Traveling the USA has helped us learn and appreciate the history of this amazing country so much more. We love how patriotic most Americans are. We enjoy learning more about the significant events in history that made this nation so great. And walking with our boys through the streets of historic places has been an incredible experience as we teach them.
In Canada, we’ve been able to do the same, and will continue to teach them about our great nation as well. There are so many more places we look forward to visiting. The next few months are going to be quite different as we wait things out. Stay healthy & safe everyone!
We considered motorhomes, fifth wheels and eventually landed on our travel trailer. Here’s what we were looking for, what were our MUST HAVEs to travel full-time as a family, and the renovations we did to our tiny home (our 1992 Salem Cobra) before we hit the road!
When we transitioned to living Full Time in our RV (in our case, we have a travel trailer that we tow behind our SUV) we were REALLY unprepared. It was an exciting, adventurous time where we weren’t sure what we were doing, exactly where we were going or what challenges might lie ahead, but we were ready to tackle anything. (rabbit trail: here are 15 items we found out we needed in our first 90 days!)
In some cases, though, a little bit of knowledge ahead of time would have been helpful.
Here are 9 basics that will help you understand Full Time RV Living.
What is Full Hookups / EWS / Water & Electric?
When you are looking at campgrounds, you’ll often find references to hookups. Hookups are the connections you’ll have at your campsite.
Full Hookup includes 3 things: Electricity, Water and Sewer (sometimes referred to as EWS). This means you’ll have Electricity to run your camper, trailer or motorhome, water for your plumbing and sewer to drain to at your campsite.
Alternatively, at times you may not have full hookup, but you’ll have Electric & Water only. This means that you won’t drain your tanks via a sewer hose at your site, rather you’ll keep your tanks closed and collect your drainage, then use a dump station when you leave the park to empty your tanks, or some campgrounds offer a service to come empty your tanks (sometimes, ironically, called the “Honey Wagon”.
Even rarer, you may have electricity only. You’ll need to put water into your holding tank and run your water pump during your stay and keep the water in your holding tanks.
What are Fresh Water Tank / Grey Tank / Black Tanks?
Your fresh water tank holds – you guessed it – fresh water. This is water that hasn’t been used yet. Grey water is water that has run through a tap or shower (washing dishes, washing hands, showering, etc.) Black water is your sewage waste and is strictly what has been flushed in your toilet.
Most RVs have a grey tank and a black tank. Some people when staying at a campsite that doesn’t have sewer, choose to empty their grey water on the ground. This is usually against campground policy (for obvious environmental reasons) and can often be a violation of a local bylaw. This is what is referred to if you see a notice that says “No dumping of grey water.”
We’ve found (and heard from most other camping families that we’ve talked to) that tanks fill up in about 3-4 days with normal use. If we’re staying at one location longer than 4 days, we need to have sewer at our site. If less than 3 days, then we stop at the dump station when we leave.
If we’re 4-5 days without sewer, we can do it, but we are really intentional about using water, and try to use the campground facilities as much as possible.
What does Potable Water mean?
Potable water is water that you can put ‘straight into a pot.’ It’s safe for drinking. Alternatively, non-potable water is fine for flushing your tanks, but not safe to put in your fresh water tank or run through your RV plumbing (where drinking water will run) because non-potable water hasn’t been treated.
Most dump stations will have a sign letting you know if the water is potable or non-potable.
What is a Campground Sani-Station or Dump Station?
If your campsite doesn’t have a sewer, you’ll be collecting used water you drain down your sink in your grey tank, and water and waste from your toilet in your black tank.
Most often called the Dump Station (but sometimes called a Sani-station) , this is the drain location provided by the campground to empty your tanks.
Once you hook up your sewer hose to both your RV and the drain, empty your black tank first, then your grey tank so that the grey water washes away your black water and rinses your hose.
What do 20 amp, 30 amp and 50 amp hookups mean?
You’ll want to know which electrical hookup is needed to properly run your RV, not only because they are different levels of power, but also because the plugs are different shapes to avoid confusion or incorrect connections.
Most trailers and campers are 30 amp, while larger rigs (large trailers and motor homes) are often 50 amp.
20 amp is a typical household circuit, and won’t run most RVs.
Our recommendation is to always book sites that match the exact hookups your RV needs.
If you need to hook to a different amperage than your default, here is a helpful guide from the RV Geeks:
What is the difference between Boondocking and Dry Camping?
Boon docking is staying at a location with no hookups that’s not a campground. This could be a Wal-mart or Cracker Barrel parking lot, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public land most common in the south-west United States or a friend’s driveway.
What is check-in time and check-out time at a campground?
Check-in time is the time that you can arrive for that day’s stay. If check-in time is 3 pm (for instance) then you won’t be able to access your campsite before 3 pm on your reservation day. Often campgrounds will allow you to get to the site sooner if no one else is using the site, but that can’t be assumed.
Check-out time is the time that you’re expected to vacate your campsite, often 11 am or 12 noon, but varies from one campground to another.
When we arrive at a new campground, we always ask what time check-out is. While most campgrounds are fairly lenient (or have pity on us because they see us herding 3 boys into our car), some will charge a late checkout fee if you’re not leaving your site by checkout time.
What is a Weight Distribution Hitch?
Snapshot: Relieves some of the weight of the trailer from your back axle/wheels / bearings. Don’t tow your trailer without it!
If you’re towing a trailer behind a truck or SUV, then you’ll need a weight-distribution hitch.
Initially, this didn’t make much sense for me. If my rear axle is supporting the weight of the trailer, then the hitch can’t magically stop it from adding weight, but what the weight distribution hitch does is create tension so that the trailer doesn’t sit as low on the back axle, and by leveling out the trailer, the actual trailer wheels are balancing more weight.
Raise the hitch, then connect the weight distribution bars, then lower the hitch, and you’ll notice the hitch doesn’t go down as far, and the chains on the distribution bars are tight. This is the tension necessary to keep some of the pressure of the weight off of the back of your vehicle.
What are wheel chocks?
Place these in front and behind of your wheels when you park at a campsite to stop your trailer from rolling while you’re inside walking around your RV.
If you’re new to RV life, put a chock both in front and behind each wheel, even if you think you know which way the RV is most likely to roll.
We don’t take a chance – we put 2 chocks on each side, one in front and one behind each of the front wheels.
If you’re considering Full-time RV Living, give it a shot! It’s really a lot of fun if you’re properly prepared and know what to anticipate!
What did we miss from our list? What terms did you learn only once you went full-time? Leave a comment and we’ll update our list!
A great afternoon for the family, just east of Edmonton!
Being immersed in the Ukrainian Culture of the Immigrants who came to Alberta in the early 1900s was a fun experience. We learned what life was like for them and explored just east of Edmonton at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village.
If you have a chance to visit Alberta, Canada with your family, put this on the list of things to do, less than an hour East of Edmonton! All of the buildings in the village are original buildings from when Ukrainians settled in Canada to escape the famine and economic depression in Ukraine. Many have been relocated to the area to be preserved at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village.
Each of the employees play the part of “members” of the village, so it’s not uncommon to see the blacksmith walk over to the general store to pick up some supplies, or see the police officer lock up his station and walk home for lunch where his wife is making soup.
We watched a few of the members of the village fixing a fence that one of the pigs had knocked over using only the tools and building supplies that would have been available in 1929.
We met the lumber yard tender who was out cutting his grass when we came in, so playing the part, he put down his cutters and came inside to ask us what we’re building and what supplies we needed.
Each member of the village is trained to greet each other in Ukrainian, and they speak English to the visitors with a Ukrainian accent, so you feel completely immersed in the experience.
As a new day begins, I just keep thinking about how amazing it has been traveling across the United States and part of Canada for these past 8 months. We’ve made to many memories with our boys and experienced so many new things.
With the amount of concrete that was used to build Hoover Dam, a 4000-mile two-lane highway could have been built. It would be able to stretch from San Francisco to New York! It took more than 10,000 people to build, and more than 100 people died during its construction.