Posted in: Animal Sightings, Campground Review, Food, Frequently Asked Questions, Hiking, Internet, Maintenance, Newbie Tips, School, Sightseeing

How We Pick Out A Campground (Frequently Asked Questions)

There are a ton of campgrounds out there and it can be overwhelming trying to find the “best” one to call home! They range from independent places, chains (like KOA and Thousand Trails), city owned, state owned, and federally owned. Some only accept military/retired military, some only accept Class A’s, and some have age limits on the RVs or the people they let in. A lot of places also have dog restrictions based on breed.

We have a few things that we always look for in a campground: location to sightseeing, internet, full hook-ups, and a laundry room. Our biggest one is a good internet connection for school and work. There are a few different websites that I visit to check reviews: campgroundreviews.com, GoodSam, and Campendium are my first ones. After those, I will go to Yelp/Google Map reviews (make sure to type RV Campground or RV Resort, not just campground as you will get results that will not work with RVs or may not have hook-ups), and then to Facebook for the RV groups to see if anyone has stayed there before.

Our favorite RV Campground Review Sites

I always check multiple review sites, especially for internet issues, but sometimes you still don’t get it right. For example, the Garden of the Gods RV review stated that our 3 providers worked. However, when we checked in, there was a note with our paperwork saying AT&T did not work in the park. This wasn’t mentioned on the campground’s website at the time. (This is just one of the reasons why we have three internet providers!)

I also try to read about the general campground conditions (sites, roads, etc.). If a lot of reviews with bigger RVs say that sites or internal roads were tight or not well maintained, I will pass on that campground. We’ve even double checked the reviews on the way to a campground and changed our plans last minute based on the current conditions. Conditions of campgrounds can change frequently. For example, when we booked one Texas site, it had decent reviews. On the drive there, we were reading the reviews from the last week and it was filled with reports of sewage problems throughout the campground (eww!), so we frantically searched and found a new campground to stay in. The most recent one was a change due to a review saying the T-Mobile signals were weak. T-Mobile is where most of our working internet comes through. We have some hotspot data through our cell phones, but the T-Mobile hotspot is the workhorse.

Campground amenities can also be a big indicator for the nicety of a park, although not always. There doesn’t seem to be a regulation on who can call themselves a RV Resort vs a campground, so reading reviews are important! We had one Thousand Trails claim to be a resort and they only had a laundry room and a walking trail. Nothing else was available or was broken and the sites and roads needed some upkeep. On the other hand, we had a Thousand Trails in Orlando that lived up to the resort title with many amenities and things to do.

An on-site laundry is also a requirement for us, as we do not have a washer/dryer on our travel trailer.

We have learned to always check (recent) reviews across the different review sites. It can be worth spending the extra money to get a nicer campground, especially for longer stays.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Frequently Asked Questions, Hiking, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, Sightseeing

What Is Your Favorite National Park?

We’ve been to quite a few of the National Parks this year. The America The Beautiful annual pass is really quite the deal at $80.

There are so many to choose from, and I think we all have our own favorites.

The Parks, Monuments, Preserves, and Historical Sites we have been to so far are:

  • Mount Rushmore National Monument
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Grand Tetons National Park
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Zion National Park
  • Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Arches National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • Cabrillo National Monument
  • Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area (BLM)
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park
  • Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve (Barataria and Chalmette)
  • Everglades National Park
  • Biscayne National Park
  • Fort Pulaski National Monument
  • Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park
  • Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
  • Colonial National Historic Park (Jamestown, Yorktown)

Sarah: My favorite is Yellowstone. There is so much to see and the landscape changes. One minute it is a flat field, then rivers and bison herds, then thermals (hot springs, geysers). There is something for everyone.

Yellowstone National Park: hot springs and geysers, creeking, elk, bald eagle, bison by river

Ben: My favorite is Bryce. The landscape was very different; but beautiful with the hoodoos and different colors. I had a sense of accomplishment when we were done, as during part of it I didn’t know if we would finish the hike.

Bryce Canyon

Will: My favorite is Colonial National Historic Park because of all the history.

Colonial: Jamestown and Yorktown

Nick: My favorite is Zion. I liked hiking the Narrows.

Zion: The Narrows, a lizard, Canyon Overlook Trail

Honorable Mentions: Carlsbad Caverns (it is quite the experience, it’s a little other worldly) and Everglades (so much wildlife)

Posted in: Frequently Asked Questions, Maintenance

Truck Maintenance On The Road (Frequently Asked Questions)

We’ve been lucky so far to just need regular oil changes and a few maintenance things. Most locations have been easy to find a quick oil change place.

This was our first diesel vehicle. Diesel trucks require a few more things than a gas-powered truck/car. Diesel oil changes are generally more expensive, as it was recommended that we use synthetic oil. DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) is another routine adder to the truck. Diesel trucks also have fuel filters, which our gas-powered cars did not have. The fuel filters that diesel trucks require are $100-$200 to replace. California and Colorado seemed easy to find someone who could replace the fuel filters, but South Carolina was a struggle. For example, the Jiffy Lube in California would replace a fuel filter, but the one in South Carolina would not. I had to call several places before I found one that would replace it.

Oil Change at Jiffy Lube and All Pro Tires

In South Carolina, we noticed the back wheel of the truck was starting to lose pressure frequently. We checked over that tire but couldn’t find any nails or anything stuck in it. When we took it in for the last oil change, I had them look at it. There was a nail in, but the head had broken off and you couldn’t see it easily.

Our maintenance so far:

7/7/2020 check up and oil change before we left Ohio (Barnes, $144.45)

8/13/2020 replaced fuel filter (15,085 miles) (Chuck’s, $179.65).

10/16/2020 oil change (Jiffy Lube, $196.76), bought and replaced air filter (AutoZone, $30.41)

12/28/2020 oil change (Jiffy Lube, $170.22)

3/17/2021 oil change, 1 of 2 fuel filters replaced (30,311 miles), patched slow leak in tire (All Pro Tires, $378.21)

Posted in: Frequently Asked Questions, Maintenance, Newbie Tips

Laundry Day: Doing Laundry On The Road (Frequently Asked Questions)

We get a lot of questions when we talk to people, so we thought we would address some of them! If you have any questions, please feel free to email them to us (tepetravels@gmail.com) and you might just get your answer!

I picked laundry as our first topic, as it happens weekly and is something everyone has to deal with. I will say that one of the things I miss the most is having my own washer and dryer. Some of the Class A’s and 5th Wheels have a washer/dryer combo installed. Our travel trailer did not come with the built in hook-ups for a washer/dryer unit and we didn’t think we had the room to store a portable washing machine*.

WHERE: When I book a campground, I do look to see if they have a laundry room listed. I also check to make sure it is open. Due to COVID, we have come across a campground or two that have closed their laundry facilities; however, almost all of the campgrounds we have stayed at have been open. Most of the campgrounds have had laundry rooms, although we have gone to a couple of laundromats as well. You never really know what you are going to get with campground laundry rooms. We’ve had some with really old machines that were a little rusty and broken (that’s when we go to the laundromat). We’ve also stayed at places that have had really nice high-end machines. Most of the places have taken quarters (which was fun during a national coin shortage), although some have only accepted credit cards or tried to push an app on your phone.

HOW MUCH: The costing of the washers and dryers have varied, sometimes significantly. It may seem like $0.50 isn’t a lot, but we normally have 2-3 loads a week and that difference really adds up. The cheapest we have had were $1.25/load for washers and $1/load for dryers and the most expensive were $3.25/load washers and $2.50/load dryers. I would say it averages around $2 per load. I’ve learned to always keep my quarters with me because you never know when the dryer won’t actually dry the clothes, or the laundry pod will not dissolve, or the washer will kick the pod onto the door frame and the detergent pod won’t actually go through the wash with the clothes and get the laundry clean. TIP: I would buy your roll of quarters when you are able to, whether it is at a bank or the campground. Some of the campgrounds do not have change machine or will not sell quarters.

LIQUID DETERGENT VS PODS: At home we always used the liquid detergent. However, with a tiny space and a weight limit, I switched to the pods for a while. For the most part they worked great. When we moved down South, the pods started not dissolving all the way during the wash cycle. I thought it was the campground, but it happened at 3 different ones. Maybe we got a bad batch of pods? We switched over to the liquid again when we found a smaller bottle. We were tired of finding pieces of laundry pods stuck on our clothes. There are also laundry sheets* that some people rave about, but they are pretty expensive (per load of laundry vs other detergent) so I haven’t tried them yet.

So far, we have spent about $300 in laundry (on average $10/week), not including detergent or dryer sheets. We were very lucky that we had a washing machine that we could use for free in Florida for several weeks!

*Affiliate link

Posted in: Food, Frequently Asked Questions, Newbie Tips

5 Best RV Meals

Cooking in a tiny RV kitchen is a lot like using an Easy Bake Oven to make a cake for an Army. Luckily I don’t quite have an army, but two teenage boys can certainly eat. Below are some of their favorite dishes. Most of these require few baking/cooking utensils, are quick to make and pack a calorie punch for the kids.

NOTES:

  1. One of the hardest down sizing activities for me was the kitchen. After 7+ months cooking and living in our travel trailer, I would recommend an InstantPot. These guys are amazing. I haven’t even explored all it can do, but it packs a lot of punch for the volume it takes up.

2. The boys rate all of these 10 out of 10. Teenage boys are generous with food ratings. I have my ratings below.

InstantPot Spaghetti

Quick and delicious; Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 10 minutes My rating: 6 out of 10

How it is made:

You will need raw meatballs (frozen or fresh), a jar of spaghetti sauce (24 oz), spaghetti noodles, water, and grated Parmesan cheese (optional).

In the InstantPot, layer the meatballs on the bottom of the pan. Break the spaghetti noodles in half, and layer over the meatballs. To help the noodles not stick, crisscross the direction you lay the noodles down. (Some recipes also call for salt or olive oil drizzled over the top of the noodles. I haven’t used those extra ingredients yet, as the hatch layering seems to work.) Add a jar of spaghetti sauce and 3 cups water. DO NOT STIR! Add lid, set to Pressure: High, Time: 10 minutes. When time is up, do a quick release. Stir together. Plate and top with Parmesan cheese! (NOTE: I sometimes like to add a can of diced tomatoes as well, to make a chunkier/thicker sauce (14 oz). If using diced tomatoes, add with the spaghetti sauce.)

Instantpot Lasagna

All the lasagna taste, 10% of the time; Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 15-20 minutes My rating: 8 out of 10

How it is made: Click here to see my post/recipe.

Cornbread Taco Pie

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 19 minutes My rating: 8 out of 10

How it is made:

You will need: 1 lb. ground beef, 1 packet taco seasoning (or use homemade!), 1 box cornbread mix and its required ingredients (we like Jiffy), 1 large onion diced, InstantPot cake pan, aluminum foil. Toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, chopped lettuce, diced tomatoes, salsa, sour cream.

Cook ground beef, taco seasoning, and onions in InstantPot on sauté setting with lid off, stir frequently. Drain off grease when finished and turn off InstantPot. Remove meat from InstantPot and set aside. Wipe out an excess grease inside the InstantPot. Mix together cornbread mix in a bowl. Line the cake pan with aluminum foil. Have several (3-4) inches of foil above the pan, but make sure it is smooth and flat all the way around. Add the cooked ground beef mix to the lined pan and press down. Evenly spread cornbread mixture over beef. Place a cup of water in InstantPot and add trivet. Place pan on trivet. Cover, set to seal, cook on High Pressure for 19 minutes. Let it sit/natural release for 5 minutes, then do a quick release. Use foil to lift from the pan. Plate, top, and serve!

Inside out Omelette

Best thing Tik Tok has shown us; Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 5-10 minutes My rating: 9 out of 10

NOTE: If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, you can still get the Everything But the Bagel Seasoning online. It is amazing in a lot of recipes and Ben highly recommends it. I am not a huge everything bagel person, so I made my omlet without it.

How it is made:

You will need (per omelette): 2 eggs, 2 tablespoons milk, 1/2 tablespoon butter, 3/4 cup shredded cheese (sharp cheddar is our favorite), seasoning of choice (pepper, salt, Everything, etc.), fillings (mushrooms, tomatoes, cooked meats/lunch meat, spinach, peppers, onions).

Whisk eggs and milk together. Heat butter in non-stick pan over medium heat. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the entire pan. Cook until bubbly. Slowly, and evenly, pour the egg/milk mixture around the pan. Add seasoning and fillings. Cover and cook for a few minutes, until egg is set. Flip one side over to cover the other side to form a crescent and enjoy.

Slop

Horrible name, 100% original, filling meal; Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 18 minutes My rating: 7 out of 10. I was throwing together things in the InstantPot and the boys were bugging me what was for dinner. I was a little irritated, so I replied “slop”, and the name has unfortunately stuck. It’s my catch-all meal that always has chicken and vegetables, but the other ingredients vary. Sometimes it has rice, sometimes it has beans, sometimes noodles, sometimes potatoes, seasoning added based on other ingredients (though it is frequently Cajun). Below is one of the versions I have made.

How it is made:

You will need: 3 boneless/skinless cubed chicken breasts (raw), box of Spanish flavored rice, 1.5 cups of water, can diced tomatoes (not drained), bag of frozen vegetables.

Add chicken, tomatoes, rice, and water to InstantPot. Cook on High Pressure for 15 minutes. Quick release. Add frozen vegetables, close lid, cook on High Pressure for 3 minutes.

If you have a favorite meal, especially if you cook it while camping or in an RV we would love to try it out. Send us a comment and we will make sure to share it with others.

~Sarah