Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas in a Camper

This is a decoration made by our then 5 yr old.
It hung on our steps handle into the
camper. Decorations get unique
on the road.
Christmas in a camper is so much different than in a house. Despite the fact there is much less room for decorations and presents, every year we seem to find room for a tree, garland, and lights.

Sometimes our decorations continue outside the camper to the patio area where we have put small decorated trees and lights.

Some years we have had to move our camper to another campground after setting up all of our decorations. Now, that is challenging!  My husband says our camper goes through an earthquake every time we go down the road - so this means our tree and decorations do also.  That is why you will not find a glass ball on any limb of our tree.

With the weight of contents in the camper being such an issue, the presents are chosen for not only their cost and uniqueness, but also their weight and size.  Is this a present we will have to pack up when we get back to Missouri or is it small and light enough to keep in for a while?

Legos, small dolls, plastic men, Squinkies, die cast cars, and color books make great presents for the young ones.
camper decorated 

My tween likes books, which is a problem.  We don't have a Kindle and she doesn't want one anyways. So, we buy her books and then trade them out with others when we get back to Missouri.  With three kids younger than her, we don't resell the books, we just save them for the next child to get old enough to read them and then unpack.

We do have Kindle on our laptops, which is nice, but not a stand alone device.  We will probably get one this year, though.
the camper decorated in central Florida

Teens and twenty's seem to like cameras and adventure items.  So, they are easy to buy for.  Whether it be backpacks, flashlights, purifying water bottles, camera lenses, SD cards, or hiking boots - these two are easy to please, just a little expensive if I'm not careful.

Our rule is - if you can fit it in your bed you can bring it.  But, we have had to modify that rule sometimes as we found out it is quite astonishing how much stuff they can cram in tight spaces.  With two beds up high in the camper, we have to be careful of weight on the top - not good for traveling.

too much in the camper
too much up top
too much in the back,
too much on me
I'm sick of dealing with weight!

The presents under the tree will be few this year, but very special.  

Holidays on the road are always full of adventure, new experiences, and surprises.  

Who knows what this one will hold?
We make a Jesse Tree every year

We enjoyed our nutcrackers but now they are packed up

It was fun to be at an aunt and uncle's house for Christmas.
He always wins the town lights competition

Monday, November 19, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Traveler

The views are breathtaking.

What happened to my day?  Where did it go? Sometimes the day gets away from me and my to do list only shrinks a little.

What did I do of value?  

Was there a moment with each person in my family?

Husband? - check

Kids? - check

God? - check

Up into the mountains for adventure.

What are your priorities?  

Find the things in your day that really matter and then make it a point to do it.  

Put the other things on the back burner.  

Some activities can wait while others cannot.

We saw a huge buck picking up some does. 

We cannot do it all but we can do what matters most.

Don't miss out on the little opportunities each day.  We will never have this day again.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Budgeting on the Road During the Holidays

With the holidays looming we can't help but look at our finances.  We have normal travel expenses - camp fees which range from $350 - $600 a month.  Sometimes those fees include utilities and sometimes they don't.  If the camp fee doesn't include utilities we usually pay around $100 a month for electric.

Usually we have dental appointments at the end of the year and hope there are no cavities.  With eight of us there usually is and our insurance only covers so much.

Since we are from Missouri, we have personal property tax due December 31st.  What a terrible time of the year to have to pay taxes!  We get taxed every year on what vehicles we own and our ATVs, UTV, and camper.  This year it is about $700 for us.  Then we have Missouri State Tax due in April.

With six kids, the cost of presents can get high, fast. There is not a lot of room in the camper so we have to buy less than when we had a house.  For every toy brought in one is brought out.  I have found a way to pack a lot of their toys in the back room but there is not enough room for all of them. When we go back to Missouri we trade out toys with some that are packed in a storage trailer.

The most asked question about our trip is -

"How can you afford it?"

Shae is an engineer for a telecommunications company.  We are so thankful for a job during this economy and then also for a job that he can do from home.  His company doesn't care where he is as long as he has cell phone signal and internet.

Cody and Hanna, my two oldest children, are doing bible school on line as well as working on our blog and website.  We try to make money from our internet businesses.

Travel isn't cheap.  We knew we wouldn't be saving any money by going on the road full time.  Many people that travel stay free in national forests or boon dock elsewhere.  For us, it is hard to boon dock anywhere.  Usually where we boon dock there is no cell signal.  So, we stay at campgrounds.  Not only that. by the time we pay for the gas to run the generator, with gas prices as high as they are and have been, it is cost effective to stay at a campground for a month that might average $12 a night.  We have to do a load of laundry a day so that would cost us at least $1.75 a day for laundry.  If we don't have full hook-ups I have to go to a laundromat and pay.  We have a washer/dryer in our camper and it has already paid for itself.

We are in one area for the next few months so gas expenses will be lower.  The only problem is we have family coming to visit.  The trips we will have to make to pick them up and drop them off at the airport along with the trips to Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park so they can sight see will be financially difficult for us.  With only a handful of weeks until Christmas, it is hard to find the money for everything coming up!  But, we will make due.  To see them will be wonderful.  It is a reminder though to allow for the unexpected financial expenses in our budget.

Food is definitely more expensive for us on the road.  I do not buy bulk food like I did before.  When we are camped near a Sam's Club I will stock up on some items.  Where we are now it is over two hours to the closest grocery outlet.  By the time I pay for gas my saving on bulk groceries is gone.  Also, unless we are staying somewhere for a long time, I cannot haul heavy grocery items down the road.  Weight in a camper is an extremely serious issue.  A camper cannot go over the recommended weight set by the manufacturer   So, bulk food is not an option if we are going to be moving to another campground soon.

Hand-me-down clothes are not as easy to pass down as when we had a house.  So, I have to buy more than before.  Of course I buy a lot at used stores and sale items.

Camper maintenance can be less expensive one year and break the bank the next year.  This year has been a break the bank year.  We traveled in extremely hot weather from Missouri to Colorado in June.  The temps reached over 108 degrees so there is no telling what the temp of the black asphalt was.  It bubbled and warped our times. Then the winds picked up and blew our camper sideways.  That made the tires wear funny and eventually blew out two of them while traveling through the desert of Utah.

This terrible story will be in another post....soon.

With little room in the camper and a tight budget this Christmas season we will teach our kids how to enjoy the family time and tradition of the holidays.  We celebrate Advent and Jesse Tree.  We sing songs, play games, and craft.  Cookies are giving to anyone in the neighborhood that will eat them and snow angels are made in the smallest amount of the beautiful white powder.

For more on budgeting while traveling - visit our online magazine at 

The Lemonade Digest - squeezing every drop out of life!

117617_Xmas - General - 234x60

Friday, November 9, 2012

Getting Ready For the Holidays - Inside and Out

With snow falling in the mountains all around us I couldn't help but focus on art for our school today.  We enjoyed making three batches of cinnamon ornaments.  Each child got to make numerous shapes and sizes of  random shapes to eventually hang on our tree.

While on the road we have spent Christmas in Florida, Arizona, Wisconsin, Missouri, and now Utah.  Each place has had different terrain, climate, family, friends, customs, and fun.

This year is different and special in its own way.  Instead of visiting family or trying to cram a small turkey in a crock pot in the camper, we are renting a cabin for a few months.  I've always wanted to rent a cabin in the mountains for the winter.  And now we get to stay in it for the holidays.

Of course, with all plans and dreams, things try to destroy them, change them, or take away the hopes you had.  

Sometimes we have to fight to keep our joy, hopes, and plans.

We've already begun celebrating the holidays.  We started Advent early and began to make ornaments for our little tree.  Now that we have a big oven in the cabin, not like the tiny one in the camper, we can make home made bread, three turkeys already, and lots of cookies.

I try to focus on my husband and kids this holiday season.  I am so blessed and I refuse to let other distractions come in and ruin my holidays.  Every moment I have to chose to enjoy the day I have been given or to join in the wide range of emotions that try to pull me from the inner joy and contentment I should have.

Whether in a cabin or a camper, 
north, south, east, or west,  
happiness and joy is a condition of the heart - not a circumstance.

Personalized Christmas Cards

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hazards on the Road - Air and Water Issues

There are so many benefits of traveling full time. Yet, there are many disadvantages.  

Through the years I've learned to always try discern if the problem I am facing is due to living in a camper and traveling full time or if it is a problem that I would have had in a sticks and bricks home.

Often times the difficulties are not caused by our lifestyle.  No matter where we live there are hard times.

Other times it has everything to do with traveling.  When I come to that decision I make necessary adjustments, get a good attitude, and start to be thankful I am even alive.

Lately, I have been facing a problem I have not had in three years.  During my pregnancy I had breathing problems.  My lungs did not want to cooperate with my body and I had a very difficult time breathing.

There were many causes - some were my fault - too much stress - not setting boundaries in my life - 
                                      - some were not my fault - exposure to sickness - stress I could not avoid 

I was also exposed to a huge fire in central Florida that year, and that must have been the trigger for my emergency room visit.

Three years later my lungs have decided to go on strike again.  We are in Utah this year.  It was difficult to avoid the fires in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Colorado, but we did and we made it to Utah with no smoke inhalation.

Sadly, not long after we arrived the fires from Idaho sent there poisonous smoke south to us.  There were two weeks I could not even leave the camper.  Then two more fires were west of us and then south.

Why didn't we pick up and leave?  I guess we were hoping it would stop. We have spent so much money to get west and have plans to stay for a long time.  No one wanted to change those plans.

After the smoke subsided, my husband and I went for a hard hike up a mountain. When we left there hadn't been smoke in the air for days. Little did we know a fire had started west of us and the smoke was still not visible.

Notice the smoke hovering in the mountains
Since then my lungs have been hurting.  So, I ask myself, is this something that is the fault of our lifestyle?  No, there was a ton of smoke in Missouri this year! If we had our home there still smoke would have been an issue.

In other ways yes.  I think it is important to consider the environmental impacts in the locations we travel to.  I am always going to  They tell me how many tornadoes have been in the area, sex offenders, environmental hazards, and other necessary information.

Another problem here is the radon.  There were huge uranium mines in the mountains all over the area.  Thankfully we have our water filter.  The radioactive material can get in the water supply.  We also stay away from the mine dumps. Some have mercury around them.

Whether you are traveling full time or just going on a trip - be informed.  Be careful and count the cost and benefit of each place you go.  Our home is on wheels so we can pick up and leave or be patient and make the necessary changes to stay where you are at.
Below is an Amazon Widget that has the water filter we have used for over a year. It is amazing. I used to get sick all the time from bad water at campgrounds.  Every few days I would feel tired, my belly would rumble and maybe some of the diarrhea.  Which, with living in a camper is not a pleasant thing to have, especially when everyone hears everything that goes on in the bathroom.  Too much information you say?  Well, for those of you thinking about going on the road - this is the reality.  Those of you on the road already - I know you totally sympathize.

We also have a great air filter.  There are many on the market. You can shop through our website on Amazon.  Also, check out our Amazon Market for more products - hey, we gotta make a living, too!! he he
But seriously, these are really important issues that we deal with sometimes on a daily basis and can really affect our health.  I joke about it, but I have almost no voice because of my lungs. I hack and cough when I eat and have a hard time jogging now.