We had been planning a North Carolina Outer Banks vacation for a while, with the full intention of camping camping, like sleeping in our tent under the ocean side stars. We have a huge three room tent that is actually quite nice, and our family really enjoys being outdoors. But along the planning path it wouldn’t have laid out into a true Elkins Family experience had we not thrown something spontaneously dramatic in the mix. So this go-round, that something was a new travel camper!
Spontaneity aside, there were actually some compelling arguments for why this would be so beneficial to us:
- We are a military family so we never live close to our relatives. Travel is just a part of our life. Also, we like to see things and we like to show our kids the world outside of our immediate area as often as we can.
- Having a family of 6, fire code prevents hotels from allowing us to rent just one room
to sleep in, even though we could sleep fairly comfortable in one for a night or two. Sometimes, depending on the setup of the hotel, we have
liedfudged the truth about how many kids we had…I’d always planned to claim a sleep deprived miscount…and sneak them in the back door. It’s clever and it works…but it just gets old. Especially when you travel as much as we do. Having basically a hotel attached to the bumper was a complete no brainer. Especially when a camp site costs on average $25-35 a night vs the $80-115 a night of a hotel TIMES TWO.
- Side note, we also have to make sure to get a room with a fridge and microwave so that the oldest with severe food allergies is able to have meals prepared. You’d be surprised how many places don’t have those basic things. A camper could give us a full blown kitchen with fridge, freezer, microwave, range, stove and sink!
- We wanted to have something cool for the kids to enjoy.
We started looking at used pop-up style campers that were surprisingly affordable…we just needed something big enough to sleep the six of us, and considering the littlest still fits between my husband and I, and the girls still fit on one bed together, it wasn’t going to be a difficult task. “Just a place to sleep,” we told ourselves. But before we made the commitment we got a case of the wandering eyes.
Just for fun I decided to take a look inside a brand new 45 thousand dollar rig. It was so fantastic that the “should we camp?” conversation turned to, “We can sell everything we own and live in this forever, tiny house style!” Oh yes, I was serious. But since we didn’t have 45 thousand dollars, or more importantly another 55 thousand for a vehicle brute enough to pull that thing plus our whole family inside, the search began for something in the middle of “something we can just sleep in” and “something we can all live in forever.” That’s just how I roll.
There were several pros and cons lists, as well as wants vs needs lists. Here’s the logic we used…
Aside from “just sleeping” what if it rains and we have to be stuck “living” in there temporarily? The kids really needed a little bit of living space. There are, after all, a lot of us.
- An RV motor home that you drive has to pull a car behind it so that you can drive around once you park it. It’s not easy for them to pull a vehicle that seats six people, and it’s not as safe for the kids to ride in the RV itself. It wasn’t a good fit for us.
- The current vehicle we have that fits us all comfortably can only tow so much, so we had to stay within the parameters of its capabilities.
- Even though its super cool that the dining table and the sofa convert into sleepers, after talking to a few people who have used the features, they recommended that we have dedicated sleep space for the kids, that way they can be in bed as we are watching TV, or someone can sit and have breakfast while others are still sleeping. Made total sense, so we listed a bunk house as a must have.
- After looking at bigger bathrooms with standing showers and doors to the outside, I decided we needed to forgo the larger space and add an actual tub to our needs list, to clean off those sandy babies a little easier.
The rest was just picking and choosing the interior layout and colors. I gave up a larger kitchen counter for a TV and a U-shaped dining table instead of picnic table style.
Long story just a little bit shorter, we ended up shopping several dealerships over a few states even, and invested a ton of time and research along the way before finally making a decision. We found one at the last minute that had an entire doored room of bunkbeds where each kid could have their own and a dresser, vs the double bunks that were just covered by a curtain that we originally looked at where we’d have to double up the girls and the baby still sleep with us. We figured this way we won’t “outgrow” it any time soon. Not that we’re adding to the family, but boy do these kids grow fast! And doubling up won’t last for long. Not to mention we saved ourselves a lot of, “her feet are touching me!” bed time moments. AND had a designated time-out zone. It was so nice to be able to shout, “Go to your room!” while on vacation.
We’ve only taken it out once so far, and I admit, since we are at the max end of what our vehicle allows and the camper is HUGE, way bigger than we planned due to that extra room, I have a fair amount of anxiety in tow.
But the week we actually used it…I was in love! I’m frequent on buyer’s remorse…not this time. On top of the fun of grilling outside, I was able to cook us healthy meals in the
kitchen at the cost of our regular grocery bill. We didn’t eat out once and the scale thanked me for the first time ever when I got home from a vacation. We popped popcorn in the microwave and watched TV WHILE CAMPING…which was a new one for me. Hey, I have four kids, I’m ALWAYS “roughing it,” and this was vacation after all. When we pulled back up to our house the kids actually said, “Awe, we have to live in this big house again?” And the set up and cleanup is way easier than I had imagined. You’re plugged right into a sewer, water, and electric line so you don’t even have to think about those things while you’re “GLAMping.”
We have another vacation planned to Virginia Beach in a couple of weeks and I cannot wait! Our last down time opportunity right before school starts.
When my husband first presented the idea to me I balked at it, adamant that we were camping in a tent and we were going to love it. But I’m convinced now that EVERYONE needs a camper.
And it’s not been completely shut down…I have only just temporarily shelved the idea of full time tiny house living 😉