February 04, 2016

Living In An RV: A Guide To Traveling With Your Family

Words + Photos : Jonathan Longnecker


Meet the Longnecker family. They’ve been traveling across the states for the past nine months, living in an RV. When Jonathan and Ashley Longnecker decided that they wanted their kids to learn from the world around them and not just through a textbook, they packed up their family and hit the road. With four kids in tow–Adali,4, Jett,8, Jax,6 and Ada,4–they’ve been making memories and growing closer as a family while discovering places all over the U.S.

“We wanted to be a closer family,” says Jonathan. “Spending all our time and money taking care of our big house and getting stuck in routines wasn’t getting us there. A family we knew started traveling full-time about 5 years ago, and we were always fascinated by it. “You can do that!?!” I remember asking Ashley. Yes, you can! It’s certainly not an easy transition, but we’re so glad we stuck with it.”

Rv 1

Living in an RV

Over the past nine months, the Longnecker family has been up and down the East Coast: Acadia National Park in Maine, Niagara Falls, the OuterBanks in North Carolina, the Adirondacks and NYC in New York, the Creeper Trail in Virginia, Rock City and Ruby Falls in Tennessee, the Low Country in South Carolina, Old Forts in Georgia, the Florida Keys and the Dry Tortugas National park. Whew.

The Longnecker’s sat down as a family to help build this guide for other families hoping to embark on an adventure together while living in an RV.

Rv 2

Downsize your belongings

The first step to moving your family out of a house and living in an RV is to just be prepared to get rid of nearly everything you own.

We’ve never really cared about the things most people seemed to be spending all their time and money on. We were having trouble reconciling our environmental footprint and economic footprint when faced with the reality of true poverty and need throughout the rest of the world. For a while we had no idea what to do with it! Selling our house and drastically downsizing was our first step to figuring that out.

Rv 3
Rv 4A
Rv 5A
Rv 6

Have a financial plan

Don’t give up your day job and hope it’ll work out because the first year of transitioning is expensive. Once you get past the transition and learn how things work, you can live off much less. You also always  want to have a huge emergency fund for repairs because there will always be repairs. We had a few unexpected repairs to our truck (hello $4,000  transmission!) so having an emergency fund was helpful.

Get a system in place

After 12 years of living in a house, we had a pretty good system down. Living on the road blew that up. Where we got our food, how we did our laundry, how we worked and homeschooled – all had to become really flexible. It took a while, but most of that stuff doesn’t stress us out anymore. At the beginning it was a big transition. Add to that moving your house and everything you own every week or so and there’s a steep learning curve.

Rv 7
Rv 8A
Rv 8B
Rv 9

Communicate with each other

Communication with your spouse and kids will be thoroughly tested. We thought we were doing great until we started regularly putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations. But you’ll push through that communication craziness though and develop deeper bonds with your family.

Rv 10
Rv 11A
Rv 11B

Plan to homeschool your kids

We were homeschooling our kids before we started traveling, and we’re still trying to find a balance between doing “standard” school work and letting them learn on their own via interests and experiences. Obviously, they’ve learned a ton just by being in new places and seeing things first hand. I know I’ve learned a lot. I think the traditional stuff is harder for them now that they’ve seen how much fun non-traditional learning is. Being stuck inside doing paperwork is frustrating. We definitely see their point and are re-evaluating what school looks like for us this year.

Rv 12
Rv 13

Plan your route, but take spontaneous trips

Sometimes we schedule out the next month or so in advance. We had to book our time in the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas a year in advance. But sometimes, like right now, we just got the rig out of the shop and had no idea how long it would take, so we’re winging it a bit. In the near future, we’re planning on getting some generators so we can boondock and not have to be in a specific park every night.

Our rough plan is to hug the southern border and head out west. We just found out we’ll be doing some work camping at a hot springs park in Oregon over the Summer, so that’s the direction we’re headed next.

Rv 14
Rv 15
Rv 16A
Rv 16B
Rv 17
Rv 18

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