"I had a Dream"
Leonard and Carmen, Canadian RVers from Ontario share their retirement dream of traveling in an RV – enjoying the RV Lifestyle. I hope you enjoy their story as much as I did.
Table of Contents
This was not my plan!
When I was in my early fifties, I started to think seriously about retiring in 10 – 15 years. My wife and I enjoyed holidays which consisted of traveling to different locations. However, there seemed to be three things we didn’t enjoy.
- Staying in hotels.
- Eating out constantly.
- Being rushed constantly.
Staying in hotels and eating out may sound exciting, but it gets old quick. My career was in hospitality, so I ate in restaurants virtually every working day, and I spent a fair amount of time in hotels. This was not my plan for retirement!
Was Becoming RV Snowbirds the Answer?
I came up with our plan of becoming RV Snowbirds. We would spend summers in Canada and winters in the Southern U.S. We would travel with our “house” and all the comforts that we desired. My wife humoured my dream, while I voraciously dug into researching the RV lifestyle. I asked myself the following questions:
- What could we afford?
- How long would our trips be?
- What type of RV will give us what we want and need?
- Be realistic. Don’t consider a luxury RV for a million dollars plus if you if you are just getting by in retirement.
- Talk to your spouse, whether you will be weekend warriors or month long snowbirds. You may want a small travel trailer or an RV will more amenities.
- Will you be full timers, or part timers with a home base?
- Do you enjoy roughing it by using campground facilities, or do you want a gourmet kitchen and watch Netflix on your big screen TV in a recliner?
- Consider renting an RV first to see if you even like it.
The RV - to fit the RV Lifestyle
It’s 2020 and I retired at the beginning of the COVID pandemic. We started looking at RV’s in earnest! My wife now realized it was not just my dream but it was going to become a reality!
We looked at travel trailers, Airstreams, 5th wheels, and even a few Class A’s.
We chose a Montana 5th wheel. It felt right as it served our needs the best. It was spacious, had a high ceiling, an island kitchen, great layout, and best in class cargo capacity at nearly 4,000 lbs.
I found the perfect one for us and said “let’s take a look at it”, on our way back from a visit to Ottawa. RV’s were hot commodities and selling fast at that time, so an hour later we were the proud owners of a brand new RV!
- Have a budget for your RV and all its associated costs, toys and accessories. Stick to it!
- Consider paying cash if possible. Financing a depreciating asset may not be the best strategy in retirement.
- Before you buy, know where you’ll store the RV when not in use.
*** We live in a condo – so we found an RV storage area 55 kms away.***
Next - the Tow Vehicle
We needed a truck to tow the 5th wheel, and they were in short supply during the pandemic. My research led me to determine a one-ton dually, diesel engine, with a long box was ideal for us.
I found a used one 150 kms away from our home. I went, I saw and I conquered!
I now had the second part of our RV package. The 5th wheel hitch that I wanted was available about 50 kms from where I bought the truck, so that worked out perfectly!
- If a towable RV is in your plans, ensure you’ll be comfortable driving a truck and trailer combination that could be 40′ or longer.
- I can’t stress enough the importance of correctly matching your truck and trailer, if a towable is your plan. The safety implications are too great to ignore.
- Do not ask your vehicle dealer what you should buy to pull your trailer, as their interests are not necessarily in alignment with yours.
- Do your research and seek out independent experts who can help if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.
Now the fun begins! Let's go!
We decided to take a few short trips to Ontario Provincial Parks to familiarize ourselves with operating our new RV. The learning curve was steep, but step by step we become more comfortable with this new adventure.
Ontario Provincial Parks are just fantastic to visit, explore and experience! Our favourite to date is Sleeping Giant in Thunder Bay – check it out!
The first year was all Ontario travel due to COVID restrictions. We made our first extended trip to Dryden and Kenora to visit family. This was our first exposure to multiple travel days – getting a feel for what we were comfortable with.
It was fantastic and we made it back without too many concerns. But we came back with a lot of ideas for making these trips better. We are planners, so all campgrounds or RV resorts are booked well in advance. Our rig is not one you want to say to your spouse at 4:00 pm “Soooo, where do you think we should stay tonight?”
It's time to slow down & enjoy the RV Lifestyle
The second year we were braver with longer excursions. We planned our first five month Snowbird winter to the Southern U.S. I thought I nailed it with the planning of every stay from December until we got home in the spring.
I did, but I booked seventeen stops the first winter and it was way too many! We quickly realized that one and two week stays are just too short as we felt rushed the whole winter. First world problems to be sure, but we needed a reset of this schedule. The places we saw and experienced more than made up for the hectic pace.
We are currently on our second five-month Snowbird winter where we booked five stays, from 10 days to two months in length. Much better!
We’ve both settled into routines as we were advised to do from the beginning (but nobody listens when they get an RV for a retirement plan!) – which was to slow down – just slooooow down.
RVing is an extension of our RV lifestyle now, not just a constant holiday.
Planning and then over planning
- Plan, plan and then plan more!
- Campgrounds, daily driving limits and stops, the weather, and more importantly – what do you want to see and accomplish? We choose different states and locations every winter as we want to see and experience a various parts of the U.S.
- Don’t be surprised by how many RV accessories you need before you drive your first mile, and then the number you need / want before your first month’s long trips. Remember my tip about budgets?
- Follow bloggers that mimic what you want to do.
- RVers before you will have made some of the mistakes you will inevitably make, but you should be able to avoid a few!
- Enjoy your new found RV Lifestyle, no matter the iteration. It’s not just about traveling to amazing destinations and wondrous sites you will see, but your journey getting there!
Conclusion - The RV Lifestyle Dream
We have had a few challenges along the way. However, we would not have been able to see and do what we have in three short years otherwise. So far our Canadian travels have only been in Ontario. We have seen much of the southern U.S., with its wonderful National Parks, monuments, diverse cultures, historic cities and buck list destinations.
Has it been worth it for us? Absolutely!
Will it be worth it for you?
Try it and find out!