It’s been over three years and I still love living in an RV with my five kids. I realize living in an RV and traveling with kids is not on most people’s bucket list and for good reason.  It’s challenging and requires a great deal of perspective.  Most days I do have to stop and remind myself why this is a conscious choice made with intention.  There are many reasons I love this lifestyle, but here are seven of the reasons I wake up excited to be living in an RV and traveling the world with my kids.
Great article to read as we are well into our first Canadian winter in our 1991 21ft Toyota Winnebago- “ourmoonwarrior”. Many helpful hints we can use! Unfortunately the costs associated with propane heaters are too expensive for us and the electric heaters are not an option as we rarely have power hookup. We installed a small wood burning stove with a chimney out the roof to keep warm in the recent -40(Celsius) temperatures!
Thank goodness you have the finances and securities to afford the RV lifestyle you two are able to enjoy. You do not need to apologize for that. You guys do a good job of keeping the RV community informed. 2015 is my year for transitioning to a RV lifestyle. Gathering all the information I can to aid in my search and the transition itself. Looking at a nice used 33 ft. Class C that I can support with my SS check and small retirement income.
We have a family HSA Bronze plan that we purchase through the Healthcare Marketplace, with a ridiculously high $13,800 deductible (but includes some preventative stuff and provider co-pays) with an included network that is fairly nationwide. For 2018 we’re sticking with our ‘on exchange’ Florida based EPO plan with BlueCross BlueShield that give us national access to their BlueSelect network. We don’t claim any subsidies, but being on exchange keeps the option open to claim them at the end of the year if we qualify (our income varies).
I am hoping you can answer some questions for us with what we will need. I have already started a budget based on your article and answers to questions above. Our goal is to raise the funds through private, like-minded products/corporate sponsorship. What we would love is some advice about where to start with purchasing an RV. We need some way – even if it is a small motorbike to get around once with visit each town. Also – we are open to a trailer and truck combo…just not sure what you’d recommend. We are leaning towards a decent looking RV (if we can raise the funds) so there is a level of professionalism with the tour and because we would like to make that our home after the tour is over to continue our teaching on the road. If we don’t raise too much, we may need other options.
So I might know where I am supposed to go but getting there is always interesting – what lane turns right, can I do a U-turn here, I see where I want to go but how the heck do I get in there and where is parking? We eventually find everywhere but it isn’t always easy. Then there is the fun of grocery shopping in a new grocery store every week . . .
We try to find parks that are around $30 a night. We use our Passport AmericaPassport America discount as often as possible, which saved us around $700 during our first 6 months of RVing! We don’t boondock as often as we’d like, mainly because we didn’t consider this when purchasing our first RV. The fifth wheel we bought didn’t have very large holding tanks, which limited us in how many days we could dry camp. If you are shopping for an RV, be sure to read these tips first to avoid making similar mistakes we did.
This figure is an average of all our truck and trailer maintenance costs from 2007 to 2014 rather than being just the expenses we incurred over our six months of summer travels in 2014. We did not use the trailer when we lived on our sailboat, although we did use our truck when our boat was in San Diego and Ensenada at the beginning and end of our cruise, and all that is factored into this average.
Hi! I’m fairly new at this RV living thing and I’m curious about the $153 per month average cost for RV/camping fees you note. I understand that summer is less expensive than winter, for the most part, but a minimum of $20 per night for a week in a National Park, that $153 would come up awfully fast. And full hookups at an RV park I’m seeing anywhere from $20 to $90 (yeh, $90, Candlestick Park in S.F., CA!!! And no, not worth it). Are you boondocking most of the time?

The point at which you decide to live debt-free is going to be different than the next person’s. I am 27 and post-foreclosure. Perhaps you are 17, 32, 54, or 68. Maybe you’ve always rented an apartment, or you own two houses outright. It doesn’t really matter when you start as long as you make that decision and begin taking steps to live it out. And you know what? You can do it. You can live debt-free.


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.
Gradually, things started to clear out again and our mindset continued to shift. Then came the big day! An offer on the house – things just got real! We ended up having a huge rummage sale at my sister’s house since she was located on a busy street. We didn’t price anything but instead told people to make an offer on what they wanted. This was WAY easier. And we made an agreement that nothing would come home with us. We sold a lot and everything else was donated.
In the summertime, the opposite is true as we try to avoid having our windows facing the sun. Our best orientation in the summertime is for the truck to be headed northwest. This way, although we get blasted with some sun in the morning, our biggest windows are blissfully shaded during the long hours of blazing hot sun as it shines from the south and sets in the northwest.
We use a mail forwarding service (Alternative Resources in South Dakota) to manage our mail. They keep our mail at their office until we ask them to send it to us. Most RV parks will accept mail or you can send mail as “general delivery” to a local post office and pick-up it later. The address we have in SD also serves as our address on record for the purposes of taxes, voting, car/RV registration, insurance and drivers license. When we established domicile with them we had to make sure we got to South Dakota within a certain time-frame to get our drivers licence (can only be done on-site). You can read more about establishing domicile here:
On that initial six-month trip, the Nealys drove from Florida to Oregon. The couple expected their three dogs to stretch out in the RV and sleep, but the dogs instead chose to stay up front, taking in the changing landscape alongside Jennifer and Deas. The five of them traveled through 11 states, only really lingering along the Oregon coast, where they fell in love with the surprisingly sunny summer weather and crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Maybe wintering out west or in southern Texas would allow us to save some money…but when we researched back in 2014 or 2015 an equivalent park in Mission Valley would only have saved us 100 bucks a month or so over what we’re paying here in Fort Myers. Fortunately…we’re well enough off so that budget isn’t our primary concern at this point…not because we’re brilliant investors but because we started saving 40 years ago…both always worked but lived on one salary and invested the rest…and because I invested my Navy retirement when it started in 1991 and my wife worked for a doctor’s professional organization with very good benefits. Mostly though…it was a case of living below what our salaries would have suggested and long term investing…compound interest is your friend.
Good post Nina…but I’m a little skeptical about 3500 being a reasonable budget unless you either boondock/workamp a lot…or don’t go out much. I won’t say money is no object for Connie and I…but we’re plenty comfortable due to long term investing when we were younger…my guess based on talking to folks in general for the past 5 years is that we’re probably better off financially than 80% of the full timers we run into…not to brag about it but just giving you a little flavor for this post. We’ve averaged 30.46 a night since summer of 12 for about 925 a month in parking…plus another 80-100 a month from Nov to April for power at our winter site. From actual 2016 expenses…add in DirectTV, phone data plan, and MiFi data plan and that’s another 500 a month or so. 450 a month for groceries, 345 for eating out, 120 for brews at the Elks, 275 for diesel fuel (we do about 10K miles a year on our truck)…that’s already up to 2700 a month not including medical insurance and bills, misc other stuff, and any repairs on rig or truck or vehicle expenses. While we could economize on some of those…our average for 2016 was about 6700 a month (that doesn’t include our truck payment which comes directly out of our investments and is our only expenditure from investments currently). We could economize of course…eating out and too many brews at the Elks could somewhat go away if needed and we could get that probably down to 300 instead of 500 without feeling too deprived. Like you said…what you spend depends on you…and how much you got but we at least would feel pretty cramped by a 3500 a month budget.
I paid cash on a used F250 and will do the same with the trailer, as well as making some changes upfront that you and Mark recently discovered made vast improvements in driving your rig. While my plan is to boondock more often than not (friends are already beckoning me to their driveways across the country!), there is the matter of being a tech nomad. However, I’ve been living in the country with a Virgin USB stick (and a looped slice of aluminum soda can attached w electrical tape as an additional antenna) about ten miles from the nearest tower for the last few years, so more of the same there. The main budget changes I’ll notice are the absence of an electric bill and addition of laundromats.
No matter which way you decide to go, make sure you cover and insulate any exposed piping coming from the water supply and the spigot!  If your water connection to the RV is on the exterior of the wall (not inside a bay/basement) you will also need to cover and insulate that connection very well.  If you do have a wet bay you should consider placing a space heater in the bay just in case temps get low enough to freeze and burst the connection.
Wow! and Yikes!! Camping in Massachusetts will be far far different than where we’ve winter camped in the southernmost states. Our stints in snow storms in Colorado and New Mexico have never been longer than one week and we quickly moved to a much warmer place. I lived on a sailboat in Boston Harbor for four years and that was the coldest I’ve ever been. After that I promptly left New England moved to Phoenix Arizona to thaw out! Good luck to you!!
Usually we have the mail sent to a post office, addressed to us via “General Delivery.” We get the zip code for the post office online from www.usps.com. If we are in transit, we try to guess what town we might be traveling through in a few days. The post office holds all General Delivery mail for 30 days, so there is plenty of time to locate the post office and retrieve our box.
6) They’re willing to live frugally. This can NOT be stressed enough. At the ages of 25-35, full timing can either be a joy or a chore. They’ll be surrounded by old people, in perhaps less than stellar conditions, in a cramped hovel that’s difficult to either keep cool in summer or warm in winter. But… they can move with the weather. And frugal living helps them afford to do that.
Unlike Maintenance & Repair costs which must be done (although some can be put off until you have the funds to do them), upgrades to the rig are entirely optional. The figure here is the average of all our improvement and upgrade costs on our truck and trailer since we bought them rather than just the upgrade costs we incurred during our six months of summer travel in 2014.

I am the author of two RV books, one of which is published by Woodalls and hundreds of RV articles. My husband and I have been fulltiming for ten years. I have to say that this is the best article that I have EVER read on full-timing. We have come to the same conclusions that you have…even after 10 years. Great job! I will be sharing with my group of 5000+ Rvers.


Love reading this! We do not live in an RV but we do live in an 800 sq ft 1969 Model mobile home at this time. It’s hard for a family of 6 space wise but we have made it work for the last almost 4 years. We will however be moving next week into a 2700 sq ft home that is definitely a fixer upper so the price we got it for is just amazing. Good things come to those who wait! Good Luck to you in your Journey!
There were also build sheets, diagrams for each fuse box and information on roadside assistance. We referenced all the information many times throughout our first year of RV living. When a fuse goes out at 1a.m., you’ll want to know which fuse box to check. Our first RV had four fuse/breaker boxes and two of them were outside. When it’s pouring rain outside, it’s not fun to run around wondering which breaker box to check.
Having a wood stove allows you to heat and cook without propane, oil, or electricity, which means you truly have an off-grid setup. A wood stove will keep you warm, the wood heat will dry the air out in the RV, which will help get rid of condensation from breathing and cooking. There are not many wood stoves out there that will work in an RV. I personally chose a Kimberly wood stove, because it only weighs 56 lbs and it’s extremely efficient. There are a few other companies out there (such as Marine wood stoves, which are a little cheaper, but you get what you pay for).
“Variable costs” are lifestyle expenses that are essentially optional — at least for a while. They can be deferred to a later month, foregone all together, or can make a fun splash in the current month. The great thing about these expenses is that they are controllable. If fuel costs skyrocket or you are short on funds, then stay put and save money! If you’ve got a more modest budget, consider staying in each location for a month or a full season to take advantage of the monthly or seasonal rates at RV parks. If you really want to skimp, boondock or at least stay in the dry camping sites at any RV park or campground that will allow it and has them available.
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.
We will be retiring in about 18 mos and my husband has decided he wants us to go full time! Yikes I don’t know what I’ll do all day. We bike, kayak and hike but every day? Will it still be as fun when you can do it all you want? Mainly, I think I’m apprehensive about retiring, I’ve been a nurse 40 years this month and love it, I’ve worked some job or another since I was 16.
17. Ditch the electronics and have some old fashioned fun. Teach your kids how to play various card games and board games, or learn a new one for yourself. There are a great deal of hobbies, as well, that do not require electronic gadgets including cross stitch, crocheting, drawing, photography, jewelry making, wood carving and many more. There are also hobbies that can be taken advantage of at the campsites as well including bird watching and identifying plants, trees and insects.
What about carseats? You have young children. Did you tow a vehicle for smaller driving around. My kids r same ages and we are seriously considering doing this. For all the same reasons. I have always considered homeschooling, so that’s not a giant leap. We just started to look I to RVs and 5th wheels. We already have a full sized pick-up our three kids fit in so we wouldn’t need another vehicle. But I’m worried a out the safety of driving a class A without child restraints and wasting valuable schooling time by having then in carseats while driving. How did you make this decision?
On May 15th, we are embarking on a 30-city US tour to Raise The Vibration of America. Spending one week in each city/town, we will work with local communities, teaching workshops on how to heal inner and outer divisiveness. To share our journey with the world, a weekly episode will be released on our YouTube channel Raise The Vibration!, documenting the vibrational pulse of each stop along our tour.
My credentials? I’ve taught winter camping and I have camped outdoors at -25F with normal (not arctic) gear. That’s a good way to learn how to deal with cold. At temperatures below zero F even the moisture in firewood can be a problem! There are solutions, of course. However, I don’t want to deal with this as a RVer. If I did, I’d simply get a basic truck camper, improve it, and then sleep outdoors with a good fire.
Heated Water Hose – You can make your own with heat tape and pipe insulation and this works pretty well, although on occasion we have seen people in the bathrooms warming up their frozen hoses during extreme cold snaps.  I’d recommend just purchasing a good heated water hose.  Camco has one on the market but it looks kinda cheap, from the heated hoses I’ve seen in person I’d recommend the Pirit Heated Hose as the construction and the warranty seem top notch.

Cheap Heat Options – We’ve seen 2 options that seem to work well for heating the RV inexpensively in the winter (when you’re staying at an RV park for a month or more you will often have to pay for electricity, so space heaters might end up costing you some extra money each month in electricity bills). Of course you have to calculate the expense of the product and the install costs:


The biggest difference in costs between living in an RV full-time and living in your own stick-built house is that the RV will depreciate very quickly while the house will appreciate over time. The recent real estate collapse notwithstanding, housing prices always increase as the decades go by. In contrast, RVs, cars and trucks quietly make their way to a value of $0 and eventually breathe their last breath in the crushing facility.
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.
Emily, you have done an absolutely fabulous job of compiling tons of useful information and we avidly read your blog and go back over things as we prep to hit the road full-time. We love the way you think, your personality and just everything we read. You have been so kindly open with your budgets etc but there are two things we are just curious about being of similar ages and not able to get pensions or SS at this stage in our lives.
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 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 🙂
loved seeing your post, I am a homeschooling widow mother of a 10 years old girl and would love to get on the road in an RV, I did have a truck and travel trailer but could not go very far, I just do not feel safe traveling by ourselves and would love to meet other homeschoolers and travel and explore this wonderful country together, have you met families traveling together?
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?
This is great! I don’t know if I could live in an RV that long, but I am strongly considering using one for a few months at a time once I retire from the military. It’s good to hear you are recommending the smaller RV, too. I don’t want a big one, but I’m a bit worried I would go crazy if it’s too small. I’m glad to hear that smaller turned out to be better for you.
We use St. Brendan’s Isle in Florida for our mail forwarding, and use their Mail Scan Pro service. Their address also serves as our legal address of domicile for driver’s licenses, voting, vehicle registration, business registration, taxes, etc. They collect our mail, scan the front of the envelop and notify us via e-mail that we have new mail. We can then view our envelops online and decide what to do with them – scan, send or shred.  We can request a shipment to whatever address we’re at. They’re super cool and we couldn’t be happier with the service we have received from them.
The electric blower motor in your furnace in your RV uses MOST of the electricity usage, in your RV, BY FAR. I had 4 of the biggest deep cycle batteries walmart makes in my RV, each 29 size and each 125 amp hours, so 500 amp hours. (for my truck camper) vs class A with 500 amp hours, you are woefully underpowered for dry camping, unless you want to be running your generator a lot. I have ad a honda 1000 generator, but I found i never needed to use it, and the inconvenience of dragging it out, gassing it up, chaining it up, and then packing up and storing, was not worth it. I DID however have zero guage wire from batteries to alternator in truck to recharge them that worked great. batteries lasted 2 years before needed replacing. Id reccomend the 29DC – MAXX not the regular 29DC, as maxx has 1 year warranty (used to be 2), and slightly more amp hours and better built.
Finally, we need to seal all those other places where cold air can enter our rig. Any compartments that open into the inside of the rig need to have good weather seals. Under the rig, there are many openings where water and gas lines enter the living area. These openings need to be sealed and some of that aerosol self-expanding foam is great for this. Alternately, foam rubber can be forced into gaps to help reduce air leaks. Finally, the entry door needs to be checked to make sure that it seals properly. Adding some inexpensive foam tape or weather-strip will really help seal those air leaks.
The point I made was that children are much safer when protected by seat belts. This is much easier to do when you keep them in a tow vehicle. When in an RV, there is a tendency to allow them to play in the open areas, etc., but this is extremely dangerous because if they are not safely held in place and a collision occurs, they can become flying missiles that can kill them as well as any other people they may strike. A vehicle traveling at 60 mph may stop suddenly, but anything that is "loose" within that vehicle, continues forward at that rate of speed, including children. For this reason, traveling by a pull trailer or fifth wheel that you are towing behind a car or truck is the safest way to travel with children, as long as you keep them in seat belts while you are moving.
January 2017 marks three years on the road for us. It feels like it was only yesterday that we started this journey, yet we can hardly remember our lives before. We've had many ups and few downs living an in RV, but we're quite content with our lives. Part of this may come from the transformation we've experienced since we've been traveling full-time. 
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