So for those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram (which if you don’t, hello what are you doing?? Link here!). I am spending my summer 2020 living that campground life at an RV campground in Florida. I had the unique opportunity to live here rent-free in exchange for doing some renovations and minor repairs to the trailer.
We are staying in an 80s park model RV with a sunroom addition, it is a permanent structure that is rented out seasonally. Which means it is on the larger end as far as RV’s go, especially with the addition of a sunroom. However, we still have had to give up plenty of luxuries we were used to when living in a house/apartment. Today, I wanted to go through some of the best parts of living on a campground, and some of the less desirable parts.
Pros of campground life
Nature is close by
We are on a massive park next to the Myakka River and the Myakka River State Park, the largest state park in Florida. For an outdoors lover this is great, I get to wake up every morning to the birds singing, I can hang my hammock pretty much anywhere, and there are lots of walking trails to explore. For me this is one of the best parts, just getting to enjoy nature so closely and easily.
Huge dog park
While this one is specific to our resort, it is so nice to have a huge dog park right here on the resort. Its well shaded and big enough that it really just feels like part of the woods! The dogs love to run around, play fetch, and lounge in the water basin they have. It’s a great way for them to get their energy out since they don’t have much room to play in the trailer.
We also love taking them on walks through the park, but have to be careful since there are so many animals they might take off at any given time. Gotta hold on tight!
Again this is specific to our campground and others aren’t always as nice or have as many amenities as this does. What we love most is the giant saltwater pool, it’s the perfect place to get some much-needed relaxation and soak up some Florida rays. Right next to the pools is our second favorite amenity, the fitness room! It’s not huge, but it’s just enough to keep us active on days we can’t get on a trail or to the beach! We also love to ride down to the river and fish off the fishing dock. They also have kayak rentals which we haven’t tried yet but it’s on our list! Since it’s off-season right now so we mostly have everything to ourselves which is nice!
Because we have a state park on three sides of us we see our share of wildlife! There are rabbits galore around the park as well as tons of armadillos. But my favorite so far as been the frogs that come to hang out on our windows in the evening! They’re just so cute and the dogs love to watch them jump around on the windows.
We also could potentially see alligators out here since we are right on the water, but thankfully there haven’t been any sightings.
Golf cart and bikes
We have definitely saved money on gas by riding our electric golf cart and bikes everywhere! The golf cart came with the trailer, and most extended stay residents have them. They are super fun to drive and helpful when we need to do laundry. (Getting to that in a minute). The dogs have even learned to run beside the golf cart, which is super helpful when they need to get energy out, but we are too tired and or too hot to run around with them.
Living in a smaller space has meant we had to cut down a LOT on what we owned. Before the move down here we got rid of the majority of our stuff and threw the rest in storage. It really helps you question the why behind every purchase since you have to justify bringing something else into an already crowded space. Especially with clothes! This was the hardest one for me since I am such a “but what if I want to wear it one day” kind of person when it comes to clothes. I still have a lot of clothes compared to what Josh brought, but for me my wardrobe has never been smaller!
Cons of campground life
While we do have a washing machine in our trailer we don’t use it. Mainly because it takes so much time and power use it, but also because we don’t have a dryer. So to do laundry we use the facilities that are provided through the campground. They are very nice and fairly inexpensive compared to other places I’ve used before ($3 total for a wash & dry). But it is annoying to have to pack up our laundry and load it onto the golf cart and drive around the campground to do laundry.
For this reason we tend to reuse clothes as much as possible before declaring them “dirty,” which is something I already liked to do because it saves water and the less you wash your clothes the longer they will last.
Now before you get all grossed out, this doesn’t apply to underwear, and if something has gotten dirty or been sweated in obviously it is dirty. But wearing clothes around the house doesn’t get them dirty so I don’t worry about washing them after just one wear.
Again, we have a shower in our trailer but we don’t use it very often. Our water heater takes a lot of power to use and time to heat up, especially for two people showering at least once a day/every other day. So for this reason we choose to use the bathroom facilities provided. And again they are very nice, they’re air conditioned with lots of hot water, always very clean, and rarely anyone else there. But it is an inconvenience to have to pack up towels, soaps, and clean clothes onto the golf cart everytime you want to take a shower.
We pretty much reserve the shower in the trailer for emergency purposes and take quick cold showers.
Living in a trailer on a campground means we have limited amounts of electricity available to us at one time. To explain a little, let’s think of it as water. If you have a pipe with water flowing through it “amps” would be the amount or volume of water that can get through the pipe at one time, and “volts” would be the water pressure.
We are on a 30 amp lot, which means we can pull up to 30 amps of power at once but no more. For comparison, 200 amps is standard for an average house. This means we have to be careful about how much we are pulling at once. So turning lights off when you aren’t using them is a must. Unplugging appliances after use, etc. This can be very annoying especially when it comes to cooking dinner. We can’t have the oven and the burners on at the same time, or we can but we can’t also have the AC running or anything else plugged in. This leads to blown fuses, and having to run outside to flip the breaker every 5 minutes while cooking dinner and is very frustrating.
Tiny kitchen/no oven
This leads into my next point about cooking, which is the tiny kitchen. While we are blessed with a full sized fridge (we like to eat okay?) we only have 2 camper sized electric burners, and a toaster oven to make food with absolutely zero counter space other than the island/table. When we make dinner we use the island as our prep-space, place to put the burners to cook on, and then our table to eat at. We can’t use the burners and the oven at the same time because it pulls too much power so we have to be strategic about how we cook so that everything will be warm at the same time.
This can be oh so frustrating, but it just means we have learned to be creative with the foods that we decide to make!
In our camper we have two AC units (one wall, one roof) in the main living area and then we have one in the sunroom. While they do work really well at keeping these areas cold (for the most part) it means that the bathroom and bedroom get zero cold air and are almost always sweltering. Even at night we have to have a few fans on and a light blanket to get to sleep, and we still end up sleeping in the living room 3 nights out of the week because it’s just so dang hot in there! (We have a futon bed in the living room)
The middle of the day is probably the worst, it gets so hot and the camper has very little insulation, so we had to install blackout curtains to help keep the heat out and the little AC we have in. The dogs love to spend the middle of the day curled up in front of the AC to stay cool.
RVs are hard to work on
Renovating has definitely been a challenge due to the small spaces and weird angles, but by far the biggest challenge has been troubleshooting. While we have been here we have dealt with lighting issues, electrical issues, water heater issues, water damage in the walls and floors, etc. While some of these things we could deal with on our own in a traditional house, we have no idea where to start in the RV. They are completely wired differently, need special parts, and since our RV is so old a lot of the parts aren’t available.
If we call a professional it has to be someone who specializes in RV’s which means its more expensive and harder to find someone. We recently found out, while trying to replace the light fixture in the bathroom, that all of the wirings in the bathroom and hallway were done not according to code and are a massive fire hazard.
This has been one of the biggest challenges yet, and we have learned a lot through having to research how to work on campers.
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