Gift Cards – If the gift card is for a full-time RVer, try to stick to larger national chains or internet stores like Amazon. Even though RVers take their kitchens with them, it’s still nice to not have to cook all the time so restaurant gift cards are nice as well. Or an Amazon Prime Membership is a great gift for full-time RVers if they don’t already have one. Our Prime Membership made getting items while traveling full-time so much easier.
While part-time RVers may love “Home is where you part it” yard signs, cute camper trinkets, and adorable awning lights, the full-time RVer may be less enthusiastic about such gifts. The simple reason most full time RVers are concerned about space and weight and only carry what they really need or love. When your RV is your home, it forces you to be very selective about your belongings. Ask your favorite RVers if there is anything that they need or if you are unsure stick with gift cards or consumables. Please don’t gift your full-time RVing friend or family member large bulky items without asking first. If you really must purchase them a large gift that you think will be just perfect, buy it from a nationwide chain store and include a gift receipt. It’s not that full timers aren’t appreciative, it’s just the reality of living in a small mobile space!
27. The RV lifestyle reinforces not living a “comfortable life.” Things are always breaking, life is hectic, and you always have a GPS running cause you never know where you are. It helps you grow as a person, like when the slides on your RV won’t let you reach all of your underwear or the tow car nearly crushes you to death, all in a 24-hour period.

From our research Verizon is the only network that offers such great coverage across the USA. There are 1 or 2 other budget pay as you go plans that sometimes share Verizon’s network however the speeds are throttled back for those customers (i.e. the cheap phone plans you buy at Wal-Mart, Target, etc). We’ve made it work for 2 years now, and let’s just say we’re happy to be joining the rest of the 4G world.
* Moisture control: Unlike unvented heaters that burn a fuel source such as propane, electric-resistance and vented-combustion heaters will not create moisture problems. The people and pets living in the RV will produce lots of moisture. Condensation will form on cool surfaces when the air is moist. Health hazards, such as mold, are possible with high humidity levels. Periodically provide some ventilation to avoid creating unhealthy living conditions and damaging camper components. Monitor the humidity level and keep it at 30 to 40 percent or lower, depending on the amount of condensation. You can find humidity monitors at most hardware stores.
On the other hand, if you are outfitting the RV of your dreams for a life of full-time RV travel or of winter snowbirding RV adventures, then you might consider installing a vent-free propane fireplace that is built into an elegant mantel. These heaters give off the same incredible heat as the more industrial looking vent-free propane heaters, but they have the cozy and inviting appearance of a fireplace and produce a beautiful (and mesmerizing) flame. What a great addition to an RV!!

Hi 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!


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.
So without any more rambling let’s talk travel trailers. It seems to us there aren’t as many bunkhouse floorplan variations for travel trailers as there are for fifth wheels. Also there aren’t as many slideouts presumably to keep the weight down since slideouts are heavy. So we have been trying to prioritize and figure out our needs for RVing. While we aren’t full time RVing we do plan on taking a 2 month trip every year and want to be comfortable. So here is what we are considering so far.
When we say new, it's only new to us, but that's how we prefer it. Let someone else shake it down. After hemming and hawing over trading in our previous RV, we finally decided to go for it. We knew our old one was too big for us and we didn't want to invest in upgrades like solar when we didn't feel like it was ours. It was the right choice and we're very happy with our current set-up. We installed solar panels, so we didn't have to worry about the batteries overnight or running the generator twice a day like on our old coach. We have more options as to where to stay with our smaller size and off-grid capabilities and that makes us very happy. Now we just need to redo the interior a bit and it will be all ours.
Our second year of roadschooling was similar to our first year as we continued to explore the United States with the exception of Thing 1’s work. His work was more challenging than the previous year and we began to do some testing. I did not do standardized testing but subject testing so he would learn test taking skills should he need them later down the road. 
Since selling our house, our monthly bills have decreased. We no longer have utility bills or cable bills. Wahoo! We did finance our RV, but the payment is nowhere near what our house payment was. Spending less on our living expenses has actually allowed us to live more. We are able to travel, have experiences, and buy recreational equipment that we would never have been able to afford before.
The Thousand Trails network offers 30 free overnight stays in a 12 month period for $545 at campgrounds that are within one of five zones across the country. After you’ve used up the 30 free nights, the rest of your overnights for that year are just $3 a night. Each zone has between 13 and 23 RV parks in it. You can stay at any RV park in your zone for up to 14 days and then you must stay somewhere outside of the network for 7 nights before coming back. You can repeat this cycle indefinitely. Right now they are offering a special of two zones for the price of one. An added perk is that you get a 20% discount on overnight stays at the affiliate Encore network of RV parks too.
So glad to hear that there is some young life out on the road. My family and I have been full-timing for about 8 months, but have been parked for a good portion of it. We have an almost 2 year old little girl that doesn’t seem to mind the smaller space. I was wondering if along the way you have noticed any “childproof” ideas that you would like to share. Our little peanut specifically likes to play with all the low switches (lights, water pump, fans) and the navigation/radio/jack system buttons. She is curious (and 2!) so we understand, but would really like for little hands to play with little kid things instead of important gadgets.
This is pretty personal, and it depends entirely on your financial situation. In our opinion, some people shouldn’t spend more than $5k, and others can afford whatever they want. We have a lot of friends who finance everything: TV, couch, vehicles, etc. We are not a fan of this mentality. We realize you can write off your interest as a second mortgage for your RV, but we don’t finance anything, including our RV. We’ve never had a car loan, and we have always paid cash for our vehicles (including our tow rig and our Airstream).

I used to spend a lot of money on internet service and full package cell but this last few years I’ve changed. Now I bring a cell phone for emergencies but it is not activated as 911 does not require activation. I use the kind of phone that can be used by purchasing a card just in case but have not yet needed to do so. In almost every town the public library allows you to use their computers for doing business and just finding were to go can be fun and a good way to see the place. I use Google chat to talk for a few minutes to special people and download a few pics to face book. Our philosophy now is to travel shorter distances per day, travel slower, and see more. Pretty near all of our budget goes to restaurants and gas.
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.
Like the big roof insulation R-factor that doesn’t account for the hatch vents, the well advertised high R-factor in the walls doesn’t account for the windows, which is where much of the heat in a rig escapes, especially at night. Closing the blinds makes a difference. When we’re in a remote area with no one around, we prefer to keep the blinds open so the first light of morning fills the rig. But we can’t do this in the wintertime unless we want to wake up to a rig that is 5 degrees cooler than it could be.
Hi Karen: Since so many people have an interest in full timing, I thought it would be a good idea to give them further details. I always tell people that if they can afford it, just close up the house and give full timing a try. If it doesn't work out, they will still have everything waiting for them back home. Most find that RVing is so great that the thought of going back to the house, the expenses, the work, etc is a drag. But others are happy they didn't just jump in with both feet. It's a big decision, that's for sure!
So, we take our $7200 and leave on our new life of freedom until we need more money. Then, we choose a place we want to be for a while, stop there, and get a job paying as much as we can, but at least $7 per hour . For that month we take home about $1000. We spend half of that to live on, and now have $500 in savings. Actually, we should have more since we won’t be driving much (some of us will ride our bike, scooter or motorcycle which we are carrying on a bike rack or trailer). So we can take that $500 and are off again. Or we can spend several months at one place and then travel several months. Maybe you like to ski so you spend three months at a ski resort working and skiing on the weekends. Then you have the next three months off to do whatever and go wherever you want. When you need to work again, you drive up to Glacier National Park and get a job there doing dishes at the resort. You spend your summer weekends hiking and taking pictures. Three months later, you are free again. Or maybe you are a history buff. So you drive to Gettysburg and get a job there. You spend your weekends exploring the Amish country and Philadelphia. You then go to New England to photograph the fall colors and spend a month exploring Washington DC. When you need to work again you drive to Orlando or Miami, get a job, and explore Florida. If you are adventurous you can work your way down to a beach resort in Mexico where you work for the next three months and surf, fish and snorkel on your weekends. Working in the tourist industry you probably double your wage in tips and living in Mexico is very cheap so you save even more than usual. Now you can take the next six months off in the U.S., or maybe nine months off in Mexico. You keep doing this to your heart’s content!
Gosh young folks! This may sound critical:-) You don’t seem to have enough good ideas how to live frugally or even inexpensively. You could do fine for half the amount you spent. Just look at your clothing expenditures or the $845 for houseware? D-oh! Hey we find Columbia sportswear and other sick stuff at Goodwill and ARC. You just have to make it a habit to check em out and go to the ones in the nice part of town! Learn to horsetrade and to borrow and lend use of things like kayaks, bicycles and sporting goods or cars. Don’t buy everything! Buy hardly anything brand new! its fun! Add an extra fuel tank and always fill up when in the cheapest regions. Saves a lot.A new laptop battery could be bought online for very little for most any model including MACs. Our phones with limited web access and unlimited text are only $30/month. Always stay at least on model behind the latest and greatest high tech gear. It costs half the price. I am typing on a MB Pro that is not quite as thin as the latest model:-) Who cares?
And we closed that chapter in our lives and moved on to the next one. Well, not that easily. I did cry every day for the first week. Luckily, my sister and her family had moved into the campground with us – and were staying right next door. That definitely made the transition easier. Gradually things got better, and I started to realize what we had been looking to do. Hours weren’t spent on cleaning any more. All of our stuff was manageable and there was more and more focused family time.
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.
I believe it’s around 10amps at the highest setting, but like an oven, when it reaches pressure/temp, it turns the heating element off (and back on when needed). We have 320w of solar and 400 amp hours of lithium ion batteries. They key though is having a large enough inverter to run things like the instant pot. You would need at least a 2000w pure sine inverter. Ours is 3000w.

Thanks for your reply. We would probably not have that much expense as we plan on living off the grid almost 100% of the time with the exception of say a few days out of the month. We also do not plan on driving really long distances like from one end of the US to the other (I.E. Florida to Washington lol). We plan on doing it slowly and staying in each place for a month or two before leaving that city. My sister is on disability so we have a fixed income and I do not make tons of money myself. We have been homeless together before so we have ways of doing things that probably a lot of people would not do or be able to do.
While at the dealership looking at the Cougar, we saw the Highland Ridge Open Range Light LT308BHS. I was impressed with all the space the moment we walked in. Although the master is in the front, there is still more room in the master than other travel trailers of the same layout because Highland Ridge adds 4 inches in width over the standard width of most travel trailers. When you are talking space in RVs a few inches can make a HUGE difference. Highland Ridge also comes with a 2 year warranty and is known for its quality build.
Hi Ray. Best of luck with your new plans. It is a big change indeed but could be a very rewarding one. I don’t think I have the right insight on this but will try to point you to people who do. I would definitely check out the Boyink family at Ditching Suburbia. They are Christian RVers who have great resources on their site. I’ve interviewed them on the podcast twice before. Really good people. Also, if you haven’t found them already, the Full-Time Families page and the Full-time Families group on Facebook is comprised mostly of RV people. They are an eclectic bunch, but I’m sure that there are people there who have better info on what you’re looking for. Best of luck Ray, and let us know how it goes!
$5,800 Additional Gear – Well……I dropped my 5dmkii in the water; oops. So I had to purchase a new 5dmkiii and a few other small items I needed for filming. Insurance will likely cover the majority of these costs so I’ll take that into account on the next financial post. Also we purchased Nikki a new laptop (she was using an old one and the battery wasn’t working), now she sits happily outside while working on the blog.
$4,000 Eating Out: We made a rule, we eat dinner out once per week at a quality restaurant recommended by the hip locals. Sometimes the bill would be cheap and other times not so much. Of course we would eat lunch out, or purchase a coffee every once and a while. This includes all expenses spent at a Restaurant, Pub, Bar, Happy Hour, Cupcake Shop, etc.
Staying in campgrounds makes it impossible not to be closer to nature. In a good way! I love being outside, but when we were living in a traditional sticks and bricks house, I found myself not getting outdoors as much as I would have liked. Or if I did, it was just to the deck or patio and never in grass, among trees. There is just something calming and therapeutic about being surrounded by Mother Nature.
I admire your stamina and am jealous of your bravado and lifestyle. Just a note to tell you how to fix almost all of the things you mentioned as extra-difficult living in an RV in the winter in Alaska. I have seen RVs designed specifically for use in such conditions. The alterations are designed in from the beginning and built into it. The era your unit was built, they didn’t do these things and I’m sure buying one that is equipped this way costs WAY more than the one you bought, but I can also say I suspect you could sell yours to someone living a bit more southerly for a pretty good penny, though I also suspect you’re not particularly interested in making a change since what you have is actually working for you.
I apologize very much for not giving you proper credit for your work. I have adjusted the post to direct people to your website for skirting. I’m sure you don’t remember but you helped my wife and I purchase the tools we needed to prepare our RV for a last minute winter storm in Breckenridge. Without your help I know our pipes would have frozen and it would have costs us hundreds in repairs.
Our fourth year of roadschooling has been a big year for Thing 1. Per his request he wanted a challenging curriculum because wanted to make sure he is “keeping up with school kids”. It has been a struggle for me because, frankly, I see much (not all) of traditional school as a lot of nonsense and wasted time. While we’ve kept up with the core subjects, we’ve allowed plenty of room for freedom to explore, create, and have avoided traditional textbooks and boring assignments. Brent and I have encouraged the boys to think out of box and question the status quo.
Before we hit the road, we upgraded our cell phone plan to the Unlimited Plan with Verizon. We use our phones as hot spots for internet, so we knew we’d blow through the data in no time. For the most part, we’ve had good coverage and no issues using our hot spots to get work done. We also use our hot spots to stream Netflix – on the rare occasion we want to watch TV.
Great article, I’m hoping to travel in an RV full-time eventually. In the mean time, I’m still working to support my family and plan for the future. I sell land throughout the western U.S. (those great winter states you mentioned) if anybody wants to own a few acres to park their RV part or full time. See my website, http://www.landparker.com for more details. Thanks!

Regular hose, however, was not recommended by the heat tape manufacturer, which clearly specified metal or plastic water pipe. A hose was not a water pipe. Perhaps it wouldn’t work as well. Or perhaps it would degrade the hose and cause problems. I could imagine being poisoned by the breakdown of chemicals in my hose. (Seriously: I have a pretty good imagination sometimes.)
Just wanted to thank you for all the really helpful info here on your website- We just recently have made the decision to sell the house , take an early retirement and dive into the rv life full time. Problem was we didn’t know didn’t know diddly! We have a 5 year plan to get all our ducks in a row to full fill this dream but need to know so many things before hand.and you both are a goldmine of useful experiences and information- if you don’t know something you lead us in the right direction and that is all one can ask.
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:
Gosh young folks! This may sound critical:-) You don’t seem to have enough good ideas how to live frugally or even inexpensively. You could do fine for half the amount you spent. Just look at your clothing expenditures or the $845 for houseware? D-oh! Hey we find Columbia sportswear and other sick stuff at Goodwill and ARC. You just have to make it a habit to check em out and go to the ones in the nice part of town! Learn to horsetrade and to borrow and lend use of things like kayaks, bicycles and sporting goods or cars. Don’t buy everything! Buy hardly anything brand new! its fun! Add an extra fuel tank and always fill up when in the cheapest regions. Saves a lot.A new laptop battery could be bought online for very little for most any model including MACs. Our phones with limited web access and unlimited text are only $30/month. Always stay at least on model behind the latest and greatest high tech gear. It costs half the price. I am typing on a MB Pro that is not quite as thin as the latest model:-) Who cares?
Of course, the best RV for your family individually depends on your travel style and individual situation. For example, a family of 4 might not require a large, Class A motorhome with slide-outs… but a family of 6 would almost definitely benefit from having the extra space. Also consider whether you and yours are more outdoorsy or simply into traveling for the scenery. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time inside, invest in extra space!

This is a little bit of a whiny thing to say, but it's real. Holiday weekends tend to just blend into the calendar now and it's easy to forget to plan ahead. We've been lucky so far and already had holidays booked totally by accident, found boondocking, and spent Independence Day parked in a dive buddy's driveway, but we have forgotten holidays and so have our friends. Memorial Day weekend campground reservations may be booked months in advance and we just don't think like that anymore. Maybe now is the time to set reminders.
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