Health insurance costs are totally individual, and the coverage for everyone is evolving. We do not have health insurance. Other younger full-time RVers have posted some terrific articles about health insurance and the impact on one’s choice of domicile state. Check out the excellent posts by Wheeling It and Interstellar Orchard. They both reference insurance agent Kyle Henson of RVer Health Insurance who is quickly becoming the go-to agent for all RVers’ health insurance needs.
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.
Why we recommend the Coachmen Chaparral fifth wheel: There are few fifth wheels which can offer the level of flexibility within 11 floorplans as the Coachmen Chaparral can. If tow weight is an issue for you due to fifth wheels being on the heavier side, the Chaparral 298RLS has got you covered. This RV weighs 9575 pounds (dry weight) which is actually quite impressive. Of course, if weight isn’t an issue and you’re having a lot of people living in the same RV, the Chaparral 371MBRB spans 41 feet and can house 11 people in it. Like we said, flexibility!
Propane Heater – This device sips propane compared to the furnace installed on your RV, yet it keeps the inside even warmer. Best part is this heater doesn’t use electricity like a space heater but it heats just as well. The downsides: There is no anti-tip shutoff so it’s not good if you have pets. The install can be simple but should be completed by a professional. The propane is un-vented and therefore produces deadly Carbon Monoxide so you must keep a vent open at all times and constantly check your CO detector to make sure it is functioning properly. Also as discussed propane heat produces humidity. Our friends the RV Geeks use this propane furnace and swear by it in their Winter RVing post
Starting for Q2 we are sharing less info that has to do with our website expenses and trying to keep our detailed expenses very broad so it shows ONLY the travel & exploration part of our RV lifestyle. If you want more details read our older expense postings in this article. Remember you can live for a lot less than us or you can spend triple what we do, either way this is how we live and some people find this info helpful. Wanna know how we live? Check out some of our adventures and foodie reviews…we like to say we’re into affordable luxury.
This item is here because it is a regular part of the boondocking lifestyle (you’ve gotta go every two to three weeks at a minimum). Many RV dump stations are free, but if you have to go to an RV park to dump the tanks because there aren’t any free ones nearby, it will generally cost anywhere from $5 to $15. Our RV dump station page has other tips and tricks related to managing the holding tanks.
$1,277 Hawaii Trip – We flew to HI for a friends wedding, it’s amazing how expensive 1 week of travel outside the RV can be. Our friends paid for several dinners, entertainment, and our hotel room yet we still ended up spending this much! This amount includes Cat Hotel ($252), Food, Drink, Pedicure Spa day, and groceries. This price doesn’t even include our airfare! It’s nice to get out of the RV for a few days but the expense is hard to chew.$500 Stuff and Things – I’m sure I’ve missed a few things we’ve paid cash for like laundry, parking meters, tips, farmers markets, etc. so I’ve added this buffer.
As for winterizing. I’m not sure I completely understand the question. If you’re asking if you can RV in the snow/winter it’s certainly possible. Most RV’s don’t really have the proper insulation so you’ve got to prepare for the weather by using skirting, covering windows, using heat-tape on your pipes etc. I prefer to RV where the weather is mild, but if you’re dead-set on winter stuff I’d recommend asking questions on the RV forums. In general, the forums are a great place to learn about new things and “meet” other RVers. I have a post about forums here:
Hi-just wanted to update here for some real experience and family life. First, THANK YOU MERISSA for your invaluable advice on the choice of camper. We chose a 29′ fifth wheel-1990 model. We have a 14 and 17 year old with us. We have been here for over a month now in our camper and couldnt be happier. We camped for months on end before so the teens were used to it but I can safely say my 17 year old was not too thrilled at first. Over the past weeks however, we have actually gotten him to say that he has adjusted and is really happy here. We are in Fl so the days are perfect really while the nights are still fairly cool. We have used our heat occasionaly but prefer to bundle with blankets if we need to. Downsizing was a little difficult for a few items but actually all of us did fine. There is also plenty of storage room in this camper. The kids, whom lived in theirs rooms on x box or with cable, or both, are now together without problems most of the day and much, much less fighting (mostly about items they had anyhow….). My daughter has been home schooled so this is no change while my son has been enrolled in the local high school. He has recently, however switched half of his classes to at home online with the school (an option here) and only attends now part time. He drives himself now so it is simple. He actually did this because he began to enjoy more time here with us at the camper. Much else has changed and wanted to really put out there. I am in my mid forties- I have suffered severe migraines for the past 6 years now. My husband and I noticed when we were camping last year that they were more manageable. I was getting to be completely unable to function without days of crying and constant pain. The kids didnt have a great mom for that. Stress was another large factor, even maintenance of the house besides costs.Cleaning on top of that was just so stressful as I am leaning on OCD as a personality. I dont know which helped but I am almost certain it is being able to keep air flowing, even in the bedroom. My migraines are less frequent and when they hit I can manage them so much better. I have not slept this well in years in all honesty. I am better for the kids and we are able to do more as a family. At the house I would try to make a day to force seeing each other at least once a week. My very great kids would look forward to it and then I would be down with a migraine and not even nice to be around. We play games together a lot (our christmas was gifts for the camper such as boardgames, karaoke machine, new thick roll up comforters, more pjs and activities with books) and they read more. We do have internet but opted to not have cable. Ours comes off of a dish so that we can move next year without being tied to this spot. There are also other very nice rv parks around here within a few miles and we would like to be free to do that. Our plans have solidified more this past month; we would like to travel more when our son graduates. He would like to go to NY state next year so we are planning to head there for the nicer months. I do work now and we do get monthly rental payments from renting the house out. We would like to follow parks that need local help as part time work to add to savings but it’s not something that is a necessity for us; our expenses are much lower now for sure and we are able to save for the first time in a very long time. No taxes to pay anymore (our yearly taxes on our house actually could pay half of the monthly rent we pay here yearly including our utilities). The downside is you have to be more patient with everything; I have a 30 second rule with the kids, putting something back or washing one of our 5 plates, 5 bowls, 5 cups etc, takes 30 seconds, opening a cupboard or putting something back under your bed takes this time or less. It has worked for all of us so there is minimal cleaning now. I have help for the first time in ages as well! My son is actually saying he is happy to have a nerdy but great mom and pop (smile) and they are both now happy with the smaller things (a barbecue, extra weekly ice cream, a walk to the state park, even a new local baseball hat or even a dvd for the family we can watch together). I am very proud of my kids really. While this cant work for everyone it has been fantastic for us. I am better for my family and they are happy for that; couldnt be more proud of them. Our homeschool schedule is very strict right now and we spend a lot of time at the local library as well. I am in one area but can say for anyone travelling that anywhere you visit for some months, there is a library close enough with guest passes that can be used. Some have options even for a local monthly card for guests that will expire 30 days from the date purchased. It is very inexpensive. We have a state forest pass that will get us into any park here in Fl; there are many other memberships that can be used for full time on the road rvers. We do laundry at the local laundromat once a week-cost runs 5 to $7 depending. We have our showers here in the camper and they are not long-also not every day but every other day on a schedule. The space really is not a problem with the bunks (something I now tell anyone to get with or without kids if they want space or some privacy. This was the largest concern for my son but, with the curtain he feels he can go there for privacy). We are planning to take out the sofa and put a daybed there for my daughter then add curtains along the divider of the slideouts for night privacy. There is a shelf and other areas she puts her books and stuffed toys there behind where she sleeps so she is very happy.
In my experience a 38 foot 5th wheel takes up as much, if not more space than a 40 foot motorhome, specifically because of the big truck. I can squeeze our little toad in just about anywhere (often we just park it across the front of the MH), but with a big truck you may have to find a separate parking spot, depending on the campground. Many campgrounds will offer that, but it just depends.
Fast internet access: You know that smokin' fast internet connect you have at home? You can pretty much forget about that as a full-time RV camper. Yes, there are options for getting reasonable internet speeds while on the road, but none of them matches the speed and simplicity that comes with a home broadband connection. Decent campground wifi access is a luxury, not the rule. Some places offer wifi for a fee; some offer it for free. A lot of campgrounds don't offer Internet access at all. Since we are working, we tend to plan our route around where wifi is offered, or where cellular signals are strong. There is a lot of thought and a fair amount of equipment that goes into keeping connected while on the road. That's a blog post for the future, by the way.
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.
We are getting ready to do our first cold weather camping and these videos and blogs have been very helpful. I’ve purchased a number of the items you’ve purchased. I have a specific question about the space heater. We purchased one of the models you recommend. It’s the one that you show using in your wet bay in the video. It just arrived and the instructions that come with it are very emphatic about not using an extension cord with it. Have you been OK doing so? Or are you lucky enough to have an outlet in your wet bay or at least accessible from it? The cord it comes with is not long enough to plug to external power unless we will be lucky enough to park our wet bay right next to the electrical hookup.
$648 Miscellaneous – Magazines for the Nook ($25), Stock Music for videos ($70), Shipping charges for mailing random stuff ($72 – Don’t ask me what I mailed, but it added up), Movie Theater *we went to 2 movies in 5 months ($24), Home Improvement Stores ($173), REI Outdoor specialty items ($63), Parking and Tolls ($85), half day boat rental for the family in Lake Havasu ($136). Also I’ve stopped putting propane as a line item since we really don’t spend much on this; in fact we didn’t even fill our propane in this 5 month period.
Very poorly written - lots of typos and grammatical errors. Granted, I'm extremely picky about those things, but there's no excuse for a published author to make these errors. The content wasn't all that great, either. I didn't learn anything new from reading it. There are hundreds of better-written RV books out there, don't waste your money on this one.
We made the transition not long after college, so we really hadn’t accrued a lot of stuff. We had to get rid of a TV, few pieces of furniture, and a lot of our clothes, but other than that—not too much. This was probably much easier for us than it would be someone who has lived in a home for 20-30 years. I can understand the difficulty of what that might look like when I see my parent’s home where my brothers and I were raised. I can only imagine how hard it must be to give everything up.
Just as a mortgage might be this is the largest expense we incur. It is also the most important though. The biggest difference is that we don’t pay rent on our land in North Carolina. It is paid for and other than a very small yearly, personal property tax, is little liability. Lot rent is the payment we make to a campground, state park, city park, etc. to park our travel trailer, have access to water, electricity, and (more times than not) sewage, and parking for our truck. Most spots we choose also come with room for our daughter to play, us to have a small patio area, WiFi, and access to a number of campground amenities including a swimming pool, jacuzzi, shuffleboard, basketball court, playground, etc. So unlike personal home rent or mortgage payments our lot rent gives us exposure to a community of people who are like minded and love to live life to the fullest!
A non resident has to leave the country after his staying permit expires which is usually after 6 months (Max) so we cannot do it full time but I consider ourselves as “Summer full timers” that have 2 residents:one at our home in Israel and the second on wheels in North America-this is for as the optimum and we are enjoying it for the last 10 years.
Then there is boondocking, where you basically stay on BLM land or National Forests for free (check out campendium.com regardless of what kind of camping you think you want to do). There are no hookups, so you need a generator (which increases gas consumption) or a solar power setup (and having both is typically necessary, since the sun doesn’t shine everywhere, every day). The cost is often free, or very cheap, to stay at these places.
We are now the proud owners of a 2004 Fleetwood AX6 Wilderness Advantage w/4 slides. And we continue to work on getting it fully ready to be compatable with existing off grid in the future. Its been a long road for us, but I am glad we took it. We own our rig free and clear, and there is no way wed ever own a conventional home in 3 years preperation in todays world.
I boondock often. The campground near my home town is $27 per night when I decide to stay there for a few days a month. I put $20 a week in the tank. My RV insurance is $189 every six months. Since my husband passed away I am eligible for food assistance (which I am very grateful for). My next “big” purchase is going to be replacing my tablet that recently broke – about $200. I live very comfortably on $700 a month.
And beyond RVers, we have met many interesting people living all over this nation. We've watched artisans work their magic in New Orleans and listened to teachers in small towns describe what it's like teaching in a school of fewer than 10 students. Traveling has shown us different perspectives. Moving around the country, we realize that people are more alike than different. They all have their individual struggles and are just trying to get by the best way they can. What brings us together is a sense of community and we love to help foster that.
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.
I am currently looking for suitable stories to feature in the series and we’re keen to contact people who may be interested in taking part. I came across your website and thought I would contact you as I’m trying to find Expat British/Irish families attempting to live self-sufficiently in wilderness locations overseas and I was wondering if you’re aware of any British expats that could be interested?
Carrying a washer and dryer is an option however they take up a lot of space so if you’re planning to go small (under 35′) you might not have space for one. There is also the option for the ‘All-in-One’ washer and dryer which washes and dries your clothes in the same unit however we’ve had many RV’ers say they dislike this as it takes 2 hours per load and the loads are very tiny.
We have just become full-time RVers after 44 years of camping in a tent up to a diesel pusher.We now live in a Landmark 365 42′ fifth wheel, tow vehicle is a F350 4×4 dually, and I drive a CRV Honda. My husband is a transpo driver for a RV dealer during the winter so he is comfortable hauling the beast. Yes, I take my CRV and follow, I don’t mind the drive be it 100 or 1000 mi.
My VA business focuses on providing social media, blogging, and email marketing support for small businesses and my husband is now coming on board to focus on web design and SEO work. Outside of that, we continue to work on monetizing our travel blog and using our blog as a way to encourage other families to travel more and to also live their dreams now!
Love, Love your posts! We have listed our home for sale and are searching for our RV. We are excited with caution. We have children across the USA and found there is no reason to stay put any longer. Because of your posts we have a lot of reading to do. It has taken several weeks to find your blog and thankfully we did. My parents lived in RV’s after retirement until they had to come home for their final journey. So, I remember well their travels. Need more information on the address matters. We were going to have our mail forwarded to us as we will be slow moving from place to place. Thank you for all the information.
This family loves RV life with or without the travel aspect. They’ve found a wonderful spot to park their 2006 5th Wheel for the long-term for work purposes. They’ve minimized their life to maximize experiences and pursue their passions, which will lead them to traveling soon. Outdoor activities where their young, energetic daughter (and dog!) can run around and play are a necessity. They also enjoy family outings together to kid friendly places.
When we started out we spent around $4,500 on initial start-up $$. That covered tow modifications, new sewer hose, extra water hoses, surge protector and power cords (30 to 50A cable, plus a 30A extension cable), Lynx leveling blocks, wheel covers, camping chairs and tables, outdoor grill and mat. We also spent smaller $ on various cheap plastic storage bins (for sorting our stuff in the downstairs bins). We didn’t initially buy a TPMS system, but that’s something I’d recommend for folks today and does add around another ~$500 to the total. All these start-up costs were easily covered by selling furniture and various “stuff” from our house.
This is a big one. And to be honest, one I have mixed feelings about. There are still times I miss our old life and our old house. And I feel that by introducing all of us to this lifestyle it would be really hard to go back to what our old life was. My biggest fear is that our kids are going to continue traveling the world for their whole life and end up settling down all over the place so we won’t all be in the same location when our kids start having kids. Crazy right – then why the heck did we do this then??
In the event that there is a partial loss, like theft of just a few items, there are caps on what is covered. With National General, if the theft occurs inside your RV, then the cap is 25% of the total value of all the Personal Effects coverage that you carry. For example, if you have a $20,000 Personal Effects policy, then this means there is a cap of $5,000 per claim. If the theft occurs outside the RV but on your campsite, then the coverage is 10% of the total value of all the Personal Effects coverage that you carry. Again, for $20,000 total coverage, this means a cap of $2,000 per claim. There is no coverage if the theft occurs away from the RV (i.e, your bike is stolen from the bike rack at the coffee shop in town).
Do you have a blog? I would love to hear more about life on the road with kids. I’m trying to talk my husband into doing something like this. We don’t currently have kids, but are trying. He is hard to break out of his comfort zone, but once he’s out, he loves it. Your story sounds so interesting and I would love to read more about your travels and living on the road with 4 youngsters.
My wife and I are also kicking around the idea of becoming full time r.v.ers maybe this year. I have been doing some homework for health insurance, seems to me one of the better ones is First Health. The initial start is a little expensive around 600.00 dollars to start for myself then drops after that but it seems to be a good plan and it is not an HMO plan it is a PPO plan. Seems to be the best one.
For the most part, CPS can’t take your kids JUST because you are living in an RV, there has to be another reason. Living in a van means you probably didn’t have running water or a toilet and that could raise some red flags. I only ran into one family who lived in an RV who had issues with CPS but that was because they were running from an open case that happened while they were still in a house. The accusations were pretty serious and the mother had some very obvious mental illness and she was dry nursing her 5-year-old.
2017 Update – TOTALLY still agree with this. Although we’ve gotten used to our “beastly” size I still wish we were a tad smaller and we (still) dream about downsizing. 95% of our camping is on public land and if we were smaller and more nimble we’d have many more options open to us, especially for boondocking. 35-feet would be nice, 30-feet would be even sweeter, but hey we make do. Maybe one day….
We budget $6k per month and usually have a hard time sticking to it. I guess you would have to put us into that ‘upper’ bracket. We track every penny (we use YNAB as our budgeting tool-Google it), but still don’t deny ourselves anything we really need or want. We moved into the rig in July 07 with a nice portfolio and then suffered through the 07-08 market collapse. We dropped about 38%. We slowed our spending down a bit, workcamped for a season (Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills) and within a couple of years our portfolio had returned to pre-recession levels. In fact, our portfolio today is actually just a bit larger than the day I retired. And what’s our secret? Low cost passive index funds from Vanguard.
I love to cook as well…but then I like checking out the local brewski scene even better. About 80% of our going out during the winter is at the Elks which is cheap for both food and beer…$5.50 a pitcher and dinner for $9…but in the travel season we tend to eat at the local Elks maybe 10% and the rest at various hole in the walls. I don’t think we could get to your numbers even if we cut out the DirectTV fees and workamped…but then travel style is different for everybody…and one of the big drivers is what you can afford to spend. We’re fortunate that we can (mostly) not really budget…we could get down to JC’s 6K per month if we needed to without much strain…and if we needed to we would…but we don’t so we don’t. Our secret was to turn all of that money stuff over to a financial planning service up in the DC area when we went on the road…sure, we’re paying their annual percentage but we’re in a medium growth and income portfolio profile…we’ve averaged about 5% return since 1/1/13 and have taken out about $50K over that time frame for big ticket items like the new truck, trip to Ireland, trip to Alaska, etc.
No one knows what the future holds and where we will be in 1 year or 10 years, but I know for us that this yearning for a life outside of the norm isn’t going totally go away. I am sure it will ebb and change and flow as the years go on and we all get older, but now that we have awakened this feeling inside ourselves, I don’t think it will ever be silenced again!
We once had our oven fly open and our cast iron skillet came screaming out! A few times we have forgotten to close our refrigerator tight and it flew open spilling food all over the floor. We have also had a drawer fly open and the contents spilled everywhere. Most recently a piece of debris from a construction site flew up and shattered the side window over my daughter’s bunk bed!! Luckily, my husband has not been hit by any flying object while driving!
With the 2 dogs we knew hotel hopping wouldn’t work, so what is the best way to travel with pets? An RV! We started looking for an RV that we could take on short trips once we downsized. We found a 29 foot Class C which we bought to give it a go. We took our first long trip to Florida in January, and we were hooked. We called my sister and said let’s forget the duplex and travel full-time in our RV!