I came into life unexpectedly during my parent’s plans to fulltime in their 40’s. They elected to proceed with their aspirations with the condition of how I would adapt. In 1978, everything was sold and we left Missouri to “go west young man”. Over the next 10 years, we vastly traveled while Dad built banks. Every weekend was an adventure scoping out the gems the area(s) had to offer. Mom enrolled me in school at each location providing me social skills I would’ve not learned if home schooled. Almost in high school, they decided to retire and stabilize my education. Wow! What a culture shock! My most impressional years were spent in a 40′ fifth wheel, and then it all stopped.
There are going to be plenty of days when things don’t go as planned. You’ll run over the fire-pit grate and pop a tire while racing to get out of a campsite before checkout. You’ll stumble into a darkened shower stall at a state park, only to realize you’re sharing it with a wolf spider the size of a tarantula and dozens of centipedes the size of your palm. Your GPS will mistakenly steer you into a major downtown area with streets so narrow you have mere inches between your trailer and the other cars.
 People say to me all the time, “But how can I afford to live in a van and travel all the time?” My answer is aways, “How can you afford not to?!” Let me prove to you right off the bat that you can live the free life. Here is a budget showing just how little money you need to live and travel full time. One column is for a $500 a month and the other is for $1,000 a month.
In the end, the decision was made easy by the amazing views out my window every day. From my perch high above the Columbia River and Wenatchee Valley, I could enjoy the ever-changing scenery, which varied throughout the day with changes in light and weather. I could watch low-level clouds form and dissipate over the river. I could see the shadows move and lengthen with the shifting of the sun. I would watch the moonlight play upon the hillsides and cliffs. And I could marvel at the lights down in the city, sparkling with color. Would I see all that cooped up in a tiny rental apartment? Or closed up in a cavernous hangar with just three windows? No.
This discussion of condensation brings up a related subject… the method of heating that you use in your RV. When propane is burned, it releases combustion byproducts and one of those byproducts is a surprisingly large quantity of water vapor! Most standard RV furnaces are vented to the outside of the rig and will not add any moisture to the inside air. This is not true of any unvented propane heater, including popular catalytic heaters. Using your stovetop burners also adds moisture to the inside air. If you intend to heat your rig using an unvented propane heater, you will have to provide a larger amount of ventilation to remove the additional moisture added to your air. Most unvented heaters are pretty nice for milder climates and are great for taking that morning chill off. Using them as your primary source of heat in really cold weather can prove to be a challenge because of the potential for condensation problems.
Life as a suburbanite isn’t all bad. Like most of life, it’s a matter of perspective and attitude. I’m slowly incorporating things that I used to enjoy about being in one place like going to libraries and getting in my  favorite cashier’s line at the grocery store. <== I’m obviously the life of the paaartay. Simple things that I didn’t realize I missed. I’m an introvert and homebody so it’s hard for me to get out and meet people but it’s happening. Slowly.

We both identify as introverts and only keep a few close friends. But living in an RV has made us more social than ever. We are usually up for any kind of RVer meet-up and we've made so many friends this way. Connections are made quick, but deep. Never before have we felt such a strong sense of community while living in a fixed location. We keep up with our friends digitally when not together, but we will go out of our way to meet-up when possible. We plan gatherings in the winter and try to attend Xscapers convergences when we'll be in the area. We have more friends in our circle now than all our years before! We wrote more about how we stay in touch in Staying Social on the Road.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, being able to “thrive” depends not on someone else’s description of the term, but on our own. Each of us, you and I both, need to decide what makes us happy in life. Deciding that you don’t need to be like everyone else is the first major hurdle jumped in living debt-free, and every person who decides to live without debt has their own reason for doing so.
I totally concur with you on the fuel costs. We did the math, if fuel went up $1/gallon and we drive 10k miles – at our fuel economy, that’s a $1500/year increase. Heck, when I owned a home I had an insurance bill that went up by that much in one year. With the fuel, you can at least move at a slower pace to cut the expenses if you need it. Or cross a state line and save a few pennies.
For me, there used to be an underlying pressure to choose the “best” curriculum similar to researching and picking the safest car or best vacuum. (<== OCD much?) I may have traded a few months of my life researching curriculum when we first started homeschooling 6 years ago. It seemed like, if I just read every. single. review. and every thread on every homeschooling message board on the entire internet I would find that perfect curriculum and my kids would be on their way to Harvard before their 13th birthdays.
There is land for sale and, with the right utility connections, an RV or tiny house would make a great home. Have you spoken to a Realtor? I know there’s a lot for sale at the very end of my road, but it’s a bit too close to the power lines out there for my taste. The place across the road was for sale, but he’s since taken the sign down and, frankly, he was asking a crazy high price anyway. I don’t know anything about leasing land, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s land for rent, too. A Realtor would know.
Great article and right on IMO…I think what you have written is not only true for full time rving but living in general…the key words here are what you wrote in the beginning… that you are providing a formula not necessarily the details….and it will be different for everyone depending on what is important to them…and we always budget for travel, food, wine and fun….:)

On the one hand, I think a trip like ours would probably work better with younger kids who didn’t have to worry about school or missing a social life. On the other, we have some friends who were doing it at the same time we were, with elementary school-aged kids. They pointed out that because you don’t have friends or family or babysitters on the road, you can never get a break from little ones. Our kids were lonely most of the time, and didn’t always like being stuck together 24/7. In the end, though, I think it did give them a lasting bond.

As for the privacy inside the RV – anyone with young kids knows no matter where you are kids have a way of always finding you. But when we were at the house I could go hide upstairs and take a bath and they didn’t know I was there . . . not so much anymore. It has been an adjustment – but again it has been worth it and luckily we all love each other so much and enjoy being close to each other!


In my experience a 38 foot 5th wheel takes up as much, if not more space than a 40 foot motorhome, specifically because of the big truck. I can squeeze our little toad in just about anywhere (often we just park it across the front of the MH), but with a big truck you may have to find a separate parking spot, depending on the campground. Many campgrounds will offer that, but it just depends.
So those are just 10 things I have learned so far – and I know there is so much more learning to come. We are happy about our decision and what we are doing and sometimes we have to stop and sit back and say – is this really our life?! It is funny if I hear about someone else doing something like this or see a blog about it I get the feeling like – Wow that is awesome! I wonder how they are doing it?! Then I say – oh yeah that is right – we are doing it!
I would think that after 3 years of full time living on the road all of our fears about this lifestyle would be gone. Nope . . . they are still there. Things like safety in an RV park, weather (I HATE storms in the RV), going somewhere new and not knowing what to expect. We almost didn’t go to Canada this year because we were so worried about the unknown.

Hi Nina, thanks so much for the prompt reply. Follow up question to your comment “couple who had a large 5th wheel last year and they had so much low overhang on the back of their rig that it kept bottoming out on bumpy roads” Are you referring to the distance of the furthest rear axle to the back end of the 5th wheel or simply the ground clearance at the back end of the 5th wheel? I can see it being a problem the greater the distance between the rear axle to the end of the trailer on any bumpy road as being a problem, and I have seen some motorhomes that would have the same issue.
As a blogger and online content creator (my main blog is BabyRabies.com, a pregnancy and parenting site), a book author and photographer, I am able to work full-time from the road. My husband left his job and manages most of the road-schooling and the other moving pieces of, well, moving. It’s nearly a full-time job just booking sites and planning our route!

Excellent read, but now more than ever, I want to head south before it's too late. I planned to head out of CT to IN for Nov/Dec, then go south. But the RV parks (just 2 that are open year round in that area) have an age restriction for their RV's. Mine is a 1985 Class C, though not in the least bit embarrassing. I'm afraid I'll run into this age restriction thing all over the USA but the fear of spending the winter in CT is getting to me, too. I can't even imagine my propane and electric costs to get through each month, not to mention the cost of skirting. Help!!! Can someone ease my fears about the age of my rig in regard to campgrounds during the winter months? Will I be stuck parking in Cracker Barrel's?


a tip for those that may come upon a bear or timber wolf or large cat; carry a boat horn with you. you can get them at any boating outlet or cabellas or dicks. it’s pressurized and is very very loud. i put a lanyard on it and carry it around my neck. if a creature that can do me harm is within sight, I give it a blast or two and they hi-tail it out of there. it would be helpful in finding me as well if i were injured or lost.
If you are staying in a park or resort, find out who maintains, roads, parking, sidewalks, etc. and how often.  What amenities are available to you at the park; are there laundry facilities, showers, pools, exercise equipment, and so on?  What other forms of recreation are available in the local area?  Are there other people staying through the winter and do they get together to socialize?

I’m in awe of you first, 4 kids all under 10, that’s incredible enough and then a blog, a virtual assistant business to boot. WOW. So nice to learn more about you and your family, Brianna. Funny that you can’t wait to go overseas and we actually haven’t seen much of our own country, the USA and can’t wait to explore more of it. Wishing you the best in your full-time RV travels and will certainly look to you for advice when we finally travel our home country.


Hi! I’m fairly new at this RV living thing and I’m curious about the $153 per month average cost for RV/camping fees you note. I understand that summer is less expensive than winter, for the most part, but a minimum of $20 per night for a week in a National Park, that $153 would come up awfully fast. And full hookups at an RV park I’m seeing anywhere from $20 to $90 (yeh, $90, Candlestick Park in S.F., CA!!! And no, not worth it). Are you boondocking most of the time?
At the same time, this non-resident residency impacts the local politics of the cities and towns where the biggest mail forwarding companies do business because of the huge number of absentee voters. These voters may vote like each other — full-time RVers have a lot in common with each other — but they don’t necessarily vote like the other residents of their adopted hometowns.
As for the budget discretion please note that we differentiate between fixed expenses and monthly expenses. To quote myself: “No matter what month it is the fixed travel costs remain virtually the same. They are primarily what the above budge is based on.” We pay our insurance in full every 6 months. We do not pay monthly so it doesn’t fall into our monthly expense category.
The question of buying a new or used RV is a big one, and there are several things to think about. First, it’s important to remember that the term “RV” stands for “recreational vehicle.” Most RVs are not designed or built for full-time living. This means that these vehicles can quickly show their age, especially with heavy use. Buying a used rig might mean buying a few extra headaches, which can include everything from a leaky roof, plumbing problems, sagging mattresses and cushions, or stubbornly slow slideouts.
$4,000 Eating Out: We made a rule, we eat dinner out once per week at a quality restaurant recommended by the hip locals. Sometimes the bill would be cheap and other times not so much. Of course we would eat lunch out, or purchase a coffee every once and a while. This includes all expenses spent at a Restaurant, Pub, Bar, Happy Hour, Cupcake Shop, etc.
When considering a potential extended-stay home, you will want to choose a manufacturer who produces solidly engineered units of the highest quality, who offers groundbreaking floor plans and provides the highest rated customer service. Grand Design RV has met these standards and has set the bar with our innovative “next generation” RV’s. Visit your nearest Grand Design RV dealer and you will see exactly what we mean!
Everyone has heard the age-old packing tip for a trip – “pack half the clothes you think you need – and then get rid of half of them.”  When you are preparing to live on the road you need to amp up those percentages even more, way more. Only you can make the determination of what is truly “essential” but come be prepared to attack your first “must have” list with an arsenal of scissors and black pens.
To make sure our hose drained quickly, we built a downhill track for it out of cheap vinyl guttering and cinder blocks.  (We did have one of those accordion folding type of sewer hose supports, but it was constantly falling over and we wanted something sturdier.)  Additionally, our sewer hose runs under the bottom of our RV and is fully enclosed with skirting, so frozen sewage hasn’t been a problem for us.
​Since we don’t eat out a lot and we try to buy organic, local food that tends to be a little more expensive, our grocery bill is one of our biggest. We shop a lot at Costco (you wouldn’t think a bulk store like this would work, but the prices are right for the things we like!) and Trader Joe’s for most of our groceries. We also lump in here things like cleaners, toilet paper, shampoo, new clothes, etc. 
I see someone asked a similar question, but maybe you just missed it. My girlfriend and I are nurses and we’re about to travel. We’re thinking an RV is the right move for us and I’m trying to figure out what its going to cost. We don’t have much money saved for something like this, we pay student loans of course! It appears you’re not financing your RV, is this the case or do you keep your payment to yourselves? I just dont know if its crazy to think that people are financing say, a 150k RV over 10 years at 1500 a month. Is this what a reasonable couple does? Or is that wacky?
Carrying a washer and dryer is an option however they take up a lot of space so if you’re planning to go small (under 35′) you might not have space for one. There is also the option for the ‘All-in-One’ washer and dryer which washes and dries your clothes in the same unit however we’ve had many RV’ers say they dislike this as it takes 2 hours per load and the loads are very tiny.
It’s been just over a year since we moved out of the RV. Even though we knew our decision to stop full time RVing was the right one, moving out of the RV was easier said than done. With the help of some friends, it only took a few hours to get all our stuff out of the RV. The emotional “moving out” has taken much longer. For Brent and I, it’s been a surprisingly difficult painful new “road”.
A non resident has to leave the country after his staying permit expires which is usually after 6 months (Max) so we cannot do it full time but I consider ourselves as “Summer full timers” that have 2 residents:one at our home in Israel and the second on wheels in North America-this is for as the optimum and we are enjoying it for the last 10 years.
For the year 1 monthly budget I hope to cut it down to $1,900 per month average as Marvin is in Arizona for the solar power installation so I would not be going to Florida and therefore the campground and gas will decrease accordingly. Before that my campground and gas expenses were 32.7% of the budget. I had done the year one destinations before Nina wrote about the solar power upgrade, but obviously will have to make an adjustment.
For the most part, CPS can’t take your kids JUST because you are living in an RV, there has to be another reason. Living in a van means you probably didn’t have running water or a toilet and that could raise some red flags. I only ran into one family who lived in an RV who had issues with CPS but that was because they were running from an open case that happened while they were still in a house. The accusations were pretty serious and the mother had some very obvious mental illness and she was dry nursing her 5-year-old.
Ok, all of that information applies only as long as you are in a relatively temperate location. However, there are a number of hardier souls who gladly brave the snow and cold and stay well north all winter long. Many families, in search of winter recreation, use their RV well into the sub-zero winter months. For those of you who intend to winter in extremely cold parts of the country, I really can't help you much. I'm one of those fulltimers who run south at the first sign of a snowflake. However, you can check the weblinks provided below for some first hand tips from folks who like their Rving with a topping of snow!

Thank goodness you have the finances and securities to afford the RV lifestyle you two are able to enjoy. You do not need to apologize for that. You guys do a good job of keeping the RV community informed. 2015 is my year for transitioning to a RV lifestyle. Gathering all the information I can to aid in my search and the transition itself. Looking at a nice used 33 ft. Class C that I can support with my SS check and small retirement income.
All of these expenses hit the bank account with a resounding thwang and can’t be ignored or wished away. You may not know exactly what your hobbies will be when you start full-timing, but put some kind of figure into your budget that allows for replacing your computer and phone as often as you have in the past (if you plan to use them as much) and for buying the various things that will make your favorite pastimes possible.
It’s official, we froze! Well, to be more clear our freshwater tank froze. After surviving months in the Colorado Rockies without freezing, imagine our surprise when we froze solid in AZ! Well, I honestly can’t believe it. After careful consideration, and a talk with the service technicians at Monaco here’s what I’ve learned about our Vesta, and this applies to most any RV that’s not completely sealed.
The eclipse was one of the most intense and beautiful 2 minutes and 20 seconds of my life. It was sublime in the truest sense of the word. Mind blowing. My body buzzed for a full 30 minutes afterwards. The moment when the last sliver of sun disappeared, that moment of totality when I took off my glasses, was like instantly being transported to another world. Everything familiar but so different. Completely surreal. A 360 degree sunset. And the corona of the sun… No words. Just awe.
In the winter you’ll notice condensation accumulating on the windshield, on walls, etc. Condensation is your enemy. I know it sounds contradictory but you need to crack a vent or a window at all times. Condensation can build up, get in the walls, etc and cause mold. You do not want this! Simply crack a window and turn on a fan to circulate the air, if you’re already using a space heater with built in fan you don’t have to worry about running a separate fan.  You can also put the dehumidifier pellets like Damp Rid or DriZair (you can purchase at most stores) in the areas that seem to draw the most condensation. We’ve found the condensation will not pose a problem as long as it’s 40% relative humidity or less inside the RV.

We are opening a Facebook group called RV to Freedom: Learning to Live in an RV where anyone can come and ask questions to learn about living in an RV. We truly hope to help people get over their fears, cut through the clutter of opinions and information on the internet, and learn how to live on the road. We hope you'll join us and share your experiences, too. The full-time RV community is welcoming and open and we want to encourage everyone to join, participate, and form connections. It makes us better prepared and better people. We hope to see you there and on the road!

×