We often receive questions from travel therapists about how to set up housing as a healthcare traveler. Some therapists and other healthcare professionals (nurses, etc.) choose to live in an RV during their travel healthcare journey. We at Travel Therapy Mentor personally lived in a fifth wheel camper for about 3 years during the beginning of our travel PT careers.
There are a lot of pros and cons to consider when deciding if the RV route is right for you, and when comparing RV life to finding short term housing. But if you’re fairly certain you do want to pursue the RV life, the next thing you may be wondering is how to find the right RV for you. We’re excited to share this guest post from Travel PT Kayla who lives full time in an RV with her husband and pets.
As traveling healthcare workers, we are often moving all around the country. Living full time in an RV can be a great way to have a permanent home on the road that can help to provide comfort and stability. It can also provide fun and adventurous journeys.
If you’re a traveling healthcare worker considering pursuing the RV life, you may be wondering how to choose the right RV. Here are some tips to help you find an RV that’s right for you.
My name is Kayla Eldridge and I am a traveling Physical Therapist. My husband, Ryan, is a remote software developer who travels with me, and we have been living full-time in our 5th wheel camper with our two cats since 2020. We chose RV living because we found it to be difficult to find affordable, pet friendly short-term housing. We also want our cats to be happy and comfortable in a permanent living space where we don’t have to worry about them ruining other people’s furniture. We bought our 2021 Grand Design Reflection 31mb and 2014 Ford F350 truck in June 2020.
Overview of Different Types of RVs
If you’re new to RVing, you might be unaware of the different types of RVs. There are two main styles, each with different classes within them. Motorhomes are drivable RVs with an engine, and towables are towed behind a truck.
Motorhomes are broken up into 3 classes:
- Class A are big rigs with panoramic front windows. These drive like a bus so there can be a bigger learning curve.
- Class B are vans. These can get you into smaller campsites easily and quickly. Driving them can be more familiar and easier. They have a very small living space which can be challenging but not impossible for some people.
- Class C is between class A and B in terms of size. They tend to have more beds than Class A so it can be better for families. Like Class B, they typically use gas instead of diesel, making it more cost effective.
Towables are generally broken up into two categories with a wide range of different options in each:
- The first is a travel trailer. These are lighter, shorter, and smaller (though, not always). This makes them easier to fit into locations that have height restrictions from bridges or trees. They are towed behind the vehicle using a trailer hitch. They are sometimes referred to as a “pull-behind.”
- The second is a fifth wheel which is bigger, heavier, and taller. These offer more living and storage space but will require a bigger truck to tow (maybe even a dual rear wheel). They are easier to maneuver than a travel trailer (especially in reverse) since the pivot point is closer to the midpoint of the truck. These are towed from a hitch that is installed in the truck bed. This means you’ll need to install the special fifth-wheel hitch and can’t tow with just any regular trailer hitch.
Within each category, there is a wide array of different layouts and the potential for a number of slideouts which can create extra space. For example, a “toy hauler” model has an opening on the back of the trailer that opens up like a garage, which can allow you to haul extra equipment like motorcycles or have extra space for an office or extra bedroom.
There are many considerations, so it’s important to look at each of them and determine which style would best suit your needs.
Process of Searching for the Right RV
Searching for an RV can be a long and daunting process, but if you put in the time and do your research, you can find the right one to call home. It’s important not to rush the process and make uncalculated decisions, especially if you plan on living in the RV full time.
There are many considerations for navigating through this process. They all overlap, making it difficult for this to be done as a step by step procedure. You will likely go back and forth among each area multiple times until you figure out what works best for you.
Start thinking about your lifestyle and what you need in a home to be happy and comfortable.
When you search for RVs without making these considerations, it’s possible that you could get caught up in the moment and let the excitement cloud your judgment. Having a list of your wants and needs can prevent forgetting necessary qualities.
Motorhome vs. Towable RV
Deciding between a motorhome or towable RV depends on a few factors. Would you rather drive your home and tow a smaller car behind it, or drive a truck that tows your home and use the truck as your in-town vehicle after unhitching? Who will be driving and what type of vehicle are they comfortable driving? Not just when you’re moving the RV but after the RV is parked and you need to drive to work or around town.
Motorhomes can be easier to park, especially in reverse, because there is no pivot point. This makes them great for a single person. Towables can be more difficult to back into spots, often needing two people. It requires good communication, time, and patience, especially for the challenging spots. A backup camera could help for either type of RV. Pull-through spots would make parking easier, but these usually cost more and are only available at some RV parks.
Motorhomes allow you to tow a small, fuel efficient car, which is easier for around town; whereas with towables, you only have the towing vehicle. If you choose the motorhome and car, you will have two engines to maintain, which can be costly. Whereas the towable and truck only has one engine.
If a motorhome engine requires maintenance, you may have to find a hotel to stay in while it is being repaired. Towables can be unhitched so that you can stay in your RV while the tow vehicle is repaired.
Both motorhomes and towables have options for slideouts which provide more living space. We felt that towables had a larger variety of floor plans giving more options for living spaces.
If you purchase a towable RV, make sure to check the RV and Trailer towing guides to determine what size/type of truck you will need to safely tow the RV.
If you buy a motorhome, you can tow a small car behind it, but you have to make sure it’s compatible for towing as not all vehicles are.
If you already have a vehicle you’d like to keep that can tow or be towed, this might help you decide on the type of RV you get. Otherwise, you will have to consider getting a new vehicle along with your RV purchase.
Finding the Right Floor Plan
View as many varieties of floor plans as you can to figure out what you like and what meets your needs. Being inside the RV is drastically different than looking at floor plans online. On top of seeing them at dealerships, try to go to an RV show or rally if there is one near you. Just don’t let the salespeople tempt you into a purchase before you are ready.
If you plan on staying in parking lots or truck stops on travel days, check if you can access your refrigerator, bathroom, and bedroom with the slides in. Most of the time you will not be able to open the slide-outs in parking lots, so plan accordingly. If you can’t access the fridge, you could also use a cooler or a mini-fridge in an outdoor kitchen for meals on travel days.
If you have pets, you will need space for crates, litter boxes, and food/water. Make sure these are also accessible with the slides closed during travel days. We built a tunnel into a storage compartment to store the litter boxes. It keeps the RV from smelling and tracking litter on the floor while also providing us with more space inside. When we travel, we move the litter boxes to the shower since the cats can’t access the tunnel with the slides closed. A second bathroom would also work.
If you travel with a partner who works from home, they will need a work space. Using the kitchen table could be a nuisance if they have to keep moving everything. Having a good setup will help them to be more successful when working from the road. Finding a floor plan that has additional space such as a bunkhouse, mid-bunk room or toy-hauler garage will allow them to set up a permanent desk space. We built a desk in our mid-bunk and we have seen many great renovations to turn the garage of a toy-hauler into really cool office spaces.
Some smaller details to consider include location of the windows, whether you’d prefer a booth or dinette, the color scheme and decor, and storage space. Check if you can see the TV comfortably. If you plan on bringing bikes, make sure the hitch is rated to carry them.
You will need to come up with a budget to follow. Consider the above categories when you create your budget and remember that the budget should include cost of the RV, insurance, extra vehicle (if applicable), hitch or tow device and accessories. Repairs can also be expensive, so it is important to set money aside in your emergency fund for when unexpected things happen.
You’ll need to consider if you can buy the RV in cash or will need to finance. If you decide to finance, it is a good idea to get pre-approved to know how much you can afford.
Purchasing RV from Dealership or Independent Seller
Buying a new RV from a dealership can guarantee that you know how well it has been taken care of, if you don’t mind taking the depreciation hit. Depending on the brand though, big issues are often seen right as you take them off the lot, so make sure it’s a reputable brand that is known for good customer service. In our experience, Grand Design has proven to have good customer service.
Dealerships provide inspections to make sure the RV is in working order, but they can often miss a lot. So don’t be surprised if there are issues even after buying brand new from a dealership.
Dealerships can also provide a bigger range of RVs to see in person and provide financing options, which can be beneficial.
When buying from an independent seller, you will have to provide your own financing, but you can find good deals if you search around. Keep in mind that if you buy used, many RV parks do not allow RVs over 10 years old to stay in their parks, so consider the age when you’re buying it plus how many years you plan to use it.
When buying used, you will want to do a full inspection of the RV to assess if there is any damage prior to buying it. You can either do it on your own or hire a professional. This cost will be out of pocket, but it can be worth the added expense to ensure you made a good purchase.
When assessing an RV, there are a few things to look out for. Look for any water damage or mold, as fixing it can be costly and difficult. Check that the appliances are working properly. Make sure the furnace, air conditioners, water pump, and water heaters are in working order. Also, if possible, check underneath for water leaks in the pipes as that can be a common issue as well.
The process for choosing an RV to live in can be overwhelming, but when done correctly, it can be extremely rewarding. We have lived in several different types of housing, but our RV has been our favorite place to live by far.
We have been to a lot of incredible places and have enjoyed many adventures throughout our travels that we wouldn’t have had without our RV. We hope our advice can help you to also choose a wonderful home to take on the road!
Written by Kayla Eldridge, PT, DPT – If you would like to read more about how Kayla and her husband Ryan got started traveling, living in the RV or about their adventures, check out their website at www.eldridgeexpedition.com or follow them at EldridgeExpedition on Instagram and Facebook. They have pictures of their RV when they first bought it and pictures of all the updates they made to it over the years to make it feel more like home.
Thank you Kayla for providing your insights to healthcare travelers making decisions regarding housing and RV living!
If you’re new to travel therapy and have questions, be sure to check out the resources we have available at Travel Therapy Mentor, including getting connected with our Recommended Recruiters. Feel free to contact us with any questions!