Keep a traditional road atlas on hand. GPS and Google Maps are great, and we use them a lot. Plenty of times, though, we’ve found ourselves with a device that needs to be charged or in an area with no service. Having a paper road atlas as a backup is a must.
Take fewer clothes, mostly mix-and-match separates, and wash laundry more often. We tend to stay in one place for 2 weeks at a time, and when we started out, we would spend the day or two before we were leaving cleaning up the RV, packing, and washing two weeks worth of laundry. That made for a couple of really long days. When I realized we needed to reduce the weight we were hauling, the first thing I did was go through the kids’ clothes. Print leggings and shirts that only went with one outfit were replaced with navy or khaki slacks and polo-type shirts. These are suitable for just about anyplace we might go in our travels, from museums to trails. For occasions the younger girls want to dress up a little more, they have a couple of skirts or jumpers to pair with a polo shirt. If Tiny spills spaghetti sauce on her shirt or has a toileting accident, I can change her pants or shirt, not a complete outfit. Now we only have about one week’s worth of clothes, and we do laundry every 5-7 days.
Sometimes we need to bring a garbage bag and a bathmat to campground showers. There may be a “changing area” adjacent to the shower, but the floor gets covered with water that doesn’t run off the the drain, and the towels and clothing hung up in the changing area get wet from shower spray. If I had a quarter for every time I encountered a campground shower like that, I wouldn’t need laundry money for a very long time. A garbage bag will hold my towel and clean clothes and keep them dry, and a bathmat to stand on to change- even if it’s just an extra towel- lets me get my pants on without getting them wet from the puddles on the floor.
Don’t waste space on “unitaskers.” Chef and TV personality Alton Brown refers to kitchen gadgets that do one thing as “unitaskers.” His advice to avoid them is sound for everyone, but doubly so for RVers. We don’t need a garlic press or hard-boiled-egg slicer; a good knife will do the job. We carried a teakettle around to boil water for our morning coffee, but I’ve realized a pot will do just as well. Unitaskers aren’t just found in the kitchen, however. We had a mop with a refillable reservoir and washable pads, which we already owned when we bought the RV. It does one thing- clean the floor- and in the RV, not very well. It doesn’t get in the corners and narrow places, and I end up cleaning about half the floor with a rag and bucket of sudsy water. Why bother with the mop at all? I can do the whole floor with the rag just as quickly, and cleaning rags also serve to clean countertops, wipe up spills, etc.
Zoo and museum memberships can really help a family save on attractions. The first year we were on the road, we focused on free attractions, or free days at museums. Sometimes this meant passing up a museum or zoo we probably would have enjoyed, in favor of a more budget-friendly choice. These choices are simply part of living and traveling on a limited budget- and let’s face it, nearly everyone’s budget has some limit! Recently we visited the Western North Carolina Nature Center and purchased a membership. The WNC Nature Center participates not only in the AZA Passport reciprocal program, but also the ASTC travel passport program. This will allow us free or discounted admission to zoos and science centers all over the country. Check back for reviews of the zoos and science centers we visit using these programs!