Over the last year, we have spent 4+ months in our RV, with a growing toddler and a confused dog. We worked, visited amazing places, swam in cold lakes, ate way too much pizza & gelato, and had quite a good time.
The people we met on the road were usually retirees, families on vacation, or young #vanlifers working from their converted vans. I don’t think we’ve personally met anybody else spanning all of those categories.
Sleep-deprived young parents, upon learning this was our second Grand Tour of Europe asked with hope in their eyes
It gets easier, doesen’t it?Hopefull parents
It kind of does, but mostly you learn to manage. This post contains our tips and tricks. (I have included a roundup of our favorite places in RVing around alps.)
Why RV in the first place?
Traveling with a baby and a dog is different from the peaceful nomading of a single life. Nothing really goes according to plan, you have to pack tons of stuff into your car while everybody gets annoyed, and you have to frequently submit to the whims of your 1-year old overlord.
With the RV, you can:
- Stop anywhere and start cooking lunch immediately,
- Never really pack the car since all the stuff is already with you
- Always find a place for a nap, even if that means a gas station parking lot
But the biggest advantage of RV-ing is that you by design stay close to nature (except for the gas station parking lots of course). Campgrounds are usually in places where it is hard to find a hotel and are run by (and for) people who appreciate lakes, mountains, forests, and goats. My kind of people.
There are plenty of puddles to run into, grass to lie on, and mud to explore for dogs and babies, keeping them somewhat entertained while at least somebody is trying to work.
As a parent, I wouldn’t go as far as to state that you don’t have to hurry, but compared to other travel modes, it’s much slower, relaxing, and mindful. If you feel like driving only 20 kilometers today, there is plenty to see over there. You want to stay one more week at lake Garda – nobody will judge. If suddenly the Verzasca Valley in southern Switzerland inspires you – well, go ahead!
After I originally drafted this post, I got stranded at the Montreal airport, which reinforced my love of RV independence. Always having a roof over your head is one more advantage of RV-ing.
Where did you go?
I wrote a whole post about that, with amazing pictures. Go check it out!
Gimme your best RVing tips!
Where do you work?
Having constant access to a table/desk where I can comfortably focus on work was part of the reason I got interested in the RVs. Worst case scenario, I can always hide in the RV and work from there – it’s like I have a home office always with me.
Since my laptop charges with USB-C, I decided to completely forgo the 110/220V installation and power everything from 12v. This charger works really well for Macbook Pro. I try to spend as little time sitting by the desk as possible. My go-to is a comfy chair outside, with the laptop on my lap.
What about the Internet?
Normal nomading rules apply while RVing and the nomadic rule 47 states:
It is always cheaper to buy a local prepaid sim card.Nomadic Rule 47
While Internet roaming around Europe is technically “free”, the countries that have cheaper data will impose limits – like 3GB/month in my case. I always buy a local sim card, and so far we have tried:
- 14.99 EUR for 100GB in Italy with Tim International Senza Limiti Plus plan
- 2 CHF per day of unlimited data in Switzerland with Salt Mobile
- Lidl Connect in Germany, although german Internet is relatively expensive.
The best router I have found so far is TP-Link Archer MR200. I have also tried Teltonika RUT-955 with high hopes of turning my RV into a super-high-tech van, but it turned out that the router just wasn’t doing a good enough job at being a router, despite other fancy features.
It is also worth noting that the iPhone “wifi hotspot” function is amazingly fast and it’s probably the fastest router you will be able to put your hands on.
Working with a toddler
One does not know real work until one tries to perform it with a toddler.
I have to clarify that only one of us was working. Last year, I have been enjoying 6 months of parental leave while my wife was working. This year, Maria decided to take some time off work to focus on our family when I returned to full-time work.
The biggest challenges, as at home, are keeping the Toddler happy while not disturbing the Working One. Fortunately, there are always new and interesting places to see nearby.
Where do you sleep?
In the RV. You are probably also wondering where we park it, and we have a couple of strategies:
Most often we stay at campgrounds. Since our lives are sufficiently complicated, we opt-in for some convenience. Many campgrounds offer experiences much better than the best hotel: amazing views, swimming pools, a mini zoo with the goats, or a mountain stream just by your RV. My favorite so far is Caravan Park Sexten which offers amazing saunas.
Western Europe has a lot of RV parks (Wohnmobil stellplatz or Area Sosta). These are cheaper and barer than campgrounds but are usually more centrally located. This is more like a parking lot with special facilities for the RVs.
There are plenty of spots where you can just park and sleep. In most countries, it is legal to sleep in the car (which I find funny because if you put a tent in the city center, they would find you but cars, including RVs are privileged). You can find some amazing spots using the park4night app.
OMG it’s so cramped
Yes and no. Our RV has maybe about 12 square meters of living space. But what is great about RV life is that the outside counts as well. RVing is all about putting fewer walls between you and the open fields, dense forests, and inviting beaches. You take more walks, eat meals on a folding table outside, and just chill on a comfortable chair.
What about the Rain?
All of the above works until it starts raining. Our energetic toddler. There is a variety of tactics we use to deal with that situation:
Some campgrounds, especially the bigger ones, have a “Kid’s Club”. This is a place where they will entertain your 4-year-old, but usually, they will not kick out a parent with a younger baby when it’s raining.
We have an awning and an awning tent. This adds another 7.5 sq meters of usable space. The awning tent is mostly there to prevent everything from getting wet when it’s raining and windy, but it also provides a bit of a boundary for Ewa and the dog.
I will update this post with any future tips and tricks. In the meantime, you can see where we travelled here.
Full-time working from the RV
My friend (and Teammate) Fab travels, and works from his RV full-time, with 2 dogs (although I am not sure how much work dogs get done). He is legitimately productive, and you can follow his adventures here.
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I write about the psychological and technical aspects of the Internet, focusing on remote work, online economy, and cognitive load. Every monday.