Just like the cupboards in your house, everything has a place in an RV. The difference is, when the RV is going down a bumpy road and that bottle of vinegar gets loose because it was put back in the wrong place, you might end up with a mess on your hands. It also makes packing up a much faster process because you know where all the pieces of the puzzle go.
Now I’ll tell you what I will do. I will show you how an average lower-middle class family can not only survive financial difficulty, but thrive despite it and use the situation to invest in their future. I’ll tell you what we’ve learned about financial responsibility through our hardship, and I’ll give you some encouragement on your own journey to financial freedom.
Hence the idea started brewing about first downsizing then freeing up time and money and, finally, traveling. We had been planning to homeschool the kids since our oldest was 2, so that opened a huge door since we weren’t stuck on the school schedule. My husband had a job in IT which meant he was working remote 1 day a week and could potentially do more remote work or find another job which offered that.
Once again, the answer may not be what they want to hear. The amount a young couple should spend on their first RV is what they can afford. It’s really as simple as that. Unless they know they can afford and support debt, then they should buy what is affordable, whether it’s a smaller used RV or something new. It’s much easier to upgrade than downgrade, so think about what is actually needed versus what is wanted. We sometimes get caught up thinking we need all those fancy gadgets and toys when it may be possible to get on the road much sooner if we become more realistic with our needs.
Next was digging the trench across my driveway. Although I’m fortunate that there are very few rocks in my primary building site — which also made the septic system guy pretty happy — the driveway did have a layer of gravel over it. I had to dig through that gravel and into the softer dirt beneath it. Later, I had to shovel all that gravel back. Hard work!
I just found your post as I was scrolling through to catch up. About your monthly rv rent–here in the Washington, NC area of Eastern NC, the rates are comparable to what you are paying for nice rv parks. One lists rates of about $300 a week “in season,” with “off season” about $200 a week. The other is higher at about $400 a week “in-season.” The cost is less for a year-long lease. The higher-cost park is gated and offers plenty of amenities, similar to what you list–it’s a really nice park that I would happily live in! So I think your costs are average for what you’re getting. Both parks are on deep streams that feed into the Pamlico River and on to the coast The nearby State park costs less but offers much less.
This is in answer to Liz about our 5er. We have a 30’11” Crossroads Patriot, a 2011 model. The model number is 28 something or other. You can’t use the model number as the length, by the way. You usually have at least 2 more feet of trailer. We bought our 5er fully expecting to retire early and get back on the road. We were full time for a while because of my husband’s job. Since then we have become guardians of our now 16 year old granddaughter, and have a few more years left at home. I think I would reconsider to about a 30′ length Class A now that you can get shorter diesel pushers. I miss having enough room for family in the vehicle, being able to get to the bathroom without pulling over, and being able to get to the “bedroom” without getting out of the vehicle. There are lots of RV sites with info about choosing a trailer or a Class A or C. Just depends on what your preferences and needs are at your point in life. I think we will be happier with our trailer when we are living in it, doing campground hosting and/or whatever life hands us. Right now, we actually removed all the living/kitchen area furniture except the table and chairs. Our youngest son and his wife and daughter, and our 16 yr. old, all set up cots in that area and are able to join us to camp without packing all their gear. We enjoy being outside when we are camping, so this set up has been lots of fun, and we have camped in our local mountains in all kinds of weather. If you look at Nina’s Eagle Nest State Park photo in the blog, we were in that exact spot 10 days ago, but we have also camped in Santa Fe National Forest while it was snowing. Lots of variety here in New Mexico! Had to get in a plug for my home state! My advice, if you haven’t had a lot of experience with different RVs, is to get a used rig and get some experience, and don’t spend major money at first. There will always be things you like and don’t like, though, no matter what you choose!
This RV was our first to take on a Winter adventure. This is where we learned most of our tips and tricks as we made the most mistakes with this RV. Really the number one thing we did was install skirting made from heavy duty vinyl fabric. We brought the skirting above the bay doors to help insulate the items in the bays. The biggest difference between the Damon Avanti and our Fleetwood Excursion is the basement. The Avanti is a Front Engine Diesel so there is no basement, so the tanks are exposed without skirting. The major benefit to this type of RV is once we skirt we simply put a space heater underneath the skirting and it kept most everything from freezing. All the basic other rules we’ve outlined apply with this RV as well.EXCEPT – we used a 60 watt light bulb inside a standard ‘hanging trouble light’ fixture to keep the wet bay warm. Over the process of 10 days the bulb eventually started to melt the plastic bay. This is why I do not use a light bulb anymore.The other difference is the RV Electric/Propane fridge – To keep cold air from seeping in we used duct tape to cover the vents located on the outside of the RV.
5. Make sure you have Wi-Fi access: Investing in an internet service plan that includes hotspots or a robust mobile service will make your life easier, especially if you telecommute for work while on the road. The kids will want access to the internet too, especially during long drives. If you can’t get a strong signal while on the road, consider scoping out Internet cafes at your next pit stop.
Getting Personal Effects coverage above and beyond the $20,000 limit generally requires scheduling each item and giving it a value. Progressive requires each item to be appraised ahead of time and submitted as part of the application process for securing an insurance policy. Nationwide doesn’t require appraisals but asks for receipts showing prices paid and date of purchase so they can determine the depreciated value. I’m not sure how either handles the “outside the RV” scenario if the base coverage is higher than $20,000.
With our retirement within 5 years, your blog is a continual source of information, inspiration, and encouragement. Thank you so very much. As far as saving money, have you read “Retire to an RV” by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak and Alice Zyetz? It’s an e-book that I found on-line and downloaded (PDF-format). It seems to be a great source of “living in an RV” information including how to save money. Thanks again. Neal
*About the hose that will not drain properly. To be fair, that is what the person was trying to accomplish. By forming this "P-Trap" in the line they could leave their dump valve open all the time without sewer gas entering their RV. You could certainly do this where you need not worry about freezing temperatures. However, if it freezes, it will block the flow and possible rupture the hose.
In between the pop-up and Gateway, we had a 35’ Cedar Creek fifth wheel. It was really great but the big boys really wanted more space if we were going to keep full timing and I was kinda tired of the small kitchen counter. The one thing we loved about the Cedar Creek was the shorter length opened up more camping options. Many parks have 35’ length restrictions and we fit in a lot of driveways. The Gateway at 41’ no longer fit in my or Brent’s parents driveway and occasionally we couldn’t stay in some parks because it was too big. We don’t regret purchasing the Gateway and would buy it over again if we were full time RVing but now that we aren’t, we are looking for something shorter so we have more options.
Keeping your water and waste tanks from freezing is an especially difficult task. If there is a winterizing skirting around your RV, it may be helpful to install a small heavy duty space heater under your unit to keep the gray and black tanks from freezing. The fresh water tank should be alright with daily use, although the water supply feeding the tank can (and will) freeze. Special heat tape and hose insulators are available for purchase at any hardware store, but these are ineffective in prolonged sub-freezing temperatures.
For the past year, we felt the wind shifting but we were in denial. We tried to continue on course against the wind hoping that things would return to what they were. However, in the quiet of night, I knew the change I was hoping for wasn’t going to happen. In those silent moments of raw honesty with myself what I wanted, as ridiculous as it sounds, was for the older boys to quit getting older. I wanted them to stay my babies forever and shelter them from life’s hardships. Living in the RV seemed to slow down time and kept them close. Kept them safe.
“Character” – Before we went on the road we looked at a vintage bus and I loved it. It had so much character and personality. However practically outweighed personality for full time RVing. Since this one is for part time only, we are considering something more “fun” like a vintage camper. We love remodeling/renovation projects and think it would be fun to renovate and older trailer and make it something that “fits us”. However, vintage trailers sacrifice modern comforts and we just aren’t sure we want to sacrifice modern comforts.
My mother always told me that if you don’t learn to live within your means, you never will. Meaning: if you can’t figure out how to life with the money you have, it doesn’t matter how much money you have – you’ll always need more. Now "never" is a strong word, but the moral is there - you have to look at your lifestyle and spending choices. If you're struggling for cash now, should you buy a brand new RV? Should you be paying $100+ a month for cable TV?
When we started out we spent around $4,500 on initial start-up $$. That covered tow modifications, new sewer hose, extra water hoses, surge protector and power cords (30 to 50A cable, plus a 30A extension cable), Lynx leveling blocks, wheel covers, camping chairs and tables, outdoor grill and mat. We also spent smaller $ on various cheap plastic storage bins (for sorting our stuff in the downstairs bins). We didn’t initially buy a TPMS system, but that’s something I’d recommend for folks today and does add around another ~$500 to the total. All these start-up costs were easily covered by selling furniture and various “stuff” from our house.
Using that silver bubble wrap over your windows on the exterior of the rv eliminates almost all heat loss through your windows, description online says the stuff will block ~94% of radiant heat, means it keeps heat in and cold out or vice versa, if yoy can bare to part without seeing out some of your windows. Ive been living in an rv for two years in north dakota, temps can get down to -50°F or worse, my skirting is 2×4 frame with osb sheeting, one inch foam board with reflective backing and R21 insulation behind that, heaters and heat tape and heated hoses are definitely ur friends, at such low temps every little bit helps.
I know clothes are the hardest to pack, especially for us women! This tends to vary for each person and will depend on the length of your trip, but I will say that you need to pack for all weather types. No matter where you are in the U.S., the weather can change quickly! We were surprised by the temperatures in many places. It rarely seemed to be the weather we expected. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to bring everything in your closet.
I always imagined that you should try to buy the biggest RV you could afford. After all, who doesn’t want lots of space? Our travels over the past years, and perhaps more specifically the kind of travel we like to do (camping in public campgrounds, forests, state parks, off-the-beaten-track spots) has taught me that bigger is not always better. Our “beastly” size is super-comfortable but requires me to do quite a bit of detailed planning to make sure we can fit into the kinds of spots we like to visit. In retrospect, I would have wished for a smaller RV. For those camping mostly in private parks this is not a consideration, but for our kinda camping it sure would be nice with a few less feet.
Since we started full-timing, we have upgraded both of our DSLR cameras twice and upgraded both of our pocket cameras twice. As for biking, we started out with cyclo-cross bikes but sold those when we found we were almost always camped near very rugged dirt roads. We replaced them with mountain bikes in March, 2014. Bike maintenance isn’t a huge cost, but it’s there. We also upgraded our bike rack a few years ago. And back in 2008 we splurged on a fabulous Hobie inflatable kayak that we loved for several years but eventually sold because we needed more room in the basement.
We try our hardest with this aspect of our budget. We like to eat fresh, healthy, and regional so we try to visit farmers markets and local farms/ranches/dairies when possible. We also buy bulk items at CostCo, Fresh Market, etc. in order to keep staples on hand and get the most for our money. However, with a 3-year old we go through a lot of milk (at $4.85/gallon or so), snack foods, apples, and nuts. Have you seen the price of pistachios lately? One things we do splurge on is typically meats (we like good, grass fed beef), beer, and ice cream. Even life on the road doesn’t have to be sparse.
Would love to hear how you deal with four kids and car seats. We have a Winnebago tour which is set up for four passengers and haven’t figured out how to put the car seats in there according to regulation for our two grandsons. Did you have something special he installed or is the view just configured properly for your needs. Our extra seats are on a sofa with no back to Heather bolts and the seats would be facing sideways which is not ideal for children any tips would be appreciated
It’s good to have an idea of where to go, what to do and how long to stay but don’t have a rigid plan. Be flexible enough to have the option to stay a few extra nights or leave early. Every town we drive into is a new experience. Sometimes we love the town and sometimes it’s just not our cup of tea. Having a flexible schedule means we can stay longer in places we enjoy and take off early if we’re not feeling it.
$2,319 Fuel Cost – So far we’ve put a lot less miles on the RV this year (around 5,000 so far) however we’ve been driving our Smart Car loads more (probably double last year)! Everyone complains about fuel costs, but if you look at it our fuel isn’t our largest expense, and how much really does a 10 cent increase per gallon cost? You’re either going to travel or you’re not, I’m tired of hearing people use the excuse of fuel costs as a reason they don’t take out their RV. Suck it up, put on your big boy pants, and travel….you’ll thank me later as you realize the trip only cost an extra $25 because of the rise in fuel cost. Sorry for the rant, we just hear this excuse over and over and it’s a moot point.
You don’t have to have a “home” to have an address. There are multiple companies that offer mailbox services. Which means you get an address for a mailbox that is located in one of the cities that the business is located in. The company then scans your envelopes and sends them to you via email (you can let them know if you want them to keep it to mail it to you or throw it away), mails your mail to you once a month – wherever you are, or some even open the mail and scan it and send it to you. It is all for a monthly cost but it is very reasonable. The only thing is you have to have domicile in the state they offered in. The main one’s for Full Time traveling families are Florida and Texas – since the homeschooling laws are best there. However we had heard that Texas wasn’t good for state health insurance since they didn’t offer a nation wide plan – not sure if that matters to you. Here is a link from a full time RVing couple about how to handle mail and a few other things: http://www.technomadia.com/2012/07/chapter-9-nomadic-logistics-domicile-mail-taxes-banking-and-voting/ Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.
These kinds of campground membership programs are a complicated, and the companies change the rules as their profitability and growth plan requires. It is best to book your stays 90 days or more in advance and there may also be a complex set of rules to follow regarding staying within the network and outside of it. Sometimes an alternative campground network is offered so you have somewhere similar to stay when it is time for you to stay outside your home network. Two we’ve heard of are Resorts of Distinction and Adventure Outdoor Resorts given as the alternative networks.
I think school bus conversions are awesome! But, I’d just mention that you should decide what kind of life you want to have – one where you work to make money to pay for your RV’s monthly installments, and get one that’s in good enough shape that you don’t have to constantly be working on it, or a life where you can work less because you buy a cheaper / older rig, work on it yourself, but will likely work on it a LOT more often than a newer one. I have always chosen to work on cheaper things myself, but it’s a personal choice. Sounds like an exciting time in life for you, James!
To let you know what kind of weather we’re preparing for in our RV, a typical winter day in this part of the country is below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Usually we will get a couple of weeks each year where the high temperatures don’t get above freezing and the lows are close to zero, but we rarely get sub-zero temperatures. And although we usually get at least some snow and possibly ice, the snow doesn’t stay on the ground for more than a few days.
Those are the top things that have been a challenge for us to overcome as RV'ers. RV travel falls somewhere between having the comforts of home and camping – and your mileage may vary depending on your budget. The sky is the limit when it comes to RV's – you can buy something that's affordable that may require a few sacrifices, or there are ones that will make you feel like a rock star.
For internet most RVers sign up for a cellphone data plan with either Verizon or ATT and use a MiFi to distribute it to all their devices. You’ll likely have to adjust your data usage quite a bit since cellphone plans are much more limited than what you’re used to at home. Also, you’ll want to consider buying a booster to help boost the signal in more marginal spots. My best advice is actually to buy this book written by fellow RVers and techno-mads who’ve dedicated 226 pages to this exact question:
Life on the road can often get lonely, even for couples or families who travel together. Committing to the full-time RV lifestyle often means forgoing a sense of community, missing out on family events and waking up every day in a new, unfamiliar place. For the Nealys, this is the greatest challenge of full-time RVing. To cope, they’ve built a network of friends on the road, most of whom they met through the growing community of full-time RV lifestyle bloggers. Jennifer started the couple’s blog Nealys on Wheels to join this sort of makeshift social network. The pair began to make connections with other full-time RVers through their blog and through Instagram.
To get around this, you can look up the nearest warehouse distribution center for either FedEx or UPS and have the package shipped to that distribution center with “Hold for Pickup” written on it. You will not be charged a fee at pickup. However, you will need to track the package and you will have 5 days to pick up the package before it is returned to the sender.
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.
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!
We knew what to expect in the way of weather, having lived in the northeast for years. We knew that once we got situated at our site, it would be very unlikely to get out with the RV until spring. We knew that winter RVing would mean insulating the water hookup to avoid freezing. We also knew that at this particular NJ campground, we would only have water and electric hookups and would have to rely on their weekly honey wagon to empty the tanks.
The various RVs were scattered about a sheet of ice. It was treacherous walking. Our neighbors were predominately construction workers with pick up trucks in abundance. We all had problems getting in and out with those, and sometimes had to park at the office for fear of not getting back out from the sites the next day. So moving the RV was not an option.
I think living in an RV before you try to get fully into it isn’t a bad idea at all. Rental RV’s are a great way to do this. Just try it out for a while, travel around to get a feel of living in the thing in different areas and see how you feel. We’ve met many traveling nurses who fulltime and enjoy the comfort of having their own bed/home wherever they go. Good luck with everything!
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…
I am currently 57 and my husband is 62, we are planning to work 5 more years then sell the house along with most of our belongings and hit the road in our 30 foot Windjammer travel trailer. I am excited, but terrified and a little overwhelmed by insurance, mail, making reservations, internet, weather, how to pack, etc. Over 40 years of accumulating things (stuff) – I’m not even sure what to put into storage. We want to be debt free and explore our beautiful country and do alot of fishing. Your information and everyone else’s feedback has been so helpful.
My wife and me lived in a 19 1/2 foot Winnebago Brave class A for 8 months and oddly enough it was winter that made us move out. The way you’ve figured out solutions that works for you certainly put a smile on my face. Living with less is the only way to enjoy a whole lot more. Meanwhile you’ve got the perfect layout, especially for a unit this small. Is your band your only income source or do you find other jobs as they come along? Enjoy the moment. It’s a whole lot more precious than you’d think. I know, my body is closing down but our tiny memories are the ones I reflect upon the most. DARN IT WAS FUN!
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