When we began RVing full-time in 2014, we had the opportunity to participate in family events we would’ve missed otherwise. From graduations to birthdays, and even my brother’s stirring citizenship ceremony in Rocky Mountain National Park, the full-time traveling lifestyle gave us the flexibility to be present.
Our flexibility extended to the holiday season, when there was nowhere else we’d rather be than with loved ones. We settled into a rhythm after so many years, but there are undoubtedly some unique challenges new RVers face when they go home for the holidays.
If you’re overwhelmed by the prospect of planning your visit and answering questions about your lifestyle when you get there, then this guide is for you. By looking ahead and having reasonable expectations, you can set yourself up for a fulfilling holiday.
The original version of this article was originally published on the Winnebago Life blog in December 2019.
Our Holiday Rhythm as Full-time RVers
Before I launch into my list of suggestions, I’ll briefly share what our holiday season looked like as full-time RVers. For Christmas specifically, we drove our RV to Corpus Christi, Texas, because my parents live there.
When we had a 40-foot Class A, we would park at a campground in the area and continue to sleep in our RV. We usually preferred to stay in our home when visiting people, rather than go through the hassle of moving in and out of a guest bedroom (that transition could also be challenging for our toddler).
But at Christmastime, it’s not as magical when you have to drive 25-minutes on Christmas morning! So eventually, my parents’ next-door neighbor offered her home to us. She watched me grow up, so she could trust that I’d be respectful. And meanwhile, her house was going to be empty over Christmas, as she went to visit family herself. It worked out well.
Once we had our 25-foot Winnebago View, our home actually fit in that same neighbor’s driveway. So then we had several options to choose from: local campground, stay in the neighbor’s house when she was out of town, or stay in her driveway when she was home.
With that quick peek into our holiday experience, you can start to see there’s a range of options when you go home for the holidays as a full-time RVer. Now let’s take a step back, to cover all of the bases for your own visit.
Tips for a Great Visit Home as an RVer
Plan Ahead for Holiday Success
Even in the most harmonious family, having so many voices in the conversation can lead to chaos. So, it’s essential that you plan your holiday visit ahead of time, instead of waiting until arrival to iron out all the details.
First things first: how are you getting to your holiday destination? If time and distance restraints require it, you may opt to fly like many other Americans. But if you’re taking your RV with you, then make sure you give yourself time to enjoy the drive. There are few things worse than a marathon trip across the country. Especially during the holiday season, you want to arrive refreshed, not exhausted.
Secondly, where will you park your RV once you’re there? If a loved one has offered their property–maybe a long driveway or unused piece of land–then you’ll want to answer these questions before you accept:
- How level is the spot? You don’t want to damage your refrigerator or roll off the bed at night.
- Is there enough clearance? Know the height of your RV, and make sure there aren’t any low-hanging trees, big bushes, or encroaching eaves from a nearby house (we’ve dealt with all of the above).
- What are the HOA rules and local laws? Some towns prohibit street parking overnight (Gilroy, CA). There are other places that allow street parking for RVs, with a permit (Burbank, CA). Know the rules of the area. The last thing you want is a knock on the door on Christmas Eve, saying you have to find another place for your RV!
- If you’ll need to work over the holiday, is there cell coverage and WiFi available? You can use the Coverage? app to see cell coverage from AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
If parking at your family member’s is not an option, then research local campgrounds. Storage facilities may also be flexible with short-term contracts. Even a local church may allow you to store your RV in an unused corner of the parking lot. When creativity is required, you’ll usually find that people are helpful and generous.
Thirdly, you should reach out to your family well in advance of the holiday, to set expectations when it comes to gift-giving. Especially if they’ve never seen your RV, they may not understand your space limitations. Respectfully let them know you have limited space in your RV and have to be intentional about the items you add to your home. Though it may feel awkward, you can even suggest gifts, including a specific toy for your child and fuel gift cards for yourself!
Don’t Get Defensive
Now we fast-forward. You’ve arrived for the holidays and parked your RV. You’re sitting down to dinner with your extended family, and the questions begin. Why would you choose such a nontraditional lifestyle? Are you financially destitute? How do you make friends? Depending on the dynamics of your family, you may face many weird and difficult questions that automatically put you on the defense.
Before you become frustrated, take a beat. Put yourself in your family members’ shoes and acknowledge that they may be motivated by concern and love for you. Even more, it’s important to realize you may not have an answer that satisfies your family. No amount of talking will change their opinion of full-time RVing.
Fortunately, time tends to soothe these types of conflict. Over time, your family members will witness your RV lifestyle and the positive impact it has. But for the time being, the best thing for your relationship and a peaceful holiday may be to change the subject.
Be an Ambassador for the RV Lifestyle
We know how travel broadens our outlook on the world. We are fortunate and privileged to live this life–to see what we see and experience what we experience. Instead of allowing your family conversation to be negative, turn to the positive. You can be an ambassador, and promoting a good reputation for RVers is only part of your role.
In a time of national division and interpersonal conflict, we as travel ambassadors can help dispel this vague notion of the “other.” We have stories to tell, about regions of the country where we had wonderful experiences and met the kindest people. Our outlook has value and can truly make an impact for good.
Peace and goodwill are what the holidays are about, so let’s do our part in our own families!
When You Choose Not to Go Home for the Holidays
Armed with this information, you may still decide not to go home for the holidays. In 2019, for example, we weren’t “home” at my parents’ for Thanksgiving because it would’ve required long hours of driving, putting strain on our work commitments and family as a whole.
If you’re facing a similar decision, then the best thing you can do is communicate well and with love. Explain your reasoning to your family. Oftentimes, their first response is to feel like they aren’t important to you. That being the case, you may consider planning a time you will visit in the near future. While holidays apart can be painful, it’s the way we live all year that defines our relationships.
Final Notes on RV Life When You’re Home for the Holidays
RV life at the holidays carries its own challenges. But it also holds positives that are unique to us, like getting to stay in our own home while we enjoy the company of our family. With advance planning, reasonable expectations, and the broad perspective we’ve gained through our RV travels, we can fill those around us with the joy of the season.