First Time RVing? 24 Thing I Wish I Knew (Before We Started)

In RV living by Christopher Schopf

I’ve been RVing, but I’ve never gone full-timing in an RV. For this reason, I decided to find out what people who have full timed wish they would have known before they went full time.

Here are some of the most common tips from people who have become full-time RVers.

1) It’s Harder to Boondock in the Northeast

Many young people get into RVing because they think it will be a great way to save money on rent. If they live on the west coast and are willing to live on public land, this is a viable option.

However, people in the northeastern part of the country often find that there aren’t many free places to park.  BLM land isn’t very prolific in that area of the country and many towns have bans against sleeping in public areas in an RV.

This is especially true near the larger cities like Philadelphia and New York.

These people quickly realize that they are paying just as much to park as they would have paid to rent an apartment.  In the end, many of these people end up wishing they had put a little more thought into where they will be able to park.

2) Campground Memberships Can Save A lot of Money

I’ve heard from a few people that wish they hadn’t signed up to campground memberships.  These people signed up for several of them and paid a lot of money to do so.  They didn’t use the memberships as much as they thought they would have and ended up wasting money.

However, I’ve heard from more people who wished they had known about campground memberships when they were first starting out.

These people were spending time in areas where they could have saved a lot of money by purchasing a campground membership.

Some of these people have now begun to take advantage of these memberships and they are having more fun this way.

Reason being, they don’t have to move as often and they are spending less money to stay overnight in better places.  Basically, they’ve gone from Walmart parking lots to resorts with pools, hot tubs, and fitness centers.

3) Comfort Matters More Than Aerodynamics

Airstream classic with more headspace

A lot of people looking into RVing are extremely concerned about gas mileage as well as finding a unique looking camper.  These people gravitate towards narrow campers or campers with sloped roofs.

Over time, many of these people find the lack of space stifling.  These people like the lifestyle but they want more space.

They end up getting a larger, boxier camper that is not built with aerodynamics in mind and they end up noticing very little difference.  This is because these people weren’t traveling often enough for the aerodynamic shape to benefit them.

For this reason, many slow-traveling full-time RVers wish they knew how valuable increased comfort is when RVing.  These people could have saved themselves a lot of time and effort by simply buying the most comfortable RV first rather than the most aerodynamic.

4) A Large RV Can Be Restrictive

Every once in a while I come across a person that wishes they had bought a larger RV to start with.  These are usually people who either started out really small or decided to slow travel across the country in a micro RV.

More often than not, however, most full-timers wish they had known to get a smaller RV from the start.  This is probably because a smaller RV is much easier to travel with.

People who are traveling often find that smaller RVs are easier to drive, easier to set up and cost less to operate.

On top of all of this, smaller RVs give travelers more options.  This is because a small RV can fit into small parking spaces.  This is especially important for people staying in state and national parks where there can be restrictions on RVs.

Go to https://www.godownsize.com/maximum-rv-size-national-state-parks/ to see what some of the state and national park size restrictions are for RVs.

5) Maintenance Needs to Be Done Frequently

People often fail to realize how much maintenance needs to be done on an RV.  These people wish they knew this in advance for a variety of different reasons.

For starters, many people do not budget enough to cover maintenance costs.  Some of these people even end up having to quit full-timing because they run out of funds.

Another reason people wish they knew how much maintenance needs to be done on an RV is that they would have learned how to do it before they left.  These people want to do their own maintenance but they don’t have the skills, the knowledge, or the tools to do so.

Lastly, some people simply wouldn’t have gone full-time if they knew how much work it was going to be.  These people had visions of a never-ending vacation and they became disappointed when they realized how much maintenance was involved.

6) RVing Can Cost A Lot of Money

Many people become full-time RVers and they end up spending a lot more money than they thought they would.  This is another instance in which people wish they knew this ahead of time for different reasons.

One of the primary reasons people wish they knew this is that they would have saved more money.  These people have already retired and they are now realizing that they may not have budgeted properly for it.

Another reason people wish they knew this is that they might not have gone full-time in the first place.

These people became full-time RVers to save money and they aren’t saving nearly as much as they had envisioned.

Lastly, some people would have liked to have known how much RVing was going to cost because they would have planned to work while out on the road.  These people could have taken their jobs with them but decided to put their notice in instead.

7) Cell Phone Reception Is a Big Factor

A lot of people find that their phones are not very good for travel.  These people had great reception in their area but lost it as soon as they went into another area of the country.

Many of these people miss their old friends and family members and they find they can’t even give them a call.

These people wish they knew to check coverage maps before they hit the road.

If they had known they wouldn’t have cell phone reception or Internet while out on the road, they would have gone with a different cell phone plan.

In the end, many of these people end up either getting a second cell phone plan or a lot of equipment intended to extend the range of their current coverage.  Sometimes these range extenders work and other times they do not.

8) You Can’t See Everything at Once

It seems that most full-time RVers view full-time RVing like it is going to be a vacation.

They picture themselves quickly driving across the country while exploring new places each and every day.  Many of them plan to see the entire country in just a year or two while full-timing.

These people end up realizing that this pace just isn’t possible.

They end up wishing that they had known this in advance so that they could have planned for it better.

In fact, a lot of these people would have completely changed their plans if they had realized their pace would need to be slower.  They may have planned to go full-time longer or they may have planned to skip full-timing and to have just gone on prolonged trips every year for a longer period of time.

9) RV Parks Can Be Very Loud

Full-time RVing is often portrayed as a nice relaxing vacation where people are sitting quietly outside their RVs while enjoying the beautiful scenery around them.

When people see these videos, they begin to think that this is what it would be like in an RV park.

When these RVers do hit the road and begin to stay in RV parks, they find that the exact opposite is true.  They end up staying in loud and crowded RV parks with swarms of children running around.

Unfortunately, these people had planned on staying in RV parks full-time and they end up regretting this decision.

Many of these people eventually find places that suit them but it takes a lot of time.  These people end up wishing they knew all of this before they started full-timing.

10) Life on The Road Can Be Isolating

Solo travelers often find that solo RVing is isolating.  These RVers are usually people who are more introverted.  They believed that since they like a lot of alone time at home, they’d love the additional alone time they’d get while out on the road.

The problem is that they hadn’t quite considered just how much time they actually spent interacting with people.  They spent time with co-workers, neighbors, and the friends and family members that lived nearby.

Once these people hit the road, they found themselves completely alone.

Many of these people wish they had known this in advance so that they could have scheduled their trips around visiting family and friends.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard from many full-timers who just found the isolation to be too much. 

These people ended up quitting full-timing within a few short months of starting.

11) The Loss Of Routine Can Be Stressful

A lot of people underestimate how important their routines were to them.  These people had gotten tired of their daily life and were looking forward to the adventure of going full-time.

What many of these people found, however, was that they missed their routines.

The routines that they had become accustomed too made life simple and less stressful for them.

After a few weeks or even months of being out on the road, these people finally realized that they needed to establish a routine to live by while full-timing.  The new routines they created made their new lives easier and they finally felt at home in their RVs.

However, these people felt that if they had quickly established new routines, their first few months on the road would have been a lot less stressful.

12) The Grass Is Always Greener

Often-times, new full-time RVers quickly realize that the old adage that, “the grass is always greener on the other side” applies to full-time RVing as well.  These people thought that everything would be better when they switched from apartment living to RV living and instead they found that they still had problems to deal with.

The only difference was that the problems were different and they didn’t quite have the experience to deal with them.

These new full-time RVers wished that they would have learned to enjoy the life they had rather than switching to a new one. 

Unfortunately, full-timers who express this regret never really wanted to go full-time in the first place and they wish that they had known that before they made such a dramatic life change.

13) Homes Appreciate and RVs Do Not

People who begin full time RVing when they’re young, often express regret for not thinking about home appreciation.

These people knew that their RVs would depreciate and that a house would appreciate but they didn’t quite think about how this could affect their financial future.

Many of these people find out that their friends have made tens of thousands of dollars selling homes they lived in and they wish they had done the same thing.  While they don’t regret the fun they had full-timing, they do regret that they did not have the financial advantages that their homeowner friends had.

In the end, they wish they knew a little more about the benefits of owning a home versus owning an RV.

Tip
Here’s a complete guide we did on exactly how fast RVs depreciate. We included examples of each type of RV you can think off. It’s a really helpful guide to read before you decide what to get.

14) You Don’t Have to be Debt Free Before Hitting The Road

Others regret not hitting the road sooner.  These people had some debt that they wanted to pay off before hitting the road.

They wanted to reduce their stress and play it safe so that they wouldn’t want to run into any financial troubles.

After being on the road, these people found that they could have paid off the debt while full-timing. 

They love being on the road and they are saving money while doing it.  These folks begin to wish that they had known all these years ago as they would have become full-time RVers sooner.

15) It’s Possible to Earn and Save a Lot of Money on The Road

Me working from Starbucks on Crete

Me working from Starbucks on Crete

Sometimes people fail to realize how easy it can be to earn money while traveling.  These people don’t think they’ll be able to earn a living while full-timing so they plan and save for many years before doing so.

After traveling for a little while, these people find many opportunities to earn money while traveling.

They end up earning more money for themselves while full-time RVing than they had when they were living in a house.

These people wish they had known this beforehand because they too would have started full-timing much sooner.  They would have saved less money or possibly bought a more expensive RV because they would not have been so worried about not having enough money while traveling.

16) You Have a Lot More Time

Slow travelers and stationary full-timers often express regret at not knowing just how much extra time they’d have while full-time RVing.

These people had hectic lives and the sudden increase in free time to themselves can often be a little traumatic.

These folks wish they had known this so that they could have scheduled more activities to keep their minds occupied as they transitioned into the full-time lifestyle.

They eventually find things to fill up their days but they wish they hadn’t had to go through such a rough transition in the first place.

17) With a Little Research, You Can Stay in Great Places for Free

While some people wish they knew they wouldn’t have many free places to stay, others wish they knew that they could have had more free places to stay.

These people end up spending a lot of money on campgrounds and parks in their first year of full-time RVing.

After a while, these people meet others who tell them about all of the free camping spots that are available to them.

They try some of the free camping spots and they fall in love with them.  Examples, of people doing this, can be found all over the northwestern part of the country where BLM land is plentiful and many free camping spots sit on top of beautiful landscapes.

In the end, these RVers wish they had known about all the great free camping spots.  If they had known about them before they hit the road they could have saved money and had more fun.

18) It’s Not Unusual to Switch Spots Within an RV Park

Not all spots within an RV park are created equal.  Often, people will pull into a campground only to find that they are stuck with the worst spot in the campground.  This might be a spot near the dumpster or outhouses or it could just be a spot that doesn’t have a very good view.

One day, the new full-time RVer becomes so dissatisfied with their parking spot that they ask if they can change spots when more become available.  The campground host cheerfully agrees and the RVer ends up moving to a great spot a day or two later.  The RVer has just discovered that changing spots is easy to do and well worth the additional effort.

At this point, the RVer thinks back to all of the bad spots that they stayed in and were unhappy about.  This RVer comes to regret not knowing that they could have easily moved from those spots if they had only asked to do so.

19) Traveling Can Get Boring Over Time

Many full-timers have some experience with short trips before they transition to full-time living.  These people have a lot of fun traveling for short periods of time and they believe that they will have even more fun when they become full-time RVers.

Unfortunately, these people end up finding that full time RVing isn’t as exciting as they thought it would be.  These RVers get bored and they begin to wish they had stuck to just going on short RV trips.

A lot of times, these people make the transition back to a more traditional lifestyle and they save RVing for vacations.  These people wish they had known this in advance as they would not have sold their home and made such dramatic changes in their lives.

20) You Don’t Have to Do It Forever

Some RVers approach full-time RVing like they would a marriage.  They deliberate on the decision for a long time because they believe that once they go full-time they’ll be obligated to do it forever.  Some of these people end up becoming full-time RVers forever.

Others become full-time RVers and they eventually quit full-time RVing and resume their normal life.  In this case, these RVers regret not considering the possibility that they might not go full time for the rest of their lives.  These people may have deliberated less and they may have saved some of the things they got rid of in preparation for full-time life.

21) The Weather Can Make Things Really Difficult

Full-time RVers are much more in tune with the weather than people who live in homes.  The reason for this is that they are much more exposed to it.

Temperature changes happen more dramatically in an RV and weather can change travel plans very quickly.

On top of this, RVs aren’t protected against hurricanes and tornados like a home with a basement are.

In fact, the only areas in which an RV might have the advantage over a traditional homeowner are areas that are prone to earthquakes.  This is because an earthquake isn’t going to cause any structural damage to an RV unless the RV is directly affected by the after-effects of the earthquake.

Once people were full-timing, they become used to the hardship that changing weather can bring.  However, many people wish they had known this in advance as it would have saved them from a lot of stress and worry.

22) Full-timing Doesn’t Have to Involve Moving All of The Time

Many people want to live in an RV but they don’t want to travel all of the time.  However, these people feel that they aren’t doing things right if they aren’t constantly exploring the world in their RV.

These people tend to start out at a fast pace and slowly transition into longer and longer stays. In the end, they find a place they really like and they decide to stay there for many years before moving on again.

The main regret of these people is that they didn’t start off stationary in the first place.  These people could have saved themselves a lot of time and money by finding a long-term campground for their RV right from the beginning.

23) Stuff Put in Storage is Rarely Missed

A lot of full-time RVers wish they knew better than to put all of their stuff in storage.  They spend a lot of time and money moving their possessions into storage and find that they don’t miss these things at all.

These people are now paying a monthly fee to store items from their old house and they don’t even own a house anymore.

Many people who go full time RVing find they don’t miss their stuff too late and they wish they had known this before they signed a lease on a storage unit.

24) Friends and Family Members May Disapprove

A lot of people are shocked to find that their friends and family member disapprove of them going full-time.  This is true for both younger RVers and even senior RVers.

Young RVers find that their parents do not understand the lifestyle and that their friends begin to think that they are struggling to make ends meet.  Some of their friends and family members even begin to feel like their being abandoned and they resent the RVer for it.

Older RVers often express that their children feel that they are too old to go full-time.

These people have children who fear for them and believe that full-timing could end up hurting their health.

In the end, these full-time RVers wish they knew about the thoughts and feelings of their friends and family members before they hit the road.  They feel that they could have done a better job of explaining the lifestyle and their reasons for pursuing it.

Final Thoughts

It seems that many people have different pieces of knowledge that they wish they would have known before hitting the road.

We can learn from these people and apply their experience to our lives as we transition into full-time life on the road.

Unfortunately, no matter how much we plan, we’ll probably discover things that we wish we would have known before becoming full-time RVers.  Hopefully, we’ll then be able to share our thoughts with others who are thinking about going full-time.