Categories
Parks

Exploring the Fraser Valley in British Columbia

Summer is a great time of year to explore British Columbia. We traveled with our trailer from Ontario all of the way out to British Columbia this summer. We decided that, since we have to spend the winter in Canada, the best province to RV in is British Columbia because of its mild winters. British Columbia is an RVers “playground’ – full of mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, and islands on the Pacific Ocean.

It’s been easy for us to find waterfalls and hiking trails that aren’t too difficult for our three boys while we stay the rest of the year in the Fraser Valley. One of them we have enjoyed a couple of times is Bridal Veil Falls. It is a very short 1/2 kilometer walk to the falls. The fun part is climbing up the falls. It’s quite steep, but we all managed to make it up to base of the waterfall. The water trickles down over the rocks to where the trail starts and the view of the falls is impressive from the trail, but climbing up to the base of it helps you realize how big the waterfall is.

And if you’re adventurous, you can step onto some rocks and have an icy cold shower in the falls! We chose not to do this, but were entertained by watching some adults who did. If you are ever in the Chilliwack area, make sure you visit this waterfall.

           

If you go south of Chilliwack to Cultus Lake, don’t miss Teapot Trail. It’s a 3.8 mile hike to a lookout area. The view isn’t necessarily spectacular, but what makes this hike unique are all of the teapots and teacups hidden by people along the path. There are over 100 placed along the path, in the woods, and even up in the trees!

The boys helped paint a white teapot that we picked up on clearance at Ikea, and we brought it with us on the hike. It was fun looking for the perfect spot to set ours. It was also motivation to get to the top of the trail because we told our boys we’d place it near the top. And that’s what we did! So, if you go on this hike, look near the top of the trail, in the trees, along the path, and let us know if you spot it!

 

      

North of Chilliwack close to where the Fraser River meets Harrison Lake are the towns of Aggasiz and Harrison Hot Springs. This area is peaceful, away from the busy cities, and surrounded by mountains. You’ll find that it’s a beautiful area to get out on the water.

Our new friends here let us try out their paddleboard. Our boys had never been out on one before, but know how to row, so it was fairly easy for them. Joel was the only one able to balance while standing on it. I think we just might need to buy our own! Being out on a lake in the mountains is so peaceful.

    

   

Check out Harrison Hot Springs, north of Chilliwack. The little shops and restaurants are great! You’ll also find a beautiful, sandy, beach next to Harrison Lake. There is also a small, shallow pond next to the lake that is warmer for swimming in, great for younger kids, and also is surrounded by sand.

We spent an afternoon soaking up the sun in both areas. I brought homemade sushi for lunch. Who brings sushi for a picnic?! We do! Our boys love it, and so do Adam and I. The shallow pond is a fun spot to hang out because there is a playground nearby as well.

Harrison Hot Springs also has a gorgeous resort where you can spend a night, relax in the spa, and swim in the natural hot springs pool. We hope to be back to enjoy this resort someday.

 

  

Vedder Mountain, beside Cultus Lake, is a great area for hiking, biking, and going out in an ATV. Vedder Mountain Ridge Trail is over 8 kilometers long! We decided not to do the entire hike but enjoyed the beautiful hike into the woods.

We spotted different kinds of mushrooms growing and saw moss and slugs. It was not a difficult hike and a great afternoon outing on a sunny day. Our boys love to explore everything on our hikes, especially our youngest, Ian. He will spot the tiniest mushrooms, pretty wildflowers, tiny bugs, and unique trees, stopping many times to take it all in. This slows us down a bit, but we love his and our other two boys’ interest in nature.

   

These are just some of the outdoor, family outings we have taken here in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia.

Categories
RV Life Save Money RVing

9 Free Things To Do: For Kids Who Travel In An RV full time

As a full-time RVing family, we often meet people on our travels who are a bit shocked, slightly envious, or even perplexed at how we travel as a family full-time and share 270 sq feet in our travel trailer between 5 of us. (I remember one woman listening to our story at a restaurant, and then replying “Wow. May the force be with you.”)

Two of the most frequent questions we get when someone finds out we RV full-time as a family:

  • How do you not drive each other crazy living together in such a small space and RVing with kids?
  • How much does traveling in an RV full-time cost compared to living in a house?

While these two questions seem unrelated, they have a pretty close connection, not just for our family, but for how other full-time RV families handle family time on the road and keep their kids busy and learning.

The first answer is that we don’t spend our life in 270 sq feet. Most days, we treat our travel trailer like you might treat the hotel room on vacation. Our goal isn’t to travel somewhere, and then spend all of our time in the trailer. We’re out exploring the place where we’re visiting, and that includes finding things for our kids to do.

Often one of us will take the kids out for the day, or the evening, while the other stays home to work. It’s also common that one of us is dropped off at a coffee shop to work while the other takes the kids to explore.

The answer to the second question is that we keep our costs relatively low. (Here’s an article we wrote about 9 ways we save money on campgrounds). One of the keys to keeping our costs low (and not driving each other crazy in a small space) is that we find ways to entertain our kids for free.

None of the 9 ideas below are probably groundbreaking ideas for you, and they’re not specific to being a full-time RV family, but they are things we make part of our routine and spend time together as a family without breaking the bank. While most of these may be happening out of habit for you, once you get on the road as a full-time RV family, you’ll want to make these a regular part of your routine.

The best part about using this same list over and over is that as you travel, the “new playground” will seem like a brand new idea for your kids. We know it’s a repeat of visiting a “new playground” in the last city, but we won’t tell your kids.

 

1. Playground or Skatepark Near You

A simple google search will pull up plenty of nearby areas to go to a playground or skatepark (and often both in the same area).

It’s amazing to me how excited our kids get about a new slide. “Daddy, this slide is blue!” To me, most playgrounds look pretty similar: a slide, monkey bars, and a rock-climbing wall or ladder to get up, but to my kids, they are happy to explore new territory.

Skateparks have become the recent rage for our boys. They’ll put on rollerblades or ride their scooter around for hours in just about any skatepark. It’s great that we’re not telling them to go out but watch for cars. It’s simply a place intended for them to skate around and enjoy.

Skate parks and playgrounds are also great stops in the middle of travel days. We search ahead of time, find a location, and then check the satellite view to see how easy it will be to pull our trailer in or out of the area. Often these parks have a large parking lot, are located next to a road with plenty of parking, or in a schoolyard where there is unused bus parking on the weekends or in the evenings.

It’s great to pull our travel trailer into a large parking lot, let the kids out to grab their scooters and helmets, take a break for a snack, and then continue our car ride to the next campground.

 

2. Enjoy a Local Library

I can’t promise that your kids will love your proposal to ‘hang out at a library’, but besides books (which our oldest can’t get enough of) our kids have found games on computers, comic books to read, magazines to check out, and frankly, sometimes just decent wifi for the iPad and a quiet place to unwind for a rainy afternoon (while I get some work done, or at least a few emails answered).

In our traveling as a family, we’ve found libraries that have evening storytime, afternoon concerts or sing-alongs, movie nights on the lawn, and costume parties at different times throughout the year. It’s not something we plan our schedule around, but it is a great way to get out with a purpose if we happen to be in the area when there is an event going on.

Most of the time, we aren’t able to take books or movies away from the library since we aren’t locals, but if you ask any of the librarians, “What things are there to do for kids near here?” they usually have at least 2 or 3 ideas of things you can do as a family in the nearby area.

 

3. Free Zoos, Museums & Factory Tours

This free activity for families comes as a surprise to many people, but there are quite a few large and reputable zoos, museums, and factory tours in major cities that are completely free.

Most traveling families recognize that in Washington, DC, many museums and art galleries are free to access, but we’ve found many small, local-run museums that are free to access (or by donation, which can fit any budget).

A quick google search about “Museums for kids or families near me” can lead you to plenty of museum options, and it takes a little digging to find free ones that may interest you.

Sure, museums, but zoos? Sure! The Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago and the St. Louis Zoo are two of the most awarded zoos in North America, and both are free admission. Don’t let the free ticket set a low expectation. They have lions, tigers, and bears – oh my – they are worth the trip.

Check ahead of time, since there is often a cost for parking, or you may save a few dollars by parking out of town and taking public transit.

Free Factory tours have become one of our favorite things to do as a family as we travel. Our kids are fascinated by the machines, watching the workers, the packaging, and seeing the process of how things are made.

Sometimes we plan for these tours, like The Kazoo Factory tour in Beaufort, South Carolina, and other times, we just happen to see a sign and drop-in, like the Jelly Belly Factory Tour in Fairfield, California.

The factories love to have you come through for free, because you’re almost certainly going to promote your visit on social media, and probably pick something up in the store on your way out.

For many factories, offering free tours for individuals or families is a promotional opportunity.

 

4. Local Live Music in your City

Finding live music could be as casual as buskers to listen to in Quebec City, or New Orleans, or it could be a summer festival with music in the park or a local festival. You might hear about a local school performing a Christmas concert, or someone playing at the amphitheater at a park nearby.

Something about hearing live music is exciting, and it doesn’t have to be a genre you already love – just being around people enjoying the music with you is enough to create a great experience.

RV living is about new experiences, not things. In our first month living in an RV, we sat and listened to buskers play in Quebec City. In our second month on the road, we were invited by other full-time RVers to a ceilidh (basically a fiddle dance in a barn in Eastern Canada), and shortly after that, we listened to a Beatles tribute band in Nashville at a library and danced to a DJ in Orlando in an outdoor mall.

My kids were surprised to learn that I didn’t like any of the music that the DJ was playing, but enjoyed spending time together as a family. Life on the road with kids is about appreciation, not preferences.

 

5. Browse Farmers Markets

Our youngest has a fascination with seeds, gardening, fruits, and vegetables.

Full-time RV living doesn’t allow us to have a garden, but free farm tours when we’re staying at a Harvest Host or Boondockers Welcome site are a perfect fit for his 6-year-old interests.

While we’re not staying on-site at a farm, we like to find local markets to wander through – often not buying anything, or choosing to spend some of our grocery budget which we would have spent anyway.

We talk about the produce that grows locally in each area, check out new fruit or vegetables we’ve never seen before (did you know purple cauliflower is a real thing?)

Often markets have local crafters, samples that our children love to taste, and simply broadens our horizons in a different way than a family trip to a national park, for instance.

 

6. Visit Historical Sites and take a family photo

Historical sites not only give something to add to a “to-do” list but also offer an educational opportunity for our kids (and let’s face it, we usually learn something too as parents). While we’re full-time RVing, we homeschool, so visiting ‘whatever is near us’ gives us a way to talk about topics that may not have come up naturally during lessons.

A statue or monument gives us insight into a local historical figure, and often ties into another site we visited a few days ago, or a site we’ll visit a few days from now. A historical plaque will let us know why a city was established where it is, or what the purpose of its location originally was.

Since we travel full time, we have a map that we use to show our kids where we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re heading to next. Often, the history of an area plays into their clarity about how certain regions are connected.

 

7. Have Your Kids Plan and Prepare a Family Picnic

Picnics are not just about eating at a park. An entire process can be built around preparing for a family picnic. You may imagine that when we live in an RV full-time that picnic is an exciting daily occurrence since we often have a picnic table at our campsite, but this often just becomes part of the routine of traveling full-time; eating at the picnic table outside our RV.

Planning a picnic includes deciding what to eat, making a grocery list, shopping for the groceries together as a family, preparing and packing your lunch, then the enjoyment of unpacking it at a park, or near a lake, or in the middle of a hike to sit together and enjoy a meal as a family in a newly-explored place.

You are going to eat anyway, so this is an opportunity for your kids to do some planning and see the whole process of how to make a well-rounded meal.

 

8. Walking, Hiking, and Biking

Whether you’ve parked your RV near a National Park, State Park, Provincial Park, Municipal Park, or none of the above, traveling as a family almost always puts you in or near somewhere that you can go for a hike.

You don’t always have to imagine a hike as tromping through a forest. Maybe for your family, a hike is wandering downtown in a city you’ve never explored before, or biking through a park and stopping for ice cream, or wandering around your campground and counting flags or taking pictures near flowers.

We usually go for a hike once a week – sometimes more – and the longer we travel full-time, the more frequently we seem to decide to get out and go for a hike.

While a google search can help you find hiking trails in the area, we’ve talked with other families about RVing with kids, and many of them also say that the best way to get a recommendation for a hiking trail to do with kids is to ask a local. Stop by the campground office and ask for an opinion on a great hike to do as a family, or while you’re in a toy store, or ask the librarian.

Most people whose profession includes working with kids will know exactly what there is to do in the area in a way that a google review may not help with.

 

9. Community Events & Festivals

Many community organizations have free events for kids, from Hallowe’en events to summer programs, to plays in the park, to endless possibilities.

We love going out to do an event, and not just be passive observers. While festivals often have a concert or presentation aspect, we also love to see vendors, exhibits, and craft tables while we’re there.

Search for a community event calendar in the area where you’re staying on Google, or check Facebook for “Events Near Me” to find out what’s coming up in your area while you’re traveling.

We’ve even changed our travel plans to be in a specific area at a specific time for an event we found out about. Usually, it’s because we were already in the area and decided to stay an extra day, or found out about an upcoming event in the next area where we’d be staying and decided to travel a day early.

A few times, we’ve pulled an all-nighter road trip to get somewhere for a specific event that we just found out about, and that freedom is one of the joys of the fulltime RV lifestyle.

 

Full-time RV living is about staying flexible and gathering memories and experiences, not things. As an RV family, we’re always focusing on what we can do to make those memories, without breaking the bank.

While we’re traveling, we do have times when we choose to treat ourselves and spend a portion of our budget on a unique experience, but it’s possible to both travel full-time and be aware of your budget and stay within it.

Categories
Cities Historical Sites

Washington, DC

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!

 

Categories
RV Life

How we decided to purchase and renovate a Travel Trailer! (why not a motorhome or fifth wheel?)

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!

Categories
RV Life

9 Basic Terms for Full Time RV Living

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?

30 amp electrical extension cable

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?

Fomaldehyde-Free RV Tank Cleaner

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?

30 amp (left) to 50amp (right) adapter

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.

Dry camping is staying somewhere that is intended as a camp site, but has no water or electrical hookups. Our favorite dry camping stops have been in the mountains in British Columbia, Canada (specifically, Horseshoe Lake, just north of the Washington Border).

 

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!

Weight Distribution hitch for towing a trailer

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!

 

 

Categories
National Parks

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Another National Park ✔️ We took in the beauty of the southern part of Joshua Tree National Park in California and our boys earned another Jr. Ranger badge.

Who would have known that desert could be so beautiful!

Joshua Tree National Park in California

 

 

 

The rugged rock formations and stark landscape of the Mojave Desert are stunning in Joshua Tree National Park. We took in some of the beauty here today, and our boys earned their Jr. Ranger badges.