When you conduct a search for the items you'll need to bring to Disney, you'll find what seems like a million opinions. Our family went to Disney for the FIRST TIME in May, and we had lots of items with us that we never used. Here's what we did use:
1. A backpack. My husband carried a backpack every day of our five-day visit. In it, we kept some of the things we'll mention below. We found that if only one person carried a backpack, it was much less to keep up with than if all of us carried something. While our 9yo did have a cute Loungefly mini backpack, the adults frequently had to carry or hold it for her. The heat also made carrying a backpack strenuous, so my husband definitely took one for the team by being the designated backpack-wearer.
2. Water bottles. Every single morning, we'd fill our water bottles with water and ice and pack them in the backpack. The heat in Florida (even in May!) meant that our bottles were drained in the first two hours. Fortunately, you can refill your water bottles at many refill stations or even at some restaurants, so we were able to drink all day long!
3. First Aid items. Again, the backpack came in handy for carrying extra bandaids and other first aid supplies. You'd be surprised at how quickly you'll find you need a bandaid for a blister (all that walking!), a chafing stick for weary legs, or a children's Tylenol for tired little feet.
4. Portable phone chargers (like FuelRods). All of those pictures you're taking on your phone at Disney quickly drain your phone battery. There are kiosks throughout the parks for FuelRods, a portable phone charger that can be swapped out for a freshly charged charger at the kiosk. We swapped ours a few times, so whether or not you invest in FuelRods, you'll definitely want to bring a portable charger, regardless. Why not just bring a phone cord? Well, you certainly can, but who wants to sit around waiting on a phone to charge? We didn't have time for that, and we're betting you won't, either.
5. Non-perishable snacks. A lesson we learned on the first day at Disney is that no one has fun if one of the kids is hungry. We also learned that ordering food takes time. Keeping non-perishable snacks in the backpack helps bridge the gap between the time you've realized you need to feed your kids and the time when the food is in front of them. We kept items like beef jerky, nuts, and even fruit snacks in the backpack for hangry kids (or their parents!).
HONORABLE MENTION: While our kids were too old for a stroller, we can definitely see the benefit in having a stroller at Disney. This could eliminate the backpack completely or accommodate the extras that littles truly need. Additionally, a stroller can cut down on the exhaustion levels of your kids, and extend the enjoyment for everyone in your family!
Our family travels the United States in our fifth wheel camper! Find out how you can get started living the RV life by taking our brief course on RV living! Check it out here.
There are so many apps dedicated to RVing, and it can be daunting knowing where to start. The apps we will discuss here are not the complete set we use, but they are our most commonly used apps.
-Campendium: This app shows the nearby free and paid camping locations as well as dump stations, water filling stations, and more. We often use Campendium to compare reviews with other locations we’ve found on The Dyrt or the iOverlander app.
-iOverlander: This boondocking app is one of our most frequently used apps. Warning: there is a learning curve in using this app, and we initially did not find it user friendly. One major complaint about this app is that it does not allow its users to save a location besides emailing it to yourself or someone else. This means that we cannot easily save a few potential locations if our “plan A” spot doesn’t work out. We will often screenshot the names of locations or copy and paste the coordinates into lists. Still, we use this app on a regular basis and have found dozens of campsites based on reviews.
-RV Life: This app does the same things that most of the other apps do in that it will give you a list of nearby campgrounds, dump sites, gas stations, etc. The BIG difference with this app is that it is also includes a GPS suited especially for “big rigs.” The GPS function lets you input the specifications of your rig and after taking into account your size it will find a route that is safe for you to traverse. You could go buy a dedicated “truck driver” GPS for several hundred dollars, but currently the premium version of this app costs only 50 dollars per year. The value of this app is extraordinary and so far has worked flawlessly.
-Recreation.gov: While our rig is often too large for state or national campgrounds, this app can be extremely helpful for finding affordable campsites. As with other apps mentioned, we have found this one lacking in user-friendliness, but it is comprehensive.
-Google Earth: This app is not generally considered an RVing app, but we use it frequently in conjunction with other apps to scope out locations ahead of time. We found it extremely valuable, for instance, when we were planning ahead to visit friends who live in neighborhoods. Could we park our rig safely in their street or driveway? Would the roads leading to their homes be accessible? Our many questions were easily answered by a quick search on Google Earth.
Looking for more information about the RV life? We discuss memberships and more in our course for RVers. Check it out here!
Knowing what to expect can be difficult in any new venture. Kids who live in RVs full time with their parents learn quickly that life on the road is different than life in a sticks and bricks home. Even grandchildren who spend time traveling with their grandparents will learn the ropes of the road life.
Our kids compiled a list of what they think other kids need to know about living the road life. Here’s what they compiled:
1. They are getting along better than ever before. They’ve figured out that they are on the same team, and they’ve learned to help each other in ways we never dreamed they could.
2. They are trying new things. They’ve challenged and pushed themselves in ways we’ve never seen them do. They’ve even started eating new foods!
3. They are becoming efficient at making new friendships. Whether it be just riding bikes around a campground or playing at a playground, they’ve gained confidence in meeting new kids and forging new friendships.
Looking for more information about the RV life? We discuss traveling with kids and much more in our course for RVers. Check it out here!
Our family has several memberships, but we haven’t purchased them all. Seasoned RVers will have their favorites, and we asked a lot of questions. We even joined a Facebook group dedicated to sharing the “good, bad, and the ugly” about Thousand Trails memberships. We won’t go in depth on all of the memberships out there and how they can benefit; instead, we’ll explain the types of memberships we have and how they benefit us on our road life.
-Harvest Hosts: This membership is $99-$139 per year, and gives its members access to a database of “hosts” who will permit you to park at their location for a night. Most of the time this is a boondocking arrangement; hookups are rarely provided. These hosts may be farms, museums, wineries, or, for the upgraded membership, golf courses. We have used our membership many times and have always enjoyed our stays with our hosts.
-FMCA: This stands for Family Motor Coach Association, and our membership offers a variety of services, including internet, training, and emergency services.
-KOA: Our Kampgrounds of America rewards program earns us points every time we stay at a KOA as well as discounts on nightly rates. There are thousands of KOA campgrounds around the country, and while we didn’t expect to stay at KOAs as often as we have, we have found them to be consistently enjoyable stays.
-Good Sam: Our Good Sam membership came with our RV purchase, and we have enjoyed discounts at Camping World as well as various campgrounds around the country. We haven’t used this membership as much as we thought we would, and we aren’t sure we will pay for it when our current membership expires.
-The Dyrt: We *accidentally* paid for a premium membership because I forgot to cancel before the free trial expired. However, we use this membership regularly. The Dyrt offers reviews and contact information for most campgrounds. We have found most reviews to be accurate and insightful. I uploaded reviews and photos and earned six more months of premium membership!
We have not purchased a Thousand Trails membership, primarily because it was not financially expedient for our family. We enjoy boondocking, and Thousand Trails offers campground stays to its members on an intermittent basis; its members are allowed to stay for “free” for a certain number of nights before they have to leave and stay elsewhere. “Free” does not mean completely free—memberships can cost more per month than we have paid for month-long stays at campgrounds. Nevertheless, for RVers who do not plan to boondock, this membership could be beneficial in many ways.
Looking for more information about the RV life? We discuss memberships and more in our course for RVers. Check it out here!
It’s crazy to think about how different our lives are from just a year ago! We’ve had time to think back and analyze, and we think the spark happened the day we purchased our old 1996 Jayco pop-up camper. Tom and I both grew up with treasured memories of camping, and when Covid took away the dream of an anniversary cruise, we put the money into a beat-up camper. We had high hopes of fixing it up and praying it would stay road-worthy long enough to squeeze out a couple of camping trips before school started back. We did exactly that. We took it out on two trips in July 2020. Mammoth Cave, Kentucky, was our first trip (more on this in a future blog post) and Greer’s Ferry, Arkansas, was our last hurrah of the summer. Both trips were incredible. We unplugged from technology, swam for hours, and figured out who we were as a family. We worked hard for those trips, and every set up required all four of us to lift the pop-up’s cover, because the mechanism was broken (and no parts were coming in because of Covid shutdowns).
We look back now and recognize that was the beginning of the “Yondering Rogers.” We had big plans for more camping trips! With the start of the 2020-2021 school year, we quickly slipped back into the normal routines of work and school responsibilities. The continuation of the pandemic, however, combined with the political upheaval of the election, got us thinking about our lives. We (Tom and I) had a lot of heart-to-heart conversations about getting older, parenting, and living for Jesus. We talked for hours about dreams we’d had when we were younger as well as dreams we had for our future. Covid had taught us a difficult lesson about the brevity of life and the uncertainty of reaching retirement. We knew we wanted to make TODAY count: not only for ourselves, but also for our kids. We wanted to live with purpose and redefine our version of success.
Other factors contributed as well. Our home’s value had risen exponentially. The house we believed we’d own until our kids were grown was soon on the market. We didn’t originally plan to live in an RV full-time. Our plan at the beginning was to buy an inexpensive camper we could live in until we found a home to buy in another state (or country). Looking up RV models and researching things we needed to know to live full-time (even temporarily) led us down a path. We learned that many families do travel full-time, living in their RVs, homeschooling their kids! We were intrigued.
It took months of searching, but we found a fifth wheel that we believed would work for our family. The Montana High Country 377fl would give us all the space we would need. (Blog post coming on that later as well. There are pros and cons to this model!) We had already planned a family vacation to Arizona for Christmas break, so we purchased our RV as soon as we returned.
We lived “stationary” in a campground for the next 7 months. We finished out the school year, and made arrangements to “hit the road” in July. We had never hitched up a fifth wheel or towed one before! Tom watched a ton of videos, and he’s been hauling our home for over a month now—not a single problem!
It’s a work in progress to go from living in a 2200 sq ft house with multiple storage areas down to a 340 sq ft fifth wheel with little storage, but we love the minimalist lifestyle. We cleaned out so many years of stuff we didn’t need when we sold our house, and we are not in a hurry to ever go back to having rooms full of items we don’t use!
One of the hardest things for me personally is finding a rhythm for groceries. I used to do groceries every two weeks with maybe one small trip for forgotten things in between. That’s nearly impossible with full-time RV living. We don’t have the freezer space for a ton of extra food, so I typically buy just enough for the week and go from there. Produce from some areas doesn’t “keep” as long as produce from other areas. Grocery shopping is now a once-a-week chore, and that’s if we have a decent grocery store nearby. I have learned that not all grocery stores are created equal!
One of our favorite aspects of full-time living is meeting so many new people. Just yesterday, we met a family from the UK while we were on the trails at Glacier. A few weeks ago we made lifelong friends with a couple from Maryland. We already have plans to meet up with them and a group of other full-timers in the spring.
The day-to-day routines are not fully mapped out yet, but we’re getting there. I always have a tendency to push for “perfect” rather than progress. Transitions, no matter what a person is transitioning from or to, are difficult. We have to give each other (and ourselves) grace daily, sometimes hourly. “Are we there yet?” Is a question asked on regular basis, despite the fact that we drive all the time!
Still, we are living purposefully, intentionally, and bravely. Not every day is easy. Not every day is “social media beautiful.” There is, however, something beautiful in every day.
We are frequently asked when we’ll be back or when we plan to “settle down” again. We honestly have no answer for that question. We are confident we will know when and where God begins to move our hearts to put down roots. Until then, we’ll see you down the road!
We went to the Needles, had a fun time. We went to the Needles--is this supposed to rhyme? Climbed some rocks, hiked on some trails, went through some tunnels, and took some more photos. SO. MANY. MOTORCYCLES. Always bring tennis shoes. The walking stick I brought helps sometimes.
So we were staying near Hill City, South Dakota. Most days we were out and about doing fun things in South Dakota. The other day, on a Saturday we went to Mount Rushmore for a second time in a MONTH. (Crazy right! I know, but that’s our life know, lol.) After that we were feeling a little hungry so we went to DEADWOOD, South Dakota. We were planning to go there anyway, so we made our way down to Deadwood, scoped around for a place to eat, and found Stockade. The food there was incredible; the Buffalo wings were very, very, good. After that we went to the Adams Museum; it was awesome; it showed and talked about Wild Bill Hickok as well as Calamity Jane, two of the biggest Wild West icons. Then when we were done, we went to Mt. Mariah, which is where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried.