My husband and I have been living the full-time RV lifestyle since 2016. In that time, we have made plenty of mistakes and discovered ways to make our rolling house a home.
Here are 18 valuable tips for full-time RV living, 10 bits of advice for moving an RV, and a short account of how we managed to move from one full-time RV to another. Please take from this what you need and avoid making the same blunders while laughing at mine.
I have included hyperlinks for the handy items listed here. I am not being compensated for any of theses suggestions.
Part 1: Useful Hacks for Full-time RV Living:
1. Multi-function storage items
- Hide the cat box inside a bench that supports other pet items.
- Use collapsible storage cube ottomans for extra clothing. We keep ours at the end of the bed for quick access.
- These are made for boots and allow you to slide items around without damaging the floor. We have an entire shoe rack on one, pet bowls on another, and toys in smaller ones that slide under the coffee table. These items must be moved every time the slides are brought in, so it helps to have them ready to scoot.
3. Foam headboard spacer
- That gap above the top of the mattress that eats pillows and puts dangling hands to sleep can be filled with craft foam. We stacked two of the 2″ pieces under a single 4″ piece of foam. Wrap with a flat sheet for easy cleaning.
4. Stick on or over-the-cupboard TP holder
- Many RVs don’t have a toilet paper holder attached to the wall. We had a freestanding holder but got tired of chasing it around the bathroom.
- An adhesive option allows you to save valuable floor space and the over-the-counter TP hook turns any cupboard into a TP holder.
- RV walls are full of wires, pipes, and magic that you can damage with nails or screws. Adhesive shelves can be used for light to medium items but avoid installing over a wall seam.
- A wall seam often floats to allow the wall to shift during transport without damage. A floating seam may pull away from the wall under the weight of a shelf. I learned this the hard way.
- RVs are built light, which means they leave many cupboards without shelving. You can still utilize this space with wire or plastic shelving without adding permanent weight.
7. Shower Gems
- If your shower is already tiny, you don’t want to crowd the space with bulky shower caddies. Tension rods or over-the-shower hanging racks can damage the lightweight structure.
- Shower gems use waterproof adhesive to attach to the wall and can handle the weight of several bottles. Use a level to install them straight if you don’t want your spouse to criticize your “eyeballing” method.
8. Collapsible laundry baskets
- Those spring-loaded hampers aren’t just for college students. Extra hampers are easy to store flat when you don’t need them. You can also get a plastic laundry basket that folds flat. Laundry may never be fully complete, but at least it doesn’t have to take over your RV.
9. Felt sticky tabs
- Felt tabs can protect floors and areas that rub during transport and dampen the noise of the blackout curtains hitting the window. We had an issue with the middle island rubbing the refrigerator during transport. The blinds in the bedroom clacked against the wooden frame when anyone moved. Both are fixed with sticky felt tabs!
10. Over the door hooks, over cupboard hooks
- Over-the-door hooks can hold heavier items that may be too much for adhesive hooks. Fluffy towels and work coats are better supported with this option.
- Hand towels tuck easily on the cupboard under each sink. We even keep our most used spices in an over-the-cupboard rack inside a kitchen cupboard.
- Again, avoid disturbing the magic inside the walls with nails or screws. Alien tape or Gorilla double-sided tape can hold up a key rack.
- Hats get hooks around the door. Dog harnesses and leashes adorn the walls around the door.
- Framed photos or decorations can still be displayed in your RV with adhesive.
- RV bathrooms are too dim for safe makeup application and will leave you painted like a tween with her first makeup caboodle. Adhesive (it’s the word of the day!) lights come in battery or plug-in options.
13. Turn a screen door into a temporary storm door
- I purchased plexiglass panels at Lowe’s and had them cut to fit over the screens
- Using sandpaper, I smoothed rough edges and placed each panel inside the lip of the screen
- Any gaps (the plexiglass cutter isn’t perfect) were covered by gorilla/duct tape, which secures the plexiglass over the screen. More daylight viewing without the considerable temperature loss/gain from a screen.
14. Furniture covers
- RV furniture is built for occasional use, so help it last longer with a cover. Our kitten must also run her murder mittens over any unprotected pleather she finds.
- It’s both a nightlight, and it is easy to clean. Boom!
16. Hitch basket
- The storage bins underneath (or basement, as some call them) will never be big enough for everything. Despite constantly reassessing, donating, and organizing stuff, we were looking at needing a utility trailer for the grill and dog fencing panels.
- A hitch basket was $350, while a utility trailer started at 14k. The hitch basket got the job done!
17. Replace your dining table with a desk if you work from home
- TV trays take up less space and can be used anywhere. It may feel like the 1950s in the beginning, but the versatility is fantastic. My desk also allows for additional storage underneath.
18. Magnetic Vent Covers
- If your furnace vents are in the floor, they are bound to get hair and other debris in them. That may smell like a burning rat when you fire up the furnace, so protect the vents with a magnetic cover or tape.
Part 2: Always Moving
When rolling down the road, your trailer will bounce and rattle like driving through a moto-cross track. Freeways across the country have as many potholes as a city street in winter. Picture your RV being shaken like an etch-a-sketch and pack accordingly.
Moving Specific Tips:
1. Make a checklist for packing up.
- This will help you remember to fold in those steps or latch the doors before travel. Tired packers can make costly mistakes.
2. Put it on the floor
- The coffee maker seemed heavy enough to ride on the counter. We were wrong. Coffee-grind-water-all-over-the-livingroom wrong.
3. Brace and pad glass with towels and paper products
- Stock up on paper products before moving so you can stuff them inside cupboards. This will prevent pulling out everything to wrap and pack every time you roll on down the road. Kitchen towels wrap around mugs and are easy to find during setup.
4. Tie it shut
- The wimpy refrigerator latch failed on the first trip. The door whipped open and yeeted beer cans onto the floor, where they exploded spectacularly. Our RV smelled like a frat house for days. With a couple of zip-tie loops and a small ratchet strap, everything in the fridge may end up on one side but stays inside. Open with caution. Objects will shift in transport.
- If the cabinet handles can be secured together, a Velcro cable tie can be extra insurance. Don’t count on the manufacturer’s locking system. Remember the fridge fiasco?
5. Watch for items near slides
- The catbox table shifted far enough forward to be behind the frame of the slide. When the slide went out, the molding around the frame bent and broke when pulled against the furniture.
- A sweatshirt hanging on a hook near the slide threw an arm close enough to be pulled into the slide when it moved. None of these could be seen from the slide operation panel. Learn from my mistakes and be suspicious of anything near the slides.
6. Open carefully
- Sometimes it’s your pajamas that tumble out of the cupboard, and other times, it’s several textbooks. Either way, open slowly and cautiously during setup.
- Packing up and setting up can get dirty. That is usually when you remember the water is turned off and the hose is packed. Wearing gloves at least gives your partner the impression that you are helping.
8. Mobile Internet
- We have used T-mobile hotspot, Viasat, and Unlimmitedville in the past for internet with dissapointing results.
- Currently, we are using Starlink Mobile. It is by far the best we have expereinced.
9. Travel cat box accessible
- When everything is pulled in for travel, the only thing accessible is the half-bath and entryway. I keep a travel catbox in the half-bath so everyone can have a potty break at the truck stop.
10. Vehicle Convoy or Tortoise and the Hare
- No rule says you must stay together if you have two vehicles (his to tow and hers to go). Initially, I will follow the RV to see if anything is flapping, wobbling, or falling off. After peeling off for my first bathroom break and puppy walk, I may not catch the RV until we stop for the night.
- He doesn’t like to stop, and I enjoy multiple breaks. Don’t torture each other if a bit of road trip independence keeps everyone happy.
Part 3: Pod People
After 5 years in our Cardinal, we mostly knew what we wanted in our next RV. I wanted a couch facing the TV where B and I could sit together. I’m still fond enough of him to want to be nearby. It also makes sharing snacks easier when I don’t have to toss them across the living room. B wanted more storage, and we both wanted more kitchen counter space. Once I found a floor plan with a 2nd bathroom that we both liked, that extra toilet became a requirement. Sure, most RV parks have a public restroom. However, most of them have a Cypher lock. I have a terrible history with Cypher locks.
We finally found a model we liked with all the requirements down in Texas. A professional shipper was able to bring us our new home for less than it would’ve cost us in fuel and time off. His name was Bud, and he arrived a day earlier than planned. Bud may not have slept or managed to exceed the speed limit across three states.
The dealership offered us a low trade-in price while they were planning to resell our old RV for twice the money. Instead, we offered to sell it directly to another lineman for the exact price we were quoted for trade-in. When the dealership asked the price we had sold it for, they were shocked that we hadn’t done any markup. Not everyone is about price gouging in the current market!
Now that we had a plan for the new and old RV, there was one last problem. How do you move entirely out of one RV, pull it out of your spot in the park, move in the new RV, and move everything in one day? You could hire a team of movers to descend on your site like an ant hill. You could include all your belongings as part of the old RV and buy all new.
Our best plan was to have a pod delivered to our site so I could empty and clean the old RV. We were homeless Pod people for the 20 minutes it took to pull in the new RV after the old was moved to the new owner’s spot. We looked like crazy people having a poorly organized yard sale. We kept the Pod on-site for 2 weeks for the entire moving process and were lucky that the park allowed us to have it there.
New RV. Who this?
Our new Landmark 365 Newport had new systems to learn. Lights, tanks, action! Grey water, black water, blue water. Technically, blue water isn’t a thing unless we’re talking Port-a-Johns. The action part of the equation became a problem when I couldn’t locate the dump valve for the kitchen grey tank. We hadn’t purchased a Y-pipe for the drainage pipes, having gone from only one to two bathrooms. As the water in the kitchen sink stopped draining at midnight, the time had come to figure out the tank issue. Outside, I assessed the Control Panel. I was playing poop roulette under cover of darkness. If I pulled the wrong valve, it would be a literal Shit-storm. I was looking at two releases for grey and two for black. The Systems Screen showed two grey and one black. Was one of the black valves supposed to be grey? Pulling either grey valve had not emptied the kitchen tank.
Since we had several issues attributed to RV production during 2020, why not? I already had a sliding kitchen drawer blocked by the hinge, a hanging rack that couldn’t fit hangers, and an entire slide gasket that fell off in transport. The power inverter to run the refrigerator on the battery was faulty, and several cupboard doors were so crooked they couldn’t close properly. 2020 was a challenging year for manufacturing.
Clutching my flashlight, I pulled the one valve that was left. Horrified, I quickly shut the valve as a stream of human waste escaped from the other pipe. I had chosen poorly. I liberally hosed the area under the traitorous pipe with water to hide the evidence. It would be hot the next day, and my guilty mud pie could be hidden. OSHA wept.
Tired and frustrated, I returned to the kitchen to stare at the standing water in the sink. I couldn’t be the first person with this problem. I would have to take a different approach tomorrow.
The next day, I began an internet search for others with a mystery tank hidden in their RV. Finally, I found a youtube video where an RV owner found another valve hidden under the kitchen slide. Luckily, the “mud” had dried because that was where I needed to crawl under. Duck walking carefully, I eased under the RV and glimpsed a glorious label. “Grey Tank #2”
I pulled the lever and was not dropped into a pit of alligators but heard the woosh of water draining safely down the sewer pipe. Sweet Relief. Who decided to put that value there? Someone said they could save money by keeping the same valve configuration in the Control Panel and just slapping in another one below. Learn from my mistake and never play poop roulette.
Despite initial hiccups, we are still pleased with our Landmark 365. We survived crossing eight states in six days through a blizzard and wind storm. Because we like to tempt fate, we are parked on the edge of Tornado Alley. A trip through a twister may test the limit of my packing prowess. Safe travels, my friends!