We also conserved fuel by minimizing our hot water usage. With no permanent sewer connection, we weren’t using the washer/dryer. Instead, our weekly errands included a trip to the laundry mat. We both had a fitness center at our workplace, so we took advantage of those showers. This had the added bonus that we got into a regular exercise routine. In general, we were mindful of how we used water during our winter RVing — a practice that continues to prove useful in boondocking.
16. Make sure to have plenty of on-the-road activities available while traveling. Considering the fact that internet access may be intermittent, you will want to make sure you have some of your favorite DVD’s, cd’s and books at arms reach. Portable DVD players are a necessity with children in the RV and you will probably benefit greatly from an e-reader of some sort. If you have a laptop or tablet, these can easily be downloaded and there is a plethora of places to find free reading material.
The majority of our income comes from my web design business, Donna. We don’t have health insurance…it’s still cheaper to pay the fine than the ridiculous premiums for those of us who want to travel frequently between states. More on that in one of our latest articles, which though it is about living in a van, the insurance part applies to RVing or any other method of full-time travel.
Now that we're warm, draft free and hopefully dry inside, let's deal with the stuff outside your rig. The first thing we need to do is keep your fresh water hose from freezing. If you are traveling a lot, simply use the hose to fill your freshwater tank and then disconnect it each night. If you are parked for a longer period, consider heat taping and insulating your water hose. Standard 110v heat tape can be wrapped in a spiral along the length of the hose and then covered with either round foam insulation or fiberglass batting wrapped with tape. Don't forget to wrap the faucet to protect it and add a pad of insulation where the hose connects to your RV. In moderately cold weather, this should keep your water flowing. If it gets extremely cold (below zero), it may still be necessary to let a faucet drip overnight.
Many RV parks have laundry facilities on-site, and some full-timers purchase RVs equipped with a washer and dryer. We like to use the local laundromat in town. We can do four, five or six loads of laundry in two hours flat. We use the biggest front loading washers in the laundromat we can find because they are usually the best ones both for washing and for spinning dry. Laundromats can be a great place to meet people and learn about an area. In Flagstaff, Arizona, if you want to meet Navajo Indians, go to the local laundromat, preferably on a Saturday when it’s busy!
To get around this, you can look up the nearest warehouse distribution center for either FedEx or UPS and have the package shipped to that distribution center with “Hold for Pickup” written on it. You will not be charged a fee at pickup. However, you will need to track the package and you will have 5 days to pick up the package before it is returned to the sender.
My best friend and I just returned from a week away in her 24′ Winnebago. For two ‘very youthful’ middle-aged ladies on the road we couldn’t have had a better time! For the most part we played it by ear; she picked me up at the Atlanta Airport, we pointed the rig toward Savannah, Georgia (great state for RV travel and campsites) and kept going. Spent a few days in Savannah, headed over to Flagler Beach then up to St. Augustine. By far our favorite site of the entire trip was the last one in the Outer Banks. For whatever reason I wanted to go to Rodanthe so we found a very modest small campground for about $30/night right on the Sound side of Hatteras Island. WOW! The sunsets were breathtaking. Mike, the owner of the campground was amazing. Upon our return to PA I went over to the local RV dealer and picked out a 32′ SouthWind. Fell in love with it! Now I just have to figure out how to make money while on the road. Ironically, my primary business isn’t so transportable. Funny, my current business is processing homes, downsizing, relocation, re-directing unwanted personal property through auction and donation to charity, speaking, writing and consulting. It’s always tougher when it’s your stuff. I agree with not storing things – you’re not likely to need them again. I’m giving myself 2 years to clear all of my debt and transfer my income-generating efforts to fit a new, less complicated lifestyle.
During the 30 days leading up to leaving, there was a day when I stood in the kitchen bawling and asking my husband if we were making the right decision. I physically did not feel like I’d be able to walk out of this dream house we had built and leave it all behind. He said, “Do we want to look back 10 years from now and say we wish we would’ve? Or do we want to close this chapter in our life and start a new one? And guess what? If we don’t like it, we can always come back, buy a house, and go back to our old life.” That actually gave me the strength to make this big change and move on.
This change in the rhythm of life ultimately affects how you spend your money. You begin to realize that this is not a vacation, so you can’t spend money as if it were. You begin to slow down and appreciate the truly priceless pleasures, like a quiet morning reading a book, or an afternoon hike that has no other purpose than to smell the fresh air.
We haven’t eliminated our stress. In fact, I’d say our stress levels hover around the same as they did before we sold our house. We simply swapped one kind of stress for another. But we have four kids, so it would be unrealistic to think we could live a stress-free life, no matter where or how we lived. We deal with the same parenting struggles we did before, but we like to joke that the views are better this way.
“I’ve been looking for this!” The spring cleaning also reminded us of things we’d brought that we forgot about. This is also a great time to reorganize and optimize storage. After the initial cleaning, most of our bays, cupboards and drawers ended up half empty. That’s also about the time we realized a small Class A motorhome was too much space for us. Now we travel full time in a Class B camper van.
Odd, why on earth would anyone snub their nose at you for showing all of your expenses? I personally believe that you have done a wonderful thing with all the work you put into this blog of yours and people can simply add or remove what doesn’t apply to them! You both found a way to still bring in some added income by running a small business on the road and believe this is valuable for many who may want to free themselves from the reigns of a 9 to 5 career who may have some retirement to be self supporting, yet want that little extra to enjoy a lifestyle full timing it on the road that’s a little more comfortable and not too limiting.
Those are the top things that have been a challenge for us to overcome as RV'ers. RV travel falls somewhere between having the comforts of home and camping – and your mileage may vary depending on your budget. The sky is the limit when it comes to RV's – you can buy something that's affordable that may require a few sacrifices, or there are ones that will make you feel like a rock star.
Many folks choose to use portable electric heaters to heat their rig. This method of heating doesn't add condensation to the air and depending on the cost of propane may actually be slightly cheaper to run. Great care must be taken to not overload the wiring in your RV or the electrical system in the campground. Most parks will either put you on an electric meter or charge extra for electric heat. Use only UL approved heaters and keep combustibles away.
Inspiring! We are about 6 wks out to our new life on the road (with 3 kiddos & 2 tiny dogs). We are waiting on the final sale of our home, big estate/garage sale (everything will go), sale of our van then bye bye AZ hello open road. Some say we are crazy, many say it’s awesome. I cannot wait. We traveled for almost 4 months several years ago after hubby retired from the USAF & although there were issues here & there, the memories will last & what I treasure most. I love looking back on the photos & reading my posts about what we were doing & where we were. Cannot wait to do it full time for who knows how long. Roadschooling is on my agenda as well. Oh & I agree we can live without so much stuff. What’s the point really?
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.
Also strongly suggest if mobile & winter camping and only 1 or 2 people to go with truck camper as highly efficient, and a 11.5 ft long camper can be actually quite huge, as that doesnt include the over the cab bed in sq ft, only the floor of the truck bed. so 80-90 sq ft floor + 50 sq ft bed area= 130-140 sq ft. Also a lot of privacy, as camper is up VERY high, as opposed to class B or C. For winter camping, you can not get better than a truck camper if just 1 or 2 people for ease of use and efficiency heating. Another bonus is my truck is 4×4. To pickup a 4×4 class C or other specialized RV, your going to pay a lot more. Also service on a pickup truck is a lot less at a local mechanic vs RV dealer or Diesel mechanic shop. I definately reccomend diesel pickup truck though. and I get 12-13 mpg loaded with camper and 17-18 unloaded. specifically 7.3L Ford Diesel engine (and ONLY that engine 99-2002 if you are shopping for a used truck) and yes it started down to 10 degrees farenheit, which was amazing. Yes a 250 or 2500 series truck can handle a 11.5 ft camper, but if you can afford a F350 or 3500 truck, the extra 2 wheels in the back, DO add a lot of stability and allow much easier & safer & faster driving, think no body roll around corners and winding highways at speed.
Definitely! The “fun” budget is something I include in our “entertainment” category and that’s definitely a part of the flexible budget that’s worth planning for when you go fulltime RVing. We actually spend less on entertainment than we did when we lived in a stix and brix in CA (mostly because we go out to eat less than we did when we both worked in a corporate job), but we do spend something in this category every month. It’s year-round entertainment now 🙂
So the big swing number that I see in what you wrote is camping costs. We workamp/boondock at least 4 months of every year which brings down those costs to around $10-$12/night on average. That’s been our norm for the past 6 years. Last year was the sole exception traveling out East, but even then we only hit $24/night. We have no TV, we travel on average only 6,000 miles per year and we don’t eat out much simply because we love to cook (when we do it’s mostly for beer tasters and a cheap lunch).
Then you move down the road of life to state parks. Now you walk out your little RV door and see nothing but trees and space, maybe a glint of your neighbor through it all, and certainly if they were to yell you’d hear it, but space is not only abundant, it’s beautiful. You’re now paying $20 per night. Rent has dropped to $600 / month. Utilities are still included (except for propane, we spend around $30 / month), though you won’t necessarily have a sewage connection, so you’ll need to drive over to the dump station every few days and let the pipes fly. Depending on your situation, this may happen two or five times a week. But it’s hundreds of dollars in savings in exchange for an hour or so worth of effort.
Kelli, have you reviewed the entire section of videos I prepared on my website for winter living? Those will help you. That said, I’m seeing severe challenges with your plan. If you plan to keep water running in your trailer all winter, you’ll need to follow the protocol I have used and detail in my videos. As to “winterizing” – if you mean that in the sense you’re going to drain all the water and replace with non-toxic anti-freeze weekly – thats a plan that will fail quickly as it is a lot of work and the liklihood of failure in the plumbing and water heater is high. If you’re going to be there weekly for a day or two, I’d keep the heat running as if you were there full time and do as I illustrate in my videos in preparation to live for the winter in the trailer.
Nina – We are devoted readers of your blog. We ourselves are just getting ready to hit the road this spring, and as basic as this question may be, we would like to know what type of dishes you recommend. Do you travel with regular flatware or something more light and durable? We are hoping to find something that does not contain BPA. Just wondering if you could recommend a brand and/or source.
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.
That’s one type of these “secrets” I’m talking about. You trade up space in a fixed location box and some amount of small outdoor space for the entirety of a nation. Your back yard doesn’t need mowed, it needs explored. Little bits of your mind explode until you truly begin to see the world in a light I find to be almost infinitely brighter than shone before.
My fiance and I LOVE your channel, and identify with you guys a lot. Many of our decisions are different than yours but due to different circumstances (our skills, our work, our location/weather, our priorities.) We are about 1 year behind you on our journey. Many of our decisions are also quite similar. We see your thought process and your attitude and think you have all the ingredients for success.
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.
There really is a lot of variation out there and the variation certainly does match income, as you would expect. Folks on a limited income typically travel more frugally (smaller rigs, more workamping/boondocking, less eating out etc.) and make it work for less, whereas folks on a more abundant income go ahead and spend more. I do think there’s a pretty distinct bottom number (It’s really hard to get below $1500/mo as a couple IMO), but I don’t think there’s necessarily any upper limit. There’s certainly no one answer and no one “right” way…
I truly love this story and the life you are having at this point in your children’s ( and your) lives. We would love to travel the us via RV for 6 months. We just returned from a 6 month world travel trip with the kids age 10 and 12. Now they are back at school and their sports. We plan to possibly do the RV thing in 2 years so your blog will be something I will refer to frequently. Thank you for sharing so much. Good luck
Hi Kirsten, those are great questions! I have written a number of posts about organization, personal space, etc. You may be able to find what you are looking for on my blog by using the search box on the bottom right hand side, using search terms like organization, small home living, camper living with kids, etc. You will also find videos of the inside of our camper on http://youtube.com/americanfamilynow. Our 31′ camper is a bunkhouse. It has four bunk beds on one end and a full size bed on the other end, with a couch, table, and kitchen area in between. We shopped around quite a bit until we found what we were looking for. Campers come in all shapes and sizes! Thanks for reading!
Hi Leslie, I am not a full-timer, yet, but I have something to add on your comments on type of RV. I have a towable, a trailer. It is not hard to tow and, I might add that if you go with a motorhome and toad, you are in fact, still towing only without the ability to back up – it just seems different. The challenge is backing of course. I have friends that started out with a trailer and went to a motorhome after being misled on an underpowered tow vehicle and wrecking their trailer.
3. Commit to healthy eating: Switching to the RV lifestyle is a great chance to rethink your family's eating habits. Our advice? Store fruits and vegetables in green bags to maintain freshness, and consider canning or freezing as much as you can store for year-round freshness. Keep in mind that it may be hard to find healthy food in some parts of the country, so stock up when possible. The last thing you want is to have fast food as your only option.
Pro Tip: Even if you don’t insure your RV through Good Sam, you should definitely spring for their Roadside Assistance service. It’s $80 a year and completely worth it. Plus, if they can’t get to you in time for roadside assistance, they will pay for whoever does end up coming out to save you from the side of the Interstate. After getting a blown tire outside of Coalinga, California, I’m a HUGE fan of Good Sam’s Roadside service. Getting our tow dolly tire replaced billed us $150, which Good Sam promptly reimbursed us for. I’m a huge fan of any service that pays for itself. (PS They don’t pay me to say nice things about them, but they should.)
Well congrats on the upcoming adventures! For an easy “entry” into RVing I would most definitely recommend the New Mexico State Camping Pass. Not only are all the New Mexico parks quite lovely, they’re spacious with lots of trails (very dog friendly) and you’ll get to travel around and see a lot of variety at very low cost. Plus you can test out your rig and dry camping skills. I think it’s an excellent idea! Good luck and good travels!
I’ve spent quite a bit of time skimming through forums and have found some overall themes on types of rigs. My only concern with my current is size. When I purchased it with the purpose of a few months at a time it was perfect but full-time is another matter. Most blogs on the subject say- stay small as possible but then focus on Class A or 5th Wheels- not so small. Other concerns are roof construction, slide out reliability, moving versus squatting, etc. I am single so that cuts down on size requirements but again, how much space is too little? Doing research on parks in my state (FL) most public parks become site limited past 36 feet with the most sites rated for 20-35 foot rigs- easier to get and make reservations.
Our fifth wheel is a 2005, which means it needs repairs quite frequently (we have a new issue come up about every 6 weeks or so). We try to do repair projects ourselves (thanks to YouTube) to avoid the outrageous costs of paying an RV mechanic. We also cook in the RV often and typically turn on the heat during the cooler evenings, which uses up our propane. It costs about $20 to refill our propane tank each month.
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.
Great question as we have just made some changes in this department. For the past 2 years we’ve been on contract: Me with AT&T and Nikki with Verizon. My phone only worked 70% of the time while hers worked 95% of the time. Now we have just upgraded to Verizon 4G and it’s literally 10x faster than our old 3g phones. Nikki is still grandfatherd in on an unlimited plan with Verizon so we both share her phone and tether it to our computers for internet. It’s a bit of a hassle considering it’d be nice to use the wifi hotspot, but that would be another $20 per month.
Theresa first let me say YOU GO GIRL! Lots of women travel alone, so you won’t be the only one but many women are too afraid to travel alone, so yeah for being brave! I would join a group like NuRvers and/or fulltime families. There are lots of great people to meet up with along the way so you will feel a part of a community and it gives you a broad group of people to reach out to if you are having any issues or questions.
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.
14. Make a commitment to eating healthy. It can be all too easy to just stop in at the nearest fast food restaurant and grab something to go, but that certainly isn’t the healthiest option. You will need a well-rounded diet more on the road than anywhere else, so it would be best to make a plan for such a diet. There are many places where finding fresh fruits and veggies isn’t easy, so stock up when and where you can. Use stay-fresh bags to store these items in and learn to can these items as well for longer storage possibilities.