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Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series exploring one family’s decision to intentionally pursue adventure and a closer family relationship by embracing the RV lifestyle full time. The first segment explores the family’s decision to give up a traditional lifestyle the reasons why they opted to sell their home and buy an RV. This segment explores buying the right RV, maintenance and upkeep, remaining connected on the road, and working while traveling.
By Ronnie Wendt
Before hitting the road full time in an RV, Kimberly and Chris Travaglino recommend doing your RV homework because not all RVs are not created equal.
“Research, research, research,” Kimberly said. “Consider what type of RV makes sense. Will a towable or drivable RV fit into your vision for your travel life? If it’s towable, will it be a Class C or Class A? If it’s drivable, what features are most important to you and your family?
“Make a list of the features you’d like to have but could live without,” she added. “Then research the manufacturers. Who has better quality rigs and stands behind their rigs with better customer service and repair options? Should you buy new or used? Should you pay cash or finance? These are all important questions to ask yourself.”
Kimberly likes to look at the footprint of the RV, though she does admit most RVs can be gutted and reconfigured to meet each individual family’s needs.
Chris says he prefers towable units because there is only one engine to maintain. “I think that’s more reasonable than maintaining two engines, especially at the rate that these things break,” he said. “I like towables, and I like a fifth wheel.”
Pay attention to the built-in storage so that there is enough room for everything you plan to haul, adds Kimberly. She adds, “Our camper, by the way, does not at all resemble what we started out with; all of the furniture has been stripped out and replaced with furniture that fits our families needs, including a big table.”
Chris advises staying away from a 30-amp unit, because “a 50-amp rig allows you to run multiple air conditioners and appliances without tripping circuit breakers. If you do come to a park that only offers 30-amp service, you can always put an adapter on the electrical plug to bring it down to 30 amps. But having that 50-amp capability is huge.”
Kimberly admits they started out with a 30-amp camper but Chris is quick to point out that had they known what they know now, they would not have. “Upgrading a 30-amp unit is not as easy or as cheap as it sounds, so you are better off buying one that’s been retrofitted to 50 amps,” he explained.
Doors are a must, which Kimberly says are often non-standard issue in campers. “If you are a full-time RVing family, there comes times in your day when doors are important,” she explained. “Maybe you need to put a dog on one side of the door so that you can have guests in the main area, or you want some private time. Also, consider a bath tub. I miss having a bath tub.”
Another consideration, they said, is a residential refrigerator so that there is enough food storage for a family. “We have a family of six so we have converted ours to a residential fridge so that we don’t have to go to the store every other day,” he added.
Kimberly says she’s a staunch opponent of on-board laundry as well. She explained if they had on-board laundry she’d have to do two loads every day because the washer and dryer are typically smaller in size in an RV. “We just go to the laundromat every week to 10 days,” she added.
Maintenance and upkeep
“RV’s are really not made to live in all the time,” said Chris. “Their construction can be of poor quality and because the unit is always moving down the road, things break all the time. You either have to spend a lot of money having someone else repair it for you, or you have to learn how to do it yourself.”
Chris has tackled RV maintenance and repair to save money on breakdowns. He says, “I’ve taught myself to repair pretty much everything on this RV. That’s really the only way we could stay on the road. Otherwise maintenance and repairs would eat up all of our income and we wouldn’t be able to maintain a sufficient lifestyle for anyone.”
The Travaglino’s have found that RV repair how to’s are readily available on YouTube. They also discovered a huge resource in Terry Cooper, the Texas RV professor of the Mobile RV Academy, a business designed to educate the RV consumer and professional on RV maintenance and repair.
The other challenge has been Internet service, which is a necessary evil if you are working remotely. Kimberly explains Internet coverage at some campgrounds is spotty at best.
“You have to make sure that your camper can optimize an Internet signal,” Kimberly said. “Chris has ours finetuned so that if there is any signal to catch, he can boost it and amplify it so that it’s workable for us.”
The Travaglino’s have an unlimited data plan and Chris has set up a booster and an antenna in the unit to optimize Internet service.
As they travel, they also connect with fellow RVers and ask about Internet availability in given areas.
“It’s to the point where they can even tell you what section of the campground to select to get the best Internet signal,” she said. “We have a Facebook page with 20,000 members on it, and it’s a really great place to find information on things like this.”
The Travaglino’s also use an app by Technomadia called Coverage that helps pinpoint cell coverage in areas less popularly traveled.
Whistle while you work
Unless someone is independently wealthy, employment on the road is an issue. Kimberly, who works as a life coach and mentor for people hoping to transform their lives, says the first step is to ask yourself the following question: What is it that you could do for hours and hours and not feel like you are working?”
From there, she says they can answer additional questions, such as how does that fill a need? How does that solve a problem that others may have? How can you turn that into an income?
When the Travaglino’s did this assessment, Kimberly realized she loved researching. Ultimately this led to the launch of a magazine where they reached out to bloggers and asked them to write timely articles on various topics and compiled those articles into a magazine.
“Since then, we’ve added a membership club, sponsorships and more,” she explained. “I recognized what I love to do, and it doesn’t feel like work. So that’s my recommendation for a starting point.
“Figure out what you love to do so that it doesn’t feel like work, and then figure out how that skill solves other people’s problems,” she added. “It’s easier said than done, and it takes a lot of grit and ingenuity, but it can be done.”
Chris and Kimberly Travaglino have been full-time RVing for many years with their children Dominic, Blaise, Tonia and DJ. They founded the Fulltime Families support group before selling the organization last year. Kimberly’s book “How to Hit the Road – Making Your Family’s Full-time RV Dreams a Reality” is available on Amazon.