The number one thing that needs to be done to prepare an RV for LIVING through the winter is find a place to park so that you don’t have move the darn thing.  Trust me on this, once the cold weather sets in, you do not want to have to move it.  Roads are slick, cross winds are brutal and water lines WILL freeze without heat.  Making your ‘home on wheels’ stationary for months at a time takes some fore thought.
We’re Millenials, so we can relate to the desire to have new and shiny stuff we can’t afford. A lot of Millenials these days want instant gratification: we want what our parents have without realizing it took them 30-40 years to get there. Who wouldn’t want a big $200-300k diesel pusher? As a young, first time RVer, with less disposable income than most retirees, buy used! RVs depreciate faster than just about any other purchase. Buying used can save you a huge amount of money. Most people use their RV about 4 weekends out of the year, so “used” models are almost new. You can save $10k-50k buying a year or two used. Plus, used RVs usually have all the bugs worked out. New RVs have more issues than used ones. Don’t be surprised for your brand new RV to spend 3-4 months in the shop the first year, getting all the bugs worked out from the warranty. If you buy an RV that’s a year or two or 10 old, the bugs will already have been fixed under warranty.
I plan on retiring Nov 2016 and want to RV for a couple of years before settling down in one place. I’ve been researching the fulltime RVing and my head is spinning with all the info out there. I just want you to know that your site is actually the first one to give direct answers to all the questions I have like taxes, health ins. Car/RV registrations. I’ll be stopping by quite frequently…..
You’re ready to add a small flock to your homestead (or backyard) and you want to do it right. But where do you start? What’s the first step? And what the heck are you going to do about a chicken coop? Consider this your great-big-everything-you-ever-needed-to-know-about-chicken-coops resource. It includes lots of photos, as well as plenty of dos & don'ts I've gathered over the last 9 years of keeping chickens!
Below is the breakdown of our costs, if you want more details read the posts from 2012 and 2011 as we pretty much spend the same way each year. As usual I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,137 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest ($1,088) also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joes, TJ Maxx (we get some of our specialty foods here) Wal-Mart (for RV supplies), local natural grocery stores, and Cash at Farmer’s Markets.
The UPS distribution center was small, and they said only the driver would know the exact time. To our utter astonishment, they gave us the UPS driver’s cell phone number. So we called him!! He was very friendly and said he could drive over to where our RV was parked and hand deliver the package in about 10 minutes. We were both totally shocked when he pulled alongside our rig and handed our package to Mark — at no charge. Now how’s that for service?!
Regular hose, however, was not recommended by the heat tape manufacturer, which clearly specified metal or plastic water pipe. A hose was not a water pipe. Perhaps it wouldn’t work as well. Or perhaps it would degrade the hose and cause problems. I could imagine being poisoned by the breakdown of chemicals in my hose. (Seriously: I have a pretty good imagination sometimes.)
3. Keep the fresh water and pipes from freezing: In my humble opinion your tips and tricks are spot on. I do have an observation and suggestion to make. Your efforts are targeting the “sewer bay” on the driver side of the RV. When we froze in Louisiana, it was the passenger side that was vulnerable. Our fresh water tank has an overflow vent on the passenger side. When the water in the tank freezes, like a pond the top of the water freezes first. In our case that prevented us from putting water into the tank and we ended up with a small crack in the tank. Fortunately, it was on the edge and was easily fixed. I think the freezing occurred because our efforts were on the “sewer bay” side and not the other. I think the answer here is another small space heater on the passenger side of the RV.
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.
People enjoy the full-time RV lifestyle on all kinds of budgets, and the money full-timers have to work with comes in all kinds of forms. Some retirees have big pensions but not a lot of savings. Others have a nest egg of savings but no pension. Many younger full-time RVers work while they travel, either to cover all of their living expenses or to supplement other income streams.
When asked what advice she’d give to anyone considering RVing full-time, she mentions the word balance. In the life of a full-time RVer, balance means a number of things. It means researching and planning, but it also means driving west with no other goal than to see the surf of the Pacific. It means camping in cities and drinking beer in crowded breweries, but it also means spending weeks alone in Montana, camping on the outskirts of Glacier National Park amongst the fields of beargrass and turquoise lakes. Mostly, it means embracing a life defined by travel, even if other real-world problems like finding a doctor and sticking to a budget do arise.

If we really wanted to cut back to a minimalist lifestyle we could probably manage early retirement at this point. Instead, since we love what we do – we’ve opted to work a while longer and be a bit indulgent (like pursuing our boating dreams). Because life is short and we have a lot of things we want to do!   So, a lot of our income goes into a discretionary spending account for adventures, upgrades and fun. When that fund builds up, we go on a little spending spree.

There are private RV parks everywhere. They are extremely easy to find online, in commercial guide books and by asking at visitors centers. The AllStays App is a very popular resource. Private RV parks range from about $30/night to $60/night or more, tending to even higher prices in popular destinations at peak season in choice sites that offer more amenities (like a view). The parking is generally laid out in rows, and the sites can range from drycamping sites (no hookups) to electric and/or water only to electric/water/sewer with cable TV, telephone and free WiFi. Usually the site includes a picnic table, and sometimes the park has a pool, showers, shuffleboard or horseshoes, sometimes bike and canoe rentals, a small store, or other goodies.
You can do wonderful things in a small RV. I grew up in a small trailer home. My parents and 4 kids lived in a 8X30 mobile home. My father built bunk beds in the ‘living room’ that folded up against the wall….we had just one sofa for all of us to sit on. Everyone else sat on kitchen chairs. Most meals we ate out side on a picnic table…or in rain we had some snack trays. Toys were kept under my parent’s bed or in the back of my parent’s car.

For MVUM maps there will *usually* be an indication of which roads allow camping, but it depends on the individual map. For many of the maps we physically own (I typically pick them up at the Forest Service office when we travel through) the roads are indicated by a series of dots along the side. Look at the map key and hopefully you’ll see it there. I haven’t used the App much myself, but I do think you get a color map there, so that may help.
$2,500 Eating Out – Similar to 2011 we find ourselves eating out 2 nice meals per week. This amount also includes the local breweries we purchase beer from and the local coffee roasters we support along the way. This number is a little askew as we’ve had a few of our meals comped or discounted some of the time when the owners find out we’re blogging about them (approx. savings $500).
On the other hand, if you are outfitting the RV of your dreams for a life of full-time RV travel or of winter snowbirding RV adventures, then you might consider installing a vent-free propane fireplace that is built into an elegant mantel. These heaters give off the same incredible heat as the more industrial looking vent-free propane heaters, but they have the cozy and inviting appearance of a fireplace and produce a beautiful (and mesmerizing) flame. What a great addition to an RV!!

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.
We are about to enter our second winter living in our fifth wheel, and since we bought the RV in summer of 2016 we have been parked stationary in Kansas City (on the Kansas side).  (In case you are wondering right now why we don’t just move south for winter, it’s because we are tied to a job here for now.) The climate here is not as severe as some places people might be living or camping in the winter, but it can get pretty cold.
Thanks for sharing these details. Just signed up for your newsletter to get more helpful tidbits as you post them. We are planning on downsizing from our SF Bay Area home to a full-time traveling RV and need to work from the road. It’s especially helpful to us to see connectivity costs, which we were thinking would cost us quite a bit each month. Thus it was shocking for us to see folks being able to spend only $600 total per month. We will be lucky to keep our expenses to $2k/month! Looks like a $3K monthly budget could work even after eating out and buying quite a bit of booze 🙂
Did Verizon let Nikki upgrade her phone without changing her Internet feature? We’re also wondering what you use to tether your phone to the computer – other than buying Verizon’s $20 hotspot feature, I found an article that says iPhones can tether without this feature using the phone’s web browser and tether.com for $30 a year. Thanks so much for your advice!
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.
When the temperatures dip below freezing, we make sure to run our propane heater so it can blow into our storage bay and keep our pipes and tanks warm.  But we use electric heat as backup for when we run out of propane in the middle of the night (because sometimes we are irresponsible and forget about our propane tanks) and because it’s cheaper for us as a main source of heat when the temperatures are above freezing.
I could live in my RV, either in my hangar — there’s plenty of room — or on my property where it was already parked and hooked up. The trouble with that was that my RV, the “mobile mansion” is not designed for cold weather living. To make matters worse, I had parked it 66 feet from my onsite water source and I knew the hose running in a makeshift conduit under my driveway was very likely to freeze.
Our highest month was August in Cocoa Beach, FL. We both went on a bioluminescence kayaking tour which was $84. Also Julie got the deluxe adventure package at the Brevard Zoo which included an aerial adventure obstacle course, zip lining and kayaking for $57. We discuss how much fun we had on the Space Coast in our inaugural podcast episode. Our least expensive month was again at Fort Belvoir because there are so many free activities in the Washington DC area (i.e., Smithsonian museums, monuments, and hiking galore).
In fact, we created Finance Your Detour, a 4-step budgeting program to help others implement a budget in order to afford to travel more, or really, do whatever it is that makes YOU feel more alive! The program includes a budgeting tool that we designed, video tutorials on how to use it, as well as video lessons and worksheets to help you understand how to budget successfully in order to reach your financial goals. You can check it out here.

What about interest though? At a 4% interest rate, the total cost of that $343,000 home would be over $471,000 over 30 years, before you factor in all of the other monthly bills!. It’s hard to compare these things exactly though, as a house can last for many generations, whereas most RVs will have a hard time lasting for an entire person’s lifetime (especially if you buy used when you’re still young). Airstreams and very well built Class As are the exception.
To make it feel just like home, Coachmen has also added numerous storage options and features such as a modern entertainment center made for a 50-55 inch TV, motion sensor lights, USB charging ports, 8 cubic foot refrigerator, 30-inch microwave, 21-inch oven, a ducted furnace. Of course, if you need even more out of your RV, there’s a lot of options that upgrade these features and add new ones. Check out the full list on the RV page for more details!
The time living on the road has been a lot of fun, and a big learning experience. I’ve met countless people that have influenced my life and heard stories that have rearranged my perspectives on life’s shenanigans. Most encounters have been very positive and the RV has helped open windows of connections with people that I would not have had otherwise. As for the other end of the spectrum, I’ve only had a couple of run-ins with people telling me to move on to another camping spot (literally only 2 times the last couple years).
Magnetic Car Phone Mount Holder – I’m always surprised when someone gets in my car or truck and says something about my cell phone holder. Maybe it’s because after living for four years on the road and still not knowing our new city very well, the first thing I do put the address of where I’m going into my phone. What do people do when they have to use the navigation apps on their phones and don’t have a holder? Hold it in their hands? Lay it on the center console?  When it comes to safety, I’m super uptight conscientious and this little contraption is wonderful. We put a magnet inside our phone cases and the phone effortlessly sticks to the mount that is in our truck’s cd player. We also have one that mounts in the air vent in our other car. Love these things. They are convenient and make using a navigational app safer.
2017 Udpate – TOTALLY. Since that original “crazy” year on the road we’ve enjoyed a much more relaxed pace of travel (you can see all our travel maps HERE -> we average just over ~5,000 miles/year) and it’s made everything SO much better. For us this is a lifestyle, not a vacation and taking the time to enjoy each spot has made it a deeper, richer (and more enjoyable) experience for both of us.
They also shed themselves of furniture, artwork, anything that takes up a lot of space (such as hobby materials, holiday decorations, boxes of family photos, libraries, magazines, newspapers or collectibles), pets, unless they are very small, bulky electronics, excess clothing (especially bulky items), duplicate household goods (such as second sets of dishes and silverware), decorator items, heavy cleaning equipment (such as full sized vacuum cleaners), duplicate tools and recreational equipment (such as kayaks, skis and clunky sports equipment).
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.

I also soon learned how to juggle the use of coffee maker and hair dryer in conjunction with the heaters. Normally, using both at the same time is not a problem. But with the draw of the electric heaters, plugging too many things into the wrong line shut down the electricity totally. This meant a trek outside to unscrew four tiny wing nuts (virtually impossible to do in winter gloves) to get behind a panel to reset the breaker. Try doing this in the dark in the wee and snowy hours before daybreak and you don’t make the same mistake twice.
During this 30 day window I lost 10 pounds (no time to stop and eat!) and slept about 4 hours a night… but we did it. We downsized to what we could fit into our RV and our cars. Yes, my husband’s car did turn into our garage for a few months. And we only ended up with about 4 storage bins which we kept in my parent’s basement. They were mostly filled with photos and other family memories.
Both the McKenzies and Padgetts pay for RV living through a variety of income streams. The Padgetts collectively run a film production company, dabble in marketing consulting, write books on how to live the RV lifestyle and more to generate a six-figure annual income. The McKenzies also boast long résumés, with Dan working remotely for a software company and Lindsay freelance writing. The couple also plans on launching a series of online courses on full-time RV living for people interested in taking to the road.
Sounds like a good time to leave, right? Well yes, but meanwhile back at the sites, we were all living on a glacier. The gravel roads in the campground were seldom plowed – just sanded. Since we were located at the top of a mountain, the sun would melt the snow and ice a bit on sunny days and then it would freeze each night. Add some snow, sleet and freezing rain now and then.
I believe the owners told me everything they new about the RV and weren’t trying to pull the wool over my eyes in any way. They just didn’t know. They only drove it a few hundred miles a couple times a year and  probably figured they didn’t need to do a bunch of maintenance on it.   Had I known ahead of time all that it needed, I could have offered less or continued looking. – Lesson learned.
We are also starting a t-shirt line with a focus on travel-inspired sayings and images. We like the idea of having multiple income streams, so if one isn’t working, we have other things that are earning income. We have seen so many doors open since we started this entrepreneur lifestyle. The opportunities are out there, it is just a matter of finding the ones that fit you, your lifestyle and what you want to do.
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.
Cover Windows, Doors and Stairwell – It blows me away how much cold air seeps in from the windows, the entry door and the stairwell, by adding insulation to these drafty culprits you can keep the inside of the RV much warmer.  Purchase a heavy fabric and make curtains to keep the cold from coming in.  You can do fun curtains or you can install snaps/Velcro around the windows and doors to add an extra layer of insulation.  Some people use bubble wrap, the bubble insulation, or the R-Max Foam boards which are all practical but do not look very good.  For the stairwell have a board cut and adhere insulation to the bottom of it, at night cover the stairwell to keep out the cold air.
The thing is when we work is totally up to us. We could work starting at 6am or not open our computer until 10pm. It is totally up to us. We can also go out and explore a new location or just stay back at the campground and go swimming. I know it sounds great and it is, but it is puts a lot of pressure on us to make decisions about what we are going to do with our time since no one is telling us what to do.
​​For us, we sold everything and quit our jobs, so we had zero income at the start of our journey. It was important to track all our expenses carefully so that we could stay on the road for as long as possible while not bringing in any income. We had enough in savings to comfortably go a year or two without making any money. You’ll want to figure out what your limit is so you don’t find yourself hitting the bottom of the bank before you make any changes.
Having never driven more than an SUV, I certainly didn’t feel equipped to pull a 30-foot trailer with a diesel pickup truck (our setup last year). But like riding a bike, practice makes perfect. A few hours maneuvering around a Walmart parking lot, getting a feel for turns and backing into empty spaces, and we felt comfortable enough to head out on the open road. It’s always necessary to do an appropriate amount of route scouting in advance to avoid low overpasses or the possible restricted roads, but within a few weeks’ time, pulling and parking the rig was second nature.
We've had this motorhome for almost two years but never had the propane system checked to see if everything worked correctly since we were in California for much of the time. Plus, we don't know how expensive it is to get this system checked. (The small propane tank is still half full.) Can electric heaters be used for inside heating as long as they're the kind that shuts off if tipped (and never left on when we leave for a few hours)?
Every RV comes with a manual and you two should spend some quality time together. Learn your way around the electrical system and the fuse box. Don’t be intimidated by basic plumbing. Be prepared to patch leaks in the roof and around windows and doors with sealants. Establish a routine to perform the annual chores recommended by the manual. These are not onerous tasks, but essential ones to making life easy on the road.
The first thing on my list of things to do was replace the standard RV drinking water hose that ran from my city water source across my driveway (in a makeshift conduit I’d created) to the mobile mansion. I needed to run some kind of water line that I could run heat tape along. Heat tape (or trace heating) uses electricity to apply a small amount of heat to pipes to prevent freezing. I had some experience with it from my Howard Mesa cabin, where we’d used it on a very short length of hose between a water tank and the building. But rather than a 6-foot length of the stuff, I’d need 66 feet of it. That meant two 30-foot lengths plus one 6-foot length.
We've had this motorhome for almost two years but never had the propane system checked to see if everything worked correctly since we were in California for much of the time. Plus, we don't know how expensive it is to get this system checked. (The small propane tank is still half full.) Can electric heaters be used for inside heating as long as they're the kind that shuts off if tipped (and never left on when we leave for a few hours)?
When it comes to bathroom and kitchen items, my general advice is to bring 1-2 per person in the RV. So things like towels, plates, cups/mugs, etc you won’t need your standard full set of. Remember, there is not much sink space for dirty dishes and not much hamper space for dirty clothes and linens. Dishes are washed immediately after use and towels are washed weekly, so there’s really no need for spare items.
Of course, at $500 per month this is a sparse life, but I am just showing you that it can be done. In fact I personally know dozens of people who live in their vans and make much less than $1,000 per month, so I know for a fact that it can, and is, being done right now. That still leaves us with the question, where will the money come from? Let me show you some simple strategies for living the cheap RV lifestyle.
I have owned a few RVs so far and would love to have another for full time use. The problem is I live and work in a very large city. There are very few places where I could park it and be close to work without having a long commute. I do hope one day I will be able to do the same things you guys are doing. I will be following your blog and I enjoy watching your videos. Keep up the good work and I am looking forward to watching the next one!
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).
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.
It is obvious that when we’re comfortable, we are much keener in recognizing and appreciating beauty. The winter is a stunning time to camp and explore. With fewer campers willing to tolerate the lower temperatures, winter camping can be a magical experience. By following these tips, you’ll be able to witness the true exquisiteness that winter reveals that others will never encounter. Stay warm my friends.
Hi, My name is Dawn and my husband and I are looking to sell all and become full time rv living. I would so appreciate to be able to find some couples who do this and that would be willing and open to talk with my husband and I over the phone so we could ask questions and get their perspective since they have been doing it. I have been on a few web sites to try to find some people to talk to and not been successful. What would you suggest. My husband and I want to get out from a house payment and be free to travel some mostly back and forth to see our children out of state and spend time with grandchildren. We don’t want to be foolish and just jump out there with out doing our home work first. Thank you for any insight you would be willing to give us.
Curtis, thanks for the tips. We don’t spend much on campgrounds now and have not signed up for Passport America becuase the campgrounds have not been on our route yet. And we do shop at farmers markets frequently and love them! We have been looking into some alternatives for phone plans. If you run across something that looks great, let us know. And as for the reward points we use the heck out of those things! We agree they are super awesome and we almost never pay cash for anything.
I should also add that the graph I created (in the post) showing average monthly $$ is simply my best guess based on the folks we’ve traveled with and those that have shared or published their budget (which admittedly not everyone is prepared to do). It’s possible I’m wrong and many folks spend more than they say (and since we regularly boondock/workamp it’s also possible we travel mostly with the frugal crowd!), but I honestly don’t think it’s too far off.

We learned this lesson the hard way winding through a tightly tree’d campground in FL in our first year on the road. We didn’t watch the back end of the rig as we turned through a narrow curve. The front made it through fine, but our back end swung out just slightly and the palm tree sheared off the entire slide topper cover on that side. Oops! We’ve never (cross fingers and paws) made that mistake since, but heavily tree’d parks are always difficult for us, and the bigger your rig the more this is true.
Currently we are not full-timing it, but we are on the road for up to 6 months straight. For those extended periods, monthly expenses can vary depending on what campground or resort we are staying in. Campground prices vary widely. If you are staying in one area long-term, your best bet is to pay a monthly rate for your campsite. That will give you a deep discount, but in most cases you will be responsible for the monthly electricity (and sometimes water usage) for your campsite. Depending on the area you are staying in, monthly rates could be as low as $300.00 a month plus electricity. In more popular areas, the cost could exceed $600.00.
Lillian, you took the words right outta my mouth. I don’t understand the haters, but I know they’re out there. I, too, appreciate the expense breakdown of full time RVing. I’m 6 years away from making the leap myself, and it’s nice to see in black and white where monies get spent, and it might be in some areas that I hadn’t considered. People can always adjust accordingly. Reading Nikki and Jason’s posts and watching their videos has convinced me that when my wife and I pull the trigger, we’re going solar and installing composting toilets. I wouldn’t even know they existed if not for this website. Thank you, Wynn’s!

Skirting your RV – If you have an RV without insulated bays, or a trailer, you will need skirting in extreme weather. The majority of RV’s are not made for extreme cold so chances are if you plan to be in consistent freezing temps you should look into investing in this. In some cases if temperatures drop below 0 degrees you will need to run a space heater under your coach (inside your skirting) to keep it warm. I stay away from propane heaters and use an electric commercial heater under our RV.
We already discussed becoming more social, but meeting other full-time RVers in this community is one of the best things that has happened to us. There are some people we consider friends that we haven't even met in person yet. The RVing community is welcoming and open and we often start friendships online through Facebook groups or Instagram before crossing paths in real life.
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