If you’re thinking or wondering about going full-time, keep reading! These are the top 15 things we learned in our first five weeks on the road as full-time RV beginners.
After buying our first Class A Motorhome in September 2020, we traveled part-time and worked from home (in the RV) for eight months. We were complete beginners.
We started the adventure with a three-week road trip, bringing the RV home from Des Moines, IA to Seattle, WA. Through the winter and spring of 2021, we alternated two weeks out in the RV, and then we’d be in town for two weeks to catch up on laundry and life at home.
In May 2021, we went full-time, moving from our high-rise condo downtown Seattle into Charlie The Unicorn, our 40-foot 2016 Entegra Aspire Class A Motorhome.
For the first five weeks, we “circled the harbor” in the Bellingham, WA, area, to get ourselves settled in the RV and ready to set forth across the country.
In order to make this full-time RV dream a reality, we had to solve immediate challenges in those first weeks:
- How to prepare for full-time RV living by getting rid of A TON OF STUFF.
- Where to find a place to park in 2021… and what’s an RV membership club?
- If you live in an RV full-time, what is your permanent address?
This post is all about our full-time RV beginner experience and the lessons we learned that could help you make the leap, too.
Here we go–
Full-Time RV Beginners: Top 15 Things We Learned
Week 1 & 2 – Beachwood Resort – Blaine, WA
1. You need to get rid of stuff.
More stuff than you can imagine. More stuff than you will expect, even after you go through all of your stuff and think you’ve taken only the most important stuff to the RV.
It’s not going to fit.
We finally got to the RV with only the very most important things for full time RV survival…
And I still spent the first two weeks finding and making several trips to the donation center in town, taking more stuff to our kid’s apartment, and making one more two-hour trip back to the storage unit in Seattle.
Minimalism is the key to two people living and working from home comfortably, in less than 400sf of mobile space.
We’re finally getting there.
2. WHERE WILL WE STAY???
Finding campgrounds and places to park our 40-foot RV has been one of my biggest worries from the beginning. This literally kept me up at night, months before making the leap to full-time, especially heading into Summer 2021 with the much-publicized SURGE in RV enthusiasm.
One solution: Join a private membership resort.
It’s not necessarily cheap, but it can be a great investment, if it makes sense.
We learned about RV membership programs after “winning” a free week’s stay at a resort campground in a drawing we entered during a random stop at Camping World. Why not?
Believe it or not, after arranging the free week and agreeing to a “tour of the property,” and then sitting through a time-share-type sales presentation (to which we were extremely skeptical and resistant)… it ended up making sense, for our particular situation.
(I’m NOT saying it would make sense for you or any other RV beginners just starting out. You have to do your research — lots of research — and make your own decision.)
With our membership, we can stay at our “home park” for free, two weeks at a time, anytime, all year long.
–> They will always have room for us, even on holidays.
The only limitation, to prevent members from straight-out full-time, permanent residence at a vacation resort campground, is that members have to leave the park and stay somewhere else for one week, between two-week stays.
Fortunately, our membership came with Resort Parks International (RPI) Gold and Coast to Coast Deluxe camping memberships. With those programs, we can stay at affiliated campgrounds nearby, and across the country, for $10 per night, with full hook-ups, for up to two weeks at a time.
3. First Holiday Weekend: Memorial Day 2021
Holiday Weekends during the summer are the most popular times to camp in the history of the universe (and probably before that).
Everyone wants to get out and get back to nature in their tent or trailer or RV.
Beat the traffic: Arrive mid-week, Sunday – Wednesday.
The Weekend Warriors start rolling in en masse Thursday and Friday. (In some places, literally lining up for miles outside the campground waiting to get in.)
Families arrive in multi-generation groups. Grandma & Grandpa might arrive earlier in the week, in their larger motorhome or 5th wheel trailer, to claim spaces and set up camp.
Adult kids, with children, bicycles, and dogs tend to arrive late Thursday or Friday, in smaller RVs, pop-up tent trailers, and auxiliary tents (for the older children).
As soon as they arrive, kids are set loose in the safe family campground environment: Making new friends. Running and biking all over. Playing kickball in the big field. Big kids watching little kids. Swimming and playing in the pool, with group adult supervision.
There was even an ICE CREAM TRUCK, irresistible siren song chiming, driving through the campground all weekend!
It was a beautiful, nostalgic weekend, with campfires at night, big group cookouts, and the amazing scent of bbq on the evening breeze.
By Monday afternoon… everyone was gone.
Except for us, and a few longer-term holdouts.
4. Establishing your domicile (permanent address).
As a full-time RVer, you still need a permanent address. A real, physical legal and mailing address for your Driver’s License, vehicle registrations, banks, bills & insurance companies.
There are many ways to solve this, but our solution was to lease an apartment with our son (20 year-old full-time college student) and use that as our permanent & mailing address “home base” for the next year or two while we are traveling.
Because of ongoing Covid restrictions in Washington State (Summer 2021), we were able to change our permanent address and take care of most of the other domicile arrangements online:
- Change permanent & mailing address online with USPS.
- Update driver’s licenses online with state Department of Licensing.
- Transfer voter’s registration to new address, if possible, with change to driver’s license.
- Switch vehicle licensing to new address online with state Department of Licensing.
- Notify all banks, insurance companies, bills, and credit card companies of new address.
- Most exciting (to me): Register for a NEW LIBRARY CARD* at the local library! (Had to go in person to pick it up :-))
* Did you know? With a local library card, you can borrow and read free ebooks (including Kindle and other readers), audiobooks, and magazines from the national library system through OverDrive.com. Your local library will have all the info on how you can access and borrow online. The thing is, local libraries verify your permanent address every year, and will yank your access if you can’t go in and show them your driver’s license as proof of residency. So if you’re getting a new driver’s license, go get a new library card, too, and enjoy unlimited access to all the great information and resources on the library system via OverDrive — it’s FREE!
5. Lingering impact of Covid-19.
Our home park is in Blaine, WA, on the U.S. – Canadian border.
While the U.S. is opening up and getting back to normal, Canada is still closed to non-essential travel (and camping).
This is so strange, in the Summer of 2021.
Normally, Blaine and surrounding areas would be packed with Canadian travelers, coming and going. Many of the seasonal vacation properties, RV properties & membership sites in the Blaine, Birch Bay, and Bellingham communities are owned by Canadians.
Right now, Blaine is a ghost town.
Although we’ve had no problems getting reservations in our area membership parks this summer, it will be interesting to see what happens when the border opens up.
At the end of our first two weeks full-time at the home park, we moved Charlie to another campground, about two miles away, where the lessons learned as full-time RV beginners in our first five weeks continued…
Go to Part 2 of 3: Birch Bay Thousand Trails RV Campground