My bucket list included photographing eagles along the Mississippi River in winter. We arrived in Davenport, Iowa and were lucky enough to find a county park open with electric. No problem our basement was heated, so we thought. That plumbing bay has a plastic bottom with a hole for the sewer hose. Did you know plastic is a conductor of cold? We didn’t consider it util our water filter froze and the pump dumped 90 gallons of fresh water on the ground.
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.
Very informative site, thank you for all the work putting it together. My wife and I have a small rv and are intending traveling from Fl. to the Jackson Hole/Yellowstone area and would like to know how much hard cash we should carry. We are not trying to skimp, we don’t need to(thank God) and besides we want to enjoy ourselves, but feel we should have some cash with us but not too much.
Wow..we have been following your post since we saw the special on TV. Was hoping to get some information on RV-ing, but did not know you would provide great detailed information. We hope to start traveling in about 5 years and the cost have been on our minds alot this year. Your expense details really help us. Hope to see you on the road sooner than 5 years. Thanks for the posts.
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.
Area parks feature hiking trails, sports facilities and green spaces for your family picnic. The city of Dallas manages over 21,000 acres of parkland, with 17 lakes and over 60 miles of biking and jogging trails. The city also operates more than 40 recreational facilities, featuring tennis courts, soccer fields, community swimming pools, playgrounds and picnic areas for you to enjoy. The city of Fort Worth manages more than 200 public spaces, including the Forest Park community swimming pool, McLeland Tennis Center, softball fields at Gateway Park and track and field facilities at the Haws Athletic Center.
We only had our little Gypsy cat just over a year when she snuck outside in San Diego during our pre-desert stay. The next month was filled with constant searches, fliers, and talking to anyone in the neighborhood, but we never found her. A short time later, our older cat Dylan was diagnosed with lymphoma. This is something most cats can live with, but six months after losing Gypsy, we lost Dylan, too. We did learn about coordinating intensive long-term medical care for a pet on the road and where all the animal oncologists on the west coast practice. Thankfully, our initial oncologist was so helpful in making sure she was looped in with what was happening along the way that we felt we had a primary vet on staff.
The grand total for the fourth quarter (October 01 – December 31) of our 2013 RV Living Expenses: $11,971 Below is a breakdown of our expenses of full time living in our RV, if you want more details read the posts from 2011 and 2012. I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,014 Fuel – Gas for Smart Car and diesel for RV, we logged a ton of miles this quarter.
It is best to choose a bag that has a lower temperature rating than you expect to actually encounter. For example, if you predict the weather will be 35 degrees Fahrenheit, select a bag that will tolerate down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, that way if you become too warm, you can simply vent the bag to promote more air circulation, or even shed a few layers of clothes.
$1,277 Hawaii Trip – We flew to HI for a friends wedding, it’s amazing how expensive 1 week of travel outside the RV can be. Our friends paid for several dinners, entertainment, and our hotel room yet we still ended up spending this much! This amount includes Cat Hotel ($252), Food, Drink, Pedicure Spa day, and groceries. This price doesn’t even include our airfare! It’s nice to get out of the RV for a few days but the expense is hard to chew.$500 Stuff and Things – I’m sure I’ve missed a few things we’ve paid cash for like laundry, parking meters, tips, farmers markets, etc. so I’ve added this buffer.
Curious, what do you do to make a living? What about the dreaded health insurance we’re forced to have or be penalized for not having it? These are concerns for me as a mom with kids. Sure I can buy an RV and travel but there needs to be an income and there needs to be insurance. Although, I guess if the gov’t can’t find me then they can’t fine me…lol. Happy Trails!
Comments on this site are moderated for appropriateness and relevance. While differences in opinion, questions and other constructive comments are welcome, we will not be posting offensive, argumentative or unrelated comments. If you have a service, parts or product related question, please contact us to reach out to Winnebago Industries staff directly.
After you have identified your fears, accept them, even embrace them; they are a natural instinct given to us to keep us safe and from taking stupid risks. They are a good thing unless we let them paralyze us. When that feeling of fear and panic starts to well up from your gut, take a really deep breath and literally thank it for the wise warning it’s offering you. Then assure it you will consider the warning very seriously. This may seem very “new-agy” but try it any way.
One last thought on sewer lines. If you are really concerned that they may freeze, add some RV/Marine Antifreeze down the stool. Make sure it is RV/Marine Antifreeze and not engine antifreeze. You can find it a almost any auto parts or home store like Home Depot, Menards, Lowes or even your local hardware or grocery store may carry it if you are in an area where it is demand.
$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.
This is an amazing lifestyle to live with your kids. There’s lots of downtime to just hang out and enjoy each other and tons of adventuring and exploring. Overall, it’s an awesome way to deepen your family bond! After 3 years of living this way, we have always been able to figure out how to make it work so everyone can enjoy this journey we are on!
Also, Nikki mentions the large amount of moisture created by running the propane furnace. Unless I don’t understand the process entirely, RV furnaces are vented to the outside, and should produce very little, if any additional moisture inside the coach. They work quite similar to a gas furnace in a home. The furnace in our home is natural gas and even when it runs a lot, there is no additional moisture in the house. Now if you have a gas space heater, that’s entirely different, as all of the moisture by product from combustion stays inside the coach.
Our initial budget estimate was somewhere between $2500 and $2800 per month. We are very happy that we’ve been able to make this lifestyle work at much less, around $2000 per month (not including health costs, business expenses, and paying taxes). We continue to look for ways that we can reduce our overall monthly costs, and are still very frugal about what we buy and when.
As for Thing 2, the goal has continued to be keep learning as fun and interesting as possible. He reads, reads, and reads. He isn’t crazy about math but I’ve insisted that he keep up with “requirements” because math is one subject that is hard to catch up should we decide to stop homeschooling. He, too, enrolled in a virtual school math class and also received an A both semesters. The biggest change for him was more independent learning. The previous 5 years I was more hands on but with Thing 3 in the picture it became increasingly difficult. Thing 2 really stepped up and took initiative to complete assignments on his own.
Our highest month was August in Cocoa Beach, FL. We both went on a bioluminescence kayaking tour which was $84. Also Julie got the deluxe adventure package at the Brevard Zoo which included an aerial adventure obstacle course, zip lining and kayaking for $57. We discuss how much fun we had on the Space Coast in our inaugural podcast episode. Our least expensive month was again at Fort Belvoir because there are so many free activities in the Washington DC area (i.e., Smithsonian museums, monuments, and hiking galore).
In the end, the decision was made easy by the amazing views out my window every day. From my perch high above the Columbia River and Wenatchee Valley, I could enjoy the ever-changing scenery, which varied throughout the day with changes in light and weather. I could watch low-level clouds form and dissipate over the river. I could see the shadows move and lengthen with the shifting of the sun. I would watch the moonlight play upon the hillsides and cliffs. And I could marvel at the lights down in the city, sparkling with color. Would I see all that cooped up in a tiny rental apartment? Or closed up in a cavernous hangar with just three windows? No.
Our second year of homeschooling, we enrolled the boys in a new a hybrid classical school. It was a fantastic year blending the best of both worlds. The boys were home with us four days a week and went to school three days a week. They got the benefits of a classroom setting, like positive peer pressure (and a teacher who could keep up with Latin) and I got a break. Since I didn’t need to create schedules, choose curriculum, and find social opportunities our homeschool days were even more relaxed. The one thing I would have changed about this year was math. At the time, the school used Saxton which turned out to be a poor fit for both boys. Not only was it boring but it was less advanced than their previous curriculum. When we went back to homeschooling the following year we had to go back a year in Singapore.
But no matter what kind of trip you’re taking, whether it’s just a quick weekend, a month-long circuit of the National Parks, or even the foreseeable future, living in a motorhome with a family is a totally different animal than going solo or with a spouse. We want to ensure your family RV experience is a pleasant one, not a nightmare — so here are our best tips for living in an RV or camper with kids without going crazy!
Do these words stir a fire deep within you, awakening a spirit of wanderlust and travel? Maybe you were a gypsy, vagabond or hobo in a past life, but you think you could never afford to live the life of freedom you long for? It could be you are a survivalist, or just want to drop out of society but don’t know how. Perhaps you are just sick of the rat race and want to simplify your life. Or possibly the bad economy of the last few years have left you with no choice but move into a car, van or RV?
We rarely buy new clothes and other personal items (where would we even put them?) and we limit our spending on nearly everything. We wish we could find free parking more often, but it’s not usually a huge priority. We travel often because that’s the main reason we chose to full-time RV. We love seeing as many new places as possible as often as possible.
So, I figured I’d throw some pointers for those that have decided or are considering a life full-time on the road, because that is essentially the point of this whole blog thing. My biggest piece of advice, if you are thinking about living full-time and think you can commit to it, GO FOR IT!!!! You (probably, lol) won’t regret it! When I first began searching the Internet, I couldn’t find hardly anything on advice or tips for living in a camper in the winter full-time. And when I did find an article, the people living in the camper had a permanent space to park with electricity, enabling them to plug their RV in to an outlet every night to keep their electric space heaters running, which I don’t have the option of doing.
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.
For the most part, CPS can’t take your kids JUST because you are living in an RV, there has to be another reason. Living in a van means you probably didn’t have running water or a toilet and that could raise some red flags. I only ran into one family who lived in an RV who had issues with CPS but that was because they were running from an open case that happened while they were still in a house. The accusations were pretty serious and the mother had some very obvious mental illness and she was dry nursing her 5-year-old.
As for our tanks, they stayed plenty warm, having the warmth from the storage bay radiating through the floor on one side, and because our skirting kept them warm enough on the other side. For people who need extra protection against frozen tanks, tank heaters are an option. However, it’s important to make sure that pipes in addition to tanks are protected from freezing.
Thanks for the great expenditure report. I am getting our home ready for sale and heading toward the full time lifestyle. It honestly scares me because I am on fixed income of much less than shown in your totals. I will find a way! You might check into a company called Bestmark. Having a Chevrolet you can sign up for oil changes, tires etc. And get paid plus reimbursement. All you have to do is tell them how your visit was. Basically gaining upwards of $75. Plus free service or parts. Just thought that may help you. Thanks again, looking forward to your next post.
If we really wanted to cut back to a minimalist lifestyle we could probably manage early retirement at this point. Instead, since we love what we do – we’ve opted to work a while longer and be a bit indulgent (like pursuing our boating dreams). Because life is short and we have a lot of things we want to do! So, a lot of our income goes into a discretionary spending account for adventures, upgrades and fun. When that fund builds up, we go on a little spending spree.
I hate getting old as insurance goes up, but being retired with only Social Security, and not having to pay taxes sure helps. We are considering Texas as our domicile for family and our truck registration, but it depends on the cost of changing health insurance. We have an old travel trailer we bought for $4,500, so we will save if we want something newer. All we can do is try. We will have a storage place though, just in case.
ha ha ha and this is exactly why it seems most bloggers struggle with posts on this topic… what is crazy cheap to one is crazy expensive to another! This is true in stix and brix as it must be in the full time RV world we are working to try and figure out. I love the discussions though because it really makes you realize that the guy that says he can do it for 1k a month is for real and the people that say they cant believe it could not be done for less than 6k are just as for real and seem just as silly to those that cant imagine doing it for less than 9k a month…. You would think that with some much variability in these discussions that it would not be much help to those of us trying to figure out how we can make this work for us but then the light bulb starts to get brighter for us and we start to understand that just as in stix and brix you can make this work for you at what ever level you are comfortable with living… thanks to you for posting these discussions and thanks to all that reply it is so helpful!!!
Fast internet access: You know that smokin' fast internet connect you have at home? You can pretty much forget about that as a full-time RV camper. Yes, there are options for getting reasonable internet speeds while on the road, but none of them matches the speed and simplicity that comes with a home broadband connection. Decent campground wifi access is a luxury, not the rule. Some places offer wifi for a fee; some offer it for free. A lot of campgrounds don't offer Internet access at all. Since we are working, we tend to plan our route around where wifi is offered, or where cellular signals are strong. There is a lot of thought and a fair amount of equipment that goes into keeping connected while on the road. That's a blog post for the future, by the way.
I have a question to ask. Try not to laugh too hard at my extreme paranoia lol. First you should know it is our sincere goal someday to rv full time. We loove to travel and we are both photographer hobbyists. However. I have zero experience visiting or ever even being in a desert and I am extremely frightened and paranoid of snakes, scorpions and mostly–spiders. How often have you run into these creatures boondocking in the west/in the desert? And no, this issue won’t derail our plans or anything, but just wondering what I am in for! Thanks for putting up with my silly question!
We’ve had the Postmasters at several different Post Offices give us totally conflicting information. We pressed two different Postmasters to call their district supervisors to get the details clarified, and even then we got conflicting information. So it seems the Postal Service is is still working out its relationships with UPS and FedEx as far as General Deliveries go.
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!
This 35-45 year old solo RVer travels by them self in a 2017 travel trailer and typically stays at RV parks and campgrounds, rather than dry camping (boondocking) for free. This solo RVer travels often and is hittin’ the road every few days. The activities this RVer enjoys is outdoor activities, as well as checking out local restaurants, bars, and cafes while exploring new cities.
Even after putting on our skirting last year, I noticed that the floors of the slides in our living area were extremely cold. There didn’t seem to be a draft, and the seals around the edges of the slides seemed fine; it was actually the floors themselves that were, according to my thermometer, a good 20 degrees colder than the rest of the room. To solve this problem, I went to Lowe’s and purchased some foam board, and we duct taped it to the bottom of each slide. This made a huge difference in the temperature of the floor and the warmth of the whole RV. If I had it to do over again, though, I would use HVAC tape instead of duct tape as it is supposed to be better in all weather and not leave residue when removed.
So I’ve noticed you folks had 3 different motorhomes, with the last one I saw was a Fleetwood Excursion, I didn’t get its name? So I was wondering what the thought process was for the changes? I’m playing with the idea of going to a fulltime status, selling my house, divorcing, and having ten more years of work, what RV will be best for ME. I’m a avid outdoors person with a custom built jeep and motorcycle. I first thought just get a Gas RV to use, pay cash for a used one. But now I’m thinking maybe get something to have for twenty years, make payments for the Home Owner tax benefit, and a strong RV? When I retire I would be in Alaska, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, western U.S outdoor living. I was looking to hear your feeling would be?
We love the power of our Diesel engine. It can go anywhere and drive any mountain. So, that portion I would probably try and keep. But size-wise I wish we’d gone a tad smaller…closer to 30 or even 35 feet. It can be tough finding accessible sites with “the beast”, and a smaller size would sure make that easier. We love our slides and would definitely buy with slides again (it makes the interior so much roomier) and our layout is good, plus I can’t deny the tanks in this rig are nice and big. There’s just the size thing 🙂
To set up residency in almost any state all you have to do is establish a physical address at a place like mailboxes and more or the UPS store has mailboxes that count as a physical address and you need to receive bills like a power bill, or other utility bill. You will need to have these bills with your address on them when you go to the licensing dept. to get your new license that makes you a residence. It gets easier or more difficult depending on the state.
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you out of the blue. I am a researcher working for major independent production company Optomen Television in London. We are currently producing a new documentary series for Channel 4 in the UK about people who have quit the rat race and moved to live in remote locations the world. It will be an inspirational series following the incredible stories of ordinary people who are living a unique way of life in some of the most beautiful and breath-taking places. The presenter, Kevin McCloud, best known for presenting the hit TV series ‘Grand Designs’ will visit people in their wildness homes and get to experience first-hand the wonder of life in these stunning locations.
We’re Millenials, so we can relate to the desire to have new and shiny stuff we can’t afford. A lot of Millenials these days want instant gratification: we want what our parents have without realizing it took them 30-40 years to get there. Who wouldn’t want a big $200-300k diesel pusher? As a young, first time RVer, with less disposable income than most retirees, buy used! RVs depreciate faster than just about any other purchase. Buying used can save you a huge amount of money. Most people use their RV about 4 weekends out of the year, so “used” models are almost new. You can save $10k-50k buying a year or two used. Plus, used RVs usually have all the bugs worked out. New RVs have more issues than used ones. Don’t be surprised for your brand new RV to spend 3-4 months in the shop the first year, getting all the bugs worked out from the warranty. If you buy an RV that’s a year or two or 10 old, the bugs will already have been fixed under warranty.
Ah, Verizon. I have a love/hate relationship with Verizon. I pay them nearly $250 a month for two smartphones and a jetpack (a wi-fi hotspot) with 20 GBs of data. Verizon is great because they have reliable service across the country, so we can always trust in Verizon when it comes to needing internet for work on the road. I recommend Verizon because it’s what I use, and from the people I’ve talked to, most everyone relies heavily on their network.
$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.
While neither of us were ever crazy planners, Kerensa did like to have a general plan of where we were going and what was around when we got there. Sometimes that skill still comes in handy like planning for the Florida Keys, but for the most part, we don't make reservations anymore. We prefer to stay loose with our plans and be able to adjust quickly to meet friends, dodge weather, or choose a destination on a whim!