Love this interview! With 4 kids and dogs in an RV… We live in an RV with only 2 kids, and they don’t take many space (yet) as they are 2,5yo and 7mo. So I’m impressed 🙂 Love the tip about taking it one day at a time. That is what I should do more too. I have the tendency to plan ahead to much. Maybe a tip for other RVing families: come to Europe! Europe is great to explore in an RV, but choose a smaller vehicle because the roads and campsites are small compared to those in the US.
The first year of RVing I struggled to find the kinds of campgrounds (natural, green, spacious) that we like to visit. It was a constant battle of going to one website, through a ton of clicks, then another website, then to a map, then to another spot and back again to try and figure out which one matched our route. Early this year I discovered uscampgrounds.info and my planning life changed. If you like public camping there’s simply no better resource out there and I use it as the base for all our travel planning now.
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.
We scrapped our plans as our car was towed off to be repaired in El Paso and we had to move to a bigger city to find a rental. It turns out that Minis have an issue that can cause them to catch on fire at any time. Not trusting it after that, we switched it out for the Xterra. It was a pain at the time, but now it's a story to tell around the campfire.
The electric blower motor in your furnace in your RV uses MOST of the electricity usage, in your RV, BY FAR. I had 4 of the biggest deep cycle batteries walmart makes in my RV, each 29 size and each 125 amp hours, so 500 amp hours. (for my truck camper) vs class A with 500 amp hours, you are woefully underpowered for dry camping, unless you want to be running your generator a lot. I have ad a honda 1000 generator, but I found i never needed to use it, and the inconvenience of dragging it out, gassing it up, chaining it up, and then packing up and storing, was not worth it. I DID however have zero guage wire from batteries to alternator in truck to recharge them that worked great. batteries lasted 2 years before needed replacing. Id reccomend the 29DC – MAXX not the regular 29DC, as maxx has 1 year warranty (used to be 2), and slightly more amp hours and better built.
For healthcare we keep $8,000 in our HSA account (tax-free health savings account). This not only covers our regular yearly self-pay checks, but also covers the individual deductible on our health care plan in case we should ever need it. We keep an additional 4-6 months of savings in ready cash (e.g. cash, money market, savings) for unplanned RV, pet & other expenses and regularly add to these savings through our monthly budget.
Unless you're staying in an RV that's purpose built for extreme cold, your RV is probably lacking in insulation. Because of the way travel trailers and motorhomes are constructed, there are some perennial weak spots that RVers have to shore up to best insulate their homes. First, your windows are going to be more liability than asset in the winter. Glass lets heat escape easily, so you'll want to insulate your windows. Many RVers use styrofoam cut out into window sized blocks to shore up these weak spots, others go with plywood, as it's sturdier, but even a set of thermal curtains will help bolster your RVs insulation. Another problem spot for many full timers is the underside of the RV. Because of your ground clearance, the cold wind can whip right under your RV and steal precious heat, and cool the underside storage compartments to make it harder to heat your RV. Since you'll be in the same spot all season, it's a smart idea to build a skirt around the bottom of your RV to keep the wind out. Finally, RVs can get drafty after a few years when the seals start to break down, so find the problem spots where the cold is sneaking in and plug the holes!
I just love reading about your experiences. This question is for Paul assuming he does most the wrenching? Paul, when do you decide to take your rig in for “fix-it’s” compared to do it yourself. Some basic things I have tackled have been very stressful (trying to save a buck) yet rewarding when accomplished. And what is your tool box situation? Huge weight factor as I have a huge roll around at home but only certain tools make it in my rig. (30′ class A HURRICANE) I keep basic stuff such as small cord less drill/driver/impact to help turn stubborn screws and bolts that I cant break loose due to health, it also has adaptors for sockets which I carry a small assortment, then the plumbing and electrical stuff. I keep some extra wire and connectors, stripers, tape etc. plumbing is easy with connectors and pliers? but I find I want to have so much more from “the big box” at home. Also carry rainy season stuff to help prevent those leaks I found this year. frightful to say the least when you find a leak in your roof. My RV tool box is approx.. 8″x20″x8″ yet weighs a ton. Try to keep something in it to fix anything. Best tool is a good bright flashlight that has a beam or if extended has a wide light like a small lantern
- You should remove snow from slide-outs regularly to reduce water damage. As snow accumulates on top of the slide-out, the heat from inside the RV can melt the bottom layer of snow, creating an ice dam. You also can add insulation by using rigid insulation sealed to the camper body. However, angle any insulation you place on the top of the slide-out to allow water to drain away from the RV.
For us, we sold everything and quit our jobs, so we had zero income at the start of our journey. It was important to track all our expenses carefully so that we could stay on the road for as long as possible while not bringing in any income. We had enough in savings to comfortably go a year or two without making any money. You’ll want to figure out what your limit is so you don’t find yourself hitting the bottom of the bank before you make any changes.
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.
This is a hugely variable cost that has changed a lot in our lives over the years. The figure for these six months of summer travel in 2014 is way higher than ever before. Our biggest “eating out” cost comes from getting coffee and muffins at coffee bistros (so nice!). The rest is a combination of beers at cute brewpubs and meals at Subway and other fast food joints. For comparison, in the first four months of 2014 before this trip, from January to April, our monthly restaurant bill was $70. In those months we weren’t camping near many inviting places!
Just wanted to give you a tip on window treatments. I read that you guys have used curtains, bubble wrap, etc. We have just started on our cold weather excursion (currently in northwestern Montana) and wanted to share what we did for sealing our windows. 3M makes clear window treatments that come in multiple sizes. Normally, they are for use in a residential home, but we found them to work equally well in our 5er. Using double sided tape around the frames of the windows, they make a tight, clear seal and both keeps the air leaks from coming in and forms an air pocket between the glass and plastic film that acts as an insulator. SInce air is a poor conductor of heat, it makes a huge difference in keeping our RV warmer in the winter while still allowing full light to enter. We’ll be putting a winter post up on our blog shortly. Granted, we are from Florida, so I’m not sure who’s going to take our advice, but we both did grow up in Colorado and Pennsylvania, respectively! Hope this helps!
My husband and I are doing the same right now Toni. First we were considering selling everything and moving to a Caribbean island but after a lot of research we realized that it isn’t easy getting a job on some of the islands and the places where you can get jobs are crime ridden. So, we turned back to our life long dream of buying and RV and traveling the country. We are still in our early 50’s so we are too young to retire but through our research we discovered a website called flexjobs.com that is a great site for finding jobs that offer the ability to work remotely. It is a legitimate site without all of the scams and network marketing type of stuff. We also just discovered camp hosting on a website called workampingjobs.com. There are a lot of camp grounds in a lot of different states that offer various types of opportunities for couples to be camp hosts. Some are just for a free place in the camp ground in exchange for work but some also offer salaries to go with the free stay. I’m becoming more excited than scared now. My only concern is health insurance.
In South Dakota, one of the largest mail forwarding services is America’s Mailbox just outside of Rapid City in Box Elder near the Black Hills in the western part of the state. We have the Platinum plan with them and have been absolutely delighted with their service. We call them once a month and tell them where to send the mail. Mail forwarding providers in South Dakota include:
I should also add that the graph I created (in the post) showing average monthly $$ is simply my best guess based on the folks we’ve traveled with and those that have shared or published their budget (which admittedly not everyone is prepared to do). It’s possible I’m wrong and many folks spend more than they say (and since we regularly boondock/workamp it’s also possible we travel mostly with the frugal crowd!), but I honestly don’t think it’s too far off.
I placed it in the middle of the basement floor. Then I connected it to a temperature-sensitive outlet called a Thermocube at the end of the extension cord I was already using for the heat tape. The Thermocube supplies power to its outlets when temperatures dip to 35°F and turns off power when temperatures rise to 45°F. I turned the heater on to the lower of its two settings, figuring that would be enough to keep the area from freezing.
I don’t know if we actually need skirting to keep our pipes and tanks from freezing, but we decided to go ahead and use it just to be safe, and it made a huge difference in keeping our RV warmer inside and preventing heat loss. We made our own removable, reusable vinyl skirting out of recycled billboard vinyl for around $200. You can read more about how we made our skirting in this blog post.
Great info, We have been agonizing over what size rig to go with for over a year now. We have bounced back and forth between a 40′ Legacy and a 5th wheel but now after reading so many blogs as well as yours, to more than likely go with a Class C Itasca Navion which is 25’8″ and is built on the Sprinter chassis. Your blog really used us over the edge with your hindsight on smaller size. I always thought that a bigger rig would be better but now I am comfortable making that leap with a smaller rig. Thanks for the great info and Go Gators!!! Class of 85′
When you live in an RV, you adopt a mantra: one in, one out. There just isn’t the room to collect things. We started paring down our collection of stuff in preparation for living in an RV, but once you're in it, the lack of extra storage space really helps to curtail any retail therapy you may employ. The fact that we no longer watch much TV and even fewer commercials means we're not as bombarded by messaging to buy, buy, buy and have less impulse to go shopping. We now collect memories and sunsets with a few smashed pennies and stickers thrown in for good measure.