If you drove 12,000 miles / year, getting 7 mpg, which is pretty likely with a Class C or truck/trailer combo, I believe that would put you at around $500 / month in gas. Of course, this is the one area you have the most control over, because you can certainly drive less than that if you’d like. It all depends on how much commuting you do (drives to town for groceries, sightseeing, etc. still happen) and how far you travel each month.
Some of the most beautiful times of year to visit the country are also the coldest. From snow-frosted mountains and icy lakes, the winter turns green trees and pastures to beautiful seas of white. The unfavorable weather conditions are a deterrent for fellow vacationers during these cold times. Why let the lower temperatures be the determining factor of when you take your camper out?
We quickly learned that we didn’t like that he had to be at the table working all day while the kids and I were out exploring all of these amazing places! Plus, having to go back to Wisconsin was expensive and limiting how far we could travel. California is quite a drive from Wisconsin, especially if you want to go back and forth. The cost of him flying back alone would add up, not to mention I just did not want him leaving us for a week.
I think RV living would be awesome but I’m not sure if we could do it full time (or that my wife would want to) but I could see us trying an extended trip someday. I couldn’t imagine it with 3 kids though – our 1 daughter keeps us busy enough 🙂 I’m glad to hear that shifting to RV living full time has been a good experience and that your online work seems to be going well! Enjoy the experience!
RV living isn't a new fad—Americans have done so since around the advent of automobiles—but it’s typically thought of as the ultimate reward for the retiree wanting to satisfy a lifetime of wanderlust after spending decades working indoors, pushing papers at a desk job. What's novel about the recent surge of RV owners—the industry reported more than 9 million Americans owned an RV in 2017, the highest number on record—is that many of the newcomers are still in their prime earning years and view living in an RV as a welcome, sustainable way to spend their 20s and 30s rather than as something to fill their golden years. "The decision to start RVing was very much us deciding we didn’t want to settle in one place," said Alyssa Padgett, who, along with her husband Heath, has been a full-time RV living since 2014. "We wanted to do something more with our lives—to see the world and do work that we loved. Neither of those would happen if we stayed working in cubicles in Texas."
HI Timmy! Great blog! Loved it! My husband and I are 63 years old. We have done it all! Lived in a tiny travel trailer (10 x 7 foot inside measurements) 13 feet long (including the hitch and the bumper). It was the ’70’s and we had two children, and one on the way. We had already owned a 4 bdrm., two bath home when we were 20, and the only way my husband could get me to move from the security of being near my family in Tucson, Az., and live this way was to move to the Santa Cruz Mountains. He agreed!! The trailer was a choice we made to live the lifestyle we chose to live! What a joy it was! We lived in an old resort spot in the Redwood forest in Northern California, with others our age living the same way in small rvs, trailers and school buses, I think everyone there was a musician. 🙂 Our next step was buying a HUGE 35 ft. travel trailer with a ‘tip out’. It truly did seem huge to us. Even had a home birth (our 3rd child) in that little travel trailer. My sister and niece came and lived with us for awhile also. We fit! My husband customized the back bedroom with tiny little ‘dwarf’ sized bunkbeds for our babies. They even had tiny little headboard bookcases for their cherished books. The baby slept in a Moses basket until she was able to move into her tiny little portable bed. It was the most precious time of our lives. We lived outdoors so much, showered at the ‘club’ showers, even used the toilets there when we were in the tiny trailer. (we also had to buy ice for our ice box every 3 days…no fridge!) 🙂 Would I do it all again? Yes…in a HEARTBEAT!! We have taken early retirement for the rest of our lives (after our tiny trailer days)…raising our 6 children..running our own business for 30 plus years, getting our kids through college, weddings for 4 daughters, and guess what? We are now living in a 29 foot travel trailer (with a 14 ft. slide out). We have our raised bed gardens growing strong, our hydroponics doing beautifully! Our lives are simple…but so joyful again!! Not much money…no debt…but joy!! We have moved to the Mountains again as well. I just wanted to tell you that I’m SO proud of the two of you…living your heart!! No regrets! …no regrets!! Enjoy your life to the max! Being our age, it was a little hard for our kids to grasp the fact that this is what we WANT to do….but they are coming around! 🙂 So happy for you!! Love your story! That’s what life should be all about…being happy…and creating the story we want to share with others! So happy that we have lived the ‘crazy’ simple life we CHOSE to live, and still choose to live!! So happy you are as well!!
I first heard about your guys from Heath’s podcast. This was an awesome and inspiring post. We’re a family of three (plus a dog and cat) planning to do the same thing. It is so encouraging to hear from full-timing families that have made it work, while overcoming some of the stigmas and challenges that come with this decision. Thanks again for sharing your story.
Variable expenses are the ones that fluctuate from month to money and in RVLife you actually have a LOT of control over these expenses. As you’ll see in our Lodging/Camping expenses category, we have been able to significantly decrease this expense over the years by getting better at free boondocking and utilizing RV Clubs like Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, and Thousand Trails. However, if you decide to park in an RV Resort in downtown San Diego for example, it could cost you upwards of $1000 per month.
Depending on your RV's design, you may need to take extra steps to protect your fresh water and holding tanks from freezing. In milder climates, where the temperature routinely rises above freezing during the day, you can usually get by with draining your fresh tank and simply keeping both the gray and black tank valves closed until you need to dump them. If it gets down into the single digits at night and rarely rises above freezing during the day, then you will almost have to insulate and/or heat your tanks or use significant amounts of RV antifreeze in them to keep things flowing…. If you are parked for a while, tank insulation for exposed holding tanks can be fabricated from fiberglass insulation and light plywood… just build a small lightweight box around the tank and line it with fiberglass. A small electric light bulb can be used to provide a safe source of heat.
We got through that next round, and things were starting to clear out. At this time we hadn’t sold our house yet, so the pressure wasn’t on. We didn’t have a leave date in sight, so we were taking our time and letting our mind-set shift. In comes Christmas . . . I always went crazy at Christmas and bought the kids so many gifts. Even though I knew they’d only play with a few presents and the rest would be quickly forgotten.
We love the power of our Diesel engine. It can go anywhere and drive any mountain. So, that portion I would probably try and keep. But size-wise I wish we’d gone a tad smaller…closer to 30 or even 35 feet. It can be tough finding accessible sites with “the beast”, and a smaller size would sure make that easier. We love our slides and would definitely buy with slides again (it makes the interior so much roomier) and our layout is good, plus I can’t deny the tanks in this rig are nice and big. There’s just the size thing 🙂
Although some people cover their windows with Reflectix, I have to have light in winter, so last year we covered our windows with a combination of bubble wrap and shrink plastic, and this year I made storm windows out of plexiglass and removable Velcro covers for the screens from clear vinyl. I wrote a separate blog post about my experiences with various cold weather window protection methods; you can read it here.
Life as a suburbanite isn’t all bad. Like most of life, it’s a matter of perspective and attitude. I’m slowly incorporating things that I used to enjoy about being in one place like going to libraries and getting in my favorite cashier’s line at the grocery store. <== I’m obviously the life of the paaartay. Simple things that I didn’t realize I missed. I’m an introvert and homebody so it’s hard for me to get out and meet people but it’s happening. Slowly.
Ditch anything you can live without while you’re on your trip to keep the weight of the vehicle down. The heavier your load is, the more your gas mileage will suffer. Aside from leaving some of your favorite things at home, you can also consider emptying the majority of your freshwater supply and then filling up when you get to your campsite to further lighten your RV weight. This is a simple way to maintain or increase your gas mileage as you’re cruisin’ on down the road.
I would have to say we love the idea of someone living and getting of the grid per say. We have a few hurdles though we are major preppers so we worry about storing our stockpile and we have kids and pets. The kids are teenagers so it would be easier to get them out on their own before downsizing. Our pets though are family how well will that work we wonder and what about weather. We live in Indiana south of the lakes so our weather is unpredictable and sometimes very severe blizzards, tornados, ice storms and hail. We wonder about durability and temp control during super hot humid and super sub zero. Has anyone else confronted these things? We have 5 years to prep and have 2 year stockpile for 6 people is it realistic and feasable for us to accomplish?
Living in an RV has helped bring Alyssa and me closer together in our first couple years of marriage. We’ve seen more of America than either of us could have imagined we would (and still have a lot to see!). Because we are self-employed, we’ve been able to pick up and go when new opportunities come our way. Not to mention, in the past few years of travel we’ve also been able to pay off all $27k of my student debt.
Within the first few weeks of owning it I blew a tire and had to replace all 6 ($1000). The next month, the catalytic converter needed to be replaced ($750), the original kitchen faucet snapped off and had to be replaced (I did it myself for $65, but it took all day because of a broken gasket in the water line I had a hard time finding at the hardware store), the house battery had to be replaced – twice! ($290) and I’ve had to replace a fuse for my radio and odometer several times (and now it’s shorting out to the point of danger, so it has to be fixed…. soon!)
Brrr!! It does sound like fun, though. Reminds me of the four winters I spent on a 36′ sailboat in Boston Harbor years ago. In November the dish detergent would solidify. We knew it was spring when it liquefied again until April! Every morning the edges of our sheets would be frozen to the hull because the condensation had iced up and we’d have to peel them away from the hull! Crazy but fun memories!!
As a blogger and online content creator (my main blog is BabyRabies.com, a pregnancy and parenting site), a book author and photographer, I am able to work full-time from the road. My husband left his job and manages most of the road-schooling and the other moving pieces of, well, moving. It’s nearly a full-time job just booking sites and planning our route!
We are both foodies and people watchers and in our first month we were doing lunch and dinner in nice restaurants and a Starbucks to use he wifi almost every day. We went over our food budget by $2500.00!! the first two months…. Now we have found that we can go to “coffee shops”. Have a lite snack without liquor or expensive beverages and then go home and share a great bottle of wine over a wonderful campfire dinner. Third month is under budget! So I would have to say food and drink was our biggest expense surprise.
Have a “fun fund” for those spur of the moment adventures. If you decide that today is the day you want to go for that hot air ballon ride, do it! Having money set aside for these experiences will make that transition to RV living more enjoyable and fun. We always seek out free and cheap things to do in our travels, but there are some experiences that are worth the splurge.
For electrical power I also will be going with the solar panels (only a few more) but will use a bank of 6 volt batteries and a 3000 Watt inverter, which gives many hours of power and used only when necessary you have a few days of power. I also have a gas Kubota generator for emergencies and a small rechargeable battery booster unit for emergencies. Have used it and it works great.
I’ve been trying to feel grateful for the life we had and I do. I feel extremely grateful but when I only focus on being grateful and try to bury all of the other emotions, I feel bad. I feel angry at myself for feeling any other emotion other that gratitude. Then I feel disconnected from the people around me because “they don’t get it”. And mostly I feel guilt. Guilt for feeling angry and disconnected and for basically feeling anything else other than gratitude. So then I try harder to feel grateful and the cycle would continue.
Connectivity is a big topic for full time travel, and we’ve managed to keep ours down. We used cheap pre-paid cell phone plans and use older phones. We are on cheap 15GB/month Total Wireless from Walmart for our phones and were able to get our hands on a AT&T Mobley this past summer (now unavailable) that keeps our internet cost down. Total we spend less than $100/month on this category.
[…] The down-time is also giving us some space to plan our next steps. In the last big storm we discovered yet another leak in…guess what?…our”big” slide on the front drivers side of the rig. This same slide, and the woes of getting it fixed was the very reason we rushed ~1000 miles cross-country to Oregon almost 3 years ago. Back then the main problem was in the back of the slide near the fridge. Now, the front has moved out of alignment with the front edge dangerously close to catching under the rim of the RV. Simply put it’s just a poorly engineered design and we should never have bought a rig with a heavy object like the fridge in it (one of our “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Fulltime RVing“). […]
Full-timing can be done in many different ways, and whether or not a young couple needs a big nest egg depends entirely on how much money they can earn on the road. Someone with a mobile, high paying profession, like contract nursing, doesn’t need a big nest egg. Someone that will be relying on work camping at campgrounds and RV parks may want more in the bank to handle emergencies that will require more money than their salary can provide.
I grew up in a travel trailer for many years. And now my husband and I are going to do it with our three kids. We looked into it financially and found out, it was a very good option the storage unit, truck, trailer and our land payment would add up to be less than the rent we pay. So when we build, the house will not be such a financial burden, if any. Your post has helped me believe it will end up being the best option even with all the kids.
We wanted to travel across America and we calculated that buying an RV would be the quickest route for us to go and visit all 50 states. We had no idea that we would live in an RV longterm, share the lifestyle with other people, or that I would spend so much time writing about living in an RV. The rest happened because we truly fell in love with the lifestyle.
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:
Hello again! Enjoyed reading your helpful post and the comment about not having health insurance. That is one of the big items that the hubby and I are debating about right now as we prepare for full-timing next August! We are both pre-Medicare age by several years, and have no ongoing insurance provided by our current employers upon retirement. We are debating about having a “catastrophic” policy and dealing with general health care needs on a cash basis. Out of curiosity, how do you prepare yourselves for the potential of a catastrophic need – such as a big medical issue, or an accident? (heaven forbid either of these happen to either of you!) thanks for your insight!
We are a very young family, basically just at the point of settling down. We met travelling in South America, made a baby and that’s where it all began 🙂 the more we’re figuring out details about settling down, the more we really don’t want that lifestyle. So we might as well just keep travelling, and seeing your stories is so supporting because it seems possible and safe and feasible an fun and fine…
In Texas, Escapees has the largest mail forwarding service in the country. They receive a semi tractor-trailer load of mail everyday. We saw this truck come in everyday while visiting the main Escapees Headquarters campus in Livingston, Texas, and we toured their mail sorting facility. We were absolutely floored by the operation (our blog post about it is here: Rainbow’s End – Escapees RV Club Headquarters in Livingston Texas. Another Texas mail forwarding service is Texas Home Base.
For my kids, having friends that dont change with the scenery and being involved in extracurricular activities is something that I consider essential to their development. Is it possible to live and travel in an RV full time and still give your kids the social experiences and social stability they’d have if they were living full time in one community?
I came into life unexpectedly during my parent’s plans to fulltime in their 40’s. They elected to proceed with their aspirations with the condition of how I would adapt. In 1978, everything was sold and we left Missouri to “go west young man”. Over the next 10 years, we vastly traveled while Dad built banks. Every weekend was an adventure scoping out the gems the area(s) had to offer. Mom enrolled me in school at each location providing me social skills I would’ve not learned if home schooled. Almost in high school, they decided to retire and stabilize my education. Wow! What a culture shock! My most impressional years were spent in a 40′ fifth wheel, and then it all stopped.
We have camped at Tiger Run also and the temps got down to -9 F. We got the extended propane tank rented from the campground. We had all the issues and made a cardboard skirt and put a ceramic space heater underneath. That worked, though we left our sewer hooked up and only drained once a week and used the built in facilities during the day. We wrapped the exterior drain pipes with heat tape and insulation. We added hot water to the grey and black water tanks before flushing. Didn’t have a problem. Also made the heated water supply hose with heat tape and insulation. That never froze either. This year we are going back (in 2 weeks! YAY!) and are having a custom skirt made. Combined with the ceramic heater underneath, this should keep the whole thing warmer as well as stop any freezing of the water bay and plumbing. There is one weak link in our trailer, the water lines run through a cabinet, then back out behind the toilet, then under the bath tub, and then into another cabinet where the pump is. This froze twice. I rerouted one of the heater vents to heat the first cabinet by removing the vent exit and setting the vent tube to blow half of it’s air into the cabinet. Ugly but effective in an emergency. This year we are going to try running an LED rope light along that pipe run. This will double as a night light. They use very little power, and don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs. Allegedly, the skirt and ceramic heater should fix everything but you never know! We’ll follow up as things progress. We agree that winter camping allows us to enjoy snowboarding and skiing places like Breckenridge Aspen, and Jackson Hole and actually afford it! And of course you can bring your doggie or kitty too.
Drive slower and shed some weight! When we increased the speed on our cruise control from around 62 to 70 mph, we noticed a decrease from 7 to 6.5 MPG. Since we do a lot of dry camping we always top off our fresh water tank (75 gallons) whenever we can. This means that we typically drive long distances with an extra couple hundred pounds of water. Shedding the extra weight increased our MPG.
I’m widowed a while now and planning on moving from south to northwest. I plan to purchase a good size camper. The two main reasons 1)I will be hooked up at my son’s property and my home is becoming nightmares ‘re:repairs and general up keep. I’m 64 and should I find a special someone, my son & wife wish to purchase my rig. Thanks to all for the tips and welcome any advice. Have you or know someone who has done this? It’s me and pup, any suggestions on camper must haves, things to look for and size etc?
Tolls – Toll roads are becoming very commonplace in the US. In many areas, like around Orlando, it is difficult to go anywhere without using toll roads. Plan ahead and try to determine if there are ways to minimize costs and simplify payments. For example, on the northeast coast, you can purchase an EZ pass for tolls at grocery stores. The same applies for the SunPass in Florida.
The beauty of an RV Extended Warranty is that it picks up where a regular insurance policy leaves off. Our entire trailer is covered for all failures other than regular wear and tear. This includes having the frame crack or slides fail to come in and out or the suspension give up the ghost (it did) or having the air conditioner or refrigerator die (which it did too).
You could use LED’s from amazon or ebay, but I have used 12 volt led STRIPS that I wire right into my 12v light sockets. I sometimes uses a 50 watt 12 volt windshield heater to keeps my hands from freezing. I have used black tar on my roof and COMPLETELY stopped the leaking,don’t know why folks are having more leaking problems after that..probably doing it wrong. If you have to snake a 120 volt cord outside your RV to run a window a/c or heater..cut the cord as short as possible. It draws less. Buy brand new breakers, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be in the middle of a meal and have flip the breaker every 5 seconds because it’s 120 degrees outside and I just want a cool 98 inside the RV. It sounds trashy, but I bought a roll of that textured windshield sun-blocker and cut it to fit my windows,thereby blocking a crap-ton of sunlight and heat from entering my poor RV. I use bricks and the outriggers to further stabilize the trailer,because outriggers alone will NOT make all RVs stable. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR ANODE AND HEATING ELEMENT HOLY CRAP! it sucks when you jump in the shower and out comes liquid ice. yeah we all have propane…but propane is for cooking…and maybe the furnace once in a while. If you have to live in an RV, don’t be afraid to REMOVE furniture from it! I removed a pullout couch, kitchen table and the useless cabinets inside my bedroom(don’t know what they were thinking with that curved wall and I was always hitting my head on the cabinets). I removed the stock microwave and put a toaster oven in there. Let me tell you, you can cook damn near anything in that oven. Microwaves suck…especially when you have limited amps available, but you can stick that oven on 180 and cook a damn pizza all the way in about 10 minutes. ALWAYS defrost your fridge and freezer once a month! I actually have a small dorm fridge tucked into a corner that has come in quite handy.
Winterize your pipes, water heater, and water pump. Drain your fresh water and waste water tanks and kiss them goodbye for the winter. Believe me, it’s not worth trying to keep them flowing. Pipes will crack, tanks will break, and you will have a very expensive and time-consuming problem when spring rolls around. Trust me, heat pads and heat tape are not going to cut it, so don’t even try (they take way too much electricity to keep things thawed, so they are useless in off-grid or low-electricity situations).
When you live full-time in an RV, you don’t just go to the RV resorts and the big towns, but find yourself in random locations around the country you probably never would have visited on a family trip. I like this as an individual, but also think it has been great to expose our kids to so many different ways that people live around our own country.
This 35-45 year old solo RVer travels by them self in a 2017 travel trailer and typically stays at RV parks and campgrounds, rather than dry camping (boondocking) for free. This solo RVer travels often and is hittin’ the road every few days. The activities this RVer enjoys is outdoor activities, as well as checking out local restaurants, bars, and cafes while exploring new cities.
Allison, the Thousand Trails resorts have been mostly great campgrounds. We have really only visited one that we would never want to go back to. The amenities were nice but the rest of the campground was a bit rough. There is a TT in between Savannah and Charleston that was great and we also really liked the parks in PA. I will get it together soon and write some reviews.
Since our business is cutting edge technology, this is pretty essential stuff to our livelyhood and keeping up to date is what allows us to be mobile. We upgrade our tech early and often. Our computers are rarely more than 3 years old and we usually have the latest iGadgets released (we are app developers and need to test on the latest and greatest after all).
Our initial budget estimate was somewhere between $2500 and $2800 per month. We are very happy that we’ve been able to make this lifestyle work at much less, around $2000 per month (not including health costs, business expenses, and paying taxes). We continue to look for ways that we can reduce our overall monthly costs, and are still very frugal about what we buy and when.
We create a monthly budget. While many expenses are not monthly in nature (registration, insurance, maintenance, etc.), we choose to break them up into monthly line items for our budget, and put that amount into savings each month. This ensures we don’t come up short when the expense is due. For example, our RV and truck insurance is due twice a year. We divide the amount into six and that is what we put into savings each month.
I have a detailed post on How to Prepare the Monaco Vesta for Winter if you’d like to read it over. Basically it’s the same as the Damon Avanti which I’ve addressed in the previous toggle except the RV Electric/Propane fridge in the Vesta has an Ice Maker. So in extreme temps I had to drain the ice line filter and turn off the water. In addition I used a small space heater in the vent area for extremely cold nights so the pipes wouldn’t burst.
I ran across your post during my search for RV cost of living. I just recently semi-retired at 48 and was wondering what this lifestyle would cost. I’m always amused (read frustrated) by how many readers make critical comments about other people’s decisions on how to spend their money. “You pay $1100 for space rent? I boondock in a slaughter house parking lot with a view of a brick wall for free!” or “You spend money on fancy craft beer? I only drink grain alcohol mixed with Capri Sun, or I’ve sober since 1989, you need to meet Bill W.” Myself, I want freedom that’s why I chose to change my lifestyle. That said, I like being near a beach. I like “resort” style living with a pool and a jacuzzi. I love eating in great restaurants. I appreciate you breaking this down in a realistic way, its given me some food for thought.
Again, we're not stuck to a vacation timeline. We are not on vacation, this is our life. So instead of pulling in for a week and cramming our days full of sightseeing, we balance our days with work and play. We choose what we would like to see, but don't feel compelled to "get our money's worth." We may stay a few days or a few weeks depending on what we want to explore in the area. During this time, we're carrying on a normal life similar to a resident by shopping at local stores, eating at local restaurants, and participating in daily life. I cannot say we are true citizens by any stretch, but it does give us a better sense of place than a vacation usually does.