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When our fellow Campers learn we are Full-Timers, we usually get questioned about the lifestyle. Many have experience camping and towing a RV, but they don’t realize there is more to it than throwing a few things in the rig and heading down the road.

Your current RV may not be ideal for you if you decide to go full-time. One of the first things to consider is driving your rig. Are you okay with driving and towing long-distances? Can you back up? Not all campgrounds have pull-thrus and if you rely on GPS, you may find yourself backing down a road during your trip. (Yes, that story may make a top posting one day! 😉 ) If you decide on a fifth-wheel or travel trailer then you will need a pickup truck that can tow your RV. Keep in mind the towing weights when considering a truck/RV.

If you decide on a motor home or diesel pusher then you may require a vehicle to tow behind. And consider very carefully if you choose not to have a tow vehicle – especially if you decide on a larger one. Every time you require groceries or supplies, you’d have to pack up everything and drive your home into town. Unless you have other options – motorcycle, bicycle, hiking – to get to a nearby town, you should consider having a tow vehicle.

Another driving factor to consider is that your family can drive it. If something happens to you, could your spouse or travel companions drive it? Too many times have we seen a spouse need someone assist with transporting their rig when the other was ill or hospitalized.

Is your RV the size you need to be a Full-Timer? If you are going to go full-time, then everything you own will be inside. That means you need storage space, as well as enough room to function. We have a two-bedroom fifth-wheel. Everyone has their own space – no crowding, no struggling to store things. Smaller rigs may seem too small for you, but don’t forget, the more slides you have, the larger the rig becomes. And driving-wise, how big of rig can you handle? Quite honestly, some roadways are just not made for larger RVs. I think we have been along most of them! 😉 So keep in mind that although bigger is roomier, it is a lot more to handle on the road and even inside smaller campgrounds.

Another thing to keep in mind is that everything you own is in the RV and you will need storage. And I don’t mean sticking your frying pans in an outside compartment. I mean real, functional storage space. We have seen folks crawl up their roof to the add-on storage tote and pull-out extra rolls of toilet tissue… we know folks who have to store their clothes in an outside compartment… This is just not practical.

There are extra things that will eat your storage space, such as a washer and dryer. Keep in mind that the majority of campgrounds have laundries so don’t feel pressured to get a washer and dryer in your rig. A dinette booth versus a table is another space saver. Sure, dinette tables look nice in RVs, yet booths allow under-seat storage. So be aware of your needs and available storage areas.

Slides help make your RV a “home” and the more you have, the more room adds to your rig. Yet they have major downfalls. Number one is that most campgrounds (even those that advertise Big Rig Friendly) aren’t always slide-friendly. You may find that your slide(s) can’t go out because of trees, utility posts, cement barriers and other campground obstacles. This can be quite frustrating, especially if you have wide and/or large slides like we do. We were in Arizona in the middle of desert and a campground we stopped at put us on a site with the only visible tree within a mile radius, which, of course, blocked a slide! 😉

Another thing to consider with slides is that they aren’t as heavily insulated as the rest of your camper. So if you are going to a colder region, you need to keep in mind that you may need to leave your slides in to stay warm. Slides have limited electrical outlets (if any) or no furnace/air-condition ducts. Keep this in mind if you are in a hot-cold region. Slides can also be a pain if you can’t put them out. If you are traveling down the road and need to use the bathroom, can you even get to your bathroom? Some slides block off areas of your rig and you can’t use them. So keep in mind what your rig would look like with the slides in – could you get to your bathroom? Bedroom? Stove? Refrigerator? If you were blacktop boondocking a few days with the slides in, could you still live in your camper? These are things to keep in mind when planning on going full-time.

How far are you going in your rig? Are you going to be on-the-road Full-Timers or are you going to find 2-3 places to set-up camp a year? Will you drive it across the country or will you just drive it a few states away? Make sure you can handle it and that your routes (like mountains) are something your rig can handle. We’ve driven down roads that have brought our curtains down. I remember we made a sharp turn on a clover-leaf exit and the refrigerator snapped open. Imagine our surprise at the rest area when we entered and found groceries on the floor… not to mention a broken jar of dill pickles.

If you travel to a colder region (or even if it gets colder in a warmer region) that your rig is well-insulated and that you have the means or the means to protect your pipes/hoses from freezing. Many RVs have polar package that you can upgrade and get tank heaters, etc… It is definitely something to keep in mind if you decide to go full-time.

That’s some of the things you should consider before leaping into Full-Timing with your current RV. The best thing you can do is think about what you need to suit your family and make a check-list. Your “weekend” RV may not be practical for the life of a Full-Timer. So keep some of these things in mind before you consider Full-Timing in it.

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The other morning we woke up to a very chilly 28 degrees. For some folks that may be a warm December day, but for those of us in Florida – Brrrr!!!

Our concern the night before was the water line. We have winter camped before (our low is 17 degress in the North Olympic Peninsula – Washington State) and the only time we have had a frozen hose was actually a warmer temp of 30 degrees (Bridgeport, California – just down the road from historic Bodie SHP).

 We had just bought several more Funnoodles® (those pool floaties RVers use to cover their slide edges after the first time they hit their head on the edge! 😉 ) and thought those would be ideal at protecting our water hose.

 After cutting them in half, we placed them along our water hose all the way to the spigot. They fit perfectly and look better than the traditional blankets and duct-tape method.

Our line didn’t freeze and we have decided to make sure we always keep a few extra Funnoodles® in our storage area. And who knows… maybe one day we will actually use them at the pool! 😉

Bird perched on a Raptor (RV that is!)
Bird perched on a Raptor (RV that is!)

For several days I was amazed to see birds hit the windows of a nearby RV toy hauler. It wasn’t just one bird (or species for that matter) and no birds appeared harmed by it. They would simply fly up to the slide windows and somehow appear to cling to the glass for several seconds. Then the birds would fly off to a nearby tree or land on the top of the slide. It was rather curious behavior and no one seemed to know what was going on.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday morning a heard tapping on my bedroom slide. Before I could get the window shade up I heard tapping on the sofa slide! Yet again, before I could get the shade up, it stopped. At this point the sound moved to the living room slide and all of us were wondering what was going on.

One of the window bandits watches from a nearby tree!

One of the window bandits watches from a nearby tree!

Fortunately we managed to see what was going on – the birds were hitting our slide windows! And they began repeating the pattern, returning to my bedroom slide and continuing to the other slide windows. This continued for about thirty minutes.

By seeing the birds  from the inside, I could see they were actually hovering very close to the glass and actually tapping it with their bills or claws. The reason they were hitting the glass was to catch insects!

I’m not sure why it was just the slide windows, unless they were trapping the insect swarms in the slide corners. It was hard to tell. Whatever the case, the birds certainly knew what they were doing!

 

Double the room!
Double the room!
Our fifth-wheel has four slides, two of which are in the second bedroom.  From the back view it is eye-catching and we do receive a numerous questions and inquiries about the layout of our rig, especially “that double slide in back”.

When we were looking at fifth-wheels, there were only a few with double slide rooms. Recently we were surprised to see that double slide rooms were in several 2009 models. Several we saw where designed as second bedrooms, while a few were extended living rooms (with sofa, recliners and entertainment centers).

It appears newer designs are now geared toward practical living and the changes in the economy. An increasing number of Full-Timers aren’t just couples – they are families. Several of our friends travel with a widowed parent or their single adult child or young children.

After we first brought this fifth-wheel “home” – all our friends were surprised by the second bedroom. It wasn’t as common a few years ago. Second bedrooms were usually designed for children and they lacked practical use for Full-Timers.

I have the second bedroom and most of our friends consider it “the hotel room”. Not only do I have adequate storage, I have an incredible living space. I have a double bed, sofa, shelving, dresser drawers, closet, book shelves and entertainment and knick-knack shelves. I have even decorated it to my tastes – including custom curtains and wallpaper border.

There are drawbacks to double slide rooms. One is the fact they slide into each other during travel. So if you intend to park overnight and not put out your slides, chances are your slide layout will prevent you from using that room or getting access to drawers and cabinets. In our case, if we park overnight or boondock without the slides out, I must sleep on the living room sofa. While we travel I have an overnight-slash-emergency bag that I have in case we can’t put the slides out.

Slides are not as insulated as solid walls, so when you have a room with double slides, you have less insulation. And, because electrical outlets aren’t put in slide-outs, you will be limited to outlets central located. This also goes for heating and air-conditioning ducts.

Another problem with double slides is trying to find the perfect camp site! Many campgrounds have obstacles – trees, bushes, tall electrical panels, posts, etc… We have found ourselves in many tight spots with the double slides.

It really depends on your needs, but for us, the double slide is worth the drawbacks. Here is a look into our second bedroom with the double slides – and I won’t even ask you to take your shoes off! 😉

Many campgrounds are close-quarters for RVs

Many campgrounds are close-quarters for RVs

Although many campgrounds today are advertising they are “Big Rig Friendly”, most campgrounds are not. Many campground were designed decades ago when RVs were smaller and did not have slides. For those RVers who have larger rigs or multiple slides, these older campgrounds can make arrival and departure a very frustrating time.

If you find yourself in a tight situation (such as these folks in the photo who came within inches of hitting a truck parked on its own campsite, while backing into their assigned camp site), there are several things you can do to make the situation a little better.

At check-in, be honest about your rig length. Yes, some campgrounds still charge for larger rigs – but there is a reason for that. Bigger rigs get bigger sites! Don’t say you are 30 feet in length when your rig is 35 feet! A few feet can make a major difference.

If you have any slides that are problematic (deep, long or perhaps double-sided) ask the reservationist if there are trees, high electric boxes, lamp posts or other obstacles on your site. If they are uncertain or do not know, ask to view the site first.

Pull-thrus are the preferred sites for Full-Timers because often you do not need to unhook your rig and these sites are usually close to the entrance. However, they are often bordered by smaller trees (“awning eaters” is what I call them!) or lamp posts for late-night arrivals.

When you are assigned a camp site (or if you are allowed to find one on your own) get out and walk it. Look for your hookups. Make sure the electrical box contains enough amps (especially if you paid a higher price for 50 amp service) and that – if applicable – it has Cable or Sat TV hookup. Locate your water and sewer hookups.

We have noticed that some older campgrounds still have shared water hookups. To temporarily correct this, they have placed a Y-connect on it. Make sure that if your water is shared it has such a connection and if it does not, contact the campground office before you get set-up. If you have your own Y-connect, you can use that, but keep in mind that if campers are (or will be) beside you, you will have to turn off their water and disconnect their hose to get your Y-connect back when you leave.

If there are any movable obstacles in your way, such as a picnic table, make sure you drag them out of your way.

The next step is to discuss the site with your spouse and/or family. If it is a back-in site, make sure that your spouse or family members help you. They need to remain in your mirrors and also in the back corner of the rig to watch for any problems. Some RVers use radios to communicate. This is okay, but often hard on the driver trying to maneuver the rig and maintain contact. Larger rigs sometimes have back-up cameras. This is good, yet someone watching outside is still recommended.

Maintain communication with your helpers! Discuss the terminology you will use. Does “HOLD IT!” mean you are going to hit something or you should just stop? What does “straight” mean? Should the driver try to straighten the rig or do you really mean he should “follow” the rig and it will be straight? This may seem trivial but to a driver this is crucial information. And remember to maintain mirror contact at all times. If they can’t see you behind the rig, they cannot hear you!

If you are arriving at a campground at night you will find yourself having more difficulty getting in a campsite. Why? You’re tired from a long day and everyone is cranky. Plus, it is dark and you cannot see everything. Do not let that add to your frustration. Make sure everyone has flashlights and walk the site as you would during daylight hours. Move obstacles, locate hookups and potential problems. See where you want to put your rig and have your family stand on both sides of the back corner of the rig (yet in your mirrors) with flashlights. Use the light as a guide where to center the back of your rig. If you are traveling alone or with just a spouse, place two flashlights on the ground where you want to have your rig.

A great set of flashlights to get are Craftsman rechargables. They stand-up and when the batteries are weak, you can recharge them. We have helped people back-in after midnight, in blinding rain, during wind storms and heavy snowfall with these flashlights. They are very heavy-duty and well worth the cost. They can save you quite a bit of frustration during late-night arrivals!

Once you are in your campsite and level, walk around and verify if your slides will clear any identified obstacles, especially electric boxes. If you cannot judge or if it appears close, carry a small tape measure with you and measure out the width of your slide from the RV. We have a slide 40 inches deep. May not seem like much, but since the slide is over 10 feet long, that can make all the difference in the world with a tall electric box! So if anything appears close, measure before putting your slides out. Do not let a damaged slide ruin your trip.

Most often when you arrive at a campground you will find a few folks who will flock around you and “try” to help you get into you campsite. If this makes you nervous, all you have to do is let them know their offer of help is appreciated, but you and your family have a system.  Most are very understanding and will return to their own site or stand aside so you can get into yours.

If you do arrive at a campsite that is too narrow or not long enough, let the campground office know immediately. Do not try to damage your rig or cause yourself a lot of grief trying to fit in a site that is too small. Most are very understanding of RVers needs. And if you find another vehicle or RV on or encroaching on your assigned campsite, ask the office before you do anything. Occasionally some Campers will spread out more than they should. Although most are apologetic and will move, some will not. Try not to put yourself in a bad situation with your new neighbors. Ask the campground office about what should be done in this situation, as this is something they need to be aware of. You may try to handle it yourself, but if your neighbors have extra vehicles on your site, they may not have paid for extra vehicles (or extra people) and the campground office may not be aware. Some campgrounds restrict the number of vehicles and/or people allowed per campsite.

Fitting in a campsite does not have to be a hassle each stop of the journey. Ask for a large enough site to accommodate your rig and walk over the site before pulling or backing-in. Locate your hookups and any obstacles. Have your companions help you and communicate with each other. If you have a system or plan at each stop and you will soon find “fitting in” less of a hassle.

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