be aware of before joining. If you’ve never stayed at a Thousand Trails
campground before, you don’t know what it’s like to get to your site. It’s something
like being a Gladiator. Fight to the death. Fight for your site. Do everything
you can to get the site you want or need. Drive in circles trying to find the
right site. Lay down on the ground in a site so someone else doesn’t take it.
Ok, kidding. That’s a little dramatic. We do love our Thousand Trails
membership, but I would go as far as saying – IT IS STRESSFUL to pull in and
not know if there’s going to be a site long enough to fit your RV, to not know
if there will be a full hook up site available, and everything that comes with
finding your site at their campgrounds. Read everyone’s reviews online before
buying in. Take everything into consideration. Test out checking in at one of
their campgrounds before buying into the membership. Make sure the stress is
worth the savings for you.
The other negative aspect of a Thousand Trails membership is
their 14 (or 21) night policy based on your membership level. When we stay at a
Thousand Trails campground over a certain amount of nights and up to 14 nights,
we have to be out of the Thousand Trails system for a certain number of days.
Ultimately, this just keeps people from living off the Thousand Trails system
and never paying fees, but it does make it challenging to travel solely using
their memebership. It’s still valuable, but sometimes you have to wait a few
extra days before you can check in using their system.
Honestly, I think Thousand Trails is most valuable if you
travel on vacations like spring break, winter break, and even weekends away,
but only if there are a bunch of different Thousand Trails campgrounds in your
close travelling area. Since you don’t have to deal with the “14 Days In” and a
certain number of days out issue if you’re only traveling a short period of
Passport America Passport America is another great one we bought into because honestly, one night a year normally covers the cost of membership so everything over that first night each year puts you in the positive financially. Passport America campgrounds typically (from our experience) aren’t necessarily the nicest or newest campgrounds, but they’re great for one night stops during travel stretches. We typically use them for booking pull through sites when we don’t want to unhook the fifth wheel. They’re normally not in the most common of areas either so sometimes we have to drive a little out of the ways to get to our campground, but we’ve had times where we’ve paid only $10 to stay at a full hook up site with our Passport America discount. The discount is normally about 50% off, but it varies from campground to campground.
KOA Kampgrounds of America mostly referred to as KOA is one of our most used camping clubs – truthfully, because of the convenience and the almost guarantee of a nice campground. We typically will book most of our stays from location to location at KOA Journey campgrounds because they are normally within about 2 miles of the interstate (if not closer). We will pretty much book a KOA without even seeing pictures if we know it is in a good area – simply because we trust the KOA name and brand. While this isn’t always my recommendation to book sight unseen, we’re willing to do that with KOA campgrounds. The discount itself is only 10% off the regular nightly rate, but you can earn rewards with them that can be redeemed for free nights or additional discounts. If you stay enough with KOA, you can become a VIP with them which brings additional benefits like a reduced or eliminated cancellation fee which is normally about $10, but is eliminated most of the time when you become a VIP.
The truth about KOA for us is we simply trust their campgrounds and know each campground goes through rigorous reviews each year to continue meeting quality standards of the brand. We love KOA so much that we’re not only members, but we’ve been workampers with them in several locations and have been for a few seasons. We were KOA loyalists prior to becoming workampers and that’s just fueled our love for their campgrounds even more – say hello to some great amenities – especially in the KOA Holidays and KOA Resorts.
Here’s the thing. Everyone is looking for ways to stay energized right now. With COVID-19 well underway, we’re all looking for ways to stay productive and engaged while social distancing from others. Much like my recent work from home tips, these are not anything crazy, but rather just a few ideas to keep your mind and body energized during these crazy times
Journal, Plan, Dream
Have a business idea you’ve been wanting to hash out? Need to get more in touch with some of your thoughts and feelings? Just want to vent but don’t want to harsh anyone’s vibe? It’s a great time to start a journaling habit. Take the time that you would be commuting to work to write in a journal. Maybe it’s creating a life plan for once we’re past the germ apocalypse, maybe it’s writing down a daily list of some of the things you’re thankful for, or maybe even it’s writing down that bucket list you’ve always been dreaming up in your mind. Take some time to be with your thoughts.
Right now, you’re either thinking nope, this blog post is not for me or you’re thinking now, we’re talking. Either way, it’s a great time to get active. You don’t have to feel like you’re working out to be working out. Just move your body! Just because you can’t be with people doesn’t mean you can’t get your body moving. There are so many virtual workouts out there to take advantage of and many of them are free or at least offer a free trial. Check out the Peloton app for anything ranging from bodyweight exercises to yoga to meditation and if you do have a treadmill or bike, you can run or ride with them as well. But, let’s not forget about the free tool called YouTube that has so many workouts you could never finish them all.
We could all do with a little extra organization, especially since we’re spending more time at home. So pick a different room each day and tackle it. Organize it, remove the clutter, donate the things you can, and throw out the rest. You don’t have to be a minimalist to realize we all need less stuff, less clutter, less junk. Time to clean house and settle in to this new normal for a while!
Learn something new
With in-person events being halted for a while, there are so many opportunities for free online learning. Many companies are hosting webinars, virtual events, and digital social hours to encourage learning and collaboration. Look at social distancing as an opportunity to learn something new and add even more value to yourself.
Cook or Bake something
Before all this got real serious, I had a feeling I needed to stockpile the pantry so now, it’s time to try out some new recipes. Cooking and baking are great ways to be productive and try something new. It doesn’t have to be crazy creative, it just needs to be something simple to get your mind off things for a bit. Look at it as an arts and crafts project and if it doesn’t turn out, it’s okay, just try again!
Host Virtual Gatherings
Have Game Night – pick one person to be the host and play Monopoly, Life, or another board game via FaceTime
Family Dinner – don’t forget to hang out with family even when you have to keep your distance. Have family members make dinner and be ready to join each other at a specified time. That interaction can make a huge difference during this time of self-quarantine
Sure, you were never expecting to be a work from home employee, but thanks to Coronavirus, here you are! Truth be told, even after the Coronavirus pandemic, these remote work tips will still be applicable for lots of folks. And, hey – I’m always trying to find the positives in things so maybe remote work will become even more common for some people after this health crisis is over because so many companies are going to realize their employees are just as, if not more, productive working at home than they are in an office.
Here’s the thing. I KNEW working in an office was unhealthy for me both physically and mentally. I was getting sick all the time from the constant ebb and flow of germs – flu was going around this coworker’s child’s school and this person’s kid came home coughing and they swear they aren’t contagious (um, insert eye roll here because if your kid caught sick then you got sick then you can DEFINITELY get me sick, too). It was ALWAYS something and if a coworker or their kid had it or even thought about having it, I was catching it, too. Mentally speaking, raise your hand if you’ve gotten caught up in workplace gossip, politics, or drama before? Exactly. Enough said with that one.
The reality of working from home for me is: – I’m entirely more productive – I eat healthier – I have so much time given back to me not commuting to and from work – I’m happier – I mean you’d be happy too if your dog was in the same room with you all day while you worked too. 🙂
I’ve had this blog drafted for quite a while but with the whole Coronavirus ordeal, I’ve noticed so many people are being thrown into the work from home life and aren’t exactly sure how to tackle it. I figured what better time than now to share my tips.
Listen. These tips aren’t exactly rocket science. They’re truly nothing special, BUT when you combine them all, they lead to healthier work from home lifestyle choices and a more productive work day.
1) Designate a workspace for yourself Whether this is a temporary setup because you’re working from home because of the Coronavirus or it’s become a permanent thing for you, designating a workspace will help you mentally separate work from life. If you’re working from home permanently, good for you and welcome to the best working years of your life! You definitely need a separate desk space (hint hint, not just a desk or table in your bedroom!) to work from. You need a designated environment that your mind will recognize as “going to work.” If this is temporary because of the Coronavirus or any other illness floating around the office, your separate space might just be the dining room table and that’s ok too. Just make sure you can mentally designate that space as your office.
2) Take breaks I’m the worst at this! I need to take my own advice a bit when I tell you, you took breaks in the office chatting with people, stretching your legs, stepping outside to get some fresh air – you need to keep that up when you work from home too. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day when there aren’t so many things and people to distract you. I’ve found myself rarely standing up from my desk way too many times and now I have to deliberately make myself take breaks. Stand up and stretch, take 10 minutes to brew some new coffee and grab some fresh air. Whatever you need to do, your mind needs to take a few minutes off so you can recharge and refocus your energy.
3) Don’t forget to eat lunch One of the best and worst things about the office life was always going out for lunch. It was my mental break for the day and I went out to eat EVERY DAY. On one side, it was great because it forced myself to take a few minutes to get my mind off work, get some fresh air, listen to music on the drive to get food, and come back with a clean slate in my brain. On the other hand, the food was unhealthy and it’s super expensive to eat out every day like that. It’s so easy when you’re at home to not take that break. You can get so focused on the work since you’re likely at a more comfortable desk and environment than you are in an office that it’s easy to just slide on by and work through lunch. Don’t do it! Fuel your mind and your body, make some lunch, eat the food. Don’t neglect yourself just because you work from home.
4) Keep your time in check Most people think working from home is easy right? I think the biggest misconception about working from home is that it’s easy to multitask and do personal stuff during the day, but this really couldn’t be farther from the truth. I often find myself working more hours and more days of the week because of the convenience. While I’m great about taking a couple of breaks during the day to get some fresh air, to grab some coffee, or to stretch, I often find myself not even realizing how late I’m working. It’s actually easier to work more when you work from home. I find myself grabbing dinner and sitting back down to keep working all the time or during the weekends it can often be, just one email, let me respond to this. I’ve recently started setting more boundaries for myself and while I’ll never let anything urgent sit in my inbox, I do make sure to stop working at a decent hour and I restrict my weekend working activity to Sunday nights to get a jump start on the week.
5) Have a sign on the door that says Please Don’t Knock or Ring the Doorbell If you get a lot of deliveries (Amazon, am I right?) and you work from home, consider putting a sign like this on your front door – especially if you have a dog! The general rule for this is – the more important the conference call, the louder the dog will bark so use this as one way to eliminate as much of the barking as possible.
6) Get out of your pajamas Ok, so the first few days or weeks of working from home in your pajamas are GLORIOUS. Not going to lie, I probably stayed in my pajamas for at least the first year of working from home. It was unhealthy. It was less productive. I was sluggish. Then I kept reading about everyone saying you should get dressed each morning even when you work from home. I don’t mean office attire (unless you’re video chatting and it’s expected!) but I do mean, get up and put yoga pants on instead of flannel pajamas and a t-shirt instead of a sleep shirt. I know you’re probably thinking how different is it working in yoga pants versus your pajamas? It’s so different. It’s mental, I know. But, making the change from pajamas to real clothes, whether it’s just yoga pants and a t-shirt or yoga pants and a nice top since you have that important video call today will change your mental status from “lounging at home” to “working at home.” I had no idea how important this was for over a year after I started working from home. Now, I get dressed every day, ok *almost* every day and also pretty much never before 10:00am so all the calls I have that sometimes start at 7:00am – definitely still happen in pajamas.
7) Change your scenery Whether it’s stepping outside and working from your patio or porch for a few hours while the weather is nice or it’s going to your neighborhood coffee shop or library, sometimes a change of scenery is good for you. Think about it. When you’re in an office, you tend to find yourself bouncing from meeting room to desk to another conference room. Your mind doesn’t have time to get stale, but sitting at your same desk all day every day even on those conference calls will wear your mind down. Don’t be afraid to change up your routine a bit to mix up your view. It might be as simple as rearranging your desk to see if you like the new setup and it might be as big as sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch for an hour. I actually go as far as to have a second monitor outside so I can still work with two screens. I hate being trapped inside so when the weather is really great, I’ll take my office out to it. That’s my favorite perk of working from home!
Working from home is not something to take advantage of; it’s a privilege. So whether your work from home situation is temporary or permanent, make sure you take care of yourself and your employer – be a good human – do good work – enjoy the work from home life!
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3 years ago, I took a leap of faith. I left the comfort of a job I had been in for 5 years in the nonprofit world at an organization I loved, Wounded Warrior Project. What started as a search for change and adventure turned into a blessing.
Here’s the thing. When you’re blessed with exceptional leaders, you strive to be better at everything you do. While I was at Disney, Glenn Green blessed me with his vast experience and knowledge of all the things that were part of the Disney way. He set the standard for me for what an excellent leader looks like. When I left Disney, I was in search of MORE. I wanted to do something that made a difference and even more of a blessing than working for Disney, I found myself at Wounded Warrior Project. There is no work more important than giving back to our veterans who selflessly defend our freedoms, but selfishly, I was again blessed with not just a leader who taught me the importance of teamwork but someone who became one of my closest friends as well, Ayla Tezel.
When I left that job, it was TERRIFYING. I left my comfort zone, but I was searching for something more for my life. I wasn’t 100% certain where it would take me or how long I would be there, but I found myself here at Syniti – an industry I came into knowing nothing about, but they trusted my knowledge of social media and took a leap of faith when they hired me. Now 3 years later, I found myself yet again surrounded by an excellent leadership team: Stephen Drowne, Tracy Accettullo, Zarina Stanford, Kevin Campbell, Rex Ahlstrom, and so many others.
I guess what I’m trying to say is THANK YOU to each and every one of the leaders who has helped shape me into the person I am today. I was shocked and awed this week to be recognized as the one of the Synizens of the Year. I’ve been floating on Cloud 9 since I found out. I haven’t had many words to say because I’ve just been so shocked, but the words I keep finding myself saying are thank you. Thank you to the leaders I’ve worked for, the leaders I haven’t worked for but I’ve watched lead other teams, the leaders from school, college, and grad school – I’m just so thankful for each and every one of you.
The moral of this is: surround yourself with people who make you want to be a better person – both in real life and the digital world.
There are 2 categories of gift-givers during the holiday season.
You’re either a pre-Thanksgiving (and maybe Black Friday)
shopper or a Christmas Eve shopper. The rest of the weeks between those are
simply made for sipping hot chocolate by the fire while watching Christmas
movies, attending Christmas parties, and building gingerbread houses – am I
So with the Christmas season upon us, everyone is talking
about what to get the people in their lives for Christmas. I’m here to tell you
my go-to gift this year!
I’m talking about the gift of portable power! You heard that
right, I’m here to tell you my top 5 types of people who would LOVE to receive
a gift of portable, renewable power for Christmas – or any other holiday for
Let me introduce you to AIMTOM,
a company committed to clean, renewable power being made available anywhere,
anytime. As a digital nomad, this is a huge deal. I need to be able to work
from anywhere and have a constant, reliable source of power. No power means no
work so I always need not only a portable source of power, but also something
reliable enough to get me through power outages at campgrounds.
I personally have the AIMTOM SPS-500 (also known as
the PowerPal Raptor) which is their most powerful model. This baby has a 540Wh
capacity and weighs only 11 pounds. This lithium battery power station is 20%
lighter than other power stations with a similar battery capacity. Since every
pound matters when your home is on wheels, this is a big deal for us! Here’s
the thing though, it doesn’t just power up 1 or 2 items, it comes with 9
outputs – that means, I can charge my phone, iPad, and laptop – all while
running my coffee maker. Which by the way, is a true story… I am so thankful to
have this AIMTOM because we’ve lost power several times this year and it always
seems to happen in the early hours of the morning when I won’t be able to make
my coffee to start the day.
With all of that being said, here are my top 5 types of people I think would love to receive an AIMTOM from Santa this Christmas!
Sure most of our readers are RVers, but I didn’t want to just say this gift was awesome for those who travel via RV because listen, there are plenty of other adventurers out there who would an AIMTOM. I’m talking tent campers, RVers who love campgrounds, RVers who hate campgrounds (here’s looking at you Boondockers – hats off to you as always!), hikers, boaters, and explorers of any kind. While I’m featuring the largest of the AIMTOM portable power stations because it’s the right one for me, they make plenty of smaller options to stay even more lightweight for things like hiking days. And, maybe you don’t need this much power to tent camp because you only need to keep your cell phone charged, that’s cool too!
Southerners in Hurricane Zones
This is a nod to all my Jacksonville folk and everyone else in a hurricane zone. Get this gift for your Dad or your husband! He’ll totally feel all-powerful having this, but when the hurricanes come and knock out your power for a bit, you’ll be able to charge your cell phone and iPad. It’s a gift for him, it’s a gift to yourself – no one will ever know the difference.
Remote workers – seriously, this is a must-have. Obviously, we love to travel, but having the AIMTOM has completely let me have more freedom with traveling. I’ve always said I can work from anywhere I have cell phone service, but truthfully, that was always limited to however long my laptop battery would last. Now, I never have to worry about heading back home when my laptop starts to blinking low battery warnings because I always have my AIMTOM.
Tailgating has come a long way. It isn’t just about the grill anymore people! Listen, you have to have power now for things like crockpots and griddles to cook, speakers for music, TVs to watch the games that come on before your game. You need all the power or your tailgate is going to be a total dud. No offense, but no one likes a lame tailgate.
If you have a climate activist in your life, this is definitely the gift for them. Have I mentioned there’s a solar option you can add on to this? Yep, you can recharge this with the AIMTOM solar panels that actually fold up for easy travel. You can generate your own power from the blessing of the sun and be the most green, eco-friendly gift giver around.
That’s a diverse crew, isn’t it?
Here’s the thing. If you’re a living, breathing, human who
uses electricity like a modern civilized human, you’ll like the AIMTOM. It’s
never convenient when the electricity goes out. Your phone always seems to be
at 5% battery life when you lose power, right? Or, you aren’t able to finish
blow drying your hair to get to work because the transformer down the street
blew and your whole neighborhood lost power. All of these things can be
remedied with a portable power station.
So what are you waiting for? Go and get you and everyone you
know and love one for Christmas because our discount code is only good THIS
WEEK THROUGH THANKSGIVING! Enter RAPTOR540 at checkout to receive 20% off here
at this Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07YHDH319.
Remember, this code is only valid this week until November 28, 2019 at 11:59pm
(PST). So, go go go!
Have you ever had that moment while camping where you feel
like Tom Hanks in Castaway? No, not where you’re starving because there’s no
food, but the moment when you make a campfire and you realize, “I have made
fire!” “I. HAVE. MADE. FIRE.”
I feel that way right now because we have found the ultimate of ultimate campfire must-haves. Pull Start Fire is the fool proof, easy way to start fire. Half the battle at the campground is getting the fire started and keeping it going, but Pull Start Fire lets you literally pull a string to start your fire.
Here’s how it works.
After you open your package, you start stacking up your logs in the firepit. The Pull Start Fire package shows 3 logs stacked flat in your pit, so that’s what we did. On one of the logs, you wrap the green string around the log, then continue stacking your tower of firewood. Once you’re ready, you yank the red string and BOOM, you’ve made fire. When you’re attaching the green string to a log, make sure you’re stack of logs is pretty solid. The first time we pulled the red string, we pulled the whole Pull Start Fire firestarter off – operator error! – we simply hadn’t secured it well enough. We made sure to lodge the logs in the fire pit a little more so they couldn’t move when we pulled the string.
Once we got our fire started, it lasted for well over an hour – plenty of time to make say 20 marshmallows or so. 😉 Ok, we didn’t make quite that many, but it was pretty close!
And speaking of roasting marshmallows and cooking food over that open flame, Pull Start Fire is made from recyclable material and is non-toxic so it’s totally safe to cook over! Since we love cooking over campfire, we’re so excited to have Pull Start Fire to get our fires started a bit quicker when we’re ready to eat!
Pull Start Fire claims it will last 30 minutes and will
start wet logs, withstand rain, and can stay lit in winds of over 200 miles per
hour. We haven’t had a chance to test it in rain or wind yet, but we sure plan
to! (Keep an eye out on our Instagram for wind and rain tests soon!)
We’re totally loving this product and we became instant fans
the moment we pulled the string to light the fire! If you’re interested in
purchasing your own, be sure to visit their website. You can purchase online
and in some KOA campgrounds and also some REI locations across the country. You
can purchase as a pack of 3 so you get a few fires out of each purchase!
like to extend a huge thanks to Pull Start Fire for
sponsoring this blog post and sending us some samples of their Firestarter. You
can find 3 packs of Pull Start Fire online here and individual firestarters
in store at some KOA campgrounds and some REI stores across the country. While
this is a sponsored post, the opinions are 100% our own and are not impacted by
the receiving of the product.*
We get so many questions about trip planning and how we go about setting our route for our RV travels. We recently did a video for Campers Inn RV talking about how we plan our trips and you can watch that here or keep reading for even more details.
Whether you’re living in your RV full-time or you’re simply hitting the road for a vacation, trip planning plays a huge role in the success of your trip. With proper planning, your trip can have the upmost success; however, if you don’t plan properly, it’s easy to get overwhelmed on the road while trying to figure out where to go next. We always spend lots of time planning ahead as we’re planners more so than “go out and stop at the next campground” type people – not that there’s anything wrong with. I envy those who have success with that, but my Enneagram type 1 personality comes out and doesn’t let me do that. I’m a natural planner.
And by planner, I mean, we have a giant physical map, a Sharpie, and a bottle of Goo Gone. We start by sketching out places we’d like to go on the map and then we bring in an online trip planning tool called the RV Trip Wizard to help plan out our exact campgrounds based on the route we want to take. This tool is such a gem for us. It costs about $40 a year and it’s the best tool I’ve found for trip planning.
You enter your information such as average distance on a tank of gas
for your vehicle, RV height, and how long you like to travel in a day. The RV
Trip Wizard takes all of that into account when showing you what campgrounds
are in the area that you’ll end up staying based on your driving distance
The app warns you about clearances that are close to your maximum height.
The tool even provides information on gas stations along your route which
is particularly helpful for larger rigs like ours. Since we prefer to hit truck stop style gas
stations like Love’s, Pilot, Flying J, and Travel America, the tool helps us
plan how far we’ll go before we stop for gas and even the exact gas station we’ll
stop at during our travels. This helps alleviate any uneasiness that sometimes
accompanies travel days – particularly in rural areas where you don’t know
where the next gas station might be located.
we work from the road, cell phone service is imperative for us to have and is a
huge part of our trip planning process. We use an app called Coverage and it
displays all the major carriers in 1 map for you. This is great for us because
we utilize multiple carriers to cover more land area with cell phone and data
hotspot coverage. This app lets us pull up the map for our multiple carriers at
one time instead of having to flip back and forth between carrier websites. We
pay a yearly fee for the premium version of this app, but you can definitely
use the basic version of the app for just the app purchase fee of a few
also really like the State Lines app (which was created by the same team that
created the Coverage app). It lists each state and the various laws you might want
to be aware of.
Examples include, default speed limits, whether you are allowed to
right turn on red, emergency phone numbers beyond 911 like highway patrol
numbers, maximum tow lengths and speeds, whether or not you’re allowed to
triple tow, rest area overnight rules – that’s an important one to know whether
or not you’re allowed to sleep at rest areas or not
can actually purchase those apps as a package deal. You’ll get 3 apps if you
purchase the package and it also includes a public lands map which is great if
you like to boondock. We personally always need full hookups due to our work so
we don’t use this app, but we have it in case we ever need it.
On a more fun note, let’s talk food apps. I love the TV Food Maps app and website. While the app infrastructure is a little slow sometimes, it shows you if there is any food in your area that has been featured on a tv show on channels like Food Network, Travel Channel, or the Cooking Channel. Since we love watching these shows so much, we love this app. It helps us find unique places to eat that we likely wouldn’t have found without the app.
A big thing for us is checking the weather. We mostly utilize Weather.com for that. We check both current temperatures and historical temperatures, rainfall, and anything else we may need to know about an area. This is definitely important for trip planning especially if you plan to be somewhere for a significant amount of time. Do you have the equipment and the rig to stay warm in below freezing temperatures? More importantly, do you want to be in below freezing temperatures? While the weather might not be totally predictable, you can at least see what the average temperature is like before you get to an area.
else do you use to plan your trips? Be sure to let us know what you use in the comments
and tell us what we should be using if you think we’re missing something. We’re
always looking for new trip planning tools just like you. We’d love to know if
we missed anything that you love to use!
One of our most frequently
asked questions about being on the road full-time in an RV is how do we plan
our budget and how different is it from when we lived in a stick ‘n bricks
I recently did a video for Campers Inn RV to get you started on this topic, but I’ve included even more details about each item I discuss in the video (and more) below.
To start, when we decided to
hit the road, we had 3 cars, one for each of us. We sold the two vehicles that
we didn’t need, one of which was completely paid off and the other which was
not. So we immediately went down to just the truck payment there. We do have a monthly
payment for our RV as well, but we essentially replaced the mortgage payment on
the house after we sold it with an RV payment that was about 1/3 the cost of
our monthly mortgage payment.
When looking at budgets, you
need to decide if you’ll be paying for RV sites or if you’ll be boondocking.
This is a huge part of your monthly budget and a big thing to consider when deciding
to go full-time.
RV site fees are different
that a house because we don’t have to pay electric and water. If you stay at
long-term rates (monthly, seasonal, etc.), you do typically have to pay
electric so keep that in mind when looking at options. The campgrounds will
meter your electric and you pay for what you use. Obviously with boondocking,
your fees are much different. Campground fees go away, but depending on how you
get electricity, you have different costs associated with things like running a
generator. I’m not an expert on boondocking since we arent’ boondockers;
however, it is significantly less expensive if you’re able to take advantage of
that lifestyle. Our jobs require constant connectivity to electricity,
internet, and cell phone service so boondocking would be really difficult for us.
Something to keep in mind when you’re budgeting for campground is travel
memberships. We’re members of quite a few RV club because they offer discounted
site rates. See if any of them are right for you. Depending on how often you
plan to move around, some of the clubs may work better for you and some may not
work at all. Evaluate the costs vs the savings and you’ll be surprised how much
you can save with RV clubs for shorter term stays. Keep in mind, these discounts
don’t apply for monthly or long-term rates since those are usually already so
One high dollar item for us is gas for the truck. Diesel is expensive and our truck sucks up a lot of gas, especially on travel days. With a heavy fifth wheel like ours, we get down to about 5-7 miles per gallon while we’re towing. On a normal day when we arent’ towing, we still only get about 15 miles per gallon. To put this in perspective, when we winter in Gila Bend, Arizona, the grocery store is about 45 miles away so roundtrip costs in gas just to get groceries is about $20. When planning our travels, I use RV Trip Wizard to help me estimate the total cost of gas for each leg of our trip. It tells me not only how far it will be from campground to campground but how much it will cost in gas for each leg of the trip and the trip as a whole. I’ve plugged in our average miles per gallon while we’re towing and it takes that into account and estimates our total gas costs for us. This has been a huge help when we’re deciding whether certain adventures are worth it or not. If we go out of our way for a few days, we know exactly how much it will cost in gas so we can evaluate the value of the trip.
Our grocery shopping is a bit
different from when we lived in a sticks ‘n bricks house as well. We don’t eat
out nearly as much as we did when we lived in a home. We cook a lot more and I
think that is mostly attributed to the healthier lifestyle we’re living – and I’ve
been learning to cook and LOVE it. Certain towns we’re in don’t have many
options for eating out which makes it easier to cook and eat in – I mentioned
our winter location of Gila Bend and there’s a couple restaurants and a couple
of gas stations that make up the town and that’s about it. We like the
restaurants, but we eat at them maybe twice a month. This makes our grocery
bill significantly higher – especially with the healthier, fresher foods we buy
– but it also means our eating out bill is way lower as well. We end up on the
positive side of this cost even with the healthier, more expensive grocery
One major thing to be aware of when budgeting is RV insurance. This is one of the most important things when you’re living full-time in an RV. Even if it is more expensive, you need to make sure your insurance covers full-time RVing. If it doesn’t, then your insurance company likely won’t cover your belongings inside the RV if something happens. If you haven’t looked into whether or not your RV insurance covers full-time RVing, stop everything you’re doing and call your insurance company. If you want more information on various types of RV insurance, be sure to check out this guide by Consumer Advocate. They analyze several different types of RV insurance companies and do some of the hard research for you.
One thing we didn’t have when
we lived in a house was a storage unit. We’ve down-sized it several times since
we left, but when we first hit the road, we didn’t know how permanent this
would be for us. We sold most of our furniture when we left, but there were
some more expensive things that we didn’t want to part with in the beginning.
Once we realized we were in this for the long-haul, we decided to purge our
things again and moved to a smaller unit. Then we purged again and now we’re in
the smallest unit they offer with just some family heirloom type items like the
bookcase my Papa built for me and mom’s piano she played growing up. Beyond
that, all that’s left is our photo albums and sentimental items that we just
can’t part with. Storage units range in cost quite a bit and we likely pay more
for this than we should be since it’s in a higher income area, but it’s too
difficult to move to a different location at this point so we’ve come to terms
with the monthly cost of this one.
RV Maintenance is something
else to take into account when setting your budget. Any mishaps you may run
into along the way will be unexpected – your house is on wheels, something will
always go wrong when you least expect it. Our convection oven went out 2 days
after its warranty ended and we’re still working on trying to get a new one.
We’re hopeful, we’ll be able to get it covered under warranty still, but
there’s no guarantee even when things are still covered. I recommend opening a
separate savings account of money that you just don’t touch and it’s there for
when something goes wrong with your RV – whether you use that to pay for a
couple of nights in a hotel while you’re getting repairs or you have a tire
blow out and you need to replace them – having that money set aside will be a
huge relief when these mishaps happen.
My final recommendation is to splurge on AAA for your tow vehicle. Whether you’re towing a trailer or fifth wheel or you’re towing a vehicle behind an A or C class, always have AAA for when you’re out and about. I recommend the upgraded plan (AAA PREMIER) rather than the basic because often times in this lifestyle you might be driving your tow vehicle and be nowhere near your RV or an auto repair shop when something happens to your vehicle. The upgraded Premier plan is the highest level, but the only level of AAA that also provides some coverage for your RV as well. The upgraded plan covers towing at a further distance than the Basic and Plus plans which really helped us out while we were in the Florida Keys. In the 2 years we’ve been on the road, we’ve had to replace tires on the RV, replace tires on the truck, replace a truck battery, and have our truck jumped. This lifestyle puts a lot of strain and pressure on your vehicle so just be prepared
And last but certainly not least, the tool I use for budgeting is the free version of Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar budget tool. It is online and has an app for your phone as well. It’s super easy to use and best of all it’s free. They do have a paid version if you’re interested in syncing your bank accounts to the app, but I don’t use that.
If you have any questions
about budgeting for the full-time RV lifestyle, just let me know! Happy to
answer any questions you may have!