During our Costco adventures, we found a wine advent calendar! Ben got it for me and I have been enjoying it since October. It contains 24 half bottles of wine. I started Advent early this year (on Halloween), because there is no way I could drink that much wine in 24 days! It has been a neat adventure. There are a lot of different types of wines in the calendar, most of which I probably wouldn’t try on my own.
The wine Advent calendar cost $99.99 (+tax). I’ll have a few posts with pictures of the bottles from the wine journey as we prepare for Santa’s arrival over the coming month!
So far I like this type of wineing a lot more than what we normally have in the RV.
NOTE: For you beer lovers, I also saw a beer advent calendar at some locations.
We have been traveling full time for over 150 continuous days in a travel trailer. Below are a list of some of the products that have helped us the most along this journey. If you get to buy presents for a RV enthusiast these are sure to please.
NOTE: The costs listed are what we paid and may change. Please use these as general guidance and check for yourself as you may be able to get better pricing.
LevelMatePro* While some of the newer (and nicer) Class A and C’s have auto-leveling, ours does not. It does have an electric jack and stabilizers, but you still have to level it. Instead of taking a level and doing it the old fashioned way, LevelMatePro was recommended and we love it. It mounts in your rig and uses your phone to show how level you are from left to right and front to back. I would recommend this product especially for those that are in travel trailers or have an older rig. Unless you are parking on a perfectly level concrete pad, it is super useful on travel days. (Cost: $145)
WeBoost* This helps boost all signals in the area, so we use it for our cell phone hotspots and the independent hotspot. There are a few different types of the WeBoost (home, car, RV, etc.) to meet your needs. We have seen a little bit of a difference in the signals. When you work/school from home, it’s important to have good internet signal. (Cost: $400)
Leveling Blocks*. These are like giant Legos used to help level the RV. We use these for the stabilizers, the jack, and to level the RV. We’ve even add them under the steps when there is too big of a gap. (Cost: $30 – we bought 3 sets)
Blackout curtains. Great for keeping the sun out for sleeping, heat out on hot days, and the cold from sneaking in on cold days. (Link to post on hanging our curtains.) (Cost: $25 each – we bought 4 sets for our 11 windows)
Air purifier*This is great if you have allergies. As we have traveled the country we have each discovered new pollen and molds to be allergic to. Luckily I had this air purifier at home before we left. It may be a little big for RV life. It does work really well though! (Cost: $85)
Costco membership. Although we don’t buy quite as much as we used to (just don’t have the room for it), we still love our Costco membership. We love the organic ground beef and chicken, as well as the frequently changing inventory. It’s fun to discover what each Costco has. Many of them carry different things. For example: Ohio doesn’t sell liquor; New Orleans sold Ben’s favorite “souvenir” (a collapsible tote); California sold boogie boards; Many have specific city/sports team gear. Gas prices are usually pretty good as well, but we’ve only come across a couple that carry diesel. Plus, it’s hard to beat their hotdog/soda ($1.50 special) and pizza ($9.95 for a very large pie) prices! (Cost: $60 for Basic; We upgraded years ago to the Executive for $120 because we spend enough that the 2% cash back just makes sense for us).
Propane Fire Pit. We just got this and have only used it twice. It had great reviews, rather light weight, small enough, and runs on propane. There are separate things you can buy for it, including a rack to cook on top of. We were looking for a wood alternative (although Ben loves a wood fire), since most of the places in the West have had a wood fire ban. NOTE: Some places are out of stock, with more coming in the first week of December. Try calling the store. It was listed as both in stock and back-ordered online at Camping World. I called and they did have one in stock (and they held it for me at the desk). (Cost: $150)
Viair Compressor*. As expected, this is an air compressor. This guy does a great job with the RV and truck tires that require higher pressures. The real win is the compressor connects directly to the travel trailer battery to run and has plenty of accessories to allow a reach to all of the tires without too much relocation. (Cost: $300)
Dehumidifier. We have been in locations with unusual heat waves and deserts lately. There have been a few times (mostly in the beginning of the trip) where the humidity in the RV has gotten high, even with the A/C and the bathroom fan on. The one thing we have read a lot about, is that RV’s can grown mold somewhat easily. We try to keep the humidity at a normal level. I have used this humidity/temperature sensor* for years, and it does pretty well. We brought it with us on the trip. We ended up buying a small dehumidifier* to help with the humidity in the RV. (Cost: Dehumidifier $45, sensor $17)
Fire extinguisher*. Most new RVs come with a fire extinguisher by the front door (kitchen area). We have one in the outdoor kitchen and one in our bedroom as well. You just can’t be too safe. (Cost: $30)
First aid kit*. My mom made ours for us before we left. She combined many of our existing kits and confirmed everything was in date. This is a great gift if you have the energy and time to DIY. She did a great job of getting most of what we needed, but still kept it to a reasonable size. We used an art container with internal dividers. It slides nicely between the bed and the wall. We have already had to restock the bandaids from multiple falls from bikes on gravel. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make a first aid kit, this looks like a thorough one that should fit most situations. (Cost: $30)
Solar Decorations*. This one is just for fun, but we ended up loving them. We got solar powered coloring changing balls. We hang them on the awning arm. It makes it nice to find the RV in the dark and adds some ambience when sitting by the campfire. (Cost: $17)
Hope these suggestions make your holiday shopping a little easier! If we missed any RV essentials, please remind us in the comments. Happy holidays!
I swore I packed Eugene before we left Ohio, maybe in the Fall/Winter clothes bin under the bed. I couldn’t find him anywhere. Luckily, Target had some cloth elf ornaments for $3. It looked a little bit like the big Elf. (The kids also know the truth behind the elf, so switching out the Elf shouldn’t be a problem.) I think the smaller elf may actually help me hide him more places! (About 8.5″ tall vs about 14.5″.)
Even though the boys are older, they still like finding the Elf and seeing what crazy shenanigans he got up to overnight. (He’s gone ice skating, zip lining, fought with Darth Vader, had a Lego house, got stuck in a snow globe and a water bottle, made a paper chain obstacle course for the boys…) I had a list of ideas I wanted to try at the house, but those won’t really work in the RV. Hiding an elf in 2,300ish sq ft house seems much easier than in the 400 sq ft RV. I’m going to have to get creative!
We need to travel light(ish), so we did not bring any of our holiday decorations with us. We bought things along the way for each holiday, but wanted them all to be disposable or donatable. Luckily, there is a dollar store pretty much in every town/city we’ve been to. Now, you can use a traditional Christmas stocking, a sock, or a shoe to fill with things for St. Nick’s Day. However, my family has always used a stocking, so I was on the hunt for some stockings for the RV. I was lucky enough to find some at the Dollar Tree.
We do have a mantle (kind of), but I was worried the stockings would hang too close to the heat source from the fireplace. I saw a great idea on Pinterest with hanging them on the edge of the living room slide with Command Hooks. I think it’s going to work out great, other than maybe having to duck a little to sit down. (The other option was to hang under the island. However, I didn’t want to put holes in the underside and the strips don’t stick as well on a textured surface.)
The stockings are a little lighter than normal this year, as we don’t have the space for much. They are getting some candy (including some I found along the way that I hadn’t seen before at home) and a puzzle book. I’ll probably download an ebook to their Kindle as well and slip a note into the stocking.
A few of you have asked about how we cook in the RV and if we had a “real” Thanksgiving dinner. We made a few modifications due to the small oven, but we did have a full Thanksgiving dinner. I think it turned out pretty well. The meal consisted of turkey, cranberry, stuffing, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, rolls, and green bean casserole.
We did a bit of cheating this year to make it work. We bought microwavable mashed potatoes from Costco (they were really nice, we’ve had them a few times), pre-made rolls, and turkey breasts instead of a whole turkey (there is no way a whole turkey would have fit). It was a bit of a juggling act to get things ready close to the same time. I am very thankful that our travel trailer has an island for more counter space!
I started with the turkey. I used a disposable 13×9 pan (labeled a stuffing pan) for cooking the turkey. I found a BBQ and a bacon wrapped turkey breast at the local grocery store. I was so excited about the bacon one, as I used to make a bacon sweater for the whole turkey back in the house. (NOTE: These were from Honeysuckle. They turned out ok. I have made turkey breasts from Butterball before, and those turned out much better.)
I browned the bottom of the bacon wrapped turkey on the stovetop, per the instructions and then placed in the pan with some water and aromatics (onions, carrots, lemon, and orange). The bacon turkey went into the oven first, as the baking temperature was higher. I added the BBQ chicken later and basted/spooned the liquids back over the turkeys several times during the cooking time. It took around 3ish hours to cook completely. Unfortunately, the bacon did not get very crispy and the oven does not have a broiler feature to it.
When I had about 40 minutes left on the turkeys, I put the sweet potatoes in the InstantPot*. I am not a sweet potato lover, but Nick and Ben are. The InstantPot is amazing for potatoes. (Sweet potatoes are done in 30-50 minutes, baked potatoes are done in 15-20 minutes.)
While the turkeys and sweet potatoes were cooking, I made the green bean casserole. To make it go faster, I used all canned green beans this year. (Normally I use half fresh green beans and half canned.) I also used a 13×9 disposable pan for this dish. After the turkeys were done, the green beans went into the oven. I kept the turkey covered with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Once the green bean casserole was finished, I popped some of the rolls in to crisp up and get warm. They were already baked, but there is something just better and more satisfying about warm bread and rolls! I opened the can of cranberry (jelly), and we were good to plate and eat.
I made a little too much, so we had leftovers for the next day. The one thing I really miss about having a larger oven is being able to make pizza; I would have loved to used the leftovers to make Thanksgiving Leftovers Pizza!
Since we only have about 400 sq ft of living space in the RV, it makes having a Christmas tree rather difficult. We still wanted one for the kids. There were the mini trees types that they used to have in their rooms and some corner trees* which are great for small spaces. However, we have a very tiny space and I think I found a solution.
We have always done a gingerbread house at Christmas. We found a really cute RV kit at Target this year.
The kit came with the gingerbread pieces, gum drops, candy beads, light bulb candy, red and black decorative icing, and a white Royal icing. There were a few paper decorations as well: Santa, a grill, and a picnic bench/tree.
There was a plastic tray with indents for the wheels. It did help a lot as the RV sides set. The directions said to do the front/back/sides and let sit, then add the roof. If you don’t have it perfect, the roof doesn’t fit in easily. Next time I may put the roof on as soon as the sides/front/back are iced together, so that the icing is still pliable and it can all set/dry together.
The boys had a blast decorating it and it turned out pretty well. They especially enjoyed eating it for Thanksgiving dessert!
For our time in San Diego, we stayed in Chula Vista at the Chula Vista RV Resort*. This is a RV Resort; so there were RVs only, no tent camping. (*NOTE: This site closed in 2021. They opened a larger resort close by.)
Chula Vista is in a great location a little south of San Diego. It was close to highways for easy access to San Diego and grocery stores. The closest grocery store was less than 10 minutes away. There are a ton of Costcos in the San Diego area. Most of the beaches and attractions were within a 30 minute drive. Los Angeles was about 2 hours north. Chula Vista was also close to Tijuana, Mexico (we didn’t cross the border though due to COVID).
There were lots of amenities at Chula Vista RV Resort: an office store, a laundry, a heated pool, a hot tub (closed-COVID), a putting green, three horseshoe pits, two community charcoal grills, a fire pit, a nice sitting area by the bay with chairs, two bathrooms/showers, a fenced dog area, and a dog wash.
The laundry room had 8 washers and 10 dryers. It cost $1.25/load to wash and $1/load to dry. The coin machine was in the office. There was a small fenced dog area and a seating area with glider chairs by the laundry room. We often sat in the glider chairs while waiting for the laundry to finish.
The office sold ice (always a crowd pleaser) for $2.16/ 7lb bag. They also sold a variety of convenience type items: RV essentials, some groceries, and a few souvenirs/postcards.
You can get mail sent to the Resort as well. We loved this option. I even managed to sneak in a few Christmas presents (gotta love Amazon Prime)! The mail is sorted and stacked in the courtyard behind the office. It is covered, so we didn’t have any problems with weather while we were there.
Chula Vista is a gated RV resort, so the front gate locks around 7:00pm. There is a night guard on duty, so you had to call if you needed in after hours (or to get out before the gates open). There is also a gate code for the bathrooms, and the pedestrian door leading out to the bay.
This campground was really great at maintenance and garbage collection. There were garbage cans situated every few RV spots. If you had recycling, you just placed it at the base of the garbage can and they would collect it. I saw them coming around multiple times a day to keep up with everyone’s trash collection.
They also offered weekend events. These varied from food trucks, to drive by Happy Hour (a guy playing a guitar and singing on the back of a truck that drove through the campground), $1 donuts on Sunday mornings, light up bike parades (they also offered the lights for sale before the parade).
We were very excited to see what they did for Halloween, as campgrounds are normally known for being very festive at that time. However, due to COVID, they cancelled trick or treating through the resort. They did come up with a replacement event with some games, crafts, and caricatures. This event was lots of fun for the kids. They had bag toss into pumpkins, ring toss, pop the balloons while blindfolded (the balloons had a piece of candy inside), and an egg balance walk (while mummified in RV grade, toilet paper). The caricatures were amazing. We talked to the artist for a little bit. He was a math teacher who also does caricatures. His name was Scot de Pedro (email is [email protected], shared with permission).
The one slight negative of the resort, which they can’t really control, was some air noise. While there was not a lot of street or harbor noise, there was a lot of airplane and helicopter noise. It seemed like the helicopters were the main source of noise and they seemed to fly over frequently at all times of the day/night. (It was close to the Naval base and to the US/Mexico border.)
We stayed at Chula Vista RV Resort for a whole month. So we got the monthly rental rate, but we also had to pay an electric rate. Their rate was $0.22/kwhr. We managed to rack up a $200 charge for electric.
We really enjoyed this campground and would stay here again. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of regulations when it comes to calling yourself a RV Resort. In our opinion, Chula Vista lived up to the title.
Instituting a new campground rating system based on trailer hitches.
Chula Vista rated a solid 4 out of 5 hitches.
SUMMARY OF CAMPGROUND:
Our rating: 4 out of 5 hitches
Cell Phone Reception: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile
RV Sites: Pull Through, Back-in
Pop Up Tents/Gazebos/Outdoor Rugs On-Site: No
Amenities: picnic table, community fire pits, fenced dog area
Tent Camping: No
Full Hook-ups: Yes. 30/50 Amps
Pool: Yes, heated
Food On-Site: When we were there there was food truck once a weekend and Donuts on Sunday mornings. There is a restaurant within walking distance.
One of our Halloween traditions has been going to a pumpkin patch with our friends Dave and Megan. We have been going for years, even before either of us had kids. We wanted to keep some of our traditions going while on the road, so we looked for nearby pumpkin patches. We planned on FaceTiming with our friends while they were also at a pumpkin patch.
We ended up choosing Bonita Pumpkin Farm. It wasn’t too far from our campground and it was listed as one of the “farm” locations for this company.
There was a line to get in, as they were limiting the number of people in the area (COVID). You entered under a tent, with hay bales and decorations for picture taking to the right, and the check out to the left.
Walking straight ahead through the tent area, there were rows of pumpkins. Off to the right were port-a-lets, a petting zoo (it looked like goats only), and a cut-your-own sunflower patch. They also offered a hay ride and a train ride. There was a small patch of pumpkins growing, just much much smaller than I was expecting. We did see large boxes of pumpkins behind the petting zoo by the bathrooms, so I think most of their pumpkins were shipped in.
The sunflower field was off to the right of the entrance tent, behind the petting zoo. You could use one of their clippers and cut your own for $2/stem. The sunflower field was bigger than the pumpkin field! They were really pretty (and one of my favorite flowers).
Back home, it can be a little bit of a hike through the fields to find the right pumpkin and they loved finding the biggest one. When they were younger, we carried the pumpkins, but as they got older we made it a rule that they have to be able to carry their own pumpkins. The kids have to be able to carry it back to the hay ride (to get back to the cashier), to the check out line, and to the car. It’s worked so far, and the kids love picking out their pumpkins. Here in San Diego, the pumpkins were a lot more expensive, so they had a price limit and ended up with smaller pumpkins that were very easily carried.
It was a different experience than I was expecting, or used to. I guess growing up in Ohio, we were spoiled and used to a larger sized farm for our pumpkins. It was still nice to catch up with our friends and do a virtual pumpkin patch together.
We did also get a larger sized pumpkin later in the day at Costco.