Once we had determined what type of RV would be best for our family, a Travel Trailer, we were ready to start looking at floor plans. One thing that really helped was attending an RV show as a family, where we were able to see and walk-through a variety of RV types and get a feel for what size would work best for us. If you've ever been to, or even driven by an RV show, you'll know there are a LOT of RVs you can see – so it's extremely helpful if you arrive knowing what type of RV you're interested in and some of the features you want to see – so you can spend your time wisely.
If you need to brush up on the different types of RVs, you can do that HERE.
Most RVs will have a master bedroom, bathroom, and living space that includes a kitchen and sitting/dining area. Since all families are different, let's talk about some of the additional features you may be interested in.
The great thing about RVs is that the dinettes and couches in the living space tend to serve dual-purposes and convert into sleeping space which can accommodate kids if the parents take the “master” bedroom.
What you'll want to ask yourself is whether you want the kids sleeping in the common areas, and how many people you need to accommodate with beds. Are you willing/able to convert the dinette and/or sofa into a bed every night? This was not something that we were interested in, personally. We wanted the kids to each have their own beds, which meant we were looking for a bunk house.
We found that some bunk houses (meaning a “cubby” where 2 bunk beds are built) can either fall in the middle of the RV between the master bedroom and the living space, or will be located on the opposite side of the master bedroom with the living spaces in between. We liked the idea of having the bedrooms on opposite sides with the living area in the middle because it prevents us from walking through the kids' sleeping area if we need to navigate between our room and the kitchen (for example). This is sometimes called rear bunks because the master bedroom tends to be in the front of the RV with this structure.
With 6 kids, we were looking specifically for a bunk room with 4 bunks. You can typically find them with 2, 3, or 4 beds. The RV we ended up getting actually sleeps 5 in the bunk room because it has a trundle bed, but we opted to remove the trundle to use that space for storage instead.
Some motorhomes (class A and/or C) also have cab-over bunks, which are single beds that come down when the vehicle is not being driven. When you are driving the bed is lifted back up so that you can sit in the driver seat.
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2. Entertainment Center(s)
We're using this RV to live in – not just for vacation – so we wanted to ensure there is a television, and ideally more than one because (let's be honest) sometimes we want to watch stuff separate from the children.
If you're looking for bunk houses, some of the layouts include small TV units in each bunk, whereas others that have a more proper bedroom may include an entertainment center. Sometimes that entertainment center replaces one of the bunks, and we've noticed that's a popular layout – 2 bunks on one side of the room and a bed lofted above the entertainment center on the other.
Some RVs will also include an outdoor entertainment center on the outside of the unit – allowing you to watch TV while sitting outside.
Some larger RVs will offer more than one bathroom, however it's most common for there to be only one.
RVs have unique toilets with a pedal on the bottom. If you step on the pedal “half-way” it fills the toilet with water and when you step all the way a chute opens and the contents goes into a “black tank.” Every RV has 2 types of waste tanks: a black water tank and a grey water tank.
Black water contains human waste (toilet waste) and gray water is dirty but without human waste (sink water, shower water). You'll want to know what the black water capacity is, as well as the grey water capacity, because those tank sizes will determine how long you can go between dumping your tanks, which has to be done into a sewer line (you should NEVER dump anywhere but a sewer connection).
Your RV will have a sensor to let you know when it's time to dump – this was one of the biggest adjustments for us because we really didn't want to have a situation where a tank overflowed!
When RV shopping think about what you need for bathing. Is a shower alone enough? Or do you want/need a tub?
I also recommend that you go ahead and step right into the shower/tub when you are at the RV show – they are likely going to be smaller than you're used to and you'll want to make sure you fit and can move your arms around enough to wash up. Truth time: I am not a short or skinny woman, so this was important to me.
If you fall in love with an RV that only has a shower and you have little kids, some RVers use a plastic storage tote to bathe their kiddos.
The other good news is, if you plan on staying in RV parks, many will have bath houses with showers. These can still vary in size and fanciness, but it provides another option once you hit the road.
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Think about what appliances you need – I was surprised to learn that not all RVs come with an oven/range. Most will have a fridge/freezer unit, but this may be smaller than you're used to in a traditional house. Most also tend to have a microwave, and some have a convection oven option on their microwave. A stove and oven were non-negotiables for us, but we also bought a grill that was easy to travel with for outdoor cooking.
Some RVs will have an outdoor kitchen, which may include a sink, mini-fridge, and/or a cooking surface. We loved the idea of an outdoor kitchen, but since we had a grill, we didn't really plan to use that kitchen for cooking, so the fact that ours only had a sink and mini-fridge (plus some storage) was perfect for us.
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Larger families are likely going to want to ensure that their RV includes slideouts. These are sections of the RV that slide out from the chassis like a big drawer and provide more space indoors.
The RV we selected has 2 slides on the driver side. One in the living area, and another in the kids' bunk room. With the 2 slides we feel like we have plenty of space for our family.
We've also been in RVs with 2 slides in the living area alone – one on each side of the RV unit – and those RVs seem to have the most spacious kitchens, so if cooking is important to you, this may be a feature you search for.
6. Storage Spaces
The most amazing part of RV design is all the hidden compartments throughout the RV. You're likely to find storage compartments in the seating of the couch and dinettes, plus under the bed. RVs are built to provide travelers with the ability to use every inch of the space strategically.
Some RVs even have “basements” or “garage space.” Basements typically refer to storage space that is under the living area. Class A motorhomes tend to have the most basement space, whereas our travel trailer only has a small basement area under the front of our RV. Campers with garages are also called “toy haulers” because the back wall of the RV is hinged and opens up allowing owners to store golf carts, smart cars, 4x4s, motorcycles, and other cargo. These garage spaces may also convert into sleeping areas or patios.
A good RV closet is hard to come by. The RV we bought has a small closet on either side of the master bed, but a standard hanger was too big for the space and even my t-shirts dragged on the bottom. The good news is, there are so many amazing storage ideas out there between Pinterest and Facebook groups. One solution we've loved for that space in our RV is to use the pressure shelves marketed for lockers during back-to-school sales.
When you're living the RV lifestyle, you have to think about where you're going to get your electricity from. The easiest solution is to plug into an electrical outlet depending on what type of plug your RV has. Commonly it will come with either a 50 amp or a 30 amp cord. You can buy “dogbones” which allow you to convert between 50a, 30a, and 15a.
The issue that you're most likely to face, is how you'll have power if you're not able to plug in. If you're staying one or more nights “unplugged” it's also referred to as boondocking.
Some RVs come with a generator that will supply you power in those situations, whereas other RVs have a battery that powers the unit when it's unplugged. The challenges you'll face without a generator is that the battery won't likely allow you to boondock very long – sometimes not even one overnight – before dying. This can pose a serious issue if you have slides that require power to slide in-and-out, or if you have food you want to keep cold in the fridge. Even if your fridge runs on propane, it does require some electricity to operate appropriately.
The good news is, when your trailer is plugged into your car, and the car is running, it will help to recharge the battery. But, trust me when I say that it's no fun to have to go sit in the running car at 3am because you need to recharge the battery enough to keep the fans running.
Other electricity options include solar panels, which we haven't looked into yet, but if you plan on being unplugged for extended periods of time, I'd suggest either a generator or solar system.
What We Got: Our RV
Once we had done a lot of the work to figure out exactly what we were looking for, I had narrowed down my wish list to 3 RVs that I had seen for sale:
These three units checked all of my boxes. Of course, availability and cost came into play and the RV our family selected was the CrossRoads Z-1.
Some of our favorite amenities include:
- We love the separate bunk room for the kids. I made each child a curtain so they have some privacy and they each have a storage container at the foot of their bed for books, toys, and/or keepsakes.
- The U-shaped dinette allows the whole family to sit together at the dinner table for meals. We love the convertible dinette, and although we don't use it regularly for sleeping, we do love converting it into a bed for family movie nights and other family time activities.
- The convertible sofa offers a quick and easy option if the kids want to have friends sleepover, it's much easier to convert than the dinette is.
- There is an exterior door to the bathroom, so if we're outside we don't have to walk through the whole RV to use the bathroom.
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Finding the best fit for your family
In addition to those 7 major considerations I encourage you to think about, you'll also want to think about design features you like as you start looking at RVs, and which comforts you're not willing to sacrifice as you transition to RV life.
You'll also want to think about things like size. We bought a trailer that is 35 feet long and have not had any issues finding quality parks throughout our trip. I know some parks do have size limits, so I'd do additional research into that if you're considering an RV larger than 40 feet.
My biggest tip is to keep a running list of things you like (and things you don't) to make it easier when it's time to make the big purchase decisions. With a major decision like this, the last thing you want to feel is regret as you embark on this incredible adventure.
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