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This week on our Travel More case study series we speak to a family that sold everything and starting travelling around the USA in an RV with their four kids. Full-time travel is tough with new beds to sleep in each night and new routines every day, but travelling by RV allows you to have a home. Similarly to travelling the world on a sailboat, with an RV you get the best of both worlds: a constant and familiar home, but one that can move around and explore new places.
We talked to Jill from Let’s Travel Family more about their new way of life that started in early 2017. What I love about Jill’s story is that they had a vision of what they wanted and they went out and made it happen. They didn’t have careers that allowed them to work remotely, but they hunted down jobs that would fit with the lifestyle they wanted.
Jill’s enthusiasm for creating your perfect life is infectious and I think you will find their story very inspirational. She also offers lots of great tips and advice for families thinking about a major lifestyle change and wanting to pursue family #vanlife.
- 1 Meet the Let’s Travel Family
- 1.1 1. Tell us a little bit about your family and your history with travel.
- 1.2 2. When did you first get interested in RV travel and the digital nomad lifestyle? Why did you choose it and what steps did you take to make it a reality?
- 1.3 3. Can you tell us more about your RV?
- 1.4 4. What do you like the most and least about traveling by RV?
- 1.5 5. What do you like the most and least about the digital nomad lifestyle?
- 1.6 6. Can you tell us about some of your favourite places you have visited?
- 1.7 7. What do the kids think about their lifestyle? What about schooling and socialization for your kids?
- 1.8 8. What does a typical day look like for your family?
- 1.9 9. What advice would you give to families thinking about full-time RVing or becoming digital nomads?
- 1.10 10. Are there any resources families can check out if they are considering this lifestyle?
- 1.11 11. What does the future hold? Where are you headed next?
- 2 Find Out More at Let’s Travel Family
- 3 Travel More Case Study Series
Meet the Let’s Travel Family
1. Tell us a little bit about your family and your history with travel.
Our family of 6 sold most of our belongings, bought an RV, and began traveling full time in early 2017 across the USA. I decided to ‘blog’ about our experience at first, however soon after I began blogging I decided I wanted to start a Family Travel Blog to help inspire, encourage, and educate other families about traveling together. My name is Jill, and I am the writer behind Let’s Travel Family.
Our motto is to live each day to the fullest, and we were not doing that when we lived back in Minnesota. So, my husband Tony and I decided we needed to make a big change. One that would allow ourselves to live both physically and mentally healthy, while raising healthy and happy children.
We wanted to build amazing memories together while learning new things each day while traveling and growing closer as a family. You see, traveling together as a family has been a dream of mine before I even had children.
2. When did you first get interested in RV travel and the digital nomad lifestyle? Why did you choose it and what steps did you take to make it a reality?
Tony and I always wanted to travel often as a family. The difficult part for us was managing vacations on one income while raising and homeschooling 4 children. In the past, Tony would get a week off from work and we’d take a road trip to Colorado, Alabama, or South Dakota to name a few. No matter the destination, we loved every minute of it!
It was the coming back home part that was always difficult. The connections and memories we made as a family while traveling, even for just a week, were stronger than we had made for months prior.
We wanted more.
More travel, more memories, more quality time together with our children….just more. Yet, we knew that ‘vacationing’ the rest of our lives was not going to happen. Like my father always said ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’.
So, the next best thing was to find a full time remote way to make income so that we COULD travel more. Tony works in the IT field, and after applying to tens, if not hundreds of jobs…he landed an awesome career with a company that only hires remote IT workers.
I searched and found a great company that hired me to teach English online remotely to children in China. I started teaching before we even bought our RV, and it’s been a great part-time job for me to do in the early mornings as we travel.
Once we both had remote work that would provide us income, we sold most of our belongings, gave notice on the lease of our house, and bought our RV.
Our children had already been homeschooled from the beginning, so that was not a huge change for our family. The big change was living in a tiny home on wheels!
Why travel in an RV?
Well, we were looking for the most cost efficient way to travel with four children 8 and under full time. We also considered international travel at first, but quickly realized that we had not even seen most of our own country yet. So we decided we wanted to explore America first.
Tony and I considered staying in vacation rental homes, however the cost would be much too high. Also, living in an RV would allow us to get out to the huge National Parks and areas that we really wanted to experience together as a family, where vacation rental homes are not usually located.
3. Can you tell us more about your RV?
Our family travels in a 33-foot Class C Motorhome. It has 2 slides that open to make it a bit roomier inside. There are 2 twin bunkbeds in a slide, a large bunk bed over the driver and passenger cab portion of the RV, and a Queen bed for Tony and I in the back of our home. We each have our sleeping space separate from our living space that does not have to be ‘picked up’ each day, which is so nice.
Our kitchen has a microwave, freezer and refrigerator, 3 burner stove and an small oven. Honestly, we have more than we need each day to make meals for all 6 of us.
Tony or I take turns driving the Motorhome while the other drives our minivan with the 4 kids in it. This way, we have an extra vehicle for getting into cities and exploring the areas once the motorhome is parked and we have set up camp for a week or two.
4. What do you like the most and least about traveling by RV?
We LOVE travel days!! Honestly, Tony and I have remarked on how excited we all get on travel days. It’s the thrill of visiting new destinations, seeing new sights, and meeting new people that gets us excited the most. I often tell people that we have a bad case of wanderlust.
Full time RV living with kids has encouraged Tony and I to grow and learn so much over the last year. The flexibility we have learned has helped us both as individuals and as a family.
Traveling in our RV allows us to bring our ‘home’ with us on travel days, kitchen and all. We can stop and make a quick lunch in our own kitchen, and use our own bathroom.
The conveniences of having your own bathroom with four kids under 10 years old is amazing!
Yet RV life can sometimes bring you to ‘out-of-the-way’ campgrounds. Those that have very slow cellular internet speed, no playground, no kids to play with, and are a good 45-minute drive to a grocery store. We have learned to reach out to our full-time RV family community online to find out the best campgrounds and destinations to stay in, to lower our chances of finding a ‘not-so-good’ place to camp.
5. What do you like the most and least about the digital nomad lifestyle?
We LOVE being together all the time as a digital nomad family. Even if Tony is on his laptop working during the day and I’m on my laptop working in the early mornings and at night. There is no ‘commute’ to work and back, and the kids can run to Daddy to show him their exciting discovery from the woods anytime they please. Enjoying meals together, spending time close to each other, and sharing in the education of our children has been a great experience as digital nomads.
Sometimes, we have found that Tony or I will become distracted if the kids are nearby playing while we are trying to get work done. Without an ‘office’ to go to, it can get to be difficult to find a quiet and private space to work or hop on a phone call. So, we have started to do a few things to make it easier on all of us.
One day a week Tony will take the minivan to a coffee shop nearby and work, while the kids and I have the day to clean and play in and around the RV. One evening a week Tony will take the kids on an outing while I stay back at the RV to work on the blog without any interruptions. We find that being intentional with our time has helped us live a more fulfilling digital nomad family life.
6. Can you tell us about some of your favourite places you have visited?
During our first year of traveling full time in an RV as a family, we visited 30 states. During that time, we knocked several experiences and destinations off our bucket list. A big one was visiting Glacier National Park. Our family spent 2 weeks in Glacier hiking, camping, kayaking, paddle boarding, and taking in the view and wonder of the amazing Rocky Mountains and glacial lakes. I even caught sight of a mama bear and her 2 cubs at Glacier!
Nashville, Tennessee is high up on our list of favorite cities that we have visited. From great food and exciting Country Music experiences, to family friendly museums and southern hospitality, we really felt welcome in the area.
If you ask our kids, which many people do, where their favorite places have been so far, they will either answer Disneyland or the Florida Keys. Both destinations are near the top of my list as well, because we made some of the best family memories in each. From fun rides and having the magical Disney experience in Disneyland to kayaking and snorkeling in the Florida Keys, we are already looking into going back!
Our kids are really enjoying the full-time RV lifestyle. We talk openly with them about our travel plans, and consider everyone’s wishes. For example, our 9-year-old son Riley told me recently that he loves playing with friends and wants to continue to meet up with friends more often. After talking about it a bit with him, he determined that he wasn’t looking to be with the ‘same’ friends all the time, but that meeting new kids at a playground in town is all he is looking for on a regular basis.
For those long-lasting friendships, he is more than happy to stay connected using e-mail, FaceTime, and online gaming through Minecraft and the DIY app for kids.
Our children learn so much each day by experience. Shopping at a new grocery store, pretend playing, following along on a map during a drive day, visiting a Science Museum in a new state, listening to audiobooks on travel days, participating in the Junior Ranger Programs at the National Parks, and so much more.
We use the term ‘Worldschooling’ when asked what type of ‘homeschool’ family are you. We are a worldschooling family that ALL learn something new each day.
Tony and I strive to be life-long learners alongside our children, and find that we have learned SO much more by visiting new places and exploring together than we ever did reading a book in traditional school.
8. What does a typical day look like for your family?
As a digital nomad family, we have 3 categories of days. Travel days, working days, and family exploring days.
A typical ‘work’ day involves me waking up early, drinking my espresso, and working on the blog or teaching online from 5-8 am. Tony wakes around 7 am to make breakfast for the family as the children stumble out of bed. After a family breakfast, Tony begins setting up his desk for work either inside or outside, depending on the weather, and the kids play for a bit while I clean up and prepare to take the kids somewhere to explore.
We may visit a local museum, historical sight, playground, state or national park trail to hike, or just go swimming or bike riding around the campground. It all really depends on the weather, where we are, and what activities are nearby.
Family explore days are those that Tony and I try not to work all day long, and we take either a half or whole day as a family to leave the RV and explore the area. We might plan to rent kayaks and hit the waters as a family. Or, we may visit a local Farmer’s Market, hit up a local playground, and then head back to grill out and go on a family bike ride. It all depends on where we are.
Travel days usually involve Tony and I waking up to make a quick breakfast, clean up and get ready to pull the slides in the RV all before the kids are even awake. We have mastered travel day clean-up to take about 45 minutes, then we are ready to hit the road.
The kids each have an iPad and toys in their carseats, while Tony and I drive either the Motorhome or Minivan while listening to podcasts. Sometime the kids and I will listen to The Story of the World on audiobook. Lately, that’s been a favorite.
9. What advice would you give to families thinking about full-time RVing or becoming digital nomads?
Do NOT wait for “one day” or make excuses. If traveling full time, even for only 90 days or 1 year, is something your family dreams about doing, then find a way to do it. Follow your dreams, connect as a family, and make it happen. It is SO worth it. Our kids are only young once, and they grow up too fast. This is the time to make those lasting memories.
Reach out to us if you have any questions about starting out and we’d be more than happy to help you along!
10. Are there any resources families can check out if they are considering this lifestyle?
If you are looking for a great resource for taking a family road trip, you should really check out the course on 90 Day Family Road Trip.
Another great resource is Full Time Families and their Facebook Group. When I found Full Time Families, I was excited to find SO many other families that are traveling full time across North America in their RVs. They plan rallies several times a year to meet up at different campgrounds and connect in person, as well as online.
11. What does the future hold? Where are you headed next?
We are so excited to continue our journey of RV family travel. We will be heading to Niagara Falls, Maine, Boston, NYC, and Washington DC this fall. Then we plan to visit the Florida Keys again this winter!
Our family has no plans to stop traveling. We are already considering where we want to travel next summer and look forward to making more lasting memories, learning alongside one another, and feeding our wanderlust as we hope to continue to inspire and encourage others to travel more as a family and follow their dreams.
Find Out More at Let’s Travel Family
Jill is always seeking new experiences and working to inspire others to travel. Jill has lots of great resources on USA destinations, RV travel and becoming a digital nomad on their blog, Let’s Travel Family. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.
Travel More Case Study Series
Don’t forget to read the other case studies in this series:
- Becoming a Digital Nomad Family
- Travel Hacking and Using Points to Travel
- Renting your House on Airbnb and Wintering in the Alps
- Meet this Sailing Family
- Taking a Family Gap Year
- Getting Started with Home Exchanges
- Expat Life in the Middle East
- Round the World Travel with Kids
- Maternity Leave Travel
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