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: Broken/Damanged Things, Maintenance, Newbie Mistakes, Newbie Tips

Problems In The Bathroom

Nope, these weren’t bodily problems, but the bathroom decided to kick up a little fuss this past week.

First a quick rundown on RV toilets. Turns out most RV toilets are gravity flushed: there is a foot pedal to open the slide, which when pressed will open the slide and a small amount of water is released to help gravity do its thing and slide everything down the pipe to the black tank. (Hence why we have a water jug in the bathroom. Sometimes with a lot of paper, you need to add more water to encourage things along. It also helps with the black tank not getting clogged with poop pyramids and it helps things dissolve well in the holding tank.)

RV Gravity Fed Toilet

It started with the toilet overflowing. A small amount of paper had not gone down all the way and kept the slide from closing all the way, so the water kept continuously running. However, that same toilet paper also kept the water from draining and it overflowed onto the floor and spread to bathroom wall, the hallway, and then our room. Luckily, it was just water and had only made it a couple of inches into our room and we were able to clean everything up.

Several days later, we noticed water around the base of the toilet. It hadn’t overflowed, the boys hadn’t missed as it was just water. It didn’t look like it was leaking from the water connection points, but it could very slightly be wiggled. From what I read, it turns out that there is a gasket holding the toilet to the floor. It is mostly pressure fitted, so we took the screw covers off and tightened it down. No more wiggling! I’m hoping this solves the problem, since I really don’t want to have to replace a toilet. NOTE: Ours used a 1/2″ nut.

Then, as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed the shower floor was wet. No one had been in the shower since the morning, so it should have been dry. There was a small drip in the bottom left corner near the handles. Great. We did some research and took the handles plate off. We had to be pretty careful, since it is directly connected to the water supply pipes (which did not look like they had a good access panel to get to). Our shower is pretty small to start with, so it was a bit of a challenge to get to anything. I was able to reach in and tighten the hot water connection. I then had to remove and replace all the caulk and add the screws back in.

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: Newbie Mistakes, Newbie Tips, YouTube Video Link

You a big fine travel trailer, Now Back That Thing Up! (Tips for backing up a RV.)

When we first started out, backing up was my biggest fear. I really was looking forward to finding all the pull-through spots that we could find. However, that’s not how life works.

I love pull-through spots since they are so much easier to maneuver. However, not every campground offers pull-throughs or they could all be booked and only the back-ins are left. We had never owned a RV, a trailer, or even anything that had to be towed before. I had certainly never had to back up a large truck and a 37′ travel trailer. It is a scary position to be in, knowing that if you mess up too badly you can damage your property, as well as someone else’s; especially when you have already sold your sticks-and-bricks (home) and this RV is now your moving home for a year.

We had watched so many videos before embarking on this adventure. In my head, I knew you had to turn the wheel the opposite of what you would expect when backing up a trailer. However, in the moment, that advice just added to my stress and confusion. It’s very different watching a video and then trying to do it in real life. My mother-in-law found a video and sent us a link. It was made with a piece of paper and a Lego truck and trailer. Honestly, I don’t know that I would have clicked on the video if I was scrolling through YouTube. It ended up being the best video for me! This YouTuber said something that helps me every time I have to back up. Starting with the wheels in the straight position, “Turn the bottom of the steering wheel towards the direction you want the trailer to go”. It is something I can see, something tangible I can focus on, and that made a huge difference. If you are just starting out and want advice on how to back into a site, please check out his video. He has some other useful tips on getting into a site.

I know of several people who bought RV’s for the first time this year. It can be daunting. We have had neighbors stare at us when trying to pull into/back into a site. At the worst, they’ve said that looked hard and that we needed a beer now that it was done. At best, some of them will try to help you. Don’t let it discourage you; everyone was a newbie once. If you can find a large empty parking lot to practice in, that can help. Find the one thing that will stick in your brain that will help you. I stressed out and struggled every time we had to back up, but it does get easier and the “Turn the bottom of the steering wheel towards the direction you want the trailer to go” method really helped me.

Also, don’t let back-in sites discourage you from a campground! Some of our favorite campgrounds have been back-in sites.

Posted in: Newbie Mistakes, Newbie Tips

Weathering the Weather In A RV

We have been pretty lucky on this trip; someone must be watching out for us. Although we had planned the route to stay out of severe weather, Mother Nature sometimes likes to throw a curve ball.

In Colorado, we had a crazy rain/hail storm, but we didn’t have any damage. There was some flash flooding on the streets, and I was very glad we were in a truck that sat higher up. We also had haze from the wildfires. It caused my asthma to flare up, but we were pretty far away from it. As we drove to Utah, we saw the smoke in the distance, with Highway warning signs of fires in the area, and we saw the burned hillsides along the road. It is amazing that just two months after we were in Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park, it was on fire.

In Utah, we had a night of very strong winds and had to look up how to prepare the RV for wind storms: fill the fresh water tank for weight, bring in your slides. It was a very noisy night and the campground was absolutely covered in leaves the next day. It looked like a blanket of green snow.

Before we even left Ohio, we had to reroute our original route because the Yosemite area had wildfires. We had some smoke haze while in San Diego, California for a few days as well.

Most of the western part of our trip was under a fire ban. Some places allowed a propane fire, while others did not.

In a house, you don’t think too much about the pipes when it gets close to freezing. You make sure your garden hose is disconnected and if it is a crazy cold night, maybe you let your faucets drip. It can get a little dicey in an RV. We had heard stories of pipes freezing and breaking, even with a slow drip of water. The water connections are above ground, which can cause them to freeze faster. The hoses are generally on the ground as well, which can make them freeze. We had been really hoping to avoid freezing weather, but weather is unpredictable and we had a couple of “rare” nights where it got to 32℉ or below. We wrapped the water hose in a foam pipe insulation or sometimes just unhooked it for the night. We didn’t want to buy the heated water hoses, as they are quite expensive and we were hoping to not have too many freezing nights. Most of the time, we could just use the electric fireplace for heat on for cooler nights, but freezing nights we ran the propane furnace. It kept us warm, as well as kept the tanks and pipes from freezing (our RV underbelly is enclosed and is warmed by the hot air ducts). I always left the bathroom fan cracked open for fresh air and ventilation when we used the propane furnace. Our RV carries two 20-gallon tanks and we carry an extra as well. I try to use the electric fireplace as much as possible, since we also use propane for the oven/stove and water heater. We have run into propane shortages around the country on our travels, including Texas where we had been a month and half before the winter storm hit the state.

All of this was doable with a little planning. Until, we made it to South Carolina/Georgia where we recently had the scariest weather we have run into so far. Tornadoes. Growing up in Ohio, tornado sirens are something every kid is familiar with. We have drills in school, everyone knows to go to the basement or an interior room, and to do it quickly if the siren is going off. While scrolling through Facebook, someone posted about a tornado watch for parts of Georgia and South Carolina for the next day. This had not popped up on my weather apps, not even on my paid alert. I downloaded a few more free, but highly recommended apps, and sure enough we were smack dab in the alert zone. Normally, we would say move if bad weather was coming as we see that as a benefit to having a house on wheels. However, the alert went from Florida up to part of Virginia, and was coming from the West. There was no good direction to go.

I had gotten too complacent and had not asked the campground about emergency weather shelter. When I called the office, the campground didn’t even know a storm was coming. The office told me that they would not go into their buildings for a tornado because they were old and she didn’t know how safe they were. What!? Twenty minutes later, they were going around to the RV’s telling people a storm was expected tomorrow afternoon/night. We decided to pack up our papers, electronics, and things we couldn’t replace, and to stay in a hotel for the night. We choose a historic building in Savannah to stay in. (Thank you COVID stimulus money.) Using the logic that a building that was 100 years old has managed the test of time. We filled the fresh water and grey tanks, closed the slides, turned off the propane/water/electric, and taped a note in each room that we were at a hotel and left our contact numbers. We left a little after lunch to make sure we could get the truck parked in a garage and be in the hotel by the time the storm hit.


The sirens did go off while we were at the hotel and we stayed in the bathroom for 45 minutes. Luckily our bathroom was as big as the living room in the RV. The tornado ended up being just some rain and thunder, both at the campground and the hotel, for which I am very grateful.

We got very lucky. It’s something we don’t think about most of the time, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure you have a good weather app or radio, and to ask your campground about a weather shelter.

Our weather apps currently consist of: Storm Shield (paid), Red Cross Emergency, Red Cross Tornado, NOAA Weather (the free version, it’s ok,), and Code Red (I find this one to have the most glitches and doesn’t seem to work 99% of the time).

What are your favorite weather apps on the road?

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

Posted in: Food, Hiking, Newbie Tips

Enjoying The Campground

When we first started our journey, we were determined to fit everything in that we could while we were in an area. We saw so many new things. It was amazing…and exhausting.

Along the way we have slowly learned to enjoy the campground. After all, we are paying for any amenities offered in the cost of the site.

We’ve had a wide range of campground offerings from nothing to one with a pool/hot tub, putt putt, shuffleboard, horseshoes, pickleball, basketball courts, fishing, and outdoor checkers. Some of the campgrounds offered basketballs for use in the office, others you had to supply your own.

We’ve also had campgrounds that have had planned activities. We have gone to some of events that have allowed for social distancing. For example, in Chula Vista (San Diego) they had donuts for sale on Saturday mornings and had a Halloween event for the kids. At KOA Tucson, they had a breakfast event and a make a friendship bracelet event (make there or take-and-go kit). KOA San Antonio/Alamo had a Christmas Dinner (also eat there or take-and-go) and a bike/walking trail right next door.

I would definitely encourage you to use the campground as much as you can, both to enjoy activities that are there, but also to make the most of what you are paying for.

Posted in: Newbie Tips

How to Change the World

Sitting on a folding chair, listening to yet another Zoom call and strategically muting my microphone to muffle the aftermath sounds of Taco Tuesday coming from a family member in the all too close bathroom, I had a revelation. It wasn’t about the bathroom. Hopefully it was a little more profound than that. The revelation was that I can change the world, and you can too!

Sounds crazy, right? I know. But most things I do lately are a little crazy. What’s crazier is that these outlier activities I have been doing are consistently making my life better.

When I started this trip I was worried. To be real, I was scared. Scared about losing my job, ruining my marriage, getting sick on the road, my kids falling behind in school, …. the list was long. The only way I could get past these fears was to name them, write them down and find mechanisms to minimize these fears. One of my biggest fears was missing out. Specifically, missing out on my connections with my friends and family. The mechanisms I wrote down for this fear were: Blogging, Making YouTube Videos, connecting with Facebook, making phone calls and sending postcards. All of these have helped me and my family. The one that resonated the most for me was sending postcards. So far along this trip I have sent over 200 postcards to friends and family. Not only has writing the postcards helped me feel connected, but the responses from those that received them have consistently delighted me.

Now, back to this Zoom meeting, and how we …can change the world. Not everyone chose my weird “isolation” that comes with traveling the country with your immediate family in a 400 square foot space. Most of the population has been thrust into isolation to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones from a once in a hundred-year pandemic. Some of the quotes I heard from my peers and friends on this Zoom call were:

“When will it get back to normal?”

“I miss connecting with friends.”

“I am an extrovert’s extrovert and this pandemic is so draining.”

“Really, I’m just bored as hell.”

The people on this call had unique situations and lives. But, these same common feelings are being experienced around the globe by many. 

So how can we change the world? CONNECT!

Call to action #1: Send me your name and address so I can connect with you. If you do, I commit to getting you a postcard.

Call to action #2: Connect with someone around you in a meaningful way.

Together I know we can change the world for the better. 

Safe travels!

Ben

Posted in: Christmas, Costco, Holidays, Newbie Tips

Christmas Gifts for RVers

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 autoleveling, ours does not. It does have an electric jack and stabelizers, 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 backordered online at a CampingWorld. 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!

*Affiliate links

Posted in: Newbie Tips

Blackouts Aren’t Always Bad

Blackout curtains, so many uses! Ok, not a ton, but they really do help! Most RVs come with aluminum blinds (they bend and break very easily, just like the kind we grew up with), or the pleated shades/paper blinds. They do keep some light out and afford you some privacy.

After living in the RV for 1 day, the boys already bent their aluminum blinds. I ordered custom blackout curtains for the boys’ bunks. They velcro right onto the frame. This way there was no ripping the curtain out/down while tossing and turning.

During the summer, we realized that a ton of heat was coming in through the windows. We had always had blackout curtains at our sticks and bricks, so we picked some up from Target. I didn’t want to do a whole crazy project, so I just trimmed the cloth to the right length and stapled them to the back of the valence board. I also stapled some ribbon to the board so I could tie the blinds up when we wanted to see out. There are a ton of ways you could hang curtains, I just went with easy.