RV Features We Never Knew We Needed Until We Had Them
It's hard to believe that it has been more than three years since our family made the decision to purchase our first Winnebago. We remember that time so well. Countless hours spent researching RVs on the computer and days spent traveling to dealerships near and far to check out the many different models, floorplans, and options.
As second generation RVers, we thought we had a pretty good idea of what we did and didn't want in our coach. For us adults, automatic leveling jacks were pretty important. For the kids, as long as it had bunks, nothing else mattered.
When we finally landed on our Winnebago Vista, we all got what we wanted ... and more. As it turns out, it had all the features we were looking for, and several we never knew we needed, but can't imagine going without now.
There are a lot of debates about outdoor RV entertainment centers. We have heard from some die-hard outdoor enthusiasts that they object to taking an entertainment center out into the wilderness.
We'll admit that, when we first started looking at RVs, the outdoor entertainment center was not on our list of must-haves. Honestly, it felt a little indulgent and unnecessary. But when it came included as a feature in our Vista, we didn't complain.
What we quickly learned was that the ability to stream our favorite music in or outside the RV, or the freedom to invite new campground friends to enjoy a movie under the stars have led to some of our most precious memories.
Growing up, we became accustomed to floor plans that included a dinette and sofa. This provided the perfect space to enjoy dinners on rainy evenings or have a family game night. From a 'creating memories' perspective, it was something we knew we wanted. However, we quickly figured out that it was also a necessity.
When we purchased our Winnie, our kids were still pretty small, so we felt more comfortable with them safely strapped into their car seats while driving. Most car seat manufacturers recommend forward-facing child seats, which meant a dinette was essential. This also meant many u-shaped dinettes were out of the question because they only had one forward facing seat belt (which is fine if you only have one child).
The model that we selected -- a Vista -- allowed us the peace of mind of knowing that our precious cargo was safe, and also gave us a place for some pretty epic Battleship and Monopoly games.
Tip: You'll want to make sure dinette tables are always lowered when placing a car seat at the dinette bench. Please also check your car seat manufacturer recommendations and local child seat laws.
When searching for our perfect RV, we knew we needed storage, but how much is enough? After all, we were just weekend warriors, so as long as we had room for a few folding chairs and a grill, we should be good to go, right? I mean, how much space did we really need? Well, the answer is more than you think.
With two young kids, the amount of oddly shaped items quickly adds up. Where do you store the bikes when they are too small to be placed on a bike rack? What do you do with car seats when you arrive to camp? Fortunately, we ended up choosing a rig with plenty of storage space that comfortably holds all this and more.
For families with kids, we recommend keeping adequate storage space at the top of your list.
Automatic leveling jacks may not be a "sexy" option that gets a ton of initial consideration. After all, if an RV doesn't come standard with automatic leveling jacks you can still always level with leveling blocks, right? Turns out that, for us, they were a very big deal. Here's why...
As weekend warriors, we typically head out for our adventures after the workday and often arrive for late check-ins. When pulling into a campground in the evening, we prefer to get right to the relaxing and not have to spend our time manually leveling -- pulling forward a few inches, and then back a few more and then manually stabilizing your rig, all while it's dark out.
Auto levelers have made setup a breeze by stabilizing at the push of a button, and leaving plenty of time for the good stuff like laughing around the campfire with our favorite people. We knew we wanted this feature, but had no idea what a huge difference it would end up making.
When we were researching the best rig for our family, we quickly learned something about generators. Chances are, if you are purchasing a motorized RV, it will probably come with a generator. A towable, probably not.
We eventually decided that a Class A motorhome was the best fit for our family (more on that here), so a generator was likely to come standard. Because we don't do much boondocking, this was really a nice-to-have feature but by no means a must-have. However, as we began to take extended road trips our perspective changed.
One of the biggest benefits of having a generator has been when it comes to food. We all know that there is no shortage of fast food restaurants along almost any highway in America. And it is so easy to stop into one of these to grab a quick combo meal. However, in these cases, we don't always make the healthiest food choices. Having a generator has allowed us to avoid the fast-food trap by pulling into a rest stop, parking lot, or along a roadside with a beautiful view to make a quick and healthy lunch. Bonus points for being able to use the AC when temperatures outside are blazing.
We know that looking for an RV (especially your first one) can be overwhelming. You think you know what you want and need, but how can you really be sure? In most cases, you won't know until you start taking some trips and figuring out what works best for you and your fellow travelers. As you consider your options, we hope our experience will help you fine-tune your must-have list.