RV Life: Our First RV Adventure
This trip started as most of my crazy ideas do, with a Pinterest post. Next thing we knew Jeff was off looking at rental RV’s that would fit our family of five. I read everything I could find about installing car seats into RVs and finally we decided just to go for it and reserve an RV for our two week May holiday.
As if renting the RV wasn’t scary enough we decided to make no plans ahead of time. Armed with our France Passion farm stay book we would drive around France, sticking to small towns and out of city attractions while staying on farms at night. This trip would be completely out of our planning-heavy comfort zone.
Now that we are back home safely we can report that this was one of our best trips to date. We will not be renting an RV for every holiday, but we enjoyed slowing down and enjoying the ride as much as the destination.
Driving the RV
Jeff was an amazing driver. The RV is stick shift and Jeff and I both typically drive automatics. Jeff is a very competent driver though and was able to navigate our RV in some really complicated situations.
The first driving challenge came when we needed to find a place to put the RV in our neighborhood. We have a lovely little patch of grass right by our house but Jeff had yet to use the reverse gear. I also had never been a wingman for an RV before. After several LONG minutes we managed to park the RV between the trash can and road sign, off the road, near our house. (Notably when we returned home Jeff was able to maneuver the RV into this same spot in one motion without any assistance!)
Jeff was able to park the RV in all sorts of situations. Sometimes the farmers would just tell us to pull into the orchard, but “leave enough room for the tractor.”
Other times we needed to back perfectly into a tight parking space. These campsites always came with really specific directions like “back in without pulling forward,” or “make sure you’re lined up with those tree limbs” . . . right right. He always got it just perfect though!
We even managed to get the RV up on a set of risers, with a little help from an RV neighbor. That helped us level the RV on a particularly sloping spot so we wouldn’t all roll to one side of the beds.
The RV does require lots of special stuff. Luckily France is incredibly well set up for RVs if you know what you are doing. (We did not!) There’s a book sold all over France that lists all the services and locations throughout the country.
While getting gas we had to watch for height restrictions. We usually just tried to follow other RVs to the stations so we knew which way to go. Sometimes the actual gas station roof was fine, but the roof over the pay stall was the problem.
Fresh water and grey water dumping was widely available.
Many times filling up the water tank required two people. One to hold the hose into the tank and the other one to push the water button over and over.
Lucky for us we are overflowing with helpers. Turns out our Big Little was great at holding the water hose!
I’m sure you all want to know about emptying the toilet. Jeff took care of it and he says it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be. This brand new RV had a suitcase toilet that meant we didn’t need any hoses to empty our toilet. It wasn’t exactly fun but it was less awful than expected. Three of the five of us used the bathroom on the trip and we needed to empty it every other day. It was rather convenient to have a toilet inside the vehicle – a major step up from driving a car on a two-week holiday. The downside is that the bathroom needed to be cleaned periodically.
Life Inside the RV
I had never done an RV trip before so we had no idea what to expect. I was worried we would feel very crowded. A few of my friends who RV a lot back in the U.S. told us to make sure everything had a place and always put things back. We like to operate this way anyway, so the RV stayed tidy and never felt too crowded.
We removed the table to make room for the car seats. We actually didn’t even bring the interior table on the trip because installing it meant removing all the car seats. The type of seat belts in the RV meant that I had to use locking clips and I was not willing to redo that every day.
Luckily the weather was pretty good and we were able to be outside a lot. We got a ton of use out of our outdoor carpet. The RV rental also came with a table and chairs that we used at meal times.
We brought a huge box of blocks and the kids played with this every time the RV stopped. The blocks were a constant source of amusement.
The back bed was wide and well protected so it was where we ended up sort of “hanging out” when the RV was parked. The Little Little loved sitting in the back window while watching everything outside.
There was plenty of room in the back for the Middle Little, Little Little and me to sleep back there.
This back bed was also our primary hang out space for reading and game playing.
Jeff and our Big Little slept in the cabin above the driver. They both had skylights which allowed us to get some fresh air and vent off the heat. We also had curtains so that if one group was still sleeping they were not too much disturbed by everything else going on in the RV.
The front of the RV was also a hang out space. These were the only two open chairs together.
We brought lots of quiet activities for the kids which was good. They could play together doing quieter activities. We saved the louder stuff for outdoor play.
What we Loved
We loved that where we stayed with France Passion was part of the trip. The kids loved arriving at the farms and meeting the farmers. They got to pick things out of the store for us to bring back to the RV. Almost every farm had space for them to run around and enjoy being out of the RV.
The kids all found quiet activities to enjoy on the drive. Usually car trips can be a bit crazy but the extra space and stopping for food and bathroom whenever we wanted really took the pressure off. We played family board games, read chapter books together and just had a ton of low key fun.
We loved having everything with us. We had bikes when we needed bikes. We had a shower when we needed a shower. It is so handy to just send a few people back to the RV for naps when the kids grew tired. If Jeff needed to look at a map or get directions, we would just pick up our chapter book and read a bit. It really made every moment feel like it was part of the trip.
What We Didn’t Like
While we loved our RV trip we didn’t love our parking options at tourist places. We were always looking for spots big enough to park in. Most of the time we ended up in large RV lots which were typically at the very back of a parking lot as far from the attraction as possible. Also, we found that the cost of an RV rental, plus the extra fuel and extra tolls really didn’t make an RV trip any cheaper than a non-RV trip. Nobody ever promised us an RV would be cheaper than hotels and train tickets but we thought maybe it would be cheaper. We found that we enjoyed meals in the RV more than eating all meals out. We also saved money on attractions since the RV, farms and rural activities were our real target for this trip.
Would we do it again? For sure. Are we RV people? Nah, not really.