Living in a motorhome
January 1, 2006 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I've decided to buy a motorhome and travel the US for the next year or so. Other than short trips, I've never lived in an rv. Anyone have any advice for living on the road?
posted by Bighappyfunhouse to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've heard that you can park overnight for free at any Walmart. Might be useful info in a pinch, though I'm sure you don't want to spend every night there.
posted by JamesMessick at 1:37 PM on January 1, 2006

Have you looked at your gas budget? I'm not kidding.
posted by nathan_teske at 1:37 PM on January 1, 2006

We have an RV and no, you cannot park free overnight at any walmart. Most probably, but not all. Some of them don't like the truckers and RVers in their lot. I know there's a walmart in North Adams, Mass that doesn't let you park overnight.

Just ask an employee who will ask a superior. Or just look for the truckers.

And yes, the gas is way, way too expensive for most people to afford.
posted by puke & cry at 2:06 PM on January 1, 2006

You can stay overnight in most rest areas in the US as long as you sleep inside your vehicle. Some of them have eight hour limits, very few of them will not allow it. If you've got a small motorhome, you can generally park them in hotel parking lots and/or on streets in more residential areas as well as Walmart if you're just looking to get some shut-eye.

Get a AAA Plus membership (or corresponding green car club which I can't remember the info for) and make sure you understand what the motorhome rules/regs are, because they're different than for cars/trucks. Make plentiful use of their free maps and tour books and camp books.

Consider making use of a mail drop, or familiarize yourself with General Delivery rules, they're surpisingly lenient. Most public libraries in the US have a way for you to check your email, have a back-up plan if you're someplace your cel phone doesn't reach. Think about satellite radio.

Group your stuff in the motorhome into short term, long term and ready-at-hand storage areas. If you're going to be gone for a whole year long-term might be like winter clothes, spare shoes/socks, some staple food/money in a pinch. Short term is like clothes, backpack, toiletries, reading material, maps. Ready-at-hand is like a cooler, GPS, radio, map for whever you are, cel phone etc. Have a staging area for getting things into and out of the vehicle. Have a "there's a place to get a shower" bag if the opportunity strikes.

Use compartmentalization like milk crates and tupperware for MUCH more than you think you'd need it for. If you're sleeping aboard, have a routine for converting your day camper into your night camper, it makes thing much simpler. Make sure you have stuff like sun shades, bug screen for windows, flashlights, bug spray, spare money, spare snacks and spare water in case of emergencies.

Take plenty of pictures and keep some sort of a journal. If you're doing somethign online, get into a routine of downloading pictures and/or writing about it on a regular basis. Nothing feels like drudgery more than having to pore through three weeks of pictures, keep things current. Make sure if you're doing a lot of driving that you have an exercise plan if you're not a hiking/biking sort. It's easy to get really soft because you feel like you're moving when you're driving but you're really not.

Above all, don't be afraid to improvise. Have a somewhat flexible schedule and don't always think about getting to the next place because a lot of the fun things you see are during the drive. Have fun, I've done a lot of driving around the US, email is in my profile if you'd like to chat more.
posted by jessamyn at 2:35 PM on January 1, 2006 [3 favorites]

A good place to get free wireless on a consistent basis is Panera Bread. In addition, if you get a T-Mobile Hotspot account, you're pretty covered since you can also use Starbucks and Borders wireless, and I think it's only $20/mo if you have a T-Mobile wireless account.
posted by kcm at 2:55 PM on January 1, 2006

Make sure you take along an alternate means of transport - a bicycle, if nothing else, though a small motorized scooter would be even more preferable. The point being that once you arrive at a place you want to stay at for a couple of days, you probably won't appreciate the need to pack up the motorhome every time you want to go and see anything of local interest.

I particularly admire the the setups where people take along a small 4-wheel drive vehicle (is the correct US term 'SUV'?) on a trailer behind the motorhome, giving them a great deal of freedom to explore.
posted by planetthoughtful at 3:33 PM on January 1, 2006

There's an ethnography of RVers that you might find interesting and also somewhat useful. It's called "Over the Next Hill" by Dorothy and David Counts. There's a short article about it here. Their focus is on people who retire to their RVs, so the information has a lot to do with seniors, but there're some great stories and some useful information that I think anyone could enjoy.
posted by carmen at 4:04 PM on January 1, 2006

You've never lived in an about a small apartment? Since you have apparently been in an RV, you know how small they are - even the huge land cruisers have limited space. Start now practicing living in a smaller space. Mark off areas of rooms (or entire rooms) in your house or apartment and do not enter them (especially kitchen and bathroom). Assuming you (like most people) have too much stuff to bring it all with you, start sorting and storing right away. Get used to not being able to have all kinds of extra crap around - whether it's a month's worth of TP instead of a week's, or something like entertainment materials (a bunch of books/movies/music).

The Good Sam Club (no relation to the Wal*Mart-owned club store) is popular among RVers.

Some of the best traveling advice I've ever heard, and it's probably even more applicable to living out of an RV for a year than to a week's vacation:

Lay out all the clothes you think you'll need, and all the money you think you'll need. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.

Seriously though - take versatile clothing items; any supplies or equipment you might need, that you already own or that would be expensive to re-purchase; and plenty of cash. Don't overdo it on equipment, especially larger things like, say, lawn chairs - if it's just you, maybe take two, but why would you ever need four? Don't lug a full-size grill when a little hibachi would work fine.

Sounds like a blast, have fun with it!
posted by attercoppe at 4:52 PM on January 1, 2006

Check out, especially the Fulltiming forum. Plenty of experienced people there willing to help. I'm planning to do the same thing real soon, already got my rig and it's 95% ready to go. When my house sells, I'm off. Happy travels, and maybe we'll cross paths some day.
posted by knave at 5:44 PM on January 1, 2006

We have a 20 foot ultra-light camper (3500 pounds) that can be towed by a mini-van. It gets alot better gas mileage than a motorhome, and has the advantage of being able to leave the camper at the RV park when driving downtown into a big city at night.
posted by rfs at 6:15 PM on January 1, 2006

If your getting something in the class A, 25'+ land yacht size you'll find a truck style gas stops much easier to use than their smaller car targeted brethren, especially if your rig runs on diesel. Be courteous to the commercial traffic and try not to hold them up. 15 minutes delay for you is nothing, 15 minutes delay for a guy driving a tractor can be the difference between sleeping in his own bed or not. A CB is worth the couple hundred bucks for your transciever and antenna IMHO.
posted by Mitheral at 8:16 PM on January 1, 2006

Edit, edit, edit - space is at a premium and the more stuff you have, the more hassle you have. Mall parking lots are often okay to stop in for a bit (just make sure you're as far away from stores/customers as you can get). Don't be afraid to ask for help/advice - RVers are generally a helpful bunch.

Here's a blog of a woman doing the same thing. I believe she's staying in one spot for the winter, so dig into her archives for her experiences. She also links to other people doing the same thing.
posted by deborah at 3:07 PM on January 2, 2006

We live full-time in our RV. It's a wonderful life, I have learned so much living in different parts of the country. You've been given good information...the web is your friend. But you'll find that much of what you find on the web assumes you are retired, in reality we meet many, many folks who are younger and still working, (we travel for our work). But people in parks are usually great and love to share the hard earned knowledge they have.
Some practical advice...sign up for more than one road asistance program ( AAA, Good Sam, FMAC, ect.) You WILL need them sooner or later. Plan to keep a stash of cash on board ( in smaller bills). Car repairs and such can be a nightmare or a funny story depending on how prepared you are. Bring very little stuff. Chances are you can buy anything you need once you are out there ( there are thrift shops in most every town) and you'll have a much better idea of what you need after you've been on the road a while. Also, don't assume that every item has to be travel sized and /or plastic. Full size things are usually cheaper and often don't really take up more space, but you can't really shop at Costco. But by all means take you favorite ceramic coffee mug.
You don't mention if you'll have a tow car, but it's something you should consider. It's a big deal to pack up your rig just to go to the grocery store, plus some sightseeing is really only possible in a smaller car.
Going to really hot or cold climate takes planning...ask around the RV sites first.
And last, but not least, really take the time to choose your rig and learn about it. Take some short test trips near home so you can go back to your dealer and get things straight before you head out. Look for phone and internet contacts so you can get later questions answered.
It's a great thing to do...Good Luck!
posted by what-i-found at 8:26 PM on January 2, 2006

Opps...That should say FMCA...Family Motor Coach Association.
posted by what-i-found at 8:29 PM on January 2, 2006

« Older New Year's resolution: Find a real career.   |   Standards and pop songs for wedding reception Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.