Confession. Before committing to five weeks in an RV, I never actually stayed in one. 😬
You should also know that while I’m huge into off the beaten path adventures, I’m not ALL about roughing it. A smidge of it is fab, but there’s definitely a pretty clear “Rachel Roughing It” line that I’d reeeeeally prefer not to cross.
Growing up, my family’s “camping” trips involved setting up a tent in our backyard, with an extension cord running from the house to a small TV we dragged out to the tent. My sisters and I would crowd around the TV, snuggling up on our New Kids on the Block or 90210 sleeping bags to make sure we weren’t missing out on TGIF – the best night of 90s TV hands down! We even ordered pizza to the tent once. 😮
I can still remember the bewildered look my father gave us after our shows were over, when we’d grab our sleeping bags and head inside to our warm beds to sleep. Why would we sleep outside if there was a bed inside?! Silly Dad!
So imagine the look of shock on his face when I told him my husband and I would be spending five weeks in an RV seeing as much of New Zealand as we possibly could!
My father wasn’t the only one who had questions about our journey. I can’t even tell you how many people pointed out that I just got married five months before and if being in an RV with your new hubs for five weeks isn’t a true test of marriage, what is?! (I’ll tell you more about how that’s going in next week’s blog!)
So at this point, we’re two weeks in and I’m loving it! Definitely something different to get used to, but here are the top 10 things that I think will help you if you ever consider an RV trip:
1. How I chose my RV 🚐
There’s a whole range of RVs you can rent. They range from a “campavan,” (how you say it in New Zealand, duh!), which is basically a glorified van with a bed in the back and a kitchen in the trunk, to a full blown motorhome, which is a legit house on wheels. We went with a mid sized motorhome, as I needed the following to make it work for us:
a. A table with enough room for two people to sit comfortably with two laptops without being all up in each other’s space. 💻 💻
b. A shower and toilet (although I’ve learned a shower isn’t necessary… more on that in a bit… ) 🚿🚽
c. A bed that didn’t need to be set up each night and put away every morning 🛏️ (Puh. LEEEASE. – I have enough trouble getting my husband to make the bed everyday, let alone setting it up each night and morning! 🙄
d. SPACE! There are definitely large campervans that have a bathroom and a bed, but going back to that whole just-got-married-thang, I want to make sure we’re setting ourselves up for success here! 👍
(I actually just laughed to myself, as many people wouldn’t necessarily agree that there’s much space, but I’m used to living in NYC apartments, which contrary to what you see in Friends, are NOT that big).
2. Book early!
My awesome friend, Ellen Hoffman at Down Under Endeavours, warned me of this and I figured two months in advance would be PLENTY of time. However, that wasn't the case! The inventory they had when I booked was slim pickins so I’m sure I ended up paying more than I would have if I booked earlier.
Yes, I had a lot of must haves I needed checked off the list (so needy, right?!), but I’d still recommend booking well in advance to make sure you get what you want (cue the Stones singing you can’t always get what you want. Hmph!).
3. But wait, there’s more (costs)… 💰 💸 💳
Although during my initial research, I read that in addition to the cost of the rental, there will also be a daily charge for the campground, I didn’t realize the charge is per person and at least on the South Island of New Zealand, where we’ve been so far, powered sites range anywhere between $15 and $25 per person per night. It adds up so make sure to factor that into the budget for your trip.
4. There’s an app for that
On a daily basis, I wonder how anything got done before Google and since we started our road trip, I wonder how anyone seamlessly RV’d without the CamperMate app.
CamperMate maps out all campgrounds, color coordinated by Paid, Low Cost and Free, as well as other important resources you’ll need like gas stations, wifi and playgrounds. You know, the important things! There’s even an offline version of it, which is the bomb.com when you’re in the middle of no where with no service.
While CamperMate is specific to New Zealand, I'd expect there to be similar apps depending on how common RVing is where you're going. Here's one I found through a simple search on iTunes.
5. To Power or not to Power…
Here in NZ, you’re allowed to “freedom camp,” aka park your RV for the night anywhere, as long as there’s no sign saying you can’t, ONLY if you have a self contained vehicle (aka has a toilet).
I had originally envisioned this being amazing as we could pull up to a lake, set up shop and be good to go, however you have no power… which means no charging your electronics (although you could charge your phone during the day via the USB port in the cab).
Two weeks in, we haven’t freedom camped yet! 😳
I know, I know. I need to do it. I need to just unplug and be okay with not being completely connected, but it isn't just not being able to see what Kelly wore to the bar last night on Instagram. It’s your toaster, your lights, your Kindle... Now I’m just making excuses. Okay FINE! I’ll try freedom camping. You KNOW that will be a blog post… 😏
6. Da Dump 🚽☝️✌️💩
The toilet in the RV is called a cassette toilet, which is essentially a large container where all your business goes and once it gets to a certain point, you have to empty it. I was DREADING the day we had to do this, but in reality, it really wasn’t THAT bad. There’s a dumping station at most campgrounds, which is a big tube that goes somewhere I don’t ever want to find out about. I would think it would reek, but honestly, not once have I smelled anything bad at our campgrounds. Phew!
7. Showering 🚿🚿🚿
Since we’ve been staying at campgrounds, I’ve only actually used the shower in the RV once, since as long as you have flip flops and a carrier for your toiletries, it’s easier to just use the showers at the campground.
The one time I did use our shower, I ended up using most of the water that’s housed in the RV, which isn’t a big deal because at all campgrounds, you can fill up the water. It’s just not worth the hassle of having to do it if you could just shower in the campground showers, which has way more room anyway.
8. Is a cluttered RV the sign of a cluttered mind? 🤔
While I said we have “space,” it’s still a much smaller space than most would probably be used to. The pro of having a small space is that it’s pretty quick to clean, however the con of a small space is that it gets messy fast.
Even if there are only a couple of things out of place, it looks messy so it’s really important to have a specific place for everything – shoes, bags, clothes etc. My husband is still learning this system... 🙄
9. Go into it with an open mind!
I initially found myself getting frustrated because the space was different than what I was used to. However, once I got a system down, I was much more comfortable.
For instance, there’s only one plug in the kitchen so when making breakfast, I now boil water in the electric kettle for tea or coffee first since I have to let the water cool before I can drink it, then switch out the kettle for the toaster to make our daily cashew butter and banana toast. Mmmm.
10. A few things I’m SO glad I brought. I’ll leave the standard packing things for another post, but here are a few things that you might not think of:
- Hanging toiletry bag: Again with space being tight, being able to hang your toiletries on a hook helps save room.
- Adapters with multiple plug ins (ie wall and USB). Since you may only have two electric outlets, it helps to have adapters or plugs that allow you to charge multiple devices at once.
- Back Support for the long drives (also awesome for flights!) I have a slipped disc so it's super important I have good support and the Lovehome version is THE. BEST. I have two - one for the car and one for work and have recommended it to ANYONE with back pain. Including my mom so it's got to be good, as moms deserve the best!
- My TEP Wireless device: I read about a bunch of different options leading up to the trip and the truth of the matter is, there’s no cheap option, but since both the hubs and I need wifi everyday to do our job, we don’t really have a choice not to have access to wifi. I’ll write up a post about the TEP and include a referral code so you can get a discount. Stay tuned on that!
What are your fears or hesitations about traveling in an RV? Would you try it out? Chime in and let me know your thoughts!