All RVs, fifth wheels and travel trailers have three types of holding tanks:
Gray waterBlack waterFresh water
Holding tanks allow you to use the conveniences of your own kitchen and bathroom while living on the road. However, the use and maintenance of these tanks can be overwhelming for new full-time RVers. This article provides a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know to keep your tanks clean and functional while living in an RV.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase a product after clicking my link to it.
Black and Grey Water Tanks
Black and grey water tanks hold wastewater from your sinks, shower and toilet. Tank sizes vary by RV, but you will need to empty or “dump” your tanks frequently when you are living in an RV. How often you will need to dump will depend on your water use and the size of your tanks.
When it is Time to Dump your Grey and Black Tanks?
Most RVs built within the last 10 years have sensors that tell you how full each holding tank is. The location and style of the monitor varies by RV (the sensor from our Grand Design fifth wheel is pictured below). It is important to note that these sensors will not work accurately if your RV is not level. When you first start RVing, you should check these sensors everyday (or a few times a day if you are using a significant amount of water) to learn how quickly your tanks are filling. Of course, the sensor will indicate full a bit before the tank is actually at capacity.
So what if you forget to check your sensors and let the tank overflow? If your grey tank is full, water will stop draining from the sink and/or shower pan and they will continue to fill with water. If your black tank is full, the same them happens except it is much nastier. Always go ahead and dump as soon as the sensor indicates “full.” Believe me; you do not want to learn this lesson the hard way.
Where do you Dump your Grey and Black Tanks?
Campgrounds will advertise their sites as “full hook-up” if they have electric, water and sewer connections. If your campsite does not have a sewer connection, you will need to find a dump station. Many RV parks have a dump station on-site for campers to use. If you are really lucky, your RV park may offer a honey wagon service, where they come to your campsite and dump your tanks into a mobile dump station. If you are boondocking and need to find a dump station on the road, you can use the AllStays appto find one near your campsite or along your route. Most truck stops will charge 5 to 10 dollars to use their dump station.
How to Dump your Grey and Black Tanks:
Put on some gloves: While you will not be touching waste, you will be handling hoses that contain waste, so it is best to cover your skin to prevent any nasty incidents.
Hook-up your hose: Connect your hose to the RV drain and the dump station. You will need an elbow connector to ensure the wastewater does not spill while dumping. If you do not have a sewer hose yet, this Camco sewer hose kit includes enough hose to reach any dump station and all the connections you will need.
Empty the black tank: Pull the valve for you black tank and let it run until you no longer hear any water flowing, then close the black tank.
Empty the grey tanks: Pull the valve on your grey tank (or both grey tanks if you have two) and let them empty until you no longer hear anything flowing. Close the grey tanks.
Fill the black tanks: Connect a garden hose from a water source (the city water connection at your campsite) to the black water valve on your RV. Let the water run until the black tank is full. You can check your sensor to determine when the tank is full. Once the tank is full, turn off the water. Be sure to use a separate hose from your normal fresh water hose to prevent contamination.
Empty black tank again: Pull the valve on the black tank and let it empty completely.
Repeat: Fill the black tank with fresh water and dump one or two more times until the water dumping out is clear.
To prevent clogging and damage, you should make sure that only water is allowed to flow into your grey tank. Put drain covers in your kitchen and shower sinks to catch any debris, and make sure to wipe down all dishes with a rag before washing them in your sink. Only human waste and septic safe toilet paper should go into your toilet. Many stores sell special RV toilet paper, but we have found that Scott’s Bath Tissueworks just as well and is cheaper and easier to find. Make sure to only buy the original Scott’s toilet paper and not any other varieties.
If your black tank is clogged up, there is any easy solution. This reverse RV flush valveforces water back up into plumbing lines to break up clogs. To use, you attach the valve to the RV drain and connect the same garden hose you use for cleaning the black tank This will push water up into your pipes and tanks to dislodge any debris that is causing your tanks not to empty properly. At some point you will need this gadget, so I would recommend ordering one before you hit the road.
Fresh Water Tank
The fresh water tank is just what it says, a tank to hold clean water for your sinks and shower. If you are at a campsite with a city water hook-up, you do not need to fill this tank. The fresh water tank only needs to be filled when you are camping without access to city water. The sensor that shows how full your blank and grey tanks are also shows how much fresh water you have left in the tank.
How to Fill and Use the Fresh Water Tank
To fill the fresh water tank, simply change the water setting to XXX and connect a garden hose from the water source (our water valves are pictured below). Use the tank sensor to determine when the tank is full. Once the tank is full, change the water setting to dry camping. To use water from the tank, you will need to turn on your water pump.
Make sure the water pump is off when you are driving or towing your RV to ensure no water can accidently flow from your sink or shower.
If you have any other questions about your RV holding tanks, please comment below.
Most full-time RVers choose to live this lifestyle so they can spend more time in nature. Unfortunately, driving across the country using thousands of gallons of diesel or gas every year is not helping to preserve the environments travelers are enjoying. We try to reduce our negative impact by living an eco-friendly lifestyle while parked at campgrounds.
Here are nine simple ways you can make your RV life more eco-friendly.
1. Don’t Buy Water
Refusing to buy water is one of the easiest ways to reduce your consumption of single-use plastics. When we first moved into our RV, we were buying more plastic water bottles because some campgrounds had funky tasting water. Last year, we purchased this $40 water filterthat easily hooks onto the city water input hose, and we haven’t had a problem drinking campground water since. If you are boondocking and don’t have access to a water source, try to fill reusable water jugs instead of purchasing disposable plastic bottles.
2. Make Your Own Cleaners
Another easy way to reduce your use of single-use plastics is to make your own household cleaners and laundry detergents. You can make your own cleaning products with a few simple ingredients and store them in reusable containers or spray bottles. Click here for thelaundry detergentand multi-purpose cleanerrecipes that I use. Making your own household cleaning products is also cheaper than buying brand name solutions, so it is a double-win.
3. Use Real Dishes
While paper plates and plastic utensils are very convenient, they are terrible for the environment. Invest in real plates, utensils and drinkware. Scrubbing a few plates each day is a small price to pay to keep our planet healthy.
4. Eat Local
Just because you traveled across the country doesn’t mean your food should. If you are staying in warm climates as most RVers do, you should be able to find farmer’s markets that sell local produce, meat and other products. Go to Local Harvestto find a farmer's market near your current campsite. Don’t forget to bring your reusable bags to the market, so you don’t end up with plastic.
Unfortunately, many RV parks and campgrounds do not provide bins for recycling, so it is up to us RVers to ensure that our recyclables do not end up in the landfill. You can find local recycling stations at Be Recycledand take in your recyclables weekly. Buy an extra laundry hamper or a larger Rubbermaid tote to store your cans, bottles and paper until you are able to dispose of them properly. Also, when you make a reservation at a new RV park ask the staff of they offer recycling, and if they don’t, ask why and request that they add this amenity.
6. Don’t Be a Litter Bug
This one should be obvious, but we have seen trash and cigarette butts all over the roads, campgrounds and public lands we have visited. If you see trash at a campsite or while out hiking, stop and pick it up.
7. Invest in Solar
If you boondock regularly, consider investing in a solar panel to limit your use of a generator. Not only is solar better for the environment, it is also a much quieter, peaceful way to enjoy the camping experience. Gone with the Wynns has a great article on solar options for RV living.
8. Drive Slow
Driving at an average speed of 55 mph will reduce your fuel consumption, which is good for the environment and your pocket. When taking long trips, settle in, slow down and enjoy the ride. Also, make sure you have the correct pressure in your tires to avoid wasting fuel. Buy a digital pressure gaugeand check your pressure before taking off and at stops on the road.
9. Reduce your AC Use
While traveling in warm climates try opening the windows or using a small fan before turning on the air conditioner. Many RV parks do not charge extra for electricity, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to limit our power needs. The AC uses the most electricity in an RV, so avoid turning it on unless it is really needed.
Any other tips for reducing your footprint while traveling full-time and living in an RV? Leave your ideas in the comments below.
This is a guest post by the Outdoorsy Content Team. Outdoorsy is the most comprehensive platform for outdoor travelers to rent RVs in the United States. Check out their site for RV rentals and great destination recommendation. When we first started looking for winter reservations, we had trouble finding any campgrounds that allowed RVers under 55. The Outdoorsy team has compiled their top recommendations for destinations that are friendly to young people looking for warm weather winter accommodations.
Winter RV traveling is not the exclusive domain of the snowbird retirees. While winter can pose some serious issues for the RV traveler, there are several excellent destinations that are worth the effort and offer a great escape for young people. Here are three you may wish to consider.
1. South Florida:
When most people think of winter RVing, the first place they think of is Florida and for good reason. The Sunshine State has some of the most pleasant weather in the country and with moderate daytime temps, lower humidity and plenty of sunshine it is actually more pleasant to visit in the winter then other times of the year.
Not all RVers realize though that there are two different Floridas when winter time arrives. The northern section frequently sees freezing temperatures, particularly at night and can even see snow. The southern section, below Orlando, is where the great weather can be found all year long.
For younger RVers, the Homestead/Florida City area is a great choice. They are close to the Keys, Miami, Biscayne Bay National Park and Everglades National Park with all the things those areas have to offer. While not cheap, the area also avoids the excessively high cost of being in the Keys. Southern Comfort RV resort is a top choice in the area to park your rig. It has a pool and bar/lounge on-site as well as a friendly atmosphere and its location is the perfect jumping off point for many Florida attractions and experiences.
2. Southern Louisiana:
Southern Louisiana offers the young RVer both great weather and perhaps the broadest depth of cultural diversity you can find anywhere in North America. It is one of the few places in the country that you can enjoy a homemade Cajun or creole meal for lunch on the bayou and then dine at a world class French restaurant for dinner.
Of course, winter in southern Louisiana is all about Mardi Gras. The festivities begin each year two weeks before Fat Tuesday, culminating on the final day in a night of total debauchery. Most people's vision of Mardi Gras is that final night taking place in New Orleans. However, Mardi Gras is much bigger than that. There are plenty of activities in New Orleans every day, during that two-week period that allow you to get a great feeling for the celebration without the over the top excesses of the final night. Furthermore, nearly every town in the state celebrates the occasion in some form or another. Many New Orleans residents will actually RV to neighboring areas to partake in their activities. For example, the Eunice area is known for a more classical Cajun approach to Mardi Gras and is a very popular place for the locals to go and celebrate.
Outside of Mardi Gras, the area is well known as a foodie's paradise and there are activities to suit just about anyone's tastes
A great place to stay near New Orleans is the Bayou-Segnet State Park. It is located just south of New Orleans in Westwego. The city basically ends at the park entrance and the campground is quite far back, making it a safe and quite place to stay. The park is less than a half hour from the Algiers ferry which will drop you off at the end of Canal Street in the French Quarter. If you plan to go for Mardi Gras it does fill up early, particularly for the last week of celebrations, so make your reservations well ahead of time. Otherwise, it's generally fairly empty during the winter months.
3. Southern California:
Southern California is an excellent winter place to visit for young RVers. This includes Palm Springs, San Diego, Los Angeles and surrounding areas.
The entire area has near perfect weather all winter and the environment offers many opportunities for a broad range of activities for younger people. There is of course a ton of nightlife in the major cities. Palm Springs has several casinos and offers world class entertainment all winter. The Southern California coast is a well-known offshore fisherman's paradise with many world class fishing charters available from San Diego to Santa Barbara. The area is also home to Joshua Tree, Pinnacles and The Channel Islands national parks which are all great areas for hiking and exploring nature.
There are large areas of desert which offer excellent areas for off road vehicle use. Surrounding the desert areas are mountains which get significant snowfall during the winter and provide great opportunities for winter sports such as skiing.
A great place to stay is the Catalina Spa and RV Resortin Desert Hot Springs, CA. It is an outstanding RV resort and is one of the few that is not 55+ in the area. It is also conveniently located only 10 miles from Palm Springs, 30 miles to Joshua Tree NP and an hour to San Diego or Los Angeles. It is also far enough outside the San Diego/LA area that the traffic is not too bad.
The main thing to consider when wintering in your RV before retirement ago is to look for parks and campgrounds that do not have any age restrictions. Seek out RV parks that have a wide range of activities and are not a quiet 55+ community. Also look for the resorts and campsites that offer winter rates to snowbirds of all ages.
Your first holiday season living in an RV is likely to be different from previous holidays celebrated in your sticks and bricks. You may be spending less or more time with family, your decorating scheme will need to be adjusted and you will definitely need to think twice about the types of gifts you wish to receive. Although these changes can be stressful, the holidays are the perfect time to reflect on why you moved into an RV and be thankful for your new, adventurous life.
Below, 9 of my favorite full-time RV bloggers have provided tips on how to make the most of your first holiday living in an RV.
When becoming a full time RVer, you'll likely need to educate your friends & family on the types of gifts that are appropriate for your new lifestyle. You now live in a super small space and just simply don't have space to store "stuff" that isn't necessary. You might need to make some suggestions of things you actually need - perhaps even providing a link to a gift list on Amazon. Or perhaps ideas for RV club memberships that you need or consumable gifts that don't take up space for long.
This year we are gifting ourselves a trip to Hawaii. We prefer to spend our money on travel and experiences that will last a lifetime. As for gifts for future - we are sticking to stocking stuffers & small gifts that will get “used up”. I think a great idea for kids/families would be to spend money on things your kids want to “do” versus “get” such as theme parks, travel, etc.
For Christmas decorating every year we purchase a live potted tree from Home Depot. They are usually only a few dollars and less than two feet tall. This way we only have to store a few mini ornaments and a string of battery operated miniature lights.
Since storage in our RV is in short supply, holiday decorations are almost non existent around our tiny home, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy celebrating holidays. I've always enjoyed baking, and the holidays give me the perfect excuse to indulge in the joys of baking. Since my little RV oven has a tendency to heat up the rig, it's a win-win situation during a day of baking. The oven not only bakes my treats, but takes the chill out of the air, not to mention the delightful aroma wafting through the air in our RV. With an abundance of homemade treats and only so much freezer space, I enjoy spreading a little holiday cheer by sharing my baked goods with workers at the RV park or with neighbors and friends.
Your RV is your home, so don’t be afraid to embrace the holidays and decorate it. The first year in our RV, I got a little depressed at Christmas because when I downsized I let go of all my holiday decorations. The second year, I decided that I had room to keep one storage bin of decorations including a tree. I made room in our fifth wheel for a 6’ tree! But don’t worry if you have a smaller space, there are plenty of table top style trees too. Dollar Tree is great place to get inexpensive holiday decorations in case you don’t want to keep them afterwards.
If you want to cook ALL of your favorite holiday foods, space it out and start a few days early! Crockpots and Instapots can be a big help, and have you ever put your turkey or ham on the grill? YUM! By starting early, when it comes time for your holiday dinner - it’s super stress free just to reheat everything so instead of cooking all day, you can enjoy your company.
Here is a holiday idea that is fun for kids and adults alike to use to decorate your RV for the holidays. When I was younger something I remember growing up were the handmade clay ornaments we made for our tree. Unfortunately, at one point in time the plastic bags didn't get closed all the way and some bugs got into the bags and pretty much tore them all up. I decided this year I would make some new ones. The recipe is really easy. Although I say it's a family recipe because I got it from my mother it's definitely not any family secret as you can find the recipe pretty much anywhere online. So here it is below.
Mix the flour (4 cups all purpose), salt (1 cup) and water (1/2 cup). Knead dough until smooth. Roll out dough and cut into desired shapes. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. Once cool paint with colors, if desired. Easy peasy right?
I went to Hobby Lobby and got some small holiday cookie cutters and some acrylic paints. Then from there it's just up to your imagination. Then you can string them up on your Christmas tree with some holiday style ribbon! If you want to save them for future decorating, I would recommend spraying them or painting them with some kinda of sealant to keep the bugs away.
Celebrating a holiday in an RV is no different than celebrating in a normal Sticks & Bricks home. We love to decorate and prepare for the colder weather that comes with the holidays. While some RVs go all out and decorate the inside and out, we have always preferred something small and intimate. Add a little color, get the kids or fur kids involved, make some hot chocolate and put in White Christmas!
Preparing for the cold is what can be different than normal homes. We have to do a little more preparation to keep warm and dry inside. Other than that, we still have to shovel snow, plug in the car and make sure the heat is turned up! Our first winter in an RV was in 2016 and boy did we pick a crazy one for our first. There were multiple learning curves and struggles, but we wouldn't have changed it for anything! It's an experience and one that is worth doing. Being a full time RVer is not just one long trip, it's a lifestyle. A lifestyle with the same ups and downs as a "normal" home, just different.
For more detailed tips on preparing your RV for winter. Check out this article on 33andfree. The picture above proves they have really experienced Winter in an RV!
Our Holiday travel tip is to plan ahead with reservations! Campgrounds will be full. Recreational campers tend to come out on holidays which makes it harder to wing it with reservations. Remember, many of these campers have planned all year for this vacation so be patient with them and let them have fun!
If you think you’ll miss having big family and friend gatherings for the holidays because you’re out exploring and who really wants to travel over holidays anyways... Look no further than your campground! Most of them host holiday potluck style dinners where everyone who chooses can meet and enjoy a day with a “family” of nomads! The biggest thing we hear over and over that surprises people the most about full time RVing is just how much a community it is and how often you’ll meet up accidentally or intentionally.
The first two holiday seasons we were on the road full-time, we volunteered with Habitat for Humanity’s RV Care-A-Vanners. These are individuals who travel in their own recreation vehicles, covering their personal expenses, to Habitat affiliates across the United States and Canada, to help build houses with Habitat families. Each caravan usually lasts two weeks and includes eight to ten RV units. We found this to be a perfect way to experience the holiday season. We were able to donate our time and skills to a deserving cause. There are numerous worthy causes that could use help. Just pick one and give them a call.
Do you have more tips for celebrating the Holidays while living in an RV? Comment below to share your best tips!
Today’s RV models all come equipped with one or more flat screen TVs, but one of the most common questions new full-time RVers ask is how to access TV while traveling. When you are a weekend warrior TV is not a necessity in your RV, but once you go full-time, it is nice to have the option to relax in front of the screen on cool nights or rainy days.
This comprehensive guide describes the pros and cons of the four RV TV options:
Antenna TVStreaming ServicesSatellite TVCable TV
The simplest way to watch TV in your RV is to use an antenna to access over-the-air channels. Most new RV models come with built in HDTV antennas, so the only setup required is to turn on the TV and scan for channels from the main menu. The scanning process can take ten to fifteen minutes, so it is best to complete the scan on the first day you arrive. You lift the antenna by rotating a handle built into the ceiling of your RV. You do not have to raise the antenna to access channels, but you typically pick up more channels if it is up. If your signal is choppy or blurry, you can also use this manual control to move the antenna in another direction. Just don’t forget to put the antenna down before hitching up and driving to a new location. If your rig did not come equipped with an antenna, you can buy this one for under $40 on Amazon.
The number of channels varies greatly depending on the area, but most locations offer at least a couple of the main networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) and other channels like PBS and ION. You will never find cable-only channels like ESPN or Discovery. In most locations, we are able to watch twenty to fifty channels just using the antenna, but typically, only about five of the channels have shows worth watching. You can view the available channels at an RV park by going to TV Guide Listings. On the guide, you can enter the zip code and select antenna to see the full list of channels available. The guide is handing for finding what is on since the on screen guide is limited when watching over the air TV.
Over-the-air TV is free. If you are traveling on a budget, this is the best way to access TV without emptying your wallet.Local news channels are available so you can keep up with current events and happenings in the area you are currently located.Limited channels and no on demand options allow you to have TV when you really want it but won’t encourage you to sit on the couch all day.
Channels are limited. While most locations have a variety of channels, we have been in some locations where we only picked up one or two. If you watch cable series or want access to more movies and sports, you will need to have a paid TV service.Quality can vary by location, channels are often fuzzy and the signal often becomes blurry in heavy rain.
Streaming is the main way we currently access TV content in our fifth wheel. Of course, you have to have access to internet with reasonable speed and unlimited data to regularly stream movies and shows. When we first moved into our RV in 2016, we rarely found parks with reliable Wi-Fi but over the last year, we have found that the majority of private campgrounds are now offering improved internet connections, so we are streaming more often.
The simplest way to stream from your TV is to use a Roku. The Roku Expresscosts less than $30 and the installation process is super easy (you literally just plug it in to the HDMI port on your TV). It is also easy to move if you have multiple TVs. You can also use Apple TV, Google Chromecast or an Amazon Fire Cube, but the inexpensive Roku is the best value. The difficult part of streaming is choosing which service or services are the best fit for your traveling family.
Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu all offer a mix of cable TV series, movies and original content. You can browse the offerings on each service to choose the one that has the shows and movies you most want to watch. If you are not on a tight budget, you can easily subscribe to all three for way less than the cost of a typical sticks and bricks cable service. My preferred choice is Amazon Video because it is included with your Prime membership. The two-day shipping offered with Amazon Prime is a great for RVers because you can guarantee your online purchases will arrive at the RV park before you move on. Use this link to sign-up for a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime and Prime Video.
Sling TV is a streaming platform that lets you watch live TV. The best part of Sling is that you get to customize a package with only the channels you want, so you don’t pay for shows you don’t watch. The service starts at $25 per month, and is a great option if you just want access to certain cable channels like ESPN.
The last streaming option is premium channels. HBO, SHOWTIME and STARZ all have streaming-only subscriptions that allow you to access their movies and shows without a cable or satellite subscription. If you just want movies or love certain premium series, this is an affordable way to have limited TV. I love the series Shameless on SHOWTIME, so after each season finishes airing, I will pay for one month of their streaming subscription and watch the whole season before canceling.
If you are not a full-time RVer, you can also download Roku apps for most network and cable TV channels that allow you to stream on-demand shows and sports for free as long as you provide the login information for your home cable or satellite service.
Streaming provides variety. Most streaming services allow you to access a wide selection of movies and TV shows. Streaming also provides flexibility. You can cancel and re-subscribe as often as you like, so you only need to pay for the streaming services you are actively using and you can change services if you get bored.
Access will be limited by your internet connection. Streaming is only a good option if you plan to stay in private campgrounds with Wi-Fi or have unlimited hot spotting on your cell phone plan. If you plan to stay in state parks or boondock regularly, streaming may not be the best option.The price can add up. While the individual services are affordable, your monthly bill can add up if you subscribe to multiple services.
Satellite is the only way you can reliably access normal TV with all of the bells and whistles while living in an RV and traveling full-time. In the US, you have two choices for satellite TV: Dish and DirecTV. You can use the KING portable tailgater satellite dish with both companies (here is the link to buy the Dish versionand the DirecTV version). The offerings and prices are similar for both companies, except DirecTV offers NFL Sunday Ticket and more sports package options. If you do not need a sports package, just check which company is offering a better sign-up promotion when you are ready to subscribe. Dish also offers a Pay As You Go option that allows you to turn off service during months where you are not using your RV TV. This is a great option for RVers who only travel half the year or are not full time yet.
Satellite RV is just like TV in your sticks and bricks. You can get all the TV channels and include features like a DVR.Sports packages are available for fanatics who cannot miss a game while traveling.
This is the most expensive RV TV option. If you add premium channels, sports packages and a DVR the month bill can be very expensive.The satellite will not work if it obstructed by trees or bad weather. You will have to select open RV sites with less shade to make sure the satellite can get a strong signal.
If you have a cable input pre-installed on your RV, you can take advantage of free or paid cable that many RV parks offer. Most RV parks that offer cable have a hook-up in or near the electric box, so you just simply plug the cord into your RV and the park’s box. Free cable at campgrounds typically includes between 10 and 30 channels. The advantage of cable over antenna TV is that you often get a better channel line-up including programming like ESPN.
You can watch live cable channels, typically at no extra cost from the RV park.Since cable is from the local provider, you can access local news programs.
This TV option is only available at a limited number of private RV campgrounds. If you make this a requirement for selecting RV parks, you will not have many places to choose from.
The final option? Skip the TV and choose to focus more on being outdoors, reading and being productive. I am not ready to completely cut the cord yet, but I think it is an awesome thing to do.
We have one TV in our Grand Design Reflection fifth wheel and have chosen to use a combination of antenna and streaming to watch TV. We use to have a second TV that we could setup outside to watch football and basketball games, but it was shattered during a drive. When the Wi-Fi is bad, we just watch less TV and get outside more.
Whichever option you select as your RV TV solution, don’t forget to turn it off, get outside, and go enjoy your travels. Save TV for when you are sick or the weather is nasty!
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase a product after clicking my link to it. I only recommend products that I personally use and love.
As the holiday season approaches, it is time to start thinking about our Christmas and Hanukkah gifts for 2018. Everyone has a few people on their list that are impossible to shop for. Full-time RVers and travelers often fall under this category. What do you buy travelers who have chosen to downsize their possessions and live a more minimalist life? The key is to think small (literally) and avoid any gifts that will clutter a tiny space. If you buy full-time RVers something they do not need, it is either going to be a burden that takes up precious space or it will end up at the nearest thrift shop.
Here are my top 10 holiday (or birthday) gift recommendations for full-time RVers and travelers.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase a product after clicking my link to it. I only recommend products that I personally use and love.
1. Travel Scratch Map
This scratch map of the USis a great way for RVers to track where they have been and where they have yet to go. Many RVers have sticker maps, but I think the scratch version is much more fun! If your loved one is a global nomad, you can also buy a world version of the map here.
2. Backpacking Hammock
There is nothing better than cuddling up with a book in a beautiful setting. This hammockis super easy to hang from trees and it is compact and lightweight, making it the perfect relaxation solution for full-time RVers.
If your loved one is a true minimalist (i.e. they keep telling you not to buy them a gift), then a donation in their name is the perfect way to show your love without disrespecting their wishes. Most RVers love visiting our National Parks, so donating to the National Park Service is a perfect choice. If they do not have one yet, you could also gift a National Parks Pass. The pass costs $80 and allows free entrance into any National Park or Site for one year.
5. Gas Gift Card
Fuel to travel across the country can be very expensive, so a gift card to a national fuel chain would be a great gift for any RVer. While gifts cards are not the most exciting present to buy, they are practical and will be much appreciated. National truck stop chains (Pilot, Love’s) are the best options as they typically have room for RVs. You can also give gift cards to national restaurant chains, movie theaters or grocery stores.
6. Nesting Bowls
This nesting bowl and measuring cup setis a great space saver and the perfect gift for full-time RVers who love to cook in their rig. I particularly like this set because in addition to the bowls, it includes a stainless-steel mesh sieve and a large colander. Plus, the colors are really cute.
If you are look to spoil your favorite full-time traveler, a GoPro is an awesome gift. This compact camera will allow them to record all of their crazy adventures. The HERO5 modelis the best bang for your buck of the current models available.
Many full-time RVers love to read, but there is limited space for a library in an RV or travel trailer. A Kindleis the perfect gift for any traveler who loves to read. If you are feeling very generous, you can also order a few of your favorite books to download on the new device.
9. Hydration Backpack
For any full-timers who love to hike, a hydration backpack is a great gift. Hydration packs are normal backpacks that also have a large water pouch and drinking hose built in. This pack is a great size and affordably priced at under $30.
10. A Plane Ticket for You
There is nothing most full-time RVers would love more than to share their journey and new experiences with their close friends and family. Wrap up a homemade card promising to visit the RV at the destination of the recipient’s choice.
If you are making a stocking for a full-time RVer, here are some additional stocking stuffer ideas:
Roll of quarters for laundryHeadlamp to navigate dark RV parksGorilla tape to repair anything and everythingFun hiking socksCandy because it is the gift that will never make it back to the RV
Have other suggestions for holiday gifts for full-time RVers? Leave your idea in the comment box below.
While there are several ways to earn an income on the road, many new full-time RVers have taken a pay cut or are working on starting a new businesses. However, there are several easy ways to earn extra pocket money while traveling. Below are my top suggestions for earning a little cash to help pay for all of the adventures. None of these will pay your bills, so if you are looking for ways to fully support yourself on the road, check out my post on earning a paycheck.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase a product after clicking my link to it. I only recommend products and services that I personally use.
Get Paid to Shop:
There are several apps and websites that will give you cash back or gift cards in exchange for your shopping receipts or data. They key to earning money with these apps is to only purchase items you would have purchased regardless of any offers. Here are the five apps that I use regularly.
ReceiptHog - Simply snap pictures of your receipts from grocery stores and gas stations. You are given points that vary based on the amount you spent. The points can be cashed out for Amazon gift cards or they will pay you directly to your PayPal account. I typically make at least $50 per year using this app.
ReceiptPal - Again, all you have to do is snap a photo of the receipt. They accept any type of receipt from grocery stores to restaurants. You are given points every time you submit four receipts and once you have enough points you can redeem them for a gift card. I typically earn $50 a year with this app as well.
Fetch Rewards- Fetch is similar to the two apps above, but they only accept grocery receipts and give you more points if you buy brands they are promoting. You exchange points for gift cards not cash, but they have a huge selection of redemption options.
ibotta - ibotta gives you cash back for purchasing groceries, household items, beer and wine. They have cash back for specific brands and products, but for most grocery stores, you can get 25 cents for just scanning the receipt. I particularly love the cash back on a variety of beer brands. You can cash your money out through PayPal once you have $20 in your account. They will give you $10 if you sign-up through the link I provide. I have earned over $400 from this app in two years of using it.
eBates - eBates gives you cash back for shopping online at a huge number of retailers, including Amazon and Walmart. You simply go to their site first and then select the retailer you want to shop at. They send you cash through PayPal every few months. I have earned $47 this year using eBates. If you use my link to sign-up, you will receive $10 extra on your first cash back purchase.
There are 100s of companies that will pay you to take surveys online. Online surveys can range from a few minutes up to an hour and the rewards vary greatly. When signing up for survey communities, look for companies that pay cash instead of giving points for gift cards as you typically earn more with that system. My two favorites are:
Branded Surveys- This site has a large number of surveys and pays you cash directly through PayPal once you have made $10.
CitizenMe - This app doesn't have a large number of surveys, but their surveys are very short and pay well compared to other companies. They also send your reward to PayPal as soon as you complete the survey so you don't have to wait to rack up a certain number of points.
Sell the Clothes you Downsized:
Like most RVers you probably have or will need to downsize your closest. For nice pieces in good condition you can easily sell them online.
ThredUp - With ThredUp, they send you a bag to fill up with your gently used clothes. Once they receive the bag, they review all your items and set a list price. You get paid once your items sell. The downside of this site is that you do not get to set the price, but they do all the work for you.eBay - If you have higher end clothing or accessories, you will likely make more money selling them yourself on eBay or other listing apps like LetGo.
Have other ideas for earning extra pocket money on the road? Comment below to share.
When you are traveling full-time and working remote or temporary jobs, you are bound to spend significantly more time with your spouse than before you hit the road. While full-time RVing has unlimited benefits, there are definitely challenges to sharing a small space and leaving your community. Of course, to be successful in RV living you both need to be excited about your new lifestyle, but there are also some everyday considerations. Here I share some practical tips we've implemented to better partners in the full-time RV lifestyle.
Schedule your Showers:
Hot water is limited in RVs and travel trailers. While there is typically enough hot water for two people to take quick showers back to back, you will easily use all of the hot water during a normal shower. Talk through your schedules and make sure your showers are scheduled at least 30 minutes apart to avoid an ice bath. Keep in mind that hot water will be even more limited when you are camping in mild climates. In addition to hot water, you also need to remember that only one person can use water in the RV at a time. If you try to wash dishes while your spouse is in the shower, they will lose water pressure and get a shot a cold water. It took a year for my husband to learn to stop using the kitchen sink while I am in the shower.
Respect Work Spaces:
Many of us full-time RVers are also digital nomads who work from a computer. Even if you have an dedicated work space in the RV, you are unlikely to have a whole room dedicated to your mobile office. When you or your spouse are working, you should act as though you are at an office. Be quiet while the other person is working and try to avoid distracting your partner. You'll have more time to enjoy together if you are allowed to work efficiently. Of course, you can also schedule breaks for lunch and walks to take advantage of the additional time you have together. We are still working on this one. As I am writing this blog, my husband has interrupted me several times to talk about football :)
Go to Bed at the Same Time:
RVs do not have good sound barriers and they can be a bit bouncy. If your husband is watching TV late at night while you are sleeping and you are doing yoga in the morning while he is trying to snooze, fights are sure to ensue. Getting on the same schedule will allow you both to rest peacefully.
Divide and Conquer:
There are good deal of new chores involved with living in an RV. Dividing these tasks will help you become experts more quickly and avoid fights while you are on the road. During the set-up and hook-up process, we each have clear responsibilities. I pick-up the inside, put in the slides and handle the leveling system. My husband set-ups the water, sewer and drives the truck. While we are parked, he goes to the laundromat and handles the dumping and cleaning of our grey and black tanks. I am better at reading instructions, so I am in charge of finding solutions when the inevitable maintenance issues arise. Setting clear responsibilities before you hit the road will create a smoother transition into RV living.
While you definitely need to enjoy spending time with your spouse to be successful at RV life, it is still important to have time away from each other. One of the amazing things about traveling full-time, is that you can easily visit new and old friends across the country. Make sure to schedule stops to near friends and family and allow your spouse to have quality time with their girlfiends or boys.
If you move in with a strong relationship, living in an RV with your spouse will be a blast. Having the opportunity to experience new places and adventures every week, will enhance your lives and make your relationship more exciting.
Have any concerns about living in a tiny space with your spouse? Comment below to share.
Having quality internet in your RV is essential for digital nomads who rely on computers to support full-time RVing. The two main options for reliable internet service are satellite and mobile hotspots. Below are the pros and cons of each option. Before selecting your RV internet plan, you should calculate exactly how may GB of data you currently use across all of your devices. Knowing how much data you need will allow you to select the best plan.
RV Campground Wi-Fi
Many private campgrounds provide free Wi-Fi to anyone staying at the park. However, the quality of these networks are not always great. In our first year of RVing, we did not find any parks where the Wi-Fi actually worked. In the past year, we have found more parks with reliable internet. I am not sure if this is luck or if parks are investing more in Wi-Fi. If you just need internet for personal use, relying on Wi-Fi at campgrounds and local cafes is fine. If you work from your computer full-time, you probably need to select one of the other options below.
Not reliableNot available at most state and national parks
Mobile Cellular HotSpots
Many wireless plans from cellular providers offer the option to set-up a mobile hotspot to tether internet from your phone to your computer or other devices. I have a plan with Verizon that includes 30GB of data for my phone and hotspot. The plan costs $169 per month and provides reliable internet anywhere Verizon has coverage. I can check the Verizon coverage map online to see if I will have a good 4G connection before booking an RV spot. My husband has his plan through AT&T and it includes 15GB of hot spotting so I can use his phone in areas where Verizon doesn't have good coverage. I won't recommend a specific plan as wireless providers change their offerings frequently (my 30GB plan from Verizon is not available to new customers). You should look for plans with the most data and good coverage nationally. Keep in mind, that unlimited plans often have limits on mobile hotspot usage or slow your connection down once you have hit a limit. I also recommend buying a hotspot device or jetpack separate from your phone as hotspotting from your phone eats up battery life quickly.
Affordable if you bundle with your cell phone planReliable coverage across the country
Does not work in places where there is no cell coverageData may be limited or connection slowed down after limit is reached
The final option for traveling RV internet is satellite. RVDataSat offers satellite internet plans for RVers. This is the most expensive option with high speed plans costing several hundreds of dollars per month. When I first started full-timing, many blogs and RV resources recommended satellite internet but the cost of cellular plans has dropped quite a bit in the last few years. The only reason to choose satellite internet is if you plan to stay way off the beaten path in areas that do not have any cell service.
Works anywhere you have a clear southern skyHigh speed available
When we decided to move into an RV full-time, there was no question that our dog (Ted) and cat (Mr. Man) would join us on the road. However, traveling with a cat has definitely been a bit more challenging than traveling with a dog. Mr. Man requires more stuff, like a litter box and scratching post, and we had difficulty finding a good cat enclosure so he could enjoy the outdoors while we are parked. Below are tips on how to make the best RV life for your traveling cat.
This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you purchase a product after clicking my link to it.
How your cat travels will depend on their temperament and if they get car sick. When we first starting traveling with our fifth wheel, we placed Mr. Man in his carrier in the back seat of the truck. After listening to him howling for over two hours, we knew we were going to have to let him out of the carrier. Then, we encountered our second problem, Mr. Man started getting car sick and throwing up a few hours into each road trip. Our long-term solution for traveling with Mr. Man is to give him Dramamine thirty minutes before hitting the road and letting him use the center console of our truck as his bed while we travel (see him pictured above snuggling with my coffee). We have found Dramamine to be very effective, but you should consult with your vet and ask them the proper dosage before giving any medicine to your cat. If your cat is docile in their carrier or if you can't trust them not to try to climb on the driver, then you should keep them in a carrier while driving. It will likely take some trial and error to figure out the right spot in your truck or motorhome. You also need to consider access to the litter box while traveling. Given that Mr. Man has a sensitive stomach, we leave the litter box in the back of the truck so he has full access to it on the road. It is not ideal to travel with a smelly box, but it is better than the alternative of him using the truck floor. If you do not travel with a litter box in your tow vehicle, you should allow the cat access to the litter box in the RV every few hours. You can shut your cat in the bathroom with the litter box, so they can't hide from you to avoid returning to the truck.
Mr. Man made it clear he wanted to be outside from day one in the RV. He would jump over our heads when we opened the door and he even figured out how to open the screen door with his paw. We were happy to let him outside, but did not want to let him roam freely given the large number of cars and dogs in most RV parks. Our first attempt at outdoor time involved harnesses and leashes. However, Mr. Man escaped from everyone of these contraptions including the harness that advertised even "ninja cats" could not escape it. Next, we tried a few soft-sided cat enclosures. These worked pretty well at containing Mr. Man but they got destroyed pretty quickly from his scratching and playing. Finally, we purchased this collapsible, metal pet kenneland it has been a great solution. Mr. Man loves to go in his new enclosure, and we are happy knowing he is secure and can't escape. If your cat isn't a fan of the outdoors, you will need to consider how to keep them entertained indoors with lots of toys and potentially a small kitty condo.
The Litter Box:
Where do you put a litter box when you are living in an RV that is only a few hundred square feet or even smaller? There are several options, but it is definitely best if you can account for the litter box when you are shopping for RVs and selecting the best floorplan for your family. Many RVers place the litter box in the shower, but we found this not to be an ideal solution. Moving the litter box every time you shower and making sure no litter particles end up in your grey tank was frustrating. Our current solution is to place the litter box in the short hallway beside the bathroom of our fifth wheel, but we plan to remove our dinette table and chairs and place a piece of furniture to hold the litter box in that space. If you have a cabinet or closet in your RV that has sufficient space for the litter box, you can install a cat door and hide the litter box. If your litter box is not fully contained in a cabinet, make sure to buy one with a lid to limit odor and tracking of litter. In a small space, you are also going to want to shell out the extra money for quality cat litter that reduces odor and clean the box at least once every day. When purchasing or redesigning your RV, you are also going to want to allocate space for a scratching post to ensure your cat doesn't tear up the furniture.
Vet Visits and Vaccination Records:
When we first moved into our RV, we tried to keep all of our annual vet check-ups and vaccination appointments in our previous home of Raleigh, NC. We soon realized, that different vaccinations are needed at different times and it is not realistic to use a single provider. Now, we just take Mr. Man to the nearest local vet that has positive reviews on Google. To keep his records organized, we ask each Vet to print out a copy of the vaccination and check-up report. We store these hard copies in the glove compartment of our truck so they are easy accessible if we are asked for proof of vaccination. I also take a picture of the record and save a copy in my email so we have back-up if the hard copies are lost.
If you have any other questions about traveling in an RV with cats, comment below with your question.