For generations of Americans, owning a house and having a steady job has signified success, a reward earned through diligence and hard work. But the astronomical costs of real estate and the ever-expanding hours of the work day have people questioning whether the traditional milestones of adulthood are actually grave markers on a life worth living. By contrast, millennials generally feel down about buying a home and also aren't thrilled about embracing life as desk jockeys.
To save money, we don’t have a cell phone. We estimate that since we started traveling this may have saved us about $50/month or as much as $4,500 all together. We have also equipped our trailer with solar panels and we camp for free virtually every night. These choices make us happy, but may not suit everyone. Here’s a description of our minimalist internet and communications solution and our tips for how to live off the grid in an RV.
For us, living mobility has been substantially less expensive than when we lived in fixed homes with rent/mortgage, upkeep, utilities, travel, etc. But of course, we were on opposite coasts when we met – Chris living in a penthouse apartment in San Francisco, and Cherie in a beachside home in Florida. For us to live in an area of the country that would keep us happy long enough to stay put, we’d be paying a pretty penny in cost of living – plus we’d still be traveling anyway because we have serious wanderlust. A mobile lifestyle suits us quite well instead!
Health insurance is definitely a tricky problem, especially for pre-Medicare folks like us. This coming year will present more challenges as it seems insurance companies are continuing to limit their coverage range (e.g. BCBS is dropping nationwide PPO plans in several states for individual plans). I’ll keep reporting on the blog as/when changes happen. It’s just one of the things we must tackle as nomads.
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Welcome to the blog! We know lots of fulltime families out there on the road, home-schooling and seeing the country. If you haven’t connected already I highly recommend Ditching Surburbia, and Fulltime Families. Both resources are focused on fulltime RV families on the road, and have LOTS of info for you. Ditching Surburbia, in particular has traveled fulltime with their teenage son & daughter for years. I met them a few years ago…lovely family!
Our second year of roadschooling was similar to our first year as we continued to explore the United States with the exception of Thing 1’s work. His work was more challenging than the previous year and we began to do some testing. I did not do standardized testing but subject testing so he would learn test taking skills should he need them later down the road.
When they are grown men and looking back at their childhoods, our biggest hope is that they know they were loved. An older wiser mom once told me that kids have “fuel tanks” and to make sure it’s filled with love every day because if it’s filled with love they are less likely to look for other things to fill it. Despite all our parental imperfections, baggage, and failures, we want them to know we love them “bigger than the sky times infinity”. We want them to leave home with filled love tanks. Our me-culture may tell us to do what’s best for us and “radical self love” is almost a religion these days. (BTW I’m all for “radical self love” when it’s not at the expense of others.) However, selflessness acted out with pure intentions in regard to the other may not be sexy but it is still and will always be one of the purest forms of love. And one of the hardest. Selflessness doesn’t come easy for me. I usually scoop myself the biggest bowl of ice cream. And take the biggest piece of cake. And tend towards putting my feelings above others.
$2,319 Fuel Cost – So far we’ve put a lot less miles on the RV this year (around 5,000 so far) however we’ve been driving our Smart Car loads more (probably double last year)! Everyone complains about fuel costs, but if you look at it our fuel isn’t our largest expense, and how much really does a 10 cent increase per gallon cost? You’re either going to travel or you’re not, I’m tired of hearing people use the excuse of fuel costs as a reason they don’t take out their RV. Suck it up, put on your big boy pants, and travel….you’ll thank me later as you realize the trip only cost an extra $25 because of the rise in fuel cost. Sorry for the rant, we just hear this excuse over and over and it’s a moot point.
1. About the internet how exactly does that work? We do not plan on having a “home base” so to speak so we would be on the road 100% of the time living in various places. I have to have decent internet for my work so that we could continue to live the way we want. How hard is it to get internet if say you are living off the grid in the woods somewhere? This is an absolute must for us.
In our case there are months we pay almost ZERO here (e.g. when we are sitting still in one place and either volunteering or boondocking) and there are months we chose to splurge. Either way we are able to completely manage how much we want to spend and can ramp it down (or up) as needed to match our income. Honestly if we’d fully understood the power of this flexibility we probably wouldn’t have fretted quite so much over costs before we got on the road. This is a BIG DEAL!
Fortunately, there are lots of RV parks that are designed with this conundrum in mind, offering activities for kids and adults alike. For example, the Jellystone Parks family of RV resorts has fun, themed activities and tons of amenities like swimming pools, water slides, and bounce houses, making it one of the best solutions to RV vacations for families.
Legally you must carry chains to drive many mountain passes during snow storms (especially in California). If you don’t have chains on board and you get busted it’s a hefty fine. We’ve spent winters all over the states, and fortunately we’ve never had to put our chains on. Of course we watch the weather religiously before we plan to drive anywhere. If you’re flexible like we are and you know a storm is coming you have 2 options: 1. Bust out of there ASAP before the snow or 2. welcome the snow with open arms and extend your campground reservation a couple more days.
Agreed, my wife and I need very fast internet at all cost, because of online marketing biz. Rv full-time living, doesn’t denote modest living 100% of the time. Also to the OP, a website that receives any substantial amount of volume or traffic, usually requires more bandwidth, along with dedicated server. Hey, great videos…you two would make a great show on a travel channel.
BLM JUST upgraded their website last year and they REMOVED all of the wonderful links and maps they used to have on there!! For example there is no longer ANY information on LTVA camping, nor any information on MANY of the free or low-cost campgrounds we’ve used over the years. Plus that interactive map with all the clickable layers I used to use and which I linked to in that blog post? Completely gone!! I honestly have no idea why they decided to remove all this valuable info from their site, and I’ve yet to update all my old blog posts to reflect this massive change (I’ve got SO many broken links right now). You can still get map info if you physically walk into a BLM office and ask for it, but I no longer know how to find these maps online. Wish it weren’t so.
My family consists of myself, my husband, and two toddlers. We are hitting the road next summer for a few months of slow cross country travel. My question is, do you have any campground memberships, and if so, which one do you think would be best for my young family? We prefer to be in more of a campground setting than an RV resort, and we would also like full hookups and bathroom facilities if possible but we would be willing to forgo the bathrooms to save on price. We want to spend a lot of time reconnecting with the outdoors and visiting some national parks. Your budget and all of the wonderful work you do has really helped me begin to plan our trip and I can’t thank you enough.
Want to travel and live out of your RV full time? Welcome to the club! There are so many factors that can affect the cost of living full time in a RV. What type of RV do you have? How do you like to travel? What do you like to do when you arrive at a destination? We’ve found the RVing lifestyle to be incredibly liberating and less expensive than what we originally budgeted. Cost of RVing is so unique to each person/couple/family that it’s difficult to know what the actual costs will be until you do it. By sharing our expenses, we hope it will give you a better idea for planning your RVing budget.
Diesel can freeze! Make sure you fill with winterized diesel which you can find at most truck stops. If you can’t find winterized diesel you need to purchase an additive that will keep your diesel from freezing (you can find this at auto part stores and truck stops). Before you depart your destination you should plug in the heating element found in your diesel engine (most diesel engines have a heated core that you can plug into a wall to keep them from getting too cold) to warm up your engine at least 4 hours before taking off.
Snowed in- snow is a good insulator no choice when it snows 4′ feet in a night. A pipe vent is good to keep the generator fumes away. Bubble insulation custom cut for each window and door. Velcro in place and then stick to walls and ceiling when not in use. Roll up large pieces and put in corners to store. Works great for the ceiling vent too. Battery operated car blankets are great to keep warm. We also have body warmers, hand warmers, and toe warmers for skiing and for sleeping. Check the door for snow build up often, so you can open the door in the morning after a storm. Leave some snow on the roof if you are driving in icy conditions for traction. Shovel often if snowing during camping. Carbon Monoxide will build up around the bottom of the door. Make sure you have extra batteries and an extra carbon monoxide detector in case of malfunction. If only camping for a few days, freeze is okay. The tanks will thaw when you reach warmer temps. Just keep the liquid levels down in the tanks ie.; grey, black, water. No need to use anti-freeze. If the temps warm up during the day above freezing the tanks will thaw too. If you have access to a dumpster, we use the bags and some dry chemical the toilet. When they fill up we just tie up the bag and dump. It saves room in the black tank. We skip showers for a few days of skiing. We carry 2 sets of chains for the front and back tires, for really dangerous snow and ice travel. Keep the thermostat at a min. temp of 50 degrees. Keep a dehumidifier on the kitchen counter. Put a outside windshield wrap for warmth and to keep the snow off. Four people can usually boondock for several days. Enjoy your winter adventure and don’t forget a couple of shovels.
Nina and Paul, I just found your blog today on Pinterest, and it is filled with very good information. I will be more or less full-timing it with a friend who currently lives in Okinawa, Japan. He has been living in Japan for 23+ years and plans on moving back to the states permanently. Whenever that happens he has asked me to come along on his life long dream of traveling to all the National Parks/Monuments etc. We don’t plan on moving much more than 100 miles or so per day and may stay in a place for a while if we like it and there is lots to see and experience in the area. I plan to keep watching your blog as it really speaks to what we want to do.
Hi Karen: Since so many people have an interest in full timing, I thought it would be a good idea to give them further details. I always tell people that if they can afford it, just close up the house and give full timing a try. If it doesn't work out, they will still have everything waiting for them back home. Most find that RVing is so great that the thought of going back to the house, the expenses, the work, etc is a drag. But others are happy they didn't just jump in with both feet. It's a big decision, that's for sure!
Hi I was reading the comments and noticed you decided to hit the road. It was a few years ago I know but wondering how it went? I’m a single woman and will be traveling alone. I’m scared but what scares me more is not following my dream of seeing the world. I mean I don’t know what will happen and it does concern me. If I’m traveling and get sick where do I go if my medical Insurance is in la county. I have so much to learn.
I was enlightened by the Tiny House movement. After researching into buying a tiny house and furnishing it, the cost was more than my regular sized 2 bedroom home. I then started looking at used RV’s, mainly 5th wheel Trailers and travel trailers. I found a decent used 5th Wheel with good bones, and bought it when my house sold. Prior to that, I spent 9 months selling off everything I owned and thought I needed. Everyone thought I was nuts. The kids where grown, the husband passed away, and it was just me and the cat. The banker suggested, I replace AC unit with a Heat and Air unit, battery, fridge…anything that was too old. My investment was $3900 for a 1996 Dutchman Aristocrat 27 ft. Back then they made them solid with good wood not chip board. Heat and Air Unit $850, Fridge (electric only) $150. I did quite a bit of water line insulation, because these units were not meant to live in cold weather.
One fine winter day, the campground had a problem with something that caused them to turn off the water temporarily. While they were doing their repairs, the water froze under the ground in the park. And that was that. The pipes were made of PVC, so they could not be heated to get the water flowing again. We were all out of luck until it warmed up. A good couple months of winter RVing, minimum.
Many people think you have to make a lot of money to travel full-time, but that’s not the case. In fact, full-time RVing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose. It can all depend on the type and year of the RV you purchase, how often you travel, where you park, and the activities you do in the places you visit. But, here’s a general idea of items you can expect to pay for each month if you choose the full-time RV lifestyle.
When we first got the RV the thought of a hard-mounted, fully-automatic Satellite TV dish on our roof seemed just the ticket. Push a button and off you go….fabulous! However camping as we do in lots of spots with trees and obstacles we have line-of-sight perhaps only ~50% of the time making our dish mostly useless. In retrospect a movable dish would totally be the way to go.
It can be a challenge to figure out what to bring for full time RV living. “Is one pair of sandals enough or do I need a second pair for campground showers?” We ended up having way too much stuff. After a month of RV living we decided to sell the bicycles because we never used them. A few months later, we performed a spring cleaning by re-evaluating everything in the RV. Many articles of clothing ended up in the donation pile because neither of us had touched them since we moved in.
While neither of us were ever crazy planners, Kerensa did like to have a general plan of where we were going and what was around when we got there. Sometimes that skill still comes in handy like planning for the Florida Keys, but for the most part, we don't make reservations anymore. We prefer to stay loose with our plans and be able to adjust quickly to meet friends, dodge weather, or choose a destination on a whim!