How We Modified Our RV to Accommodate Our Family

As of our “nomadiversary” this past May 2019, our family of 4 has officially been on the road for 3 years. During that time, we switched rigs once. We spent countless hours researching the best factory layouts and modifications for RVs for families. One of us has ‘RV modification disease.’ Perhaps you’ve heard of it; it’s when one spouse cannot stop thinking about and researching different ways to modify one’s RV. This disease typically affects males as it does in our case. However, it can affect anyone over a wide age range and, sadly, there is no known cure. We still struggle with it daily but after several modifications to our own rigs, we have stopped the major modifications, at least.

While everyone’s idea of the ‘right’ RV for their family is different, here are some ideas and photos of modifications we have done to our rigs over the years to make it perfect for our family’s needs, including workspace for adults, play space for our children, and the needs of our daily routine.

Saving Space for Our Bedrooms

How We Modified Our RV to Accommodate Our Family 1
Bunks installed in master bedroom with custom desk space and painted walls

In our toy hauler (our 1st full-time rig), we took the radical approach of completely gutting the master bedroom and converting it to a large bunk room/play room for the kids. Everyone loved the large floor space for playing and the closet did double duty storing clothes and toys. The adults then slept on the queen sized happy-jack bed in the toy hauler area. We didn’t mind sleeping on the loft bed as we were busy all day and only needed our bed 8 hours out of a day. To combat the lack of insulation in the toy area (our ‘new’ bedroom) we installed faux wood foam tile flooring and Reflectix in the windows. Night time wasn’t too bad as the sun was down and we like it on the cooler side when possible.

How We Modified Our RV to Accommodate Our Family 2
Master bed relocated to toy hauler bay

When we moved into our 5th wheel, we installed cut-to-fit bunks in the back bedroom that was used by the previous owner as an office. 

How We Modified Our RV to Accommodate Our Family 3
Bunks custom cut to fit the slide

The back bedroom is a smaller floor space than the kids were used to in the toy hauler master bedroom but there is more storage and they have their own full bathroom back there which will be advantageous as they get older.  

Making a Place in the RV for Work and School

How We Modified Our RV to Accommodate Our Family 4
Custom built office desk

The always-remodeling spouse needs a place to work in between modification projects. To accommodate this, we custom-built a desk for in the toy hauler area of our first RV. We loved the desk and it was a great work area that had a closed door separating it from the main living area.

We homeschool our kids, so they need workspace, too! For them, we custom-built a removable desk in their bedroom area. This gives them space to work on assignments and explore their creativity without taking over the dining area or Mom and Dad’s workspace.  

Cooking and Eating as a Family in the RV

RV modifications for family of 4
Couch removed and table and chair added for a place to eat

Our toy hauler had an L-shaped couch and love seat, but no place to eat meals. To remedy this, we decided to pull out the love seat and convert it to a dining table with 4 chairs.

When our kids were high-chair little, using a clip-on high chair on the counter was a great space saver.

Home-cooked meals mean lots of dirty dishes. We installed a dishwasher under the sink in both rigs to help with daily chores.

Four People Using One RV Bathroom

To control water usage while boondocking, especially once the kids have their hands on the controls, we installed low-flow shower and faucet heads. This was great for them to independently get hands washed adequately and brush teeth while not using too much water.

In the interest of conserving water, we used plastic storage bins to make a small tub in the shower and bigger tubs.

Where We Put All Our Stuff

How We Modified Our RV to Accommodate Our Family 5
Replaced the couch, painted walls

With a family of four who are often on the move, buying in bulk helps us stretch our food budget. In order to install an AC/DC compatible fridge/freezer that helped us portion and store bulk purchases, we had to sacrifice some space in the storage bays.

In our 5th wheel we had deep storage closets. To make the space more usable we added wire shelving and plastic bins.

And The Finishing Touches

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Our Solar Array

Even though all of us enjoy getting out in nature, reality of modern life requires some technology. To keep our electronics charged up, we have a 1600 watt solar array installed on our roof. This is GREAT for boondocking! We also installed an outside TV to enjoy shows and games with friends.

We also added hydraulic brakes for better stopping safety on our toy hauler.  

Many rigs have darker wood interiors and both our toy hauler and 5th wheel were no exception. In our toy hauler, we painted several walls white, which was a pain. In the 5th wheel, we opted for peel and stick wall paper to give it a lighter and home-y feel.

Why Not Just Buy The Perfect RV?

How We Modified Our RV to Accommodate Our Family 7
Outside TV

One might argue “you don’t have to modify your rig if you choose the best RV to begin with.” Well thank you, Captain Obvious. Of course, selecting the right RV for your family to start off with is going to be key. However, there are often constraints prohibiting one from buying their top choice such as: cost, location of the rig, tow vehicle rating, cargo carrying capacity etc. We started off with a brand new 2016 toy hauler. We were convinced we needed a bathtub (for our young children), toy hauler bay (for work space), a new RV for the ‘warranty’ (to protect us while traveling), and large cargo carrying capacity/tank capacity (for boondocking). 

It took us only a year of full time living to realize that we didn’t need the bathtub (used too much water when boondocking), the toy hauler bay office area was hot/cold and uninsulated, the warranty was junk and required long stays at repair shops to get anything fixed (in fact the entire new unit was falling apart and constructed poorly), and the only thing of our original list we still liked was the cargo carrying capacity, & tank capacity. We sold the toy hauler and our current rig is a used 2011 5th wheel with no warranty, with a bunk room in the back for the kids, a dresser in the front master bedroom that doubles as a desk workspace, the unit itself has decent tanks/cargo carrying capacity, and most importantly to us it is very solidly built and insulated for full time living.

Even if you start with what you think you want– your needs and desires change over time. What you once ‘had to have’ (ex. an outdoor kitchen) now seems like you’d really rather have something else (ex. washer/dryer hookup).  Space is a commodity in every rig. Don’t be afraid to change things up to make your rig the best for you. Even small changes can have a big impact on your daily living and help make your house a home.  

How We Modified Our RV to Accommodate Our Family 8

Author

Kevin Ridley - SKP #129123

Kevin has been full-time RVing since May 2016 with his wife Emma and two daughters (ages 6 and 2). Shortly after launching, their second daughter was born quite literally on the road! 

Since going full time this family of 4 has visited most of the lower 48 states and some of Mexico, and traveled internationally extensively before having kids. Kevin is a “retired” electrical engineering consultant, homeschooling dad, Convergence groupie, and fan of all things outdoors. Emma and Kevin maintain a small blog about their adventures for family and friends ‘back home in Maine’ at:  wickedwanderers.net

 

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RV Modifications for a Family of 4

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