My family consists of myself, my husband, and two toddlers. We are hitting the road next summer for a few months of slow cross country travel. My question is, do you have any campground memberships, and if so, which one do you think would be best for my young family? We prefer to be in more of a campground setting than an RV resort, and we would also like full hookups and bathroom facilities if possible but we would be willing to forgo the bathrooms to save on price. We want to spend a lot of time reconnecting with the outdoors and visiting some national parks. Your budget and all of the wonderful work you do has really helped me begin to plan our trip and I can’t thank you enough.
RV windows lose a ton of heat, no matter how insulated the manufacturer claims they are. There are several ways to insulate them: foam insulation boards, bubble insulation, solar blankets, etc. For extra warmth, line your windows with heavy-weight thermal curtains. Use electric or propane space heaters to supplement your RVs furnace. Don’t forget to bring along a heated blanket to stay warm in bed!
Of course, the whims of the economy are beyond anyone’s control. In the spring of 2008 diesel fuel prices soared out of sight in just a few months. Half a year later the world economy fell apart. Yet, the full-time RVers that were on the road then just kept on going — like everyone else — finding ways to make the best of a grim situation. So, once you launch your full-time RV lifestyle, you will find yourself adapting as the world changes around you — just like you did at home.
Honestly if you’re looking at a loan to buy a new RV, I would recommend scrapping that idea and looking at paying cash for a used, quality RV. RV’s depreciate like crazy, and new RV’s are mucho $$. There are tons of quality used rigs out there where you can get A LOT more for your money and still leave cash to spare for repairs and travel. Plus with a used rig most of the depreciation will be already accounted for, and you’ll get more back of your original $$ when you sell too.
2017 Update – TOTALLY. In 8 years on the road our expenses have actually been flat to slightly down every year despite increasing health care costs. We keep camping expenses low by volunteering in summer and boondocking (= free camping) in winter, and we manage gas costs by how we travel. The point is there is lots of flexibility on the financial side, and my viewpoint on this hasn’t changed. Earlier this year I finally updated our cost posts, so you can now read a detailed account of our RV costs (including tips for budgeting & saving) for the past 7 years HERE and HERE.
One thing in my traveling, I have to have a dependable vehicle & RV to travel with. That is the last think I want to worry about is a break down. Presently looking for that next RV trailer (Arctic Fox, ORV or Highland Ridge). Full times travel in a full range of RV’s from cars, vans, B’s, C’s and A’s classes. New million dollar rigs, to $1,000 cars or vans. All the power to them….I follow many on their YouTube channels the last 5 years.
State Income Tax – Texas doesn’t have State income taxes. There are other states out there like South Dakota, Florida, and others that many RV’ers claim residence to save on insurance, income tax, and vehicle registration. We are actually from Texas so I cannot help you with this info, but I do know there are several locations to find it…you can start with searching the escapees program.
My wife and I are within shooting distance of retirement so I’ve been googling “full time RVing” and found you site. The first thing that caught my eye, other than how frugal you guys are, is the calculator. My late Dad had the exact same calculator. I mean he had that thing for as long as can remember, one day I came home went to the office to get his calculator and it was gone!!!! OH NO Mickey Mouse is gone, I guess after 25 years or so of use it finally died!
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.
Slide outs – Are slide outs a must? If so how many and where? Two slide out bunkhouse trailers tend to put one in the back bedroom and another one in the middle living area. Three slide out trailers have a few more options. Some have one in the back bedroom and two in the middle. Others have two in the back bunkroom and one in the middle. A few have one in each room. Regardless, if we decide we “need” slide outs, we are trying to decide if we want more space in the living room or bedrooms. We are leaning towards extra living room space but trying to decide how important double living room slide outs are to us.
4. Skirting as you pointed out is an absolute must: I love the snow piled up, cost effective and highly efficient. What if there’s no snow? Home Depot or Lowes or ? sell the reflective bubble insulation in 15″ widths up to 5′ widths. The narrow widths can be used to skirt the sides and they can be held in place by the basement doors. You may need to make cuts to go over hardware but are very effective.
Wednesday morning arrived, I left around dawn and drove on (mostly) dry roads out of Steamboat and towards I-70. Along the way, I passed high mountain peaks, narrow valleys, small hamlets like Oak Creek where recent snows had not been cleared off the roads (good idea to slow down!) and then… I-70 and Beaver Creek, Vail, and Copper – three world-class ski resorts all in succession!
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!
The boys certainly don’t dislike traveling (They keep reminding us we haven’t been to Hawaii and asking if there’s a chance we can go to Europe soon.) but they were developing a “been there and done that” attitude and were ready for new challenges, the challenges that come with dealing with teachers other than mom and relationships that are more face to face than virtual. Traveling full time in the RV gave them so many experiences and the life lessons are still unfolding, teaching us even now as we adapt to a stationary life, but there are lessons to learn from living in community as well.
I didn’t grow up thinking I would be an entrepreneur and it wasn’t a goal of mine until it was. Now that we have gone down this path it is empowering to see that we can make our own money. That we can set our own schedule, that we can sleep in on a Monday and work on a Sunday or really whenever we want to. The freedom is stressful, but also exciting!
Adding only that we also have 2 very beloved and very spoiled chihuahuas as well as a caged rabbit (free run abouts one hour a day in the camper). They are wonderful to have, they love the walks and the air and it is not much more to have pets with you. I have taken out the carpet and we are now redoing the floor to a wood vinyl as well as adding curtains and updating the camper with new wallpaper, etc. We have also added a top area for the cage that the rabbit can be in but out of the way. We had to update some things but this camper was really worth it-keeping anything that can attract more dust and fur out is helping a lot with the pets.
Love this blog. In 105 days we try our first long term (4 months) full time RV trip. We had a motor home that we loved but did not like the vehicle towing and must have a car to get around once we hooked up. The motor home was fantastic for storage and ease of leveling and hookups but very expensive compared to a travel trailer and tow vehicle (for us half the price). Due to our business we had to sell back in 2006. We just bought a 27′ travel trailer and I do have concerns that it is a few feet too small. I wish I had seen this blog before. However we will make it work for our first trip and excited to be working in a national park for our 4 month trip! Safe travels everyone!
This was going through each room to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. This is where the mind shift started to happen. Did the kids really need 5 sweatshirts what are we going to do with all of these books?! Did we really have to keep all of those Christmas lights when we only used half of them. Things like that. We started looking at our stuff differently and really evaluating what we wanted to have versus what we had just because we didn’t want to make a decision to get rid of it or not. Just keeping it had been easier.
Hi Folks! We have been camping for 47 years and I am now looking at blogs of people full timing. You have a wonderful site here and I am enjoying it very much. Thank you for all the information you have given us . We have poked along on our trips for the last 8 years. Husband retired and I had summers off. Retired now. Met many wonderful people. We will be looking forward to reading your blog for a long time to come! This year we hope to poke along the Oregon Trail! Happy Trails to you and yours!
As for a choice of what type of RV… we’re looking at a diesel-pusher… would love to find one in the 32-34 ft range. Loved your advice about the internet service Millenicom . I’d read about them from another source just yesterday and feel much better about them now that I’ve heard from a 2nd unsolicited source. I didn’t know that they don’t require a contract…that is so much better… I used to drive a truck for a living and have been to almost all the lower 48 states (just missing North Dakota…) I used Verizon while I was on the road and cannot ever remember not being able to get a signal for my phone or my internet connection. Of course, I was mainly on major highways or secondary roads so that sort of explains that… Sorry I’ve gone on and on… just wanted to introduce myself and hope to see you one day once we ever get on the road… Beverly/Wayne
With our system, we can use the faucet to fill our fresh water tank. However, you can not leave it hooked up to a hose when the weather drops below freezing. The hose has to be disconnected from the faucet so that the faucet can drain to down below the freeze line. If you leave the hose hooked up the faucet will freeze and break. That is an expense and inconvenience you don’t want in the middle of winter.
My husband always laughs but I also feel very lost when I walk into a new grocery store in a new city we are visiting. I don’t know where anything is and I end up walking around the grocery store at least twice before I am done since I can never find everything I need the first time through. Then again we have found some great food and brands around the country that we didn’t have in our home town so I guess it isn’t all bad.
Make meal preparation a new shared activity. Shop local farmers markets for fresh in-season options, try new foods, and share meal preparation with campground neighbors. Cooked-by-you means healthier eating because you control the ingredients. Dining out is fun and convenient, but to save money, making your own meals will be the best decision for your budget.
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?
The kids, as kids most often do, adapted quickly. The hardest months for the teens were when they started school but we were still living in an RV. The best part about our home on wheels were the wheels and when the wheels weren’t rolling it was an entirely different experience. They didn’t want to invite friends over or be dropped off at the campground. While Brent and I were more than happy to share why we lived in an RV, what mattered to the teens was what other people thought.
Some of the perks of getting older are the sweet discounts you can get! You’ve weathered through some of life’s toughest storms and seen a few of its biggest triumphs. We think you deserve a break, and so do some of our favorite campgrounds. Check whether your AAA or AARP cards are accepted at local campgrounds and put some change back in your pocket. You’ll never know if you don’t ask. What’s the worst that will happen?
Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when it comes to tracking expenses. Is anyone really interested in this stuff? I mean it’s basically the same junk just a different quarter…at least that’s what I keep telling myself! Then I start downloading our bank reports and before I know it I’m so interested in the numbers. So, weather you love or hate it, here are our full-time RV expenses from July 01 – December 31, 2014.
We use a similar method for personal hygiene. Wet wipes can take care of most basic hand and body cleaning. A bathroom sink full of water can be used multiple times before it goes into the waste tank. If the park where you are staying has shower facilities available, make use of them. If they don’t you may take what my mother called “possible baths”. You wash down as far as possible, then wash up as far as possible and leave ‘possible’ for another time. When you do use the shower in your RV, wet down, turn off the water, lather up, turn water on to rinse. Here is a video I found that shows another way to shower using a 2 liter bottle.
I’m a Thousand Trails zone pass member. I pay $35/mo +$3/night. En route to TT Parks I generally use my 50% discount with Passport America to keep it under $20/night. On average, I pay close to $200/month lodging, utilities included. My average trip costs me $60 in gas. Averaging around 3 moves per month puts me at a little less than $400 per month in travel/lodging.
My family and I are really contiplating this in the next month. My husband is a general contractor and I just had my 3rd baby, we have a 6 year old, 2, & 4 month. What kind of homeschooling do you use? I sold my salon and I’ve been looking into working from online especially if we do decide to travel the country. Any tips would be great, ty for this blog!
2017 Update – YES. The more time we spend on the road the less we find we need. We end up donating half our clothes to charity almost every year and our outdoor stuff has been cut down to a select set of “glamping” basics. Plus we FINALLY got rid of our big storage unit (whoo hooo!). Paying $$$ for storage all those years was one of our biggest regrets and something we (in retrospect) would not recommend if you can avoid it. It took 7 years for us to tackle ours, but we finally got it done! You can read about my take on storage HERE and how we got rid of ours HERE, HERE and HERE.
For rigs with enclosed tanks, it's often enough to provide some source of heat in the tank compartment and small electric bulbs can be used here as well. If you are too mobile for such solutions, then you should look into special heating pads designed for RV holding tanks. They can be purchased from many RV parts dealers or camping catalogs and will allow you to use the holding tanks as you normally would with no fear of freeze ups. Alternately, many Rvers who travel in the winter simply minimize use of the holding tanks and keep plenty of RV antifreeze handy to treat them.
You are inspiring. My husband and I just made the decision to leave our busy life in Florida, purchase and renovate an RV, homeschool our 3 boys (ages 8,6, and 4) and start traveling. I am still struggling with all the logistics of it all, and how my husband can stay busy with his website business and still have time to spend with the boys and I exploring all the places we travel to. But I’m excited for the adventure. We hope to be in our RV and traveling in 6 months from now.
But more important to her than saving money has been the wealth of experiences living in an RV has given her, especially with her son. "We’ve been way more creative about everyday things, making them more fun," she said. "If we lived in a house, I wouldn’t be taking him outside to look at bugs. It's definitely forced me into a whole different level of parenting."
Thanks for the info. I’ve finally convinced my wife to go live in an RV full time. We’ve rented an RV twice this year and so far so good. We almost bought a new RV 2 months ago but since we’re still working, we decided not to do it this year. We own our house and still paying $1200 a monthly mortgage. I’m leaning on selling the house when I retire in 7 years and buy an RV.
Well, that depends on how long they want to full time. Let’s say the RV travel costs are $2,000 per month. That’s on top of whatever other costs they have (Insurance, repairs, clothing, cell phone, etc.). Then a person needs an income to support that level of spending for as long as they’ll be full-timing. If they want to try it for a couple of years, don’t want to work while traveling, and have no other source of income, then my guess is a couple needs around $100,000 saved up to live off.
Our motorhome had a diesel furnace that provided heat and hot water. Because the electric was included in the campground fee, we ended up using a couple of catalytic heaters for most of our interior heating needs. This also helped us conserve fuel so we wouldn’t have to cart diesel back to the RV to fill the fuel tank as often. The most critical function of the furnace for winter RVing was to keep the bays heated so nothing would freeze (tanks, plumbing lines, etc.).
Yes, you can use a correctly rated extension cord for temporary use. A 20 amp cord minimum for a 1500 watt (12.5amp) heater. Add a surge protector for more safety. The cord could accumulate heat if coiled in closed space next to combustibles, like your plastic RV compartment. Fire from electrical overload is very real and RV’s burn very fast, which is why they all have a second exit in or near the bedroom out the window. Extension cords are prohibited because most people would not follow the safety precautions. RV’ers should! Check your smoke detector for early warning at night. (yes, this sounds like too much concern, but fires happen and RV’s burn fully in minutes)
This was another big challenge. We chose Florida Virtual School, which is an online public school for Florida residents. We were worried about our ninth grader having the right credits for ninth grade, and about our own abilities to home school. But since it was the same curriculum as public school, it took almost the same time commitment per class each week.
*European type all-year RV’s (like Exploryx/Bocklet/Unicats/Action Mobil//etc, as well as the winter versions of Hymers/Concorde/etc.), will have some or all of three items: a heated fuel pre-filter, a heated airbox, and a diesel engine heater (works down to -40 Celsius). This unclogs/loosens/melts any wax in the diesel lines on the way to the engine.
As a result, Senate Bill 164 was proposed by Republican Senator Craig Tieszen to deny voting rights to residents who did not maintain a home in the state. The bill was tabled in committee, due in large part to the very vocal response from the RVing community, but the issue still rankles certain politicians in South Dakota, so it would not be surprising if it surfaced again in the future.
Many retirees choose southern British Columbia because of the milder weather. Vancouver Island is very popular with year round RV parks that have all of the amenities needed to accommodate most people's needs. The Sunshine Coast has many possibilities, as well as the Lower Mainland and the Okanagan. Many of the choices will depend upon the interests or needs of the RVers.
I am really scratching my head as to why you would not include the cost, finance, and depreciation of your RV in your calculations. I understand that everyone’s RV values will be different but by avoiding those calculations all the other calculations you’re are giving just gibberish. For example that $100,000 RV will only be worth $50,000 in five years. Just the depreciation alone over 5 years would be $833.00 per month! Then there is DVM fees, insurance,
$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.
I have raised 5 sons,and paid for two farms and have brought our twin sons in with us when we built a new barn housing 150 plus dairy cattle .Gardening and raising cattle and kids is time consuming and must be home every am and pm unless you can find some one to do the chores. That is one reason I would like to go off grid.. a little simpler life. I am sure our Grandchildren wouldn’t mind and I think it would do them all good to do the simpler way of life. (all 10 of them, ranging from 20yrs to 2 months)
For the same length I do feel a Class A is more maneuverable than a 5th wheel, but it also depends a bit on the particular model. If you’re serious about boondocking look at clearance & back overhang on your rig. Both can make a huge difference as to how far you can go into the boonies. I think 25-30 is a good size for 5th wheels (decent compromise between living space & maneuverability).
Great tips! I boondocked for an entire winter in Canada a few years ago, it reaches -45C a few times. Once you get your trailer, appliances and technique dialed in it’s very enjoyable! I wish I would have documented the entire experience. All of the points above are very useful. Another few lessons I’ve learned is to use flex to direct your exhaust from your generator to your lp tanks when it gets really cold, as well as keeping the battery bank warm helps a lot. When I did my winter adventure I was constantly searching for drafts and cold spots to remedy, and believe me, when you don’t see warmer than -20C for months it’s almost a constant challenge. Be creative, be safe! Never get discouraged!
I figure I can get around $5,000 for my civic and I should have around $7,000 saved from my job. I don’t want to sink all my savings into a van right away but do you think it’s possible to get one for $8-10k? I am most interested in the 80’s model VW Westfalia. I don’t need a top of the line vehicle, just something with a solid body/engine and an interior I can work on through the year.
If at all possible, buy well before you plan to embark on your trip, and spend some time in it on short weekend trips and vacations. An even better option, especially if you were overseas like we were, is to rent an RV for a vacation. Even consider doing it more than once if you can. Just remember that living in it and vacationing in it are two very different things.
Hi!…..Thank you for all this great information. My husband and I have decided after a few years in the making to finally sell all, put our house for rent and get on the road. We have accomplished plenty of things already for the trip but we are still looking for work online specially because we are in the medical field. We will be putting our home for rent and hopefully find jobs soon enough to make our dream come true. We always had issues finding trusting dog sitters therefore decided to get an RV. Being that we are money conscious and simple people, we decided to get a fantastic older class C to travel with our dogs. We also purchased an older jeep cash and for dirt cheap, not only for emergency driving but also for off roading fun. We have been taking small trips here and there and love it. I never thought one day I would look at my house and feel the need to leave it all behind like I do now just to cram in an RV with a man and 3 dogs. In order to make this happen we put a date on our calendar as our departure whether we make it or not on that day, its happening in a few months. We are not waiting for retirement to start living and there is not a single thing that matters more to me as much as spending quality time with my husband, our dogs and our close friends. I realize this travel bug is not for everyone but its definitely for us. We rather spend our money seeing new places and meeting new people than just hanging in the same old house, falling into the same old work-home routine with the 2 week vacation once a year. Your articles are of much inspiration, Thank You.
Hi Nina and Paul, Fantastic job on your blog; has answered so many questions for us. Kathy and I tend to plan well in advance for such ventures as full time RV’ers.. Being in the starting planning changes, one topic that seems to come up quite a bit is RV length with regards to parks that RV length “issues”. We are looking at the next year or two to sell the “bricks, sticks and mortar”. One question maybe you can answer from your travel experience is the 40′ length issues at some parks with regards to a motor home, how does that compare to, for example a 38 ft. 5th wheel and along with 18′ length of a double cab truck needed to pull it? Does the combined length of the 5th wheel and truck come into play in some or most places, i.e. setting the 5th wheel and where does one typically park the truck, in line, along side? Guess that does not matter when boon-docking. Would appreciate your feedback … regards…. Roman
This category includes all the tools and supplies we use to keep the rig in good shape. Mark loves to try new products and has a growing collection of tools in his toolbox. Before we left, he made the mistake of selling almost all of his tools. If you are handy and can work on your rig, don’t make that mistake too! He tried to “make do” with the bare minimum of tools for the first year, which is why this category didn’t used to exist for us, but now he regularly buys little goodies that make his maintenance tasks easier.
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.
9. Technological connections can be very important. This is especially true if you are leaving behind friends or family that you really want to stay in touch with. Luckily, WiFi is becoming more and more prevalent all around the country, so it’s never been easier to connect. There are many other options to consider as well, including getting your very own wifi hotspot to carry with you. Many full time RVers also have satellite dishes hardwired right into their rig for easy access. Another important topic to research before deciding to leave, so you don’t wind up being stuck with no way to connect.
We traveled for years for my husbands work. My son spent his first six years traveling with us in an rv. Recently when we found out we are having another baby we decided to not do that anymore. He found another job and we stay home. Let me tell you it is a hard adjustment. We miss traveling more than anything. Life is so much more simple that way. You have less stuff. You don’t have the up keep of a Home and yard. You don’t run around busy every night to a bunch of obligations. Oh how we miss it. So much more time outside. Freedom. Seeing new places. This conventional life is much harder. We miss our rv. We have not sold it yet. The thing is we want our son to go to school and make long term friendships. He made a lot of friends on the road. But it’s different. Most of them he will never see again. Home schooling was fine I didn’t mind. We thought being home was what we wanted. Now all we want to do is go back on the road. Hahahaha. We miss it so much. Plus he made way more money. Not sure we can survive staying in one place like this. Doing for the kids! We saw so many amazing places. Coast to coast.
Hello, I am a female, 50, and am on disability due to my spine being fused from my shoulders to my tale bone. I am very interested in living in an RV. I would sell my personal belongings to enjoy the adventure. i already live a very frugal life style. I want to see the world our Lord created. i am very nervous but still desire the adventure. Have you found it to be safe traveling? How often do you travel from one location to another? Are the camp sites dog friendly? Do you recommend any RV groups to travel with?
The Meinhofers have met a lot of families with kids on the road, but they haven’t encountered many other Latinos. They think there’s a perception in some communities of color that doing this means you are destitute. They are trying to inspire others to join them with their YouTube channel, Exploring the Local Life, which has become so popular it is making them money.