On the Road with Sue: Planning for the Big Trip

Editor’s note: A familiar name to many RVers, Sue Bray has worked in the RV industry for 35+ years. Over the summer, Sue, her husband Mel, and their boxer Harley took off to tour the country in their 31’ fifth wheel, with no exact plans except to have an adventure. She’ll be chronicling their trip as well as sharing lessons learned along the way in this new ongoing blog series.

RV Travel Apprehension? Yes, quite a bit.

Both my husband and I are somewhat experienced RVers. He’s owned both trailers and a motorhome in his past life, and I have worked in the RV industry for 35+ years, certainly taking my share of RV trips and stays. Nine months ago, we bought our first RV together – a 31’ fifth wheel, and since then, we’ve taken a number of weekend and vacation trips in it. But this time it’s different – we’re heading out for long term RV living – a 10 week trip, without a specific itinerary in mind.

We’re packing. Now we know how to pack for vacations and business trips, but this is different – trying to determine what we will need over the next 10 weeks, but more importantly how we fit it into the allotted space in the rig, without the walk in closet we’ve grown accustomed to.

And it’s not just clothes this time. We need food, supplies, more cooking utensils, dog food, tools, computers… the list goes on. Just a lot to think about over the next few days. I am dismally surveying my shoe collection, realizing that my limited closet space will only allow five pairs, max. And I know I’ll have lots of opportunities to wear those pink sandals… will definitely miss them!

I’m also finding I have about a 10 minute attention span when it comes to packing things up. Hence, I’ve decided to blog.

I am apprehensive. What lies in store for us on the road? Will we be okay? Will we be able to get along trapped in a 31’ box 24/7 for 10 weeks? What about traveling with pets? Will our house survive? What about banking, mail, and all those mundane parts of day to day living?

During this process, we have figured out a few things, although I’m sure there are many we’ve overlooked. Here’s a list of just 10 things we’ve learned when it comes to long term RV living:

  1. 1. The house. We didn’t want to leave our home vacant for this long of a period of time, so we were fortunate to find some friends who live in much higher temperatures anxious to spend some time in our home in northern Arizona. And they’re helping with the expenses as well. Another option would be to rent out the house on a short term basis, but that would require even more packing!

  2. 2. Money. We’ve transitioned just about all of our credit card statements, utility bills, etc., to online banking. We needed to do this anyway.

  3. 3. Phone. I use our home phone for business, so have simply forwarded it to my cell phone number. I turned off the volume so that if the home number does ring, it won’t bother our house sitters.

  4. 4. Medical prescriptions. We both have meds filled by a national drug store chain. We can use any of their stores as we cross the country.

  5. 5. Mail. We elected not to put a stop on our mail delivery or use a professional mail forwarding service because our house sitters agreed to forward our mail as needed. Many RV parks will accept mail for arriving guests, and it’s easy to pick up mail from small town post offices’ general delivery services. The Postal Service will forward mail for a set period of time, but not to multiple addresses, so that would not work for us. However, there are many professional mail forwarding services that do a great job.

  6. 6. Reservations. We tried not to make them, as we don’t want to be tied down to a specific itinerary. However, we are learning that this is not a good plan in summer or other peak seasons. The RV market has boomed over the past few years, and campgrounds are full. It’s necessary to do a bit of planning and book some sites as much as you may not want to.

  7. 7. Wi-fi. Most private campgrounds now offer free wireless internet service, and it has certainly improved in recent years. However many parks, particularly those in remote areas, have difficulty if all of the guests try to access the internet at the same time (and this occurs frequently during evening hours), and it gets even more crowded if guests are trying to stream movies or other programs. We purchased a Verizon MiFi hotspot antenna at only $10/month, which we can use during these times. We chose Verizon because at this point it seems to have the best coverage in the areas of the country we plan to visit.

  8. 8. Skype. It’s a free way to visually connect with family and friends, particularly young grandchildren! My son and his family prefer Google Talk – either is a godsend if you want to share experiences.

  9. 9. Cameras (or lack of). We no longer bring cameras with us when we travel – we’re not professional photographers, and have found that we can easily take photos of the quality we want with our cell phones. We don’t take lots of photos – not sure who besides us would want to see them anyway. But of course, people who enjoy taking beautiful photographs would never agree with this practice.

  10. 10. Coffee. We splurged and bought a Keurig coffee pot. In bright red. Cost per cup is a little more, but it’s so much more convenient. Remember, most RVs don’t have dishwashers so my theory is to do anything I can to make the handwashing task easier.

And this brings us back to the question – just exactly why are we hitting the road for long term RV living? We love our house, our lifestyle, our community, the dishwasher, our friends, and our activities at home. Summer is a great time to be here. But there’s that open road calling – the sense of adventure that only RV travel can offer. We’re in our early 60s, we’re healthy, we enjoy each other, and so far have had some great travel experiences. So, why not?

Okay, back to the boxes. Until next time…

Related Blog: Tips for Surviving Long-Term RV Travel with a Spouse

Discussion
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19 Responses to “On the Road with Sue: Planning for the Big Trip”
  1. Anthony

    I plan to take my first long road trip with my 11 year old son and dog from Florida to Washington D.C. My plan is to stop at Savannah, Ga then to Charleston, SC to North Carolina shore and finally to Washington D.C. Any help in finding RV sites along the way and any info needed to make this a memorable and educational trip.

    Reply
    • Customer Service Techs

      Hi Anthony. Thanks for visiting the RV Repair Club site and the opportunity to provide information on what should truly be a trip of a lifetime! During the summer of my sophomore year in High school, my folks rented a trailer and we set out for a two week vacation going to Gettysburg, Washington DC, NY, and Niagara Falls. What memories, and what history! First thing, if you are taking such a long trip I would suggest a roadside service provider such as Coach-net they can not only provide roadside assistance but have a 24 hour toll free number for technical assistance! Next, purchase the Good Sam Campground Guide, it lists over 15,000 campgrounds in the country and what amenities they offer not only for RVing, but shuttles to tourist events and activities. Next visit each states Tourism webpage to see what they have to offer and what might be seasonal events and activities that you want to plan around. One of my recommendations would be Capital KOA in DC as they have a great resort AND shuttles to DC. Visit http://washington.org/topics/tours-sightseeing for great information on bike, walking, bus and other tours. And most important, give yourself some extra time! We did Washington DC in 2 days and only spent 3 hours in the Smithsonian! We made the mistake of latching on to the first tour guide we came across and he was shuttling people way to fast, but of course back then we didn’t have the internet to research. I’ve been back several times since and spent 2 days at the Smithsonian alone. Have fun and keep us posted!

      Reply
      • Anthony

        Thank you for your feedback. Very informative. I’ll let you know when we start our trip and all the locations. I do have roadside assistance and tire warranty. So I think I’m OK with that scenario if it arises. I only have 5,000 miles on my Motorhome. It’s got all the bugs out I hope. I’ll keep you posted

        Reply
      • Sharon Whitmon

        RV Make: Cedar Creek, RV Model: Silverback 33IK, RV Year: 2018

        We have made frequent trips to Washington, DC and have stayed at Cherry Hill RV in College Park. We have found it to be a very nice park. It has many great amenities and very nice and helpful staff.

        Reply
  2. William C

    I look forward to doing this with a bus (Prevost) in the near future. Dental National Park in Alaska beckons me!

    Reply
  3. Jayne aears

    Like you, I have been bit by the traveling bug. I was able to retire last February. My husband is working two more years. I have been in travel mode for the last year. Looking at motorhomes, trying to decide the best one for our needs. We’re getting out pole barn ready so that we can rent the house out. My plan was to be full time RViers. My husband let me know today that he did I not want to travel full time. I’m hoping once he gets out there he will change his mind. In the meantime I feel like all the air was just let out of my balloon. 😉
    Thanks for sharing your post, I enjoyed it!
    Jayne

    Reply
  4. Walt

    RV Make: Winnebago, RV Model: Chalet, RV Year: 2005

    I just love your informed tips and tricks. Thanks.

    Reply
  5. Don

    RV Make: Montana High country, RV Model: 310 RE, RV Year: 2016

    we would like to know what is the most successful Wi-fi set up for campgrounds. the Wi-Fi source can often be a long ways from the camp spot and we can’t get a Wi-Fi connection

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hello Don,

      There are several companies that offer WiFi or internet connection sources
      starting with Verizon and other cell phone companies that sell a “Hot
      Spot” internet service. I use the Verizon Elipsis currently which is
      a small box purchased at Best Buy for $19.95 and I can buy data packages
      that last for 2 months at a time so I can purchase only when I need
      it. Another good option is the WiFi Extender from Winegard that has
      antennas mounted to the roof of your rig and it will help extend the free
      signal from the campground source. They have also just introduced a
      similar product that has 4G packages which you would pay a monthly fee and
      get connections anywhere you can get a cell phone reception similar to the
      one I have. Then finally there is King Controls and Dish that have a
      satellite package available as well.

      Thanks,
      David RVRC Video Membership

      Reply
  6. Carl Junker

    RV Make: Redwood, RV Model: 36RL , RV Year: 2017

    My wife and I plus are Golden Retriever took a 4 month trip last summer and traveled over 13,000 miles from Northern California to the tip of Maine. We visited all the New England states and stayed for autumn colors. We took the northern route across the US and stopped in Shipsawana, In. for the Redwood Ralley for owners, from there we went north to Niagara Falls and then to Lake Placid and then to Boston, Cape Cod, Salem and up the coastline to Maine. We visited the White Mountains and the Green Mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire. We totally enjoyed the trip and are already planning for the next year trip which will be to Southwest parks and Ballon Festival in New Mexico. If there are any questions that you would like to hear about our experience please let us know.

    Reply
  7. Wilber Heath

    RV Make: Winnebago, RV Model: Minnie, RV Year: 2005

    My wife and I set out 5 years ago and did a seven month road trip. Lots of things to do and lots of things not to do. Like take enough clothes to last a lifetime.

    Reply
  8. Bob

    RV Make: Phoenix Cruiser, RV Model: 3100, RV Year: 2015

    Did a 5 month road trip from Florida to Alaska and back 2016. 3 months in Alaska. Absolutely the best trip ever. Would do it again but too many other places to see. Wasn’t difficult at all. Just slow way down for rough roads. Only problem we had was a connection came loose inside the microwave due to 100 miles of bad road on Top of the World Highway. The Phoenix Cruiser is a well designed, well built jewel. If you have thoughts of going to Alaska, DO IT!

    Reply
  9. Chris Decker

    RV Make: Forest River, RV Model: Wildwood X-Lite 262, RV Year: 2015

    Excited to read blogs about people heading out for their first “long term” camping trip. Although often referred to as “fulltiming” a lot are just months (as compared to “forever”). We are heded out for our extended trip. Headed to Yellowstone for the summer. Keep writing (blogging). <3

    Reply
  10. Kevin Williams

    RV Make: Forest river Flagstaff , RV Model: 831fkss , RV Year: 2005

    Looking forward to selling house and permanently moving into the RV and seeing America

    Reply
  11. Sharon Whitmon

    RV Make: Cedar Creek, RV Model: Silverback 33IK, RV Year: 2018

    We took delivery of our new fifth wheel just before Christmas and hit the road. Noway it was going into storage. We spent just over 6 weeks on the road. One huge plus in the new RV is the larger refrigerator and freezer. I took lots of frozen meals such as spaghetti sauce and chili. I also took a lot of meat from my home grocery store. I know it’s good and I don’t have to buy expensive unknown quality local meats. If you have a pet with you, be sure the pet food is widely available or bring enough with you for the duration. We also used bottled water for our dog so as not to upset her system with questionable water. Take your regular laundry detergent with so you don’t have to buy those expensive little boxes at the laundromat. We learned the hard way to never leave home without our winter coats, hats and gloves. Take copies of all your bills with mailing addresses and I’ve found it very helpful to do a calendar which shows when bills are available and when due. I have a file for all the bills, envelopes, stamps, etc. It’s helpful to have it all in one place. Since I am a bargain hunter, I try to take things with that I know will cost me much more to buy on the road. These include coffee, ink for my printer, OTC drugs. My dog also has a prescription, so I got more than enough for the whole trip from my Vet. It’s also important to have your dog’s rabies vaccination papers with you. I usually get a Certificate of Health from my Vet which is needed if you plan on boarding your pet for any reason. Hope this helps!

    Reply