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RV Living— A Simple RV Christmas

Stephanie, her hubby, and their two cats enjoy living and traveling full-time in their RV, often camping off-grid to stretch their budget.

Enjoying Whimsical Holiday Decorations in Nashville

Christmas Gingerbread Girl.  Opry Land Holiday display. Nashville, TN

Christmas Gingerbread Girl. Opry Land Holiday display. Nashville, TN

Finding the Christmas Spirit in Arkansas

Garvin Gardens, Arkansas

Garvin Gardens, Arkansas

There's No Place Like Home

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays is one of the sweetest and most loved songs of the holiday season. Those of you who have deep roots in your hometown and a lovely home to decorate during the holidays may become teary eyed hearing this song when you're far from home. You may feel sorry for those of us who live a life on the road.

Home Is Where You Park It

One thing that full-time RVers learn early is that we haven't left our homes; we've taken our homes with us. When we sell our "sticks and bricks" houses and pack our favorite belongings in our motor homes or trailers, we make a commitment to our new home on wheels. Each of us personalizes our home on wheels differently. Some will redecorate with pictures and pretty curtains, others will add soft afghans and flowers to the table. Our cats, dogs and birds ride along in style. They are our "fur babies". We carry our music with us. Our cell phones and computers keep us in close touch with relatives and friends. We still have our books and our hobbies.

We are just as comfortable in our queen sized beds and comfortable furniture as anyone in a traditional house. Our homes are with us wherever we go and we truly believe the motto of many RVers that "Home is Where You Park It."

Enjoying Holiday Lights As We Travel

Christmas display Hot Springs, Arkansas

Christmas display Hot Springs, Arkansas

Transition to Simple Living

Some of the ways we've simplified our lives:

  • Buy only "replacement" clothes when things wear out.
  • Don't buy decorative objects that can't be displayed in the motor home.
  • Get news and information on line rather than buying magazines and newspapers.
  • No more home phone, electric bill, heating bill.
  • No cable or land line telephone.
  • Use free book exchanges and libraries for reading material.
  • Donate books we've read to campground libraries.
  • Donate unused clothes and items to charities.
  • Shop thrift stores for necessities.
  • Stick to utilitarian kitchen items and eliminate duplicates.
  • Pare down dishes and silverware to settings for six.
  • Convert music CDs to digital for iPod or MP3 players or your smart phone.
  • Skip expensive restaurants in favor of cooking ourselves or sharing pot lucks with other RVers.
  • Recycle and reuse.
  • Go green. Never use plastic disposables, carry reusable shopping bags, use refillable water bottles.
  • Shop for inexpensive campgrounds and free boondocking sites.
  • Don't buy jewelry.
  • Confine club memberships to RVing clubs and discount campground memberships.
  • Volunteer at campgrounds and National Parks in exchange for free campsites.
  • Take part in campground activities such as potluck dinners, jam sessions, and free lectures or classes rather than go out for expensive entertainment.

The Simple RV Lifestyle

Living in our motor home has taught us much about the value of living a simple life. Before retirement, we were an integral part of the rat race. With both of us working, it was a merry-go-round of spending, buying and accumulating more and more "stuff." Before retirement, we made a serious commitment to live a simpler life by cutting our spending, limiting our purchases and paring down the material things that we had accumulated through the years. Our rule became, "Do not buy anything unless there is a place for it in the RV."

Some brave souls jump into living on the road with both feet, selling not only their homes, but all the belongings that could not be packed into their RV. We eased into our new lifestyle by selling our house, but keeping some of our household things in storage for the time when we would buy a house again. That was a mistake, but that's another hub.

What started out to be a year of full-time RVing, turned into four before we knew it. In that time we learned many things about living a simpler life, most importantly that material things are not necessary for a happy life. Because of space constrictions, we were unable to take all but a very few of the belongings that had surrounded us in our house. The funny thing is, we never missed them! Well, most of them... I did miss our toaster, and we ended up buying one for the RV eventually.

Although we visit our kids and grandchildren several times a year, we are often on the road through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's because we don't want to drive the motor home back into the snow country of the northeast. During the holidays we do enjoy being around other people in the same situation. One of the first, and best things we did as new RVers was to join The Escapees, club made up of mostly full-time RVers. During holidays, we often head to one of their parks to have Christmas and New Years with others who share our lifestyle.

Christmas Past

The difference between our Christmases past and Christmas as full-time RVers is drastic. I admit, I used to go a little crazy at Christmas, especially when the grandchildren arrived. Christmases Past were a madhouse of frenzied gift buying, decorating, wrapping and cooking. In the end, we were left exhausted with a pile of bills, a big mess to clean up and kids who got too much stuff.

A Simple and Relaxed Christmas

In our simpler life, Christmas is also calmer and simpler. We still buy a few gifts for the younger grandchildren, but others get gift cards or cash. We don't exchange gifts with anyone other than family. We keep Christmas spending under control.

I've even changed the way we send Christmas cards. We keep in fairly close touch with friends and relatives through email, phone calls and social media all year long. A real Christmas card is an important personal touch at holiday time, but only if it contains more than a signature. Rather than sending many cards to people we haven't seen or heard from in years, I find a recent travel photograph of my husband and myself and include it in a one page holiday letter that goes to a short list of friends. Or, if you prefer, send it as an email attachment to anyone on your Christmas card list.

Christmas Dinner With New Friends at a Campground

Passing the desert.  Christmas Dinner at Rainbow's End Escapees Park.

Passing the desert. Christmas Dinner at Rainbow's End Escapees Park.

Participate in Holiday Festivities Wherever You Are

Partly because of space constrictions and partly because we just don't need more stuff, we seldom buy gifts for each other. We look for other ways to celebrate the holidays. Here are some things we've done in past years to keep the holiday spirit alive:

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  • Livingston, Texas at Rainbow's End. Our first Christmas RVing, we stopped in Livingston, Texas at the Rainbow's End Escapees Park. There we joined in a Christmas Eve party of music and snacks and met a fascinating couple from New Zealand who have traveled all over the world. On Christmas Day, we had Christmas dinner in the park club house where each couple brought a dish to pass and shared stories of their travels and their families.
  • The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show. We happened to be in Nashville just before Christmas when the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes were doing their Christmas Show at the Grand Ole Opry. We spent an afternoon wandering around the grounds of the new Opryland, then attended the show which was a delightful holiday extravaganza of music and dance, lights and beautiful costumes.
  • Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame. While in Nashville another time, we viewed the nighttime lights of OpryLand Christmas decorations and went to one of the Grand Ole Opry country shows featuring many familiar names in country music that we loved. We also went to the Country Music Hall of Fame which was featuring a Christmas luncheon and live Christmas music.
  • Garvin Woodland Gardens Christmas Lights Show in Hot Springs, Arkansas. One year we were near Hot Springs, Arkansas and spent an evening exploring Garvin Woodland Gardens, a fabulous gardens with millions of lights and fantastical Christmas displays.
  • New Year's in Pecos, Texas. We spent one New Year's Day in the Escapees park in Pecos, Texas where the campground managers cooked a New Year's brunch with traditional collard greens and ham supplemented by pot luck dishes from the campers. There we met several people who were on their way to Quartzsite and invited us to join their group of "Boomers". It turned out to be one of the most fun times we've ever had.
  • Corpus Cristi, Texas decorated boats and homes. The year we were on Padre Island near Corpus Cristi, Texas around the holidays, we took evening drives through the waterside communities to see all the boats decorated with lights.
  • Mexican New Year's Eve. One very special Christmas season we camped in Texas near Eagle Pass and were invited to share New Year's Eve with our daughter-in-law's family for a Mexican New Year's Eve celebration of music, fireworks and pinatas. It was a memorable event!

Gifts for RVers

If you are looking for a gift for the RVing couple in your life, remember that space is very limited. Games that come in small packages, solar powered gadgets, pocket sized items are all good ideas. Gift cards to chain restaurants or a favorite outdoor store might be appreciated, too.

Holiday Decorations and Food

Like other RVers, we like to decorate our rig a little bit for the holiday season. A Christmas wreath wired onto the front grill, a string of Christmas lights in our front window and a pretty little artificial tree or poinsettia plant on the table give us a festive air. When on the road, we sometimes miss some of the traditional foods of the season, so we try to find a specialty shop or deli with things that we enjoy. If we're lucky, we can find some homemade pierogies as we really don't have room in the motor home kitchen for pierogie making. I can still make our traditional Polish sour mushroom soup, though. We can usually compensate with some good Ghirardelli chocolate and a nice wine!

Keeping in Touch with Family and Friends

Cell phones and computers have made keeping in touch with family and friends simple and convenient. Our first Christmas on the road when we were parked in Livingston, Texas at Rainbows End, we talked to each of our children and several of our relatives on Christmas Day. As we stood outside our rig talking, we could see people all over the park on their cell phones getting in touch with their loved ones and friends. Later, at the Christmas dinner, we all compared notes on how much cold and snow our kids were experiencing in their various home states. Now, by using Skype or Facetime, families can see as well as hear each other. The New Zealand couple that we met were able to see and talk to their children and grandchildren on the other side of the world -- and without long distance charges!

A handcrafted angel tops the tree in the Rainbow Plantation's clubhouse.

A handcrafted angel tops the tree in the Rainbow Plantation's clubhouse.

Christmas in Our Home on Wheels

Rainbow Plantations is an Escapees Park near the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama. The mild weather is a welcome relief from the frigid temperatures of northern states. Some of the campers leave to have Christmas with family in other states, but many residents stay through the holidays. The clubhouse is festive with holiday decorations while many of the rigs sport tiny lights and Christmas trees.

We won't exchange gifts with each other, because we recently treated ourselves to new laptops, but we'll probably go on a special outing to view local Christmas lights. On Christmas Eve there are special activities at the clubhouse and on Christmas Day there's a pot luck dinner. Meanwhile, Christmas music drifts from the RVs and we write out our Christmas cards sitting out in front of our rig and socializing with passersby. A digital picture frame shows digital photographs of family and friends.

While we miss our kids and grandkids, we know that we wouldn't see them all at Christmas even if we were in a house as they are spread over three states. This year, we'll keep in touch by phone and computer and plan our family gatherings for a warmer season.

We'll keep in touch with old friends while making new friends in our travels. Home IS where you park it!

Happy Holidays!

© 2010 Stephanie Henkel


Karen Hellier from Georgia on May 22, 2018:

What a nice article. Someday I hope to have an RV and travel around the US for 1 year, just as you had planned. Will it turn into more than 1 year? I don't really know, but I think I might be one of those campers who go visit family at Christmas, even though it is in the Northeast. Too soon to tell right now though, since I don't even have an RV yet! I liked your list of gifts to buy for full-time RVers. Great addition to this article. Thanks for the info!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on July 20, 2015:

Paul Little - Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. When we started RVing, our first experience was a three month trip to Alaska. Loved it so much that we decided to go full time. Perhaps your wife will be convinced if you go on an extended trip before making that final really is a great life!

Paul little on July 20, 2015:

Wonderful article! We have visited many Natioal parks in our 5ver. But just vacations. Would love to be a "part time" full timer. Trying to convince my wife. I sent her your article. Hope it helps. thanks and happy trails.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on December 09, 2014:

MJ Martin - RVing is a wonderful way to visit family in distant places! This year we are traveling through the Christmas season to see our children and grandchildren in 3 different states!

MJ Martin aka Ruby H Rose from Washington State on December 08, 2014:

I love your simple list for living in an RV. My dream someday, maybe not full time, but for traveling to see family.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on November 30, 2014:

Velzipmur - Full time RVing is certainly a huge change from living in a stationary house, but we adapted quickly and love it. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment!

Shelly Wyatt from Maryland on November 30, 2014:

Great hub! I have never been a full time RVer but it sounds like a big change.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on December 10, 2012:

Hi Denise, Wishing you safe travels and a happy holiday!

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on December 10, 2012:

We've toured the Dominion light show two years ago. I still have light photos I'd like to create for a hub, but that's for another day. I hope you are safe on the road. J will be in Charlotte with his maternal grandmother and relatives, including his mom and dad...two weeks. My friend and I are traveling to Michigan to visit family. Thank goodness my brother will take care of the pets.

I've seen those wreaths on trucks, cars and RV's - go for it! :)

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on December 09, 2012:

Hi Denise, The last years before retirement, our Christmases were spinning out of control. I have to say that life is much more enjoyable when we simplify the holiday. This year we will spend Christmas on the road, so our decorations are minimal and gift giving will be mostly gift cards. To get in the holiday spirit we will spend an evening viewing the special lights display in Virginia Beach and probably have a grand cookie baking day before we go. Maybe we'll wire a Christmas wreath to the front of the RV to dress it up! :)

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on December 08, 2012:

Stephanie, this is wonderful advice about 'trimming' and simplifying Christmas, regardless of being in an RV. I love all the cool photos you've added here and it just sparks that wanderlust desire again. Great hub-voted up/U/I

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on December 08, 2012:

Thank you Daisy Mariposa! I love writing about our time as full-time RVers and sharing my photographs. I'm so glad that you enjoy reading my articles.

Daisy Mariposa from Orange County (Southern California) on December 08, 2012:


I enjoy reading your articles about RV life. I especially like your using your own photographs.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on September 17, 2011:

Hello Nadelma,

Selling your home and moving into an RV is a big step,but planning ahead as you are doing will make the transition easier. (You may find some of my hubs on full time RVing helpful as you plan.)

Since our children and grandchildren live in 3 different states, we find that RVing gives us the chance to see them for quality visits several times a year. We usually plan trips to the northeast in the warmer months and spend winters in the south or southwest.

Good luck with selling your house and getting on the road! Thanks for stopping by to comment.

nadelma from NEW ADDRESS: Melbourne, Florida on September 17, 2011:

This was so great to read as we have been planning (thinking) about doing this. We've had an RV for years and said once we were retired we would go. We are planning on putting the house up for sale in the spring as the winter is not a good time in the Poconos to sell a house due to all the snow. We spend hours online checking campgrounds etc. Hopefully next year we can go. Of course the kids and grandkids are a concern.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on December 28, 2010:

Hi LauraB,

I'm glad that you are finding my hubs useful as you prepare to go full time! It can be quite difficult when you have to decide what to keep and what to let go. Sometimes we have to do it in stages!

I'll look forward to hearing about your progress. Good luck with your transition; it's quite an adventure!

LauraB on December 28, 2010:

Thanks for the reassuring words, Stephanie. We have had our "last" Christmas in the "sticks & bricks" and are planning to launch full time this year. I really appreciated your advice about storage. I'm down to the china, but may be ready to let that go before long! I will look forward to your sage advice for the next few months as we prepare to move out!

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on December 18, 2010:

Thanks for the advice. I checked it out. Great resource.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on December 18, 2010:

Thanks for your comment, Dallas! If you're seriously considering going full time RVing, check into the Escapees Discussion Board. There are many beginners as well as veteran RVers who share information.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on December 18, 2010:

Thanks for reading my blogs, Estelle! Yes, you were campground manager when we were in Pecos! It's so nice to still be in touch --We've made some wonderful friends in our travels! Hope to see you this winter in Quartzsite!

Dallas W Thompson from Bakersfield, CA on December 18, 2010:

I am in the process of considering doing the RV thing. Great to talk a real RV-er... Thanks for sharing.

Estelle Hasert on December 18, 2010:

I remember that couple from New Zealand & the year we spent New Yrs with you in Pecos! Many good memories! You do such a nice job of writing. I read all your blogs and remember what fun it used to be. We are settled now, but have so many good memories of our travels:)

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on December 18, 2010:

Thanks for following my hubs, Happy! It is amazing how little we miss our "stuff" when we're living in the RV. Christmas in the RV is certainly much calmer for us than it was years ago, but we still enjoy the season.

I'm so glad you enjoy my photographs. One of the reasons I love writing here is that I can share them!

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on December 18, 2010:

Love the motto, "Home Is Where You Park It" and the names of some of the RV parks.

It's amazing how many ways there are to whittle down expenses and how much less stressful life is without having to maintain so many possessions and engage in such elaborate holiday preparations.

I like reading about your simple lifestyle and especially love the pictures you take. Thanks for sharing.

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