​This is probably one of the most frequently asked questions about full-time RV living, and probably one of the most difficult to answer. This is because everyone lives life and makes decisions differently. Some people need to blow dry their hair after shower; some need to be able to watch football every day and some don’t watch TV at all; some can’t live without a washer and dryer (perhaps a family that goes through a lot of laundry daily) while others are fine with going to a laundromat. Some people love to eat out every other night while others prefer to eat at home. Some people want the community and socialization at an RV park or campground, while others prefer the peace and solitude of middle-of-nowhere camping. You get the picture.
This discussion of condensation brings up a related subject… the method of heating that you use in your RV. When propane is burned, it releases combustion byproducts and one of those byproducts is a surprisingly large quantity of water vapor! Most standard RV furnaces are vented to the outside of the rig and will not add any moisture to the inside air. This is not true of any unvented propane heater, including popular catalytic heaters. Using your stovetop burners also adds moisture to the inside air. If you intend to heat your rig using an unvented propane heater, you will have to provide a larger amount of ventilation to remove the additional moisture added to your air. Most unvented heaters are pretty nice for milder climates and are great for taking that morning chill off. Using them as your primary source of heat in really cold weather can prove to be a challenge because of the potential for condensation problems.
Once we retire, my wife and I are planning on spending winters (at least) heading south from Chicago in an RV for maybe 3 months at a time. I’m an over-researcher according to her, but also an accountant. 🙂 I’d love to play with your budgeting worksheet. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link on your website. Is there a specific page where I can find it?
We've had this motorhome for almost two years but never had the propane system checked to see if everything worked correctly since we were in California for much of the time. Plus, we don't know how expensive it is to get this system checked. (The small propane tank is still half full.) Can electric heaters be used for inside heating as long as they're the kind that shuts off if tipped (and never left on when we leave for a few hours)?

Excellent read, but now more than ever, I want to head south before it's too late. I planned to head out of CT to IN for Nov/Dec, then go south. But the RV parks (just 2 that are open year round in that area) have an age restriction for their RV's. Mine is a 1985 Class C, though not in the least bit embarrassing. I'm afraid I'll run into this age restriction thing all over the USA but the fear of spending the winter in CT is getting to me, too. I can't even imagine my propane and electric costs to get through each month, not to mention the cost of skirting. Help!!! Can someone ease my fears about the age of my rig in regard to campgrounds during the winter months? Will I be stuck parking in Cracker Barrel's?
Your plan looks totally do-able. Your 30K merchandise start-up budget should be ample to cover everything you need, and in fact you should even be able to put some of that aside for the future unexpected expenses & upgrades (something I would recommend). Your monthly budget is certainly on the frugal side, but totally possible if you focus on keeping your camping & gas costs in check.
When I travel on a 6-8 week roadtrip with two people, my expenses average about $100/day. That includes food, fuel, and lodging. I drive a lot (20,000 miles/ yr), so my expenses are high. When I stay at an RV park in FL for the winter, my expenses are lower because I have little to any fuel expenses. Lots of RVers spend less than I do because they drive fewer miles and often do free camping on Federal land. Also, some don’t include food expenses because those expenses would be the same if they didn’t do RV travel.

For years, Brent and I have talked about buying a vintage trailer or bus.  In a post I wrote in March 2011, I mentioned my dream of rolling down a dusty highway in an Airstream, a shiny piece of Americana. We love bringing old things back to life. Although, we don’t have experience renovating a trailer, we did renovate two 1950s houses in California. A trailer can’t be that much harder to restore than a house, right? Years ago, when we bought our pop-up trailer, our tow vehicle was a Honda Odyssey so we were very limited by weight and budget. Today, we have a bigger budget and tow vehicle so maybe now is the time to pursue our dream of restoring and remodeling a vintage Airstream! We have a perfect space to park it while we work on it.
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!

Remember to boil the bones of chicken and beef with a little vinegar to bring out the best, the chicken feet have great collegen.. bone broth is great for you. Kombucha is also for the immune system and easy to make. Make all the food you can.. it is very satisfying and better for you and tastes better. get a book and homemade medicine and try the young living essential oils.. The woods is full of medicine. Let me know if I have helped or hindered or can help in the future.
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).
Life as a suburbanite isn’t all bad. Like most of life, it’s a matter of perspective and attitude. I’m slowly incorporating things that I used to enjoy about being in one place like going to libraries and getting in my  favorite cashier’s line at the grocery store. <== I’m obviously the life of the paaartay. Simple things that I didn’t realize I missed. I’m an introvert and homebody so it’s hard for me to get out and meet people but it’s happening. Slowly.
Thank you a summary of your “road” costs. What folks generaly believe is somehow life is cheaper doing something else then what they are doing now. But we have a perpensty to do what is always do no matter what. Just because you are on the road dosn’t mean you have changed your personality. My wife and I are more like you folk so I’m guessing my expenses will be more in line with your summary.
In the dead of summer, the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. During the day it is high in the sky, almost directly overhead. In mid-winter, the sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest, traversing a very low arc in the sky. At its highest, the sun is only halfway up the sky. These low angles are advantageous for keeping an RV warm in winter, however, as the sun shines directly in the windows into the center of the coach.
In Florida, cruising sailors have relied on St. Brendan’s Isle mail forwarding for ages. To my knowledge, they were the first (by at least 5 years) to provide a virtual mail service where you could see a scanned image of your mail in an email message. This kind of service is now provided by America’s Mailbox and Escapees and others as well. Other mail forwarding services in Florida are Nato Mail, Escapees, Good Sam Club and My RV Mail.
I can access the maps on the BLM Navigator and zoom in without any problem. I do not see any way to remove layers as you describe. There are 7 different map “views” such as street or topography, but nothing underlying that can be altered. So I am not sure if the shaded areas (several different shades of green and a flesh tone) are BLM land, or something else. Is there a particular browser required? I am using Firefox and Chrome.
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.
I also found that the power steering fluid, transmission fluid and generator oil were bone dry, the engine oil desperately needed to be changed  and I discovered that someone put the wrong fuel filter on, so now it’ll have to be cut off to be replaced (who knows how much that’ll cost!). It also now needs rear ABS service and the air conditioner wasn’t just a recharge, but the compressor is blown which will cost $1000. I knew an older RV would need work, but I didn’t expect it so soon…
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:
I live in Ga and have an open DFCS case because my son and I stayed in a van. I wanted to buy an RV however I do not know how legal it is to stay in an RV, Im unsure about how I will argue that it is a perfect alternatuve to staying in a van. Do you have any advice on how I can get clearance from DFCS so that my son and I can stay in an RV legally do you know anyone I can talk to about it.
I am currently in the process of getting a job in Malaga. The Wenatchee and surrounding areas look beautiful, though I am not one for apartment life (I prefer cheaper living and green space.) I’m trying to figure out a way to have an RV or a tiny house out there, though I’m not sure where to start. I’ll be in the area this Friday (I currenly live in Michigan), do you have any suggestions on finding a lot to rent or take care of in exchage for rent?
3.  I would have test drove some newer ones – I only test drove three or four 20+ year old RVs. Since I’d never driven an RV before, I had no idea how it should feel or sound. Had I known, I might have been able to detect some of the problems it had (a bad catalytic converter, for example).  Test driving something newer might have given me a baseline for how it should feel to drive one.
Remember to boil the bones of chicken and beef with a little vinegar to bring out the best, the chicken feet have great collegen.. bone broth is great for you. Kombucha is also for the immune system and easy to make. Make all the food you can.. it is very satisfying and better for you and tastes better. get a book and homemade medicine and try the young living essential oils.. The woods is full of medicine. Let me know if I have helped or hindered or can help in the future.
We are a Navy family of 6 (+3 cats) just starting out in a 34′ trailer. I am so excited to have found some families living a “full timer” lifestyle. We will mostly be tethered since my husband is still in the service, but we are thrilled that it will make traveling and changing duty stations MUCH easier! WalMart parking lots are fantastic for pit stops, it was a relief to know that I could just pop over to the grocery store if we had forgotten anything! Just wanted to say thank you in advance, since I am already brain-storming ways to organize our limited space, and figure out exactly how much we want to take with us! Best wishes on your journey…
2017 Udpate – TOTALLY. Since that original “crazy” year on the road we’ve enjoyed a much more relaxed pace of travel (you can see all our travel maps HERE -> we average just over ~5,000 miles/year) and it’s made everything SO much better. For us this is a lifestyle, not a vacation and taking the time to enjoy each spot has made it a deeper, richer (and more enjoyable) experience for both of us.
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.
Hey Claire! By “gas” do you mean propane or gasoline? Because gasoline, yeah, it’s pretty expensive, right? Propane, not as much. We’ve downsized to living in a VW Bus, and we’ve been in Mexico for the past year, so it’s all warm weather down here and we rarely ever need to refill even our tiny propane tank, but in the US I recall filling our two tanks cost around $30, and we’d need to refill them every two months or so in the winter, and then they’d last all summer just powering our fridge and stove. I’ll shoot you an email, too. 🙂
5. You should have a bit of DIY knowledge. You don’t exactly have to be a mechanic or a plumber or and electrician, but a little knowledge in all of those fields will be helpful for this lifestyle. This is especially the case if you will be moving often and putting a lot of miles on the RV. There is more maintenance involved with an RV than a regular home. Therefore, it would be best to get to know your owner’s manual and what it suggests. Basic plumbing and electrical knowledge will go a long way, as will knowing what to do if your roof or windowsills leak. It is also a good idea to have a maintenance routine that you go through on a set schedule.
3. Keep the fresh water and pipes from freezing: In my humble opinion your tips and tricks are spot on. I do have an observation and suggestion to make. Your efforts are targeting the “sewer bay” on the driver side of the RV. When we froze in Louisiana, it was the passenger side that was vulnerable. Our fresh water tank has an overflow vent on the passenger side. When the water in the tank freezes, like a pond the top of the water freezes first. In our case that prevented us from putting water into the tank and we ended up with a small crack in the tank. Fortunately, it was on the edge and was easily fixed. I think the freezing occurred because our efforts were on the “sewer bay” side and not the other. I think the answer here is another small space heater on the passenger side of the RV.
The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!

Or maybe you are like me. I took early retirement with a pension of about $1100 per month and I don’t have to work at all unless I want to for whatever reason. I am young and healthy so I am working as a campground host in some beautiful places. That way I can build more of a savings account or spend more as I want. Many people have social security or disability checks they live on.

We are avid birders and love the solitude of nature. We imagine we will be staying and volunteering in wildlife refuges, state parks and boondocking for the most part. We are looking at the Northwoods Arctic Fox 32-5M (34’11’).( We love our daily yoga practice and need a floor plan that fits 2 yoga mats) We are heading to the Northwoods dealer in Oregon in the beginning of april to see about trading our truck in for a diesel long bed and buying the fifth wheel. Northwoods just came out with a new fifth wheel floor plan that rocks(35-5z) but it is 38’11”. In regards to bigger is not better do you have any guidance here to help our decision making process? I know this is a very personal decision. ANY input will be helpful. It is just the two of us and our binoculars, camera, bird books, and laptop computers for the most part. This is such a huge decision and we will be living with it for a long time.

After reading their story, if starting a blog is something you are interested in we put together a step-by-step tutorial for you. Like Heath and Alyssa, we have discovered that starting your own business, like a blog, can lead to a TON of freedom in life. If you have the desire to live in an RV and travel full time starting a blog should be one of your top priorities.

Thank you for your videos! We’re finding them very helpful. We are in the early stages of trying to finding the right RV for our family. Can a “cold weather package or winter package” be added after an RV is already built and what would that include? I’ve noticed some RV’s that have a sticker that says winter package on it and we’re wondering what that means.
​Our health insurance we have gotten through Healthcare.gov. This cost is relatively low because we enrolled in catastrophic health plans and qualified for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. It has changed every year, and this year they got rid of PPO plans that have in-network doctors across the country and not just in one state. Next year we may be looking into joining a Health Share program if prices continue to rise and coverage drops. 
First and foremost, not all RVs are ideal for full-timing. The most common types of RVs that full-timers use are Class A motorhomes (which can be powered by gas or diesel fuel), Class C Motorhomes, Fifth Wheel Trailers (including Toy-Haulers), and lastly, Travel Trailers. Truck Campers, Class B motorhomes, and Tent Trailers are not traditionally good choices for full-timers.
$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.
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.
My only issue with this article is the title “The real costs” which implies that you are about to tell us that full time RVing is not as cheap as some people might think. Instead you provided your expenses which I would speculate are much higher than the average. As a number of people mentioned your lot rent is perhaps two to three times higher than the typical rent.
Obviously, food is a point where budgets can vary widely by personal dietary preferences… but you’ll probably spend similarly to what you spend now, maybe a touch more. The biggest change is you may not have room to store bulk buys – so that could account for some increase. And you may be tempted to eat out a bit more while you’re traveling, mostly to sample local cuisines but sometimes just because it’s easier after a long day of driving, or cooking in a small space may be seem limiting.
28. RVing teaches you to fix things. I hoped I was going to be rich enough to pay a mechanic all the time. That strategy hasn’t worked out for me yet, so now I know how to flush my radiator, fix my generator, check gauges, and a lot of other manly stuff I couldn’t do before. I even recently outfitted our Honda CR-V for proper towing, Dad would be proud.
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