The Truth About Travel In A Small RV

Our Small RV: a 2016 Leisure Travel Van Unity MB

Our Small RV: a 2016 Leisure Travel Van Unity MB

In the RV world, small is big!

Right now, "tiny" is big. The tiny house movement has taken the world by storm and with it, all things tiny have new prominence. That goes for the RV world too. The fabulous, 45 foot-long units that resemble a luxury apartment are wonderful if you are spending months at a time in one location, but perhaps a b: rk for getting around town or around the country are the smaller, Class B and Class C RVs. With decent gas mileage, a footprint that fits in most parking spaces, and the ease of driving these under-25-foot-long units make it easy to see why the small RV segment is growing by leaps and bounds. 

After three years of researching large and small RVs, we whittled down our choices to a 36 foot long Class A or a 25 foot long Class C. Though we preferred the smaller profile and lower purchase price of the Class C, we still weren't sure we could tolerate the compressed space. There's only about 200 square feet of total interior space - and that includes the driver's cab! At the same time, the tiny profile made it an attractive choice for economy and driveability. Since we hoped to use it for short trips and weekend getaways, we figured the smaller unit would encourage us to use it more often. We finally decided to give it a go and purchased a brand new 25 foot Leisure Travel Van Unity MB unit built on a Mercedes Sprinter chassis. 

So, what's it like touring in a small RV? As we expected, the driving and gas economy are wonderful. The trip budget is really maximized when we regularly clock 17 miles to the gallon of diesel fuel. We don't think twice about taking it to the grocery store or to the grandkids baseball games. It's easy to park, handles well, and, at about the size of a UPS delivery van, we can use it pretty much as a second car. 

Making the most of a space in our small rv, there is a Murphy Bed behind the couch.

Making the most of a space in our small rv, there is a Murphy Bed behind the couch.

What most people want to know is how we are faring with the tiny interior space on longer trips. Because it's so easy to drive and economical on fuel, we have used it not only for weekend getaways but also for several trips lasting over a month. I must admit the interior is a lesson in practicality and restraint

Interior Amenities of Our Small RV

Our unit sports a Murphy bed that stores in the side wall when not in use. That frees up a lot of floor space in the "living room" area. A comfortable bench-style couch converts into a dining area with a small table that stows away in the couch when not in use. There's a television stored in the buffet opposite the couch and it "pops-up" on a hydraulic lift when needed. It comes complete with a surround sound system. 

The kitchen is well equipped with a convection microwave, refrigerator/freezer, two-burner propane stove and a deep basin sink. There's ample storage in overhead cabinets for dishes as well as groceries, and there's a 4-foot-tall, pull-out pantry tucked between the fridge and wardrobe closet. 

However, I chose this model because it had a real bathroom! It sports a large shower, sink and vanity area, potty, medicine chest, three storage cabinets, a wardrobe closet, and drawers. It closes off from the rest of the coach with a pocket door and creates an adequate dressing area complete with a full-length mirror. What more could a girl ask for?!

A Small RV Will Hold What You Need.... and not much more!

Admittedly, it was a challenge to store clothing in the small wardrobe closet and drawers but, after a couple of trips, we learned how to pack and use a capsule wardrobe concept for travel. It works fine and we seem to have enough variety to suit most any occasion. We learned that flip-flops or socks work better inside the RV and shoes are stored in a small cabinet by the door ready for outdoor adventures. 

Feeling squeezed in your small RV? Download a copy of our Organization Cheat Sheet and tame the clutter in your RV! LEARN MORE

We were a bit concerned with the small exterior storage too. Since we like to camp, we wondered where we would put all that gear? Again, we found that re-thinking our concept of camping was a big help in having enough space. Instead of kerosene stove and lanterns, we take along a portable induction burner that plugs into the unit's exterior outlet, and we depend on the built-in awning lights to illuminate the campsite. Instead of a hard-shell kayak, we have two inflatable kayaks that store quite efficiently in the outside compartment, along with our camp chairs and tables. The storage, with a little adjustment on our part, works well. 

Traveling Rules In A Small RV

Our last trip took us from Georgia to Maine and lasted five weeks. We found the unit to be quite comfortable throughout the trip - even on rainy days in camp. But, there are a few 'rules to live by' when you are traveling in a such a small unit. 

A look from front to back of our small RV

A look from front to back of our small RV

  1. Downsizing your idea of what you need on a trip is a real thing. From clothing to sports equipment to games and musical instruments, space is limited so choose what is most important and figure out where it will travel.

  2. Plan on at least one 're-pack' during a long trip to restore organization to closets and drawers. No matter how careful you are, small spaces get disorganized pretty quick. Take it in stride and reorganize when needed. We found a re-org was needed after two weeks on the road.

  3. Cooking takes on a new dimension in a tiny kitchen, with meal prep spanning almost every flat surface, you have to 'clean as you go' or there won't be a place to set your dinner plate!

  4. Grocery shopping is a bit different too. Meal planning is a must. This is particularly true of fresh foods since refrigerator and freezer space is very limited. We use a cooler for drinks and snack items to make more room in the fridge, and we stock the pantry and cabinets with non-perishable items. The up-side to this is the opportunity to shop local farmer's markets and seafood vendors. We cook whatever is in season in each area we stop.

  5. On the other hand, shopping along the way is a two-edged sword. If we want to buy something the first question is, "where is it going to ride?" If we define a space for it, then we buy it. Otherwise, we leave it behind.

  6. Put it away - say it again with me... There is no room for clutter in a small RV, so we make sure every item has a home and it is returned to that space when we are finished using it. Because of this, there is no space left empty and no item left behind. We fit our belongings into every available space and, before we leave from a campsite, we make sure all those spaces are full. That means we have not left a trail of items like breadcrumbs from campsite to campsite.

  7. Along the same lines, we always use a detailed packing list. There is nothing worse than getting ready to go kayaking and find we have left the paddles at home! We think through each destination and the activities there, making sure we pack the appropriate gear.

  8. We have learned to think of the outdoors as an extension of our living room. With the awning extended and the chairs and tables set up, it is a great place to read, play the uke, or just enjoy the scenery. As comfortable as the RV is, it is really nice to be outdoors and enjoy the space. Most of the campgrounds we use offer larger, more wooded sites so privacy is less of an issue. However, if you are traveling along the coast almost anywhere, be prepared for tight quarters. The closer to the beach, the more like a parking lot the 'campgrounds' tend to be. In those places, we get out of camp and enjoy the beach.

When considering an RV purchase you might want to look at both large and small units. Both have their advantages and the best one for you depends on how you will use it. If you have family traveling with you most of the time, you will want to find a unit that can accommodate your crowd. On the other hand, if just you and your spouse are on the road, a cozy Class B will probably work just fine.

If you have questions about choosing an RV or anything RV related, just ask in the comment section below or drop us an email.