First of all, I had to do a lot of research to better understand the difference between fifth wheels, motorhomes, truck campers, pull-behinds, etc. Ultimately, we made our choice on motorhome because we liked the idea of having our vehicle and home be all in one. We enjoy being able to walk to the back and use the restroom or make food, without having to leave our vehicle while we’re traveling.
Gear / Modifications – Your RV dealership may or may not provide some of the basic “gear” that is needed to live and travel in an RV (see our Gear Guide here). You may also want to complete certain upgrades for safety or convenience. For example, we were not happy with the tires that came on the Fifth Wheel, and purchased all new tires (at our own expense). Many RVers like to boondock, or camp off-grid, and outfit their RV with solar. Others remodel and paint, change flooring or fabric to make it their own. This is often an ongoing expense that you should budget for as just like in a sticks and bricks home, people like to upgrade and make changes to improve their daily lives.
Sure we considered the this-is-our-life-and-sorry-it’s-not-what-you-want-but-try-to-appreciate-and-learn-from-it approach. As parents we have that right to make the choices we think our best for our kids and family. The road may be “best” for Brent and I but, God willing, we have many years left as a couple to explore and experience life as we want but the older boys only have few years left as kids. They didn’t want to spend their teenage years living in an RV full time.
Public campgrounds run the gamut from rustic campgrounds on-site at the national parks to state park campgrounds to national forest service and BLM campgrounds to Corps of Engineers campgrounds to regional park campgrounds and fairgrounds. Somewhere along the line there is a crossover to municipal and city RV parks. These campgrounds and RV parks often offer fewer amenities than private RV parks: there may (or may not) be water spigots or vault toilets (non-flushing), or there may be electric and water hookups and hot showers. Usually there are no sewer hookups but there is often an RV dump station in the campground.
Foldable Vases – Inexpensive and perfect for RVing, a foldable vase makes a great gift for your favorite RVer. Foldable vases allow you to bring the outdoors in without taking up space or adding weight. On top of that, they are unbreakable which is always good when your RV basically experiences a mini earthquake every time you move it. They come in multi-packs and as singles. The first time I saw one was when a friend brought me one as a hostess gift and I have been hooked since!
This may sound a little goofy, but a video of a fire burning in a fireplace is really fun and makes the rig cozy. The video simply shows logs in a fireplace burning down to embers, accompanied by the crackling sound a fire makes. It is surprisingly realistic, and quite funky. The crazy thing is that whenever we play it, the person sitting in the recliner closest to the TV always feels a little warm on the side by the fire!

The other huge and unexpected expense was for internet access. We have been very disappointed at how difficult good service is to find in campgrounds. We use the lodges as much as possible but still need a hot spot with smart phone / ipad etc…. We are now up to $300 on this item just to have backup hot spot. We are thinking about a second service such as Millicome (sp) so that will add another $100 month. Our wifi ranger has made a huge difference but it is still only as good as the router it picks up. Our Wilson has helped with the phone connection. Once again here was another big expense we hadn’t expected.


[…] I think we will end up trying to travel with the weather but we have not decided on exact plans yet. Luckily there a LOT of people that travel the country and there are so many helpful websites, blogs, instructional and educational videos out there. I have also heard that full time RVer’s are very kind and helpful and care about their communities. I have found some awesome tips about RVing with dogs, Rv campsite review websites, public land camping and free locations to park, and all kinds of amazing videos about how to replacing flooring and painting the walls and of course all kinds of lists like the “10 things I wish I’d known before RVing“. […]


Thank you so much for your clear and concise answers to winter R.V. use. You not only answered my questions but brought up a bunch of things I had not thought of. I am taking a 33′ allegro from the Oregon Coast to Longmont Colorado area the 1st of December. Not the best time of year but got into an experimental medical trial for a catastrophic nervous system failure condition I got from an IED serving in the military while in Iraq. It is my last hope so going to go for it. Until I find housing there I will be staying in the Allegro. I feel much more confident now that I have reviewed your sight. It made the wife a lot more comfortable as well. Once again thank you for the wonderful information

Thanks for the info. I’ve finally convinced my wife to go live in an RV full time. We’ve rented an RV twice this year and so far so good. We almost bought a new RV 2 months ago but since we’re still working, we decided not to do it this year. We own our house and still paying $1200 a monthly mortgage. I’m leaning on selling the house when I retire in 7 years and buy an RV.
This item is hard to predict, but now that we have owned our truck and trailer all these years, we can provide an average of what we’ve spent so far on maintenance and repairs since we started full-timing. From 2007 until 2014, we had very few repairs on our rig, so our total repair bill plus maintenance bill each month was a modest $106 / month ($1,272 / year).
For your expenses, you’re going to have both fixed and variable expenses. Fixed are going to be the same every month and HAVE to be paid. These are things like cell phone, internet, and insurance bills. If you have a loan on your RV or vehicle, they would also fit into this category (*Note: we highly recommend eliminating this monthly expense if possible by buying less-expensive used RVs/vehicles.) Trying to get these Fixed Costs down is key to a low-cost lifestyle, so try to find way to eliminate or reduce these when possible.
The answer to this one is tricky. We’ve found tons of places we could see ourselves living in the future, but right now we just aren’t at a point where we want to settle down quite yet. Top of our list is Nashville, TN, mostly because we’ve made a lot of great friendships in that town and we would have a lot of awesome community. But we’re still definitely keeping our eyes open for more great places to live.

For healthcare we keep $8,000 in our HSA account (tax-free health savings account). This not only covers our regular yearly self-pay checks, but also covers the individual deductible on our health care plan in case we should ever need it. We keep an additional 4-6 months of savings in ready cash (e.g. cash, money market, savings) for unplanned RV, pet & other expenses and regularly add to these savings through our monthly budget.
There is a silent attacker you may not be aware of, it’s name, Humidity. Humidity is already an issue in RVs, which is why we use our dehumidifier a few times a week. However, as the temperature began to drop outside and we ramped up the heaters on the inside we noticed our windows began to develop a crazy amount of water on them, which would then begin to freeze.  This left frost on the inside of our windows so we made sure to wipe the windows down and run our dehumidifier every day.
Sometimes packages shipped by UPS or FedEx to a General Delivery address at a post office are handed to the recipient free of charge. However, sometimes the Postal Service charges the recipient a fee at the pickup counter before handing over the package. I know this seems odd, because FedEx or UPS carried the package all the way across the country while the Postal Service is merely carrying it from the mail room to the front counter. But it happens.
depending on where you are planning for your overnights, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If you are worried and aren’t allergic, my best solution would be to get at least a medium sized dog. The barking is usually enough to deter anyone with nefarious plans, especially if they have been staking you out and have seen this is not a chihuahua, though even those are good for the noise. Anyway, most RVers are pretty good people and tend to look out for each other. Lock your RV door(s) at night, be aware of your surroundings and the people in it and you should be just fine. Also, dont promote that you are traveling alone as a woman. No sense painting a target for those with deceitful plans. I’ve never had any problems but, then again, I have three large dogs traveling with me. 😉 Good luck!! Now, start living your dream!!
hairyleggedjebjeb: Come back and talk to me about it when you've been doing it for more than 50 years (as I have). RVing can be a terrific lifestyle, but to think that it does not involve sacrifice is dreaming. There's plenty of that, and the longer you live this life, the more you will see that this is true. Far too many people jump into it thinking it will be all fun and freedom only to find that, just like anything else, it has its problems. The disappointment this brings often causes people to give it up, so to protect them a bit, I wanted them to see the realities.

I really appreciate it when you pointed out that being an owner of an RV means that I should learn a little about electrical, plumbing, and roofing work so that life on the road will be a little easier. Maybe it is time that I get myself a book and educate myself about the basics of troubleshooting. After all, I do intend to get an RV for myself soon since my dream job is to be a nature journalist. Thanks for the tips.


In South Dakota, one of the largest mail forwarding services is America’s Mailbox just outside of Rapid City in Box Elder near the Black Hills in the western part of the state. We have the Platinum plan with them and have been absolutely delighted with their service. We call them once a month and tell them where to send the mail. Mail forwarding providers in South Dakota include:
Fridge: Your RV fridge is designed to work in the summer. With the large temperature fluctuations that happen throughout winter the fridge computer thinks something is wrong and will flip into default mode. To prevent this put a work light and a heat pad in the fridge access panel.  This will help keep the temperature constant and the fridge will not fail as easily. At extremely cold temperatures your fridge's cooling unit may freeze and the fridge will not work. If this happens you should turn off your fridge to prevent further damage, warm the fridge to room temperature and then try turning on the fridge. If this does not work, call Holiday RV Service Dept at 403 548-7087.
After many years of Singapore math I realized I couldn’t keep up with Thing 1 so began the search for a new math curriculum that required less parental involvement. We tried the Art of Problem Solving which would be amazing for the right kind of kid. It was a horrible fit for us. After a few more weeks of research, I narrowed math down to Math-U-See, Teaching Textbooks, and Life of Fred. Thing 1 looked them over and chose which one he wanted to study. He chose Life of Fred and after two years I can’t say enough good things about it. (The Kahn Academy was used as a supplemental resource for extra practice when needed and not as a stand-alone program.)

Thanks for your comments Maria. It’s easy to get confused as there is a lot of misinformation floating about. You must have seen the HGTV episode. We didn’t pay $208,000 and we owned our Monaco Vesta for 3 years. Everyone’s budget and spending habits are different. We list our general costs of living, not the cost of our RV (all costs are variable per person, especially RV’s). Yes depreciation is a factor when purchasing an RV, as with anything.
We try our hardest with this aspect of our budget. We like to eat fresh, healthy, and regional so we try to visit farmers markets and local farms/ranches/dairies when possible. We also buy bulk items at CostCo, Fresh Market, etc. in order to keep staples on hand and get the most for our money. However, with a 3-year old we go through a lot of milk (at $4.85/gallon or so), snack foods, apples, and nuts. Have you seen the price of pistachios lately? One things we do splurge on is typically meats (we like good, grass fed beef), beer, and ice cream. Even life on the road doesn’t have to be sparse.

For these reasons, RVs smaller than 25′ didn’t really appeal to me at the time. With my space requirements and budget in mind, I searched for  Class A and Class C  RVs no larger than 30′.  Many RV Parks and Campgrounds only accommodate RVs less than 30′ so I figured anything smaller would also manage well on the forest roads and remote places I wanted to go.
Also, there are endless ways to earn an income on the road. Photography, writing and other freelance gigs come to mind as the most obvious, but even many company jobs are now location independent. Our accountant is a full-time RVer, while another good friend in sales recently convinced his large corporate employer to let him travel full-time. When he laid out the cost, it was actually cheaper for the company than the monthly airfare / hotel costs he was racking up while traveling a few days each week. The point is, the options are endless.
$700 Smart Repairs: Includes 1 oil change service, 2 rim replacements, 1 tire replacement. Because our Smart Car is the Brabus edition it has low profile tires and 17” rims in the back (BAD IDEA). We hit a few potholes along the way bending rims and shredding a tire. We purchased a tire and rim warranty and we have AAA for towing (est. savings $2,500)
The Thousand Trails network offers 30 free overnight stays in a 12 month period for $545 at campgrounds that are within one of five zones across the country. After you’ve used up the 30 free nights, the rest of your overnights for that year are just $3 a night. Each zone has between 13 and 23 RV parks in it. You can stay at any RV park in your zone for up to 14 days and then you must stay somewhere outside of the network for 7 nights before coming back. You can repeat this cycle indefinitely. Right now they are offering a special of two zones for the price of one. An added perk is that you get a 20% discount on overnight stays at the affiliate Encore network of RV parks too.
In a five year period, a brand new rig (that is, a motorhome/car combo or truck/trailer combo) will typically lose 30% to 50% of its value, and by the end of a decade it will be down to 25% to 40% of its original MSRP. The only way to know what the full-time RVing lifestyle really costs is to know both what you paid for your RV at the beginning and what you sold it for at the end. The difference, divided but the number of months you lived in it, is the true cost of ownership.
The window shrink film kit comes with double-sided tape, and all you have to do is outline the door with the tape, remove the backing, press the plastic onto the tape, trim off the excess and then heat it up with a hair dryer to make the plastic taught. It is best to clean the frame of the door with alcohol or film remover first so the tape adheres well.
Thank you for the blog! My wife and I also adopted our 10 year old son over a year ago now. We are very set on downsizing and moving full time into a 5th wheel. We are looking at staying annualy in an RV park here in St Petersburg Florida. My question is are there parks that accommodate families? We are in our mid 30’s and almost every quality RV park we search for says they are 55+ community. Do these places still offer spots for people like us?
28. RVing teaches you to fix things. I hoped I was going to be rich enough to pay a mechanic all the time. That strategy hasn’t worked out for me yet, so now I know how to flush my radiator, fix my generator, check gauges, and a lot of other manly stuff I couldn’t do before. I even recently outfitted our Honda CR-V for proper towing, Dad would be proud.

Of course, the whims of the economy are beyond anyone’s control. In the spring of 2008 diesel fuel prices soared out of sight in just a few months. Half a year later the world economy fell apart. Yet, the full-time RVers that were on the road then just kept on going — like everyone else — finding ways to make the best of a grim situation. So, once you launch your full-time RV lifestyle, you will find yourself adapting as the world changes around you — just like you did at home.
We are getting ready to do our first cold weather camping and these videos and blogs have been very helpful. I’ve purchased a number of the items you’ve purchased. I have a specific question about the space heater. We purchased one of the models you recommend. It’s the one that you show using in your wet bay in the video. It just arrived and the instructions that come with it are very emphatic about not using an extension cord with it. Have you been OK doing so? Or are you lucky enough to have an outlet in your wet bay or at least accessible from it? The cord it comes with is not long enough to plug to external power unless we will be lucky enough to park our wet bay right next to the electrical hookup.
Departure – Before you depart the campground in cold weather turn on the engine block heater for a minimum of 4 hours and run the generator for 30 minutes with a low-medium load.  This routes the fuel to the generator but not all the fuel is burned.  The fuel that is not burned follows a return line back to the fuel tank, effectively warming up the fuel and giving the engine warm fuel for a better start.  Make sure your engine and transmission have time to warm up before jumping directly onto the highway.

Did you have any trouble passing a home study while living in the camper? We are currently full timers while we save up money to pay cash for a house. We are wanting to adopt but I worry about the homestudy. Our camper is 34 feet and right now its just the hubby and me. I know we can make it work, but how to I prove that? Would love your advice! Thanks!
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Here’s another vote for you to keep it up. I’m 65 and preparing to stop working. I don’t want to just sit in a house and wait to die! Looking for a coach and preparing to hit the road. My wife is less than enthusiastic (so far) but I think once we get into it, the light bulb will turn on. We have always enjoyed traveling together, even our camping trips. Thinking about all the changes of scenary makes me all the more enthusiastic. I can cook a meal and clean a floor just like anyone else so that we can both enjoy our time seeing the country.
We had to skirt our first RV and it worked like a champ. We called the Miller Family from RVSkirting.com and even though they couldn’t install the skirt for us they helped us get set for a last minute freeze in Breckenridge, CO and gave us the confidence that we could install it ourselves. Most manufacturers and dealers don’t understand skirting so make sure you do lots of research or give these guys a call if you have questions about winter camping.If you plan to be in an area with snow you can try the poor man’s skirt, it works pretty well: Take a shovel and pile up snow all around your coach up to the bays. Pack the snow well and it can last for months. During an extreme freeze put a space heater under your coach, don’t worry it shouldn’t melt the snow…I call this the Igloo effect!
Hi! My husband and I want to go from living in a home to rving around America. Mostly because we want to find where we want to settle down to have and create a sustainable farm but we really would love to have adventures and explore as well. We have three kids 7,4, and seven months. Our goal is to have an rv and sell all our things or most by July of next year. The only thing we are wondering about at the moment is how you fund living this way? Do you have a business that allows traveling? Also do you ever set up a tent for your older kid to be able to get away and have a quite place? One more question is schooling. I do unschooling but was curious what you do for school? Thanks!
In a five year period, a brand new rig (that is, a motorhome/car combo or truck/trailer combo) will typically lose 30% to 50% of its value, and by the end of a decade it will be down to 25% to 40% of its original MSRP. The only way to know what the full-time RVing lifestyle really costs is to know both what you paid for your RV at the beginning and what you sold it for at the end. The difference, divided but the number of months you lived in it, is the true cost of ownership.
Can you afford Fulltime Rving? Many people think it's an expensive lifestyle, and it can be if you buy a fancy motor-home, travel constantly, stay in all the best resorts, and eat out all the time. Many people enjoy Rving without breaking the bank though. There are very cost effective RVs available that can be considered when selecting an RV for full-timing. There are countless RV resorts that are beautiful and inexpensive. Consider your budget, and if will you continue to earn income or not.
2017 Update – YES. We still feel the same way. Clubs are only useful IF you make use of them. There are RV folks who love their club memberships (e.g. Thousand Trails members who do nothing but stay at Thousand Trails), but for our type of camping (mostly public land, lots of State Parks etc) they simply haven’t made sense. The only membership clubs we currently have are Harvest Hosts, Escapees & Passport America. I always recommend that newbies wait on joining any camping clubs until they’ve spent some time on the road and figured out how they like to travel. Read more about my take on Camping Clubs HERE.
I hate to say this, but were I starting all over, I’d go with a 2009 – 2014 or so Ford E150 with low miles (probably run around $15000), build out the camper myself, pay someone to put a pop top on it (that’s big money though, $7k more or less) and spend more of my time traveling than working on this old girl. At this point, of course, I am in love with our VW and wouldn’t make the choice outlined in this paragraph. 🙂

I cannot in good faith tell you that freezing camping is easy camping…but what I can tell you is: typically if you camp where it’s freezing you’ll have the entire place to yourself. Some of our favorite times to camp is in the off season, and freezing camping is always a fun challenge for us. I hope you’ll reconsider heading to the beach in cold weather, it is such a wonderful feeling walking on the beach all alone, bundled up, with the one you love 🙂

Jessica warns it’s not all fun on the road. “Instead of mowing the lawn, we do maintenance on the RV. Things don’t last as long as they do in a house. The level of chores is about the same,” she said, adding that they have to go to the laundromat now. “But it gives us the freedom to be by the beach one day, a mountain the next or a lake. It’s made all the difference for us.”

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