Full-time RVers are generally a resourceful group, having figured out how to live comfortably in a small space with fewer amenities than typically found in a home. Recent campground closures and stay at home orders have forced our community to solve a new problem. Where does a full-time RVer go when told to stay home? We asked three full-time RVers to see how they are rising to the challenge. Here’s what they said.
Liz & Jake
Jake and I are a millennial couple, who have been living nomadically for nearly five years. We do not own property beyond our house on wheels, a 40-foot Class-A motorhome, what’s inside, and a towed Jeep. We rely on the availability of publicly and privately managed lands to provide a place to rest our property.
We’re used to uncertainty – heck, in our version of transiency, we typically have only a vague idea of where we’re headed or where we’ll plop our levelers down next until we are actively driving down a highway. We’re pretty darn flexible.
Watching our overnighting options dwindle with alarming speeds as campgrounds and public lands closed throughout the last weeks of March, we were introduced to a new nomadic reality: what happens if there isn’t anywhere left for us to stay? Not even flexibility can defeat the “you’re not welcome here” demon if he were to overtake all of our options.
I work for Campendium, and as such, was provided a front-row seat to the flow of camping land closures as they massed from a trickle to a torrent.
By late March, we’d been evicted from a state park in Florida, and ended up in an overpriced sardine-can-style private park that we didn’t feel was a viable solution to our quandary long term. The private park informed us we wouldn’t be permitted re-entry, if we left – which was concerning, but we still felt compelled to seek out more sufficient shelter.
We’d changed our typical travel style for our first winter in Florida – where you all but need to have some sort of reservations to exist during snowbird season. We made reservations through mid-April at various places in the sunshine state we wished to visit. By late March nearly all of our reservations, which were exclusively at publicly managed campgrounds, had been canceled.
Where would we go? For safety? Strategically? What could we afford? Where would be least likely to evict us again?
For the first time since hitting the road in 2015, it felt like we were in survival mode.
By March 25th, 15% of the camping sites listed on Campendium had been closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As of April 20th, 46% of campsites listed on Campendium were closed. These closure numbers do not take into account seasonally closed camping areas – which further limits the viability of options.
We scoured Campendium for well-rated private RV parks with full-hook-ups in the mid-eastern portion of the U.S. In late March, private RV parks were rarely evicting people who were already in place.
We narrowed the options to parks on state borders, with the thought process that if one state put strict RV park eviction mandates in place, we would be close to another state which would hopefully not have those strict measures.
We settled on a private park in a rural county in Virginia. We called the owner and reserved a month-long stay for $1,200, with the possibility of extension. $1,200 is a bit of a strain on our budget, however, placing ourselves in Virginia provides hope that we won’t roast to death in Florida in our not-well insulated wheeled-house if recommendations of stagnancy extend into late spring or summer. We’re also within a day’s drive of family should they need us.
Shannon & Dave
We moved into a temporary rental condo as Covid closures swept across the country. And we couldn’t be happier with our choice.
Our good friends from Spain had called and strongly recommended we hunker down as the closures would come swiftly. At that point we were about a week or two behind Spain and they had already been locked in place. We had reservations in an RV park in San Diego and decided the beach would be a great place to be stuck for a month. The day after we arrived, California went into lockdown. The beaches that had been so attractive, were now overrun with people. We couldn’t find what we needed on the empty store shelves. It wasn’t looking like such a great place to hunker down anymore. We felt closed in with too many people, not enough space and loads of uncertainty about if the park would even stay open.
As our education about the infection rates and likelihood of a long shelter in place time period increased, we decided that a condo would be more comfortable than the RV. We searched for the perfect place as we heard about Florida shutting down temporary rentals. Infection rates skyrocketed in the mountain towns and the publicized moves to stop all non-resident from moving in were weighing on us. We wanted to lock in a place to ride out this wave before anyone could cancel on us.
So many factors went into our choice. What would be a good location to wait this out? How long would it last? Is the community accepting of ‘visitors’ and are the rentals even open? How are the medical facilities? Nothing we usually have as criteria when planning our travels. But all things that right now are high on our list of concerns.
Our search criteria focused around something that would be off-season. So lots of availability and hopefully good pricing. We set our sites high on comfortable furniture, good outdoor space, views, internet, air conditioning and a pool. We also wanted a community that was big enough to be accepting of tourists, had good health care and lots of available stores to find the coveted TP supply.
Using VRBO.com we found a bunch of 30-day minimum rentals in Tucson, Arizona. We found some great prices and amenities available in the ‘off-season’ months. We spoke with several owners and found a great deal with fees equal to an RV park. It wasn’t the cheapest in town, but the views are great and we liked the owner.
The anxiety and pressure to stay healthy until we arrived was real. But once we pulled our RV into the storage facility, the anxiety was taken down a notch or two. We have a great place to hunker down, lots of room, fast internet and great views.
So this last month of sheltering has been interesting, relaxing and even fun at times. Fast internet with no limits. Separate rooms in the house where we can disappear from each other and a huge kitchen with counter space that goes on for days. It was hard to leave our home parked in a storage facility (and a bit of work to empty out the food), but totally worth it. Thankfully the air conditioning is keeping us comfortable while we shelter in place and think about when and where we will get our wheels rolling to next.
As a full-time RVer who prefers to boondock over staying in RV parks, my house on wheels is moving from place to place at least twice a month. This means I’m constantly having to come up with new places to park. New places to call ‘home’ for a week or two.
Normally this isn’t an issue. There are plenty of boondocking spots in the West, my preferred place to ‘live’.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, things have changed. To put it mildly.
At the time when the pandemic was declared and social distancing plus sheltering at home was starting to become widespread, I was finishing up wintering in southern Arizona.
News of campgrounds and boondocking sites shutting down became a daily occurrence. Communities closing their doors to outsiders and states clamping down on travel became the new norm quickly. I started to worry about where I could stay and if I was going to be kicked out at a moment’s notice.
With potential spots being shut down and communities become less than welcoming, I started to get stressed about where I could go. I had no idea how long the pandemic would last, but knew this wasn’t going to blow over in a month or two.
The thought of having to constantly come up with a new place to move every couple of weeks, a place that wasn’t closed or in jeopardy of being closed, started to weigh heavily on my mind.
Fortunately I was offered a solution to this potentially stressful travel style. Park on fellow full-time RVers property in Washington State for as long as I wanted to, or until the cold drove me away.
The thought of a single place I could stay without worrying about where to move to next was very, very appealing, so I jumped at the offer.
3 days and 1570 miles later, I arrived in my new ‘home’. Settled down for the next 6+ months in a place where I didn’t have to worry about being kicked out.
The feeling of knowing that I don’t have to constantly be figuring out where to move in a time when the options were rapidly dwindling due to closures is something that has been a HUGE stress reliever for me.
I am beyond grateful to my good friends for allowing me to spend time on their property. Yes, this has been an adjustment for me, someone who is used to be constantly in motion. But at a time like this, when we all have to make sacrifices, this is one adjustment that I don’t mind making.