Apr 262009

When we announced our ten year anniversary of fulltiming, a blog reader wrote to ask me what we would do differently if we had it to do over again, but knowing what we know now about the fulltime RV lifestyle. In thinking about it, there are several things that would have made our lives easier and saved us a lot of money and frustration in our early years on the road. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20. So here’s my list of things I’d do differently.

1. Do more homework. I thought that I’d done a lot of research before we hit the road, but looking back, we sure had a lot to learn. I read several books on fulltiming, as well as all of the popular RV magazines, and learned quite a bit. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. If I were planning on becoming a fulltimer today, I’d read even more, spend a lot of time reading the various internet forums on RVing, and attend a couple of RV rallies as part of my research.

2. Join RV Consumer Group. The independent RV Consumer Group rates all RV makes and models for highway control, reliability, and value, and provides a wealth of information on what to look for, and what to avoid when making an RV purchase. I have had some people tell me that they don’t trust the RV Consumer Group’s ratings because they do not actually buy and test each individual model of every RV made. Instead they rely on a formula developed by their research. My feeling is that until somebody builds a better mousetrap, they are a valuable resource for RV shoppers. If we would have known about their material beforehand, we would have never purchased our first motorhome.

3. Buy a diesel pusher. There is no one best RV make or model to meet everyone’s needs. We all have different RVing styles and priorities. For our needs, a 38 to 40 foot diesel pusher by a quality manufacturer such as Allegro, Winnebago, or Newmar would have served us much better than the 36 foot gasoline powered motorhome we originally purchased.

4. Not buy a campground membership. Within our first month on the road, we purchased an expensive campground membership, which turned out to be a total waste of money. I always advise new fulltimers to wait at least a year before they buy a campground membership. It takes that long to develop your traveling style.

5. Join the Elks and Moose. My memberships in these two organizations have provided us many nights of free and low cost camping. Our membership dues and the donations we make to the lodges where we spend the night help them with their many good works in their communities, so it’s a two way street. I wish we had not waited several years before joining.

6. Avoid Camping World. It took us a couple of years to realize that just about anything we can buy at Camping World can be found for less money at many other retail locations and online.

7. Not join Good Sam Club. From the day we joined the Good Sam Club we were flooded with junk mail wanting us to upgrade our membership and buy some other product or service they offered. The small discount we got on camping at Good Sam parks was not worth the cost and hassle of the junk mail they sent us.

8. Buy a Blue Ox towbar. When we started fulltiming, we purchased a Roadmaster Falcon 5250 towbar, and fought with it for years. The release buttons were very stiff to push to disengage the arms, and if our dinghy was not perfectly straight , we could not unhook it. A few years ago we upgraded to a Blue Ox Aventa tow bar, which releases with levers, and we have found it to be a much more user friendly product.

9. Research health insurance issues. When we changed our legal domicile from Arizona to Texas, our insurance agent assured us we had full coverage, and we took his word for it. Eighteen months into our fulltime lifestyle, Miss Terry was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, and our insurance company denied the claim. As it turns out, there was a 24 month exclusion for cancer, and even though we had the policy long before we started fulltiming, the clock started ticking all over again the day we switched addresses. A bridge policy to cover the gap would have saved us a fortune.

10. I would have started a blog earlier. I’m a dinosaur, and when people first started talking about blogging, I did not pay any attention. Since then, my thinking has obviously changed. Blogging has become an important part of our income stream, and the commissions we receive from those little ads you see on the blog help us pay our bills. But even if we did not have a business, or any ad income, blogging is a great way for RVers to stay in touch with their family and friends, and to record their travels.

So there are my Top 10 Things I’d Do Over. I’m curious, what would you experienced RVers do differently if you could start all over again?

Thought For The Day – Don’t go to bed angry. Stay up and plot your revenge.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  18 Responses to “10 Things I’d Do Differently”

  1. If I had anything to do over again, I would have tried to avoid the “vacation mode” in our first year of full timing. We spent a lot of money and time traveling from place to place like we’d never have a chance to get there again. That seems to be common for lots of full timers in the first year.

  2. Good morning Mr. Nick, My biggest regret is that we did not do this sooner. We are loving full timing. Couldn’t imagine living in a stick and brick house. Keep up the good work on your site. See you at Escapade.

  3. I would also do better research on the 5th wheel and truck. The truck we had to get rid of right away, or never get out of San Diego. It would not pull hwy 94.

    I would have joined Escapees sooner and used their mail service.

    Ditto for the Good Sam Club

    Not a whole lot of things would I do differently since I would not have the memories I do now. I have few if any regrets.

    Mainly, I think if it was up to me, I would still be full-time.

  4. My hubby and I have been so very blessed with the opportunity to own and travel in an RV. We are not full timers, however we sure do put a lot of miles on our RV. We were tent and pop-up campers first — since 1957. So we were pretty knowledgeable by the time we moved into our Class C in 1996. We bought a new 31′ Fleetwood Jamboree, no slides, Ford V10. For us it was the right choice. For ten years we traveled from Ohio to California and up and down the East Coast and everywhere in between. We had over 70,000 miles on it; a few flat tires; no coach problems; no mechanical problems. Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance plan came to our rescue for the flats. In 2006 we moved up to a Phaeton deisel w/four slides. Pure luxury and a bit overkill! But I wouldn’t trade it.

    The first year out on our two-month trip we wandered. We quickly learned that we needed a focus. From then on we researched for months and had a plan: Route 66; California Trail; Sante Fe Trail; Mississippi River towns; Gulf Coast Florida to New Orleans; East Coast beaches; Ozarks music trail; and more.

    Only one thing can I think of that I wished I had done from the start: a travel blog. I used email! Then did a blog on MyTripJournal for a couple of years, but with no wireless, it was a nuisance. Maybe technology has advanced enough by now and my Verizon Wireless will get me hooked up with Geeks and I’ll try again.

  5. Would have never sank so much money into a house!!!…

  6. Like most fulltimers I know, I wish I’d started sooner. Heck, I wish I wish I’d started RVing sooner! I didn’t buy my first motorhome until I was 51. All those wasted years! 😉

    I was lucky in many ways: that first rig was a Lazy Daze, on of only three class Cs to get five stars from the RV Consumer group. And I had good mentors, who taught me to think like a fulltimer even when I was still just vacationing. I had the computer, writing and photography skills to document my travels from the start (), so I can relive those exciting first few trips.

    What do I wish I’d done differently? Well, if I’d known I’d be taking early retirement, I’d have put a lot more money into savings and spent less on techie toys during all those years when I had a well-paid job as a software designer.

    I wish I’d done more boondocking sooner. On my first couple of trips, I spent way too much time in commercial parks. Now that I’ve discovered state parks and other boondocking spots, I never go near a commercial park if I can help it–I hate the crowding, lack of scenery, and high prices.

    Oh, and I wish I hadn’t bought into the RPI campground network early on. It was a complete waste of money. Passport America has paid for itself, however.

  7. One comment about towbars: while Blue Ox products are excellent, the current Roadmaster towbars (well, except for their bare-bones model) use levers to easily release, and don’t require anywhere near perfect alignment. My Roadmaster Sterling is comparable in every respect to my friends’ Blue Ox Aventas. I only bought Roadmaster because their baseplate for the Honda Fit is better designed than Blue Ox’s–see . Again, I have nothing against Blue Ox; I’m just pointing out that current Roadmaster towbars don’t suffer from the drawbacks you cited with your old Falcon 5250.

  8. I see that the URLs were omitted from my last two comments. Let me know if there’s a way to include them.

  9. Andy,
    I’m not sure how to list your URLs, but if a reader clicks on your name, it takes them to your blog.

  10. Totally agree with the “becoming full timers sooner.” Hubby and I are in the process of selling our home so we can do just that! (Even though I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into our first RV trip.)

    Also agree that it’s the misadventures that are sometimes the most memorable and the best learning experiences. (Funny, just discussed this very issue with a book club I called in to.)

    Prior to our “official” year on the road, we did a 3 week “shakedown cruise” (which quickly turned into a “meltdown cruise”), and this really helped work some of the bugs out.

  11. We have been fulltiming for 17+ years. We learned a few things the hard way but enjoyed the wisdom of those who had gone before. Our best do-over advice:
    1. Don’t be afraid to ask others about their experiences but make your own decisions.
    2. You can’t tour 365 days of the year
    3. Have at least one hobby
    4. Experience volunteering
    5. No driving day can be too short — definitely too long but not too short
    6. The journey is not about the pavement.
    7. Know your equipment — operations, limitations, maintenance
    8. If you & your partner don’t share passion for the dream — reconsider
    9. More is not better
    10. Don’t sell your house until you have been on the road for a year

  12. One thing I did was to purchase a long enclosed trailer. I didn’t want to leave my Goldwing and thought I would tow the Jeep inside as well. Although they keep the vehicles perfectly clean and free of stone chips, along with ample room for storage, it has limited us in many campgrounds as I’m too long unless I unhook the trailer and store it, as long as they have storage area.

  13. Nobody’s perfect. Your are right about joining the Moose and the Elks. Camping World is as good as its employees. Some are better than others. Learn about as much as ycan about your RV. There are design flaws in every one of them. Needless to say, Rving is great.

  14. Congrats on 10 years full timing, that is impressive! We’re just about to celebrate our 2 year anniversary of full timing together, and being in our mid-30s, one of the most common responses we get from other folks we encounter on the road (generally older than us) is that they wished they had started sooner! Today’s digital age opens up so many more opportunities to start traveling full time sooner, and not having to wait until retirement.

    For our first year on the road, we traveled in the RV that my partner already had. It was defined as a trial phase to see how the road inspired us both. After living on the road for a while, we were armed with experience to researched out our ideal mobile home to live and work out of (for us, it’s a small 17′ solar powered fiberglass travel trailer). I think giving yourself a clear trial period before you make major committment like selling homes and/or investing in an expensive set up is a great way to go. Since we gave ourselves that time period, there’s not much now about our life that we’d do differently if we had it to do over again.

    Some great advice here in this post that we concur with, including the comments. Thanks to everyone!

  15. Which services do you think are worth purchasing from Good Sam and which do you think are a complete waste of money? It is time to renew my Continued Service Plan and I am wondering how likely it is that my RV will have a sudden breakdown. It is less than 10 years old and in excellent condition. It seems that Good Sam is always flooding my mailbox with offers of some new service like Emergency Assistance Plus. I am getting tired of all the mail from Good Sam.

  16. Jo,
    I have not seen one service from Good Sam thart we need. In fact, we have not used them for anything in nine years. We get our road service through Coach.Net and are very happy with them. There are many companies that sell continued service plans who wil not flood you with junk mail.

  17. Will you consider answering, re: #1, what do you think you would have learned from the additional research, especially attending rallies?

  18. Jack,
    Hopefully we would have learned about the RV Consumer Group and not bought the first RV we did. And if we had communicated with more fulltimers, we’d have known not to buy a high priced campground membership when we were just starting out.

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