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Author Topic: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?  (Read 5015 times)

cimbo

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Hi all. I've tried searching for existing discussions but haven't had much luck, and we're trying to get as much "real world" advice as we can before we hit the road.

Our family: Me, wife, 3 girls (5, 3, 2 years old). No pets :)

Our current setup: 20' 1990 Cataline Coachmen, which we got a year and a half ago to make sure we actually liked it before we dropped significant cash. It was a single-owner, stored indoors, but we still had some work to do and redid the interior (upholstery, carpet, vinyl flooring, painting, new memory foam mattress, etc.).

We took that out last year for 2 months (and have done a ton of other shorter trips), and we're now wanting to take off and spend ~2 years on the road. Our current thoughts after our limited experience on the road:
  • I need a dedicated space to work, very preferably in a separate room from my girls.
  • We need more outdoor storage. Our current MH has basically nothing beyond space for tools and hoses.
  • We want our girls to have their own space.
  • We don't want to be making and unmaking sleeping areas every night/morning.
  • We think we'd like a washer/dryer, but we know they're tiny.

We were originally considering getting a bigger Class C with bunks, and making a larger desk area for me in the rear bedroom. But after a few months we're now strongly leaning towards a Class A because they tend to have way more outdoor storage, we can go a little bigger, and when I travel to business events (my company sponsors events a few times a year) it'd make way more sense (imo) to throw a logo on a nice big Class A than a Class C. We're also leaning towards a diesel, after having spoken to people who've owned both and swear by the better ride of a diesel. We'd prefer to buy used, but would rather get what we need (even if it's new) than settle on something we're going to be too cramped in.

Right now though… I'm kind of lost and would love some advice. My questions:
  • Any recommendations on a Class A that has more than the standard 2 bunks? Obviously there are tour busses, but those are usually crazy expensive and longer than I want. (I want to keep it under 40'.) I'm thinking it might make sense to get one with 2 bunks (non-convertible) and add a 3rd bunk, like on a tour bus. That seem sane?
  • Thoughts on whether the newish "Class C style" slide-down bunks would work? Like on the Palazzo 33.3 or others. These don't seem that common, especially on RVs that also have bunks, but wondering if anybody has experience with them.
  • Thoughts on a washer/dryer? My wife would love one, even though she knows they're small. We figure we'd just use it as the dirty clothes hamper too, but not sure how realistic that is.
  • Thoughts on how big we might want to go? In some ways I'd like to keep it smaller, but maybe that's because we've never had a tow vehicle, so I'm used to getting around town in our 20' (or before that a truck pulling a trailer).
  • Not sure if the workamping board would be better to ask about mobile office setups, but any advice there would be great too :) (So long as I have a decent chair and a stable desk at the right height, I figure I can mount a 2nd monitor and make space for my notebook without many problems. I already have tons of experience with the challenges of reliable internet while on the road, but I figure we'll probably be staying for longer periods at nicer RV parks than we have in the past, so I won't be getting satellite unless it becomes really, really necessary.)

Sorry if these questions have been asked already. We're extremely grateful for any advice!

Also, we haven't set a date yet, and aren't in any huge rush, but figure we'll leave probably sometime in the next 3-6mo depending on weather and plans and finding the right RV. Thanks again!

SeilerBird

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2012, 03:50:19 PM »
Any recommendations on a Class A that has more than the standard 2 bunks? Obviously there are tour busses, but those are usually crazy expensive and longer than I want. (I want to keep it under 40'.) I'm thinking it might make sense to get one with 2 bunks (non-convertible) and add a 3rd bunk, like on a tour bus. That seem sane?
Most class As are set up for two people to sleep in with more sleeping available by a convertible couch and/or a dinette that makes into a bed. However you are wanting to not remake beds every night so bunks are your only option. Adding the third bunk seems the best way to go.
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Thoughts on whether the newish "Class C style" slide-down bunks would work? Like on the... or others. These don't seem that common, especially on RVs that also have bunks, but wondering if anybody has experience with them.
You do not want to full time with 5 people in any class C. The three girls are only going to get much bigger. Class Cs have very limited storage space and holding tanks, both of which you will need in spades for full timing with 5 people in one RV.
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Thoughts on a washer/dryer? My wife would love one, even though she knows they're small. We figure we'd just use it as the dirty clothes hamper too, but not sure how realistic that is.
An RV washer/dryer will not work for a family of five full timing, especially since four of them are female. You would need to run the W/D 24/7 and always be hooked up to power. Whereas once a week you can go to the laundromat for two hours and be done  with it. Most RV parks have laundry facilities so it is no big deal to go to the laundromat.

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Thoughts on how big we might want to go? In some ways I'd like to keep it smaller, but maybe that's because we've never had a tow vehicle, so I'm used to getting around town in our 20' (or before that a truck pulling a trailer).
I would think no less than 42 feet. I have been a full timer for 9 years and I am currently living by myself with three cats in a 32 footer. It is a bit small for me. Not as much storage space as I wish. If you get something much smaller you will be selling it to upgrade as your girls grow up.
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Not sure if the workamping board would be better to ask about mobile office setups, but any advice there would be great too :) (So long as I have a decent chair and a stable desk at the right height, I figure I can mount a 2nd monitor and make space for my notebook without many problems. I already have tons of experience with the challenges of reliable internet while on the road, but I figure we'll probably be staying for longer periods at nicer RV parks than we have in the past, so I won't be getting satellite unless it becomes really, really necessary.)
It is common to set up office space in an RV but it sounds like you are going to be using a desktop. You would be much better off with a laptop. I don't even have a desk, I use a 17" laptop and a lap board. Very portable, very little cost, very little room. A Verizon 4G air card is what you want for Internet, satellites are going out of vogue now that air cards are so cheap and so fast.

Have you read my article on full timing in the library here?

http://www.rvforum.net/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=435:fulltimeprep&catid=29:fulltiming&Itemid=45
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Lou Schneider

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2012, 04:14:47 PM »
You might want to widen your search and look at some of the 5th wheel toy haulers.  They have a garage in the back meant to haul the wheeled toys, but it could easily be converted into an office or optionally a bedroom for the 3 girls.


Of course this means you'd need a truck to pull it, but the overall cost might be about the same as a diesel Class A.

cimbo

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2012, 05:24:22 PM »
Thanks Tom and Lou.

Adding the third bunk seems the best way to go.
Have you ever seen anybody do this? I've spent time on a tour bus, but we know only one couple that has a Class A and they're retired, so I haven't seen anybody modify a newish Class A to add a 3rd bunk. I can't imagine we'd be the first to do it, but I also imagine it's not all that common either.

You do not want to full time with 5 people in any class C. The three girls are only going to get much bigger.

I meant the Class C "style" cab-over bunks in some of the newer Class A's. The Palazzo or ACE (video example), that are also in some other models. A Class C would definitely be too small.

Most RV parks have laundry facilities so it is no big deal to go to the laundromat.
That's what we've been doing thus far. We generate a lot of laundry though, so it's nowhere near a 2 hour once a week chore :)

Also, between always carrying quarters and the restricted hours on laundry we seem to encounter everywhere, it's kind of a pain. Looking to make things as easy as possible, so I'm wondering if having our own washer/dryer will at least help a little. (And we're planning on taking it pretty slow, staying in one location for at least 2-3 weeks. When we did our 2mo trip last year we went way way way too fast, so we don't want to do that again.)

I would think no less than 42 feet. I have been a full timer for 9 years and I am currently living by myself with three cats in a 32 footer. It is a bit small for me.
Ha, 32' for one person makes our 20' for 5 people seem cavernous :)

Most of the people I've talked to in 40'+ coaches actually seem to want to get 40' or under because they say a lot of facilities can't handle over 40'. Not sure how universal an opinion is though. Also, in California (where we currently live) over 40' requires a different type of license. Not entirely opposed to going over 40' but trying to keep it under that. But on your advice I'll look bigger.

It is common to set up office space in an RV but it sounds like you are going to be using a desktop. You would be much better off with a laptop. I don't even have a desk, I use a 17" laptop and a lap board. Very portable, very little cost, very little room.
Nah, I'm on a notebook.  I just need a 2nd monitor (likely mounted on a wall) and enough of a desk to give myself a good ergonomic workspace. I've worked in enough environments to know both for my back and my productivity what I need, and for me it's a firm requirement :)

Have you read my article on full timing in the library here?
I hadn't. Thanks for the link! The domicile issue is one we're still trying to figure out, and we're still looking into mail forwarding options. The rest of it though we're pretty set on.

 

You might want to widen your search and look at some of the 5th wheel toy haulers.  They have a garage in the back meant to haul the wheeled toys, but it could easily be converted into an office or optionally a bedroom for the 3 girls.
Thanks Lou. I've done 9 months in a trailer before, but we haven't really considered a 5th wheel for this trip. We'll take a look for sure.

Kim (skyking4ar2) Bertram

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2012, 06:06:31 PM »
We have a washer and dryer in our new motorhome that outperforms the old combination hands down. Even the two of us had some difficulty holding our own with laundry, and we don't have that problem now. And it is faster! And there were never enough quarters when you needed them! From where we stand as full timers, it is essential.

A friend who also full times like I do and works out of his coach like I do converted his Tiffin with bunks to an office, but that kind of defeats the purpose for you. I have two laptops and a large screen monitor, plus am also wired into a large digital TV, and work off the credenza and slide out dining table with ease. With three kids, probably no way, and we are 42 feet and change.

I actually think, as Lou pointed out, that some of the toy haulers may be a real possibility because of the way they use the space and I have seen them with the bunks already there. Your situation is going to stress even a nice size Class A just because of the floor plans.

And don't use a company logo on your rig! It was the first question my insurance company (GEICO) asked and it makes me a commercial vehicle! Slippery slope for all kinds of reasons.

Good luck with your search - I love what you are trying to do, but it's at the edge of the full time RV envelope.
Kim & Christi Bertram
SKP 106183
FMCA 420913
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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel
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cimbo

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2012, 06:11:53 PM »
We have a washer and dryer in our new motorhome that outperforms the old combination hands down. Even the two of us had some difficulty holding our own with laundry, and we don't have that problem now. And it is faster! And there were never enough quarters when you needed them! From where we stand as full timers, it is essential.
Thanks for the feedback. Do you have the little combo unit or separate washer+dryer units? We're still looking around at options and I've seen both (though I haven't seen separate units on anything 40' and under). Not sure how big a difference the single combo unit is from the split machines.

As far as company logos go, thanks for that. Not something I've looked into yet, but if we did go that route I'm thinking it'd just be a magnet (if they stick, which I'm assuming they don't) or other non-permanent method. But I'll figure out the insurance before I get any signage printed up :) Great word of caution there!

Wendy

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2012, 06:15:55 PM »
Just remember that that washer-dryer is going to take away a big chunk of storage and with 5 people, you're going to need a lot of storage. It might even be that the washer-dryer cabinet would make a good pull-down office for you.
 
I agree with the 5th wheel suggestion. Take a look at those and you may find something that's perfect for you and your family.
 
Have fun looking and planning.
Wendy
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SeilerBird

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2012, 06:16:59 PM »
Thanks Tom and Lou.
Have you ever seen anybody do this? I've spent time on a tour bus, but we know only one couple that has a Class A and they're retired, so I haven't seen anybody modify a newish Class A to add a 3rd bunk. I can't imagine we'd be the first to do it, but I also imagine it's not all that common either.
I have never seen or heard of anyone doing this. I think I would prefer to have one kid sleep on the convertible couch. Adding a third bunk would be a major undertaking and cut down on the room in the top bunk
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I meant the Class C "style" cab-over bunks in some of the newer Class A's. The Palazzo or ACE (video example), that are also in some other models. A Class C would definitely be too small.
Sorry, I misunderstood you. I have not seen those.
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That's what we've been doing thus far. We generate a lot of laundry though, so it's nowhere near a 2 hour once a week chore :)
Also, between always carrying quarters and the restricted hours on laundry we seem to encounter everywhere, it's kind of a pain. Looking to make things as easy as possible, so I'm wondering if having our own washer/dryer will at least help a little. (And we're planning on taking it pretty slow, staying in one location for at least 2-3 weeks. When we did our 2mo trip last year we went way way way too fast, so we don't want to do that again.)
And you will generate a lot more when full timing with sheets and towels. RV w/ds are extremely small and they use a lot of electricity and a lot of water. Usually I can get quarters from the manager or the host without a problem.
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Ha, 32' for one person makes our 20' for 5 people seem cavernous :)
Until you have lived in it for a few months and put up with a rain storm that lasts a week.
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Most of the people I've talked to in 40'+ coaches actually seem to want to get 40' or under because they say a lot of facilities can't handle over 40'. Not sure how universal an opinion is though. Also, in California (where we currently live) over 40' requires a different type of license. Not entirely opposed to going over 40' but trying to keep it under that. But on your advice I'll look bigger.
The different license is only required if you register it in California, which is the probably the worst state in the union to use as a domicile. Nevada is right next door and a lot better option. Taxes, license and registration are a lot cheaper.
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Nah, I'm on a notebook.  I just need a 2nd monitor (likely mounted on a wall) and enough of a desk to give myself a good ergonomic workspace. I've worked in enough environments to know both for my back and my productivity what I need, and for me it's a firm requirement :)
I am retired because of a bad back and that is why I don't have a desk. I find leaning over a desk working on a computer to be back breaking whereas there is no strain on my back with a laptop in my lap.
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I hadn't. Thanks for the link! The domicile issue is one we're still trying to figure out, and we're still looking into mail forwarding options. The rest of it though we're pretty set on.
http://www.maillinkplus.com/ is the place I have used for the past 8 years. It is based in Nevada and cost $10 per month plus forwarding charges.
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Kim (skyking4ar2) Bertram

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2012, 06:28:53 PM »
Our washer and dryer are separate and stack. Both are front loaders.
Kim & Christi Bertram
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FMCA 420913
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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Diesel
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cimbo

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2012, 12:28:30 PM »
Thanks everybody for the advice. I think we're in a much more informed place than we were a few days ago!

This really is a fantastic community. Thanks so much, again.

Oh also, Tom, thanks for the mail forwarding link. And not sure if you know or want to update your fulltiming article, but Ally.com has a free checking account with free ATM use. (They'll reimburse you any ATM fees you ever get charged, automatically.) We set one up a while back so we wouldn't get pinged with fees every time we needed cash, and so we wouldn't have to go out of our way to find our own bank's ATM.

SeilerBird

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2012, 12:34:08 PM »
And not sure if you know or want to update your fulltiming article, but Ally.com has a free checking account with free ATM use. (They'll reimburse you any ATM fees you ever get charged, automatically.) We set one up a while back so we wouldn't get pinged with fees every time we needed cash, and so we wouldn't have to go out of our way to find our own bank's ATM.
You are welcome cimbo. I won't be updating the article mainly because the scope of the article is only items that you absolutely must know before you start full timing. You should start a new thread though, and announce the fact that they have free ATMs. Also Ally Bank is not really a good solution for full timers since it is not a nationwide bank.
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Ned

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2012, 12:41:23 PM »
If you go to the Forum library, you will find a whole section devoted to full timing with 9 articles.  See it here.
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cimbo

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2012, 12:45:00 PM »
If you go to the Forum library, you will find a whole section devoted to full timing with 9 articles.  See it here.
Thanks. There's a lot more on this site than I was aware of.

Also Ally Bank is not really a good solution for full timers since it is not a nationwide bank.
I added a note on another "cost saving" thread. Fwiw though, it's Ally.com and you can open an account regardless which state you live in. They don't actually have branches, which might be a turnoff for some, but they offer the "take a picture of your check from your phone to deposit it" and the free ATMs, so it's useful. But you can open an account from any state. Thanks again!

SeilerBird

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2012, 12:56:27 PM »
Thanks. There's a lot more on this site than I was aware of.
I added a note on another "cost saving" thread. Fwiw though, it's Ally.com and you can open an account regardless which state you live in. They don't actually have branches, which might be a turnoff for some, but they offer the "take a picture of your check from your phone to deposit it" and the free ATMs, so it's useful. But you can open an account from any state. Thanks again!
I understand all that. The reason for having a nationwide bank is because at least once or twice a year I actually have to visit my bank.
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99WinAdventurer37G

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2012, 10:20:41 PM »

That's what we've been doing thus far. We generate a lot of laundry though, so it's nowhere near a 2 hour once a week chore :)

Also, between always carrying quarters and the restricted hours on laundry we seem to encounter everywhere, it's kind of a pain. Looking to make things as easy as possible, so I'm wondering if having our own washer/dryer will at least help a little.

What I do on the road; use a wash dry & fold service.  They charge by the pound, and when one considers your time, soap, and all the quarters involved, for me it's a real bargain, and most even give you free hangers.  Most staffed laundry-mats offer the service and they are the cheapest.  Many dry cleaners do this, but I dropped mine off in a Laredo dry cleaner once without asking the price, and it was $50!  Normally I pay about $20 for a couple of weeks of laundry.  Drop it off in the morning, pick it up on the way home.  No soap to carry, no back aches, and everything is clean and folded for you.
1999 Winnebago Adventurer 37G , Ford V-10
2006 Honda VTX 1300S

cimbo

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #15 on: August 28, 2012, 10:19:15 AM »
Normally I pay about $20 for a couple of weeks of laundry.
Wow that definitely sounds interesting. How many people are generating that laundry in your case, if I may ask? Maybe we should do a trial run locally to see what it'd look like for our family.

99WinAdventurer37G

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Re: Advice on fulltiming with 3 (little) kids (and finding the right RV)?
« Reply #16 on: August 28, 2012, 10:38:11 AM »
It's just me, but that's about 20 sets of clothes, three sets of sheets.  No towels, as I usually use truck stop showers.  I've been a truck driver for many years, and when I go into a city to make a delivery I drop off my clothes, and pick them up on the way out of town.  They fold everything, place them in plastic bags, and put the shirts on hangers.  Most of the time I pay around 50 cents per pound.  Some laundry mats have a sign out front "wash, dry, and fold", others have no sign, but if there is an attendant, they usually do the service, just don't advertise it.  As I said in the earlier post though, Dry cleaners can be very expensive for this service, it's the laundry mats you're looking for.  For me, many times it's still worth the higher cost of a dry cleaner, if I can't find a Laundry mat, as I'm working while they are cleaning, which means I can maximize the use my time.
But it's such a habit for me while I'm on the road, I find myself doing it even while I'm on vacation.  It also stems from my great distaste for doing laundry.  I only do it myself when I'm at home, as then I would have to gather it all up and take it out, then go back to pick it up.  So, if you did have a machine in the RV, that may be a consideration.  But to buy one for the RV, they run around $1,000, I can have a lot of laundry done for me at that cost.
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