It started with Tiny House Hunters on HGTV.
It became a dream. Then an idea. And eventually, our reality. We made this drastic life change having no experience whatsoever in RVs. That being said, this has been one HUGE learning experience.
We are here to share with you some of the good, bad, and ugly lessons we’ve learned from one month on wheels! After one month, here are our full-time RV living tips.
Look at what you value
REALLY look at your belongings while downsizing.
How often do you use that blender? When is the last time you wore that shirt? Have you seen your kid play with that toy in a while?
It’s harder than it seems.
We started with a 5×7 storage unit but had to upgrade to a 5×10. Now that it is all said and done, we
probably could have pared down on our belongings a little harder and managed with the smaller unit.
I’m sure we will be selling stuff again once we get back in there.
Takeaway: you don’t need as much STUFF as you think you do.
We spent a year researching fifth wheels until ultimately deciding on our Grand Design. This is a HUGE purchase. Take your time!
Things to think about when buying: What can you absolutely not live without? For us, it was a separate room for the kids. Remember that the outside of your rig is just as important as the layout. Is it 4 seasons capable? Do you need it to be? Ask about the R values in your insulation. Living in Alaska, ours had to be winter capable. Not all fifth wheels/RVs are created equal! I think we will always have
some envy of other rigs, layouts, and features, but ultimately, our rig is the perfect fit for us. We love
our fifth wheel and are so glad we took a long time to make a final decision and considered every option
out there. Don’t rush the process!
Know Your Rig
Even if you think your significant other will handle the tank business, you need to know how it works
I’m guilty of this. A week in, I couldn’t tell you the difference between a black tank and a grey tank.
We had a problem with our black tank early on and I just stood there like a deer in the headlights,
completely useless. I read the owner’s manual from cover to cover that night.
If my husband wasn’t around and something went wrong or stopped working, what was I going to do?!
Ever since that moment, I make the effort to pay attention to tank levels, amp consumption, propane changes, the dumping process, the leveling process, etc. I’m now confident in my ability to keep this rig functioning if my husband isn’t around. It’s pretty scary to think that I didn’t know though, huh?
Keep your owner’s manual nearby and actually READ it.
Know Your Route
Plan ahead! Look at your campground or RV park destinations website first (if you can). They may list
specific directions to help you navigate with a trailer best.
Take it from me–I ignored the RV Park owner’s directions and followed Google Maps down a dead end dirt road onto someone’s private property in Canada. Luckily, the owner was extremely kind and helpful (Canadians, eh?) and allowed us to turn around in their tall grass field.
It was terrifying considering it was only our second day owning our rig. We were certain we were about to mess it up. Fortunately, nothing bad happened to the truck or rig, but I will always kick myself for that!
Use RV Specific Products
It may be inconvenient to go to a different store just for RV toilet paper but it really is necessary. Take it from us. We were using “septic safe” toilet paper (the same stuff we used in our house) because we
were told it was fine.
It was not fine.
We encountered a BIG clog and without going into too much detail, my husband had to use a crazy act of physics and gravity to jar the clog loose. I’m trying to convince him to clog it again so I can film this insane method to share because it was GENIUS.
But I do not wish that kind of tank issue on anyone. Save yourself the trouble. We get our RV toilet paper at Walmart.
Another RV product (fifth wheel specific) we swear by, is our RV SnapPads. They “snap” onto our
levelers permanently so we don’t have to run around placing blocks in the perfect position during the
leveling process every time. We just press “auto level” and we are good to go! We highly suggest
SnapPads for their convenience. There are so many awesome RV products to make RV living easier or
just better. We are constantly finding new things!
You totally CAN live in a small space. We do it with four bodies, a dog, and a cat! It took us a while to
realize that we all can’t stand in the kitchen or master bedroom at the same time but eventually we learned to take turns and it makes for a much more cohesive living arrangement.
Set boundaries such as no more than one person in the kitchen while meals are being made (my pet peeve). Utilize your outdoor space, weather permitting. It takes some getting used to, but I promise it is doable and very fulfilling!
I like to look at everything as a learning experience. We went into this blindly so we were bound to
encounter some mishaps and looking back, I am glad we did. We are better RVers for it! I hope these full-time RV living tips can steer others in the right direction. This way of life is challenging but so rewarding and I love to encourage others to make the change to a smaller, simpler life.
-Emily Z, RV with the Z’s
Emily and her husband Derek, along with their two kids- Lukas (2), and Kiera (8 mos), are a military family of four stationed in Anchorage, Alaska. They were tired of paying an obscene amount of money on rent, so they sold most of their belongings and traded their large rental property for less than 300 square feet on wheels. They moved into a 40 foot Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel on July 25, 2018 and have officially been a full-time RV living family for a little over a month!