RV Lifestyles Examined

All RV lifestyles have many things in common, yet each has a distinct set of characteristics that set them apart. In this article I attempt to capture the most significant characteristics of the major lifestyle categories: RV Camper or Weekender, Vacationer, Snowbird, and Fulltimer.

RV terminology evolves with the rest of our language and meaning can change with time. What one person calls a vacationer another may call a snowbird. My definitions are based on what I consider major categories with easily identifiable characteristics. At the same time, I recognize that the lines between them may be drawn in different places by others. Nevertheless, this categorization will provide the new RVer a good starting point.

RV Camper or Weekender

I use "RV camper" and "weekender" interchangeably because they both imply a short trip ranging from a couple of days to a week. RV camping is a few notches above tent camping with advantages such as keeping all camping gear in the RV, more interior room, cooking facilities, and a sturdier structure. Major characteristics of this RV lifestyle are the following:

  • Trip duration
    Short trips ranging from a few days to a week, requiring limited cargo and storage space.

  • Activities
    Activities focus on relaxation and time away from the normal demands of life.
  • Housekeeping
    Are you kidding? What weekender is going to clean or do laundry? Sufficient storage is necessary for carrying clean clothes for the duration of the trip.
  • Personal hygiene
    Again—are you kidding? Maybe the teeth get brushed in the morning, but showers are completely optional, even if the campground offers facilities.
  • RV & equipment durability
    Equipment is designed to be light, quickly set up, easy to transport, and quick to tear down. RV's suitable for this lifestyle receive the least amount of use and are the least durable.
  • Climate
    Weekenders typically seek out moderate to warm climates. Equipment is designed to keep occupants comfortable in a narrow range of weather conditions, generally well above freezing.
  • Keeping in touch
    Cell phones are taken in case of emergency, but more often RV campers desire to be outside the reach of modern communications.
  • RV type
    The following RV types are well suited to this lifestyle: folding trailers, truck campers, class B motor homes, and other small trailers.

Vacationer

Vacationers take the RV for longer trips than weekenders, but return home within a few weeks. I like to limit this category to those who spend no more than a month in the RV. Major characteristics of this RV lifestyle are the following:

  • Trip duration
    Medium trip duration of one to four weeks. More cargo and storage space is required to hold clothing and food items.
  • Activities
    Activities focus on slower-paced relaxation at multiple destinations in nature or urban settings.
  • Housekeeping
    Some housekeeping may be necessary during longer trips. A few loads of laundry may need to be washed, but not enough to carry a washer and dryer in the RV. Plan to make one or two stops at a full service RV park with a laundry room or near generous friends.
  • Personal hygiene
    Depending on the destination for the day, it may be necessary to shower and do all other normal hygiene activities each day. The RV may provide all necessary facilities or the park showers may be used.
  • RV & equipment durability
    Equipment is designed for compactness while providing sufficient amenities for the longer trip. Vacationing RV's receive light use so the durability tends to be on the light side as well.
  • Local transportation
    In this class, the RV's are generally small enough to be used as local transportation. A secondary mode may be towed or carried, if the RV is large enough to accommodate it. Vacationers typically limit this to bicycles or a small boat.
  • Climate
    Like weekenders, vacationers typically seek out moderate to warm climates. Equipment is designed to keep occupants comfortable in a wider range of weather conditions, but generally not below freezing.
  • Keeping in touch
    Longer vacations require some planning to pick up mail and pay bills. Mail can be held by a neighbor and bills can be pre-paid or paid electronically from the road. Cell phones become necessary to keep in touch with family.
  • RV type
    The following RV types are well suited to this lifestyle: class B motor homes with shower facilities, smaller class C motor homes, and other small trailers.

Snowbird

Snowbirds like the moderate summers of northern latitudes and warm winters of the south. To live in both climates they take the RV for an entire season and return home when the north thaws. During the summer months the RV generally sits unused until the chill returns once more. Major characteristics of this RV lifestyle are the following:

  • Trip duration
    Snowbirds live in the RV for months at a time and need an RV that provides the necessities and comforts of life.
  • Activities
    Daily activities of snowbirds encompass the full range of living. While most snowbirds are retired, some take on part-time or full-time work to supplement their income. Work or not, they leave plenty of time for enjoyable activities. This lifestyle must also include necessary activities such as vehicle maintenance, managing personal finances, dealing with illness, absentee voting, and everything else in between.
  • Housekeeping
    All housekeeping tasks must be handled sooner or later. I'm not aware of maid service for RV dwellers, so this leaves the chores to the snowbirds. Laundry becomes a weekly task and needs to be considered when selecting the RV.
  • Personal hygiene
    All daily hygiene tasks need to be attended to. It may become cumbersome if the RV does not offer all required facilities, forcing the snowbirds to use the RV park showers. Consideration should be given during the RV selection process to each person's hygiene routine to ensure that the selected model will meet the needs.
  • RV & equipment durability
    Snowbirding RV's must be durable enough to withstand up to six months of constant use per year. Strong consideration must be given to the floor plan, quality and feel of floor coverings, furniture quality and comfort, quality and workmanship of shower and sink areas, and the overall construction of the unit.
  • Local transportation
    In this class, motor homes are getting too large to be used as local transportation. Snowbirds in motor homes usually take a toad for this purpose. Those living in travel trailers or fifth wheels have an advantage of being able to use the tow vehicle as local transportation.
  • Climate
    Snowbirds seek out warm climates though they may occasionally get caught in cold weather. Equipment is designed to keep occupants comfortable in a wider range of weather conditions, but generally not below freezing.
  • Keeping in touch
    Being gone for an entire season requires advanced planning to ensure family and friends can get a hold of you and all other obligations are met. Snowbirds take advantage of mail forwarding services or solicit the help of a willing friend to collect and regularly forward postal mail. Frequent access to the Internet becomes necessary for email, monitoring financial accounts, and paying bills.
  • RV type
    The following RV types are well suited to this lifestyle: medium to large class C motor homes, class A motor homes, and medium to large trailers.

Fulltimer

Fulltimers call the RV their only home. They have no fixed-foundation home to return to and therefore need all the necessities of life contained in the RV. It is debatable how long one must commit to live in a recreational vehicle to be considered a fulltimer—I propose that a minimum of one year is a good starting point. Major characteristics of this RV lifestyle are the following:

  • Trip duration
    Fulltimers are permanent RV residents. They may stay in one place for extended periods or roam from one destination to another.
  • Activities
    Daily activities of a fulltimer are no different from those living in a house. Many fulltimers are retired and do the things that retired folks like to do. One distinction can be made, though, between fulltimers and their house-dwelling counterparts: fulltimers love the freedom of relocating and traveling any time they wish.
  • Housekeeping
    All housekeeping tasks must be attended to. Laundry is a weekly task and needs to be considered when selecting the RV. The exterior and roof of the RV requires occasional cleaning which can be challenging because most parks object to RV washing on their property. A convenient time to wash the RV is during a move.
  • Personal hygiene
    All daily hygiene tasks need to be attended to. It may become cumbersome if the RV does not offer all required facilities, forcing the fulltimer to use the RV park showers. Consideration should be given during the RV selection process to each person's hygiene routine to ensure that the selected model will meet the needs.
  • RV & equipment durability
    Fulltimer RV's must be durable enough to withstand constant occupancy. Strong consideration must be given to the floor plan, quality and feel of floor coverings, furniture quality and comfort, quality and workmanship of shower and sink areas, and the overall construction of the unit.
  • Local transportation
    In this class, motor homes are too large to be used as local transportation. Fulltimers in motor homes usually take a toad for this purpose. Those living in travel trailers or fifth wheels have an advantage of being able to use the tow vehicle as local transportation.
  • Climate
    Fulltimers can reside in all climates, but generally avoid the extreme low temperatures. Equipment is designed to keep occupants comfortable in a wider range of weather conditions, with some models guaranteeing comfortable living below the freezing point. No matter how well insulated, RV's have difficulty maintaining comfortable temperatures as the outside cools below freezing. Heating costs rise dramatically as temperatures drop.
  • Keeping in touch
    Fulltimers have no constant mailing address except at a mail forwarding service. Convincing a generous friend to be the mail forwarding service will eventually wear on that person and become a burden—a paid-for mail forwarding service should be put into the budget. Cell phones are the only form of voice communication for the majority of fulltimers. Frequent access to the Internet becomes necessary for email, monitoring financial accounts, and paying bills.
  • RV type
    The following RV types are well suited to this lifestyle: large class A motor homes and large trailers.

I hope this brief overview provided a good starting point so you may ponder where your own RV adventures fit best.