I always tell people that unless they have a reliable way to make money from the road, have at least 6 months’ worth of savings. That way you can at least enjoy an extended trip if you never find a way to make money. At some point, it will either be a lifestyle change if you can find a sustainable income stream, or it will just be an adventure before going back to a life with a normal job.
- 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.
I feel so fortunate I stumbled on to your blog. I’ve learned a lot already. My husband and I are newbies and when I mean new… we don’t even have our very little 14′ hybrid trailer. It is being built in Tucson as I type. It will be ready in late february. We will pick it up the 1st week in March and will bomb around New Mexico all of that month and most of April before we start heading back to Duluth, MN at the end of May. I want to leave tomorrow as it was -24º last night.
Adding only that we also have 2 very beloved and very spoiled chihuahuas as well as a caged rabbit (free run abouts one hour a day in the camper). They are wonderful to have, they love the walks and the air and it is not much more to have pets with you. I have taken out the carpet and we are now redoing the floor to a wood vinyl as well as adding curtains and updating the camper with new wallpaper, etc. We have also added a top area for the cage that the rabbit can be in but out of the way. We had to update some things but this camper was really worth it-keeping anything that can attract more dust and fur out is helping a lot with the pets.
If all you need is a little connectivity on your phone I’d suggest looking at one of the ATT-based Straight Talk plans at Walmart. If your phone accepts it you can buy a SIM at Walmart and then you just pay flat $45 per month for “unlimited” talk/text/data. I put the unlimited in quotations because the fine print says that you get unlimited talk/text but only 5GB of full-speed data (after that you’re throttled pretty heavily). That might be enough for you though? The nice thing about Walmart is that it’s non-contract plan so you can try it for a month and if it doesn’t work out you can just ditch it and do something else. ATT doesn’t get you as wide coverage as Verizon, but it’s pretty darn good. We have it on our phones right now.
I sell RV’s, and love it. The people I sell to are excited and eager to get on the road, love my customers. Anyhow, some things I would mention tell your RV sales person about yourself and your plans, most of us in the RV industry have experience and can help with idea’s and help find you the right coach with items or without items you may not even know you will need or that will greatly enhance your time. Also most RV sales people have resources, and it’s not a used car salesman tactic (well not where I work) we want to help and for you to refer us and come back. I full timed for 4yrs, with 3 kids a dog and a cat as a single mom. Let me say we did have our struggles, but I LOVED it. Now I get to help others too. So my suggestion is let your RV sales person help and ask them questions, they generally have a wealth of information.
What puts an RV on the list: There’s obviously a huge difference between RVing once in a while and RVing full time. To make sure you get the closest feeling of living in a home we’ve hand picked the ones with a good mix of bunkhouse and regular floorplans. We’ve also made sure they have enough 40 feet+ length floorplans since space can be a concern when RVing full time. After a few spec comparisons it all boiled down to the ones which had the best reviews. Here are the Top 5 Best Fifth Wheels For Full Time Living.
We have camped at Tiger Run also and the temps got down to -9 F. We got the extended propane tank rented from the campground. We had all the issues and made a cardboard skirt and put a ceramic space heater underneath. That worked, though we left our sewer hooked up and only drained once a week and used the built in facilities during the day. We wrapped the exterior drain pipes with heat tape and insulation. We added hot water to the grey and black water tanks before flushing. Didn’t have a problem. Also made the heated water supply hose with heat tape and insulation. That never froze either. This year we are going back (in 2 weeks! YAY!) and are having a custom skirt made. Combined with the ceramic heater underneath, this should keep the whole thing warmer as well as stop any freezing of the water bay and plumbing. There is one weak link in our trailer, the water lines run through a cabinet, then back out behind the toilet, then under the bath tub, and then into another cabinet where the pump is. This froze twice. I rerouted one of the heater vents to heat the first cabinet by removing the vent exit and setting the vent tube to blow half of it’s air into the cabinet. Ugly but effective in an emergency. This year we are going to try running an LED rope light along that pipe run. This will double as a night light. They use very little power, and don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs. Allegedly, the skirt and ceramic heater should fix everything but you never know! We’ll follow up as things progress. We agree that winter camping allows us to enjoy snowboarding and skiing places like Breckenridge Aspen, and Jackson Hole and actually afford it! And of course you can bring your doggie or kitty too.
Track your expenses. I just recently started doing this, and it really puts things in perspective. I use this Google sheet to track all my income and expenses (just go to “File” -> “Make a copy” so you can edit it). Once you see where you’re spending too much, it’s easier to cut back! Plus, it makes you think twice before spending (do I really want to track this?).
This depends if you plan to be in constant motion, or you’re looking to live a more stationery RV life. We didn’t have too much saved, but we did plan on picking up odd jobs wherever we went. This allowed for money to be made and experiences to be had. I would say always keep a credit card handy for emergencies, you never know what the road will throw at you.
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…
Why do we share our expenses of full time life on the road in our RV? To help others who travel like us. If you like the occasional splurge, fine bottle of wine, a couple of new outfits each season, and you don’t mind paying for a cool adventure then you’re expenses might be pretty similar to ours. If you don’t spend a lick on fashion or local sips and bites then your expenses will be nothing like ours.
I heat my home with a very large woodstove and it takes up so much of my time in the winter hours. I have to collect firewood 12 months of the year just to stay stocked up and I live near St. Louis where it is mostly warm. If you could send me more info. about your cute little wood stove I “wood” really appreciate it. I need something smaller for my greenhouse.
I remember reading this a few years back when purchasing our first second hand motorhome and finding it most helpful. I was wondering if you still felt the same so thanks for your updates! Based on our experience at this pointI would make a minor qualification to #4 regarding heavy items on the slide out. And this probably varies between makes, models, and slide mechanics. I would avoid a design with heavy items on a “ramp” slide, but don’t feel it really makes any difference on slides that stay level and travel in and out on strong rollers. The ramp slide has to go uphill when retracting and that causes a lot of strain on the motor and rails, the others though slide easily even with a heavy load. Our large passenger side slide has the entire galley, a 20 cu ft fridge and a pantry filed with a lot of bottles and cans. Large rollers and a tile floor allow it to move easily and without strain.
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!
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
But more important to her than saving money has been the wealth of experiences living in an RV has given her, especially with her son. "We’ve been way more creative about everyday things, making them more fun," she said. "If we lived in a house, I wouldn’t be taking him outside to look at bugs. It's definitely forced me into a whole different level of parenting."
My husband realized that he doesn’t want to go back to work full-time, unless it is the perfect opportunity. I started focusing again on my writing career and am building a solid freelance business. I also volunteer with our local downtown revitalization association. Our kids are back in regular public school, doing sports and extracurricular activities and, slowly making friends outside the military.
Thanks for your kind words Ree! Our goal with our writing/blog is to show the real deal and let people know it isn’t a full time vacation but is still life – with all the ups and downs. That is awesome to hear that you already live in a small house and have the RV! Yes – having a strong why is key to making your dreams a reality. On the other hand it may never be 100% defined so don’t wait for that – just go for it – and figure the rest out on the way. Happy Travels!
Okay, so I hope that in Part One I convinced you that you want a site with a sewer hook up. Now, about that hook up, you want to keep the dump valve closed until you have at least three-quarters of a tank so that you get a clean dump. You need the force of moving liquid to move the solids. That's as nice a way of saying as I could think of. . It is critical that the sewer hose has a constant decline to the sewer. If it does not have enough of a drop, waste will collect and freeze in the hose. Many people (myself included) run the hose into or through a PVC pipe to make sure that there is no ‘sag’ in the line. Other folks use a section of rain gutter as a bridge that holds the hose. Either of these systems will work.
7. Have fun!: Copy your CDs or DVDs over to a laptop and consider investing in an e-reader. Of course, a good deck of cards, or other compact board games, can go a long way while on the road. Additionally, a bike rack and some hiking equipment will come in handy for all of your destinations. The real fun of RV living is getting to travel each day, so make sure you have everything on hand to best enjoy your destinations.
We haven’t eliminated our stress. In fact, I’d say our stress levels hover around the same as they did before we sold our house. We simply swapped one kind of stress for another. But we have four kids, so it would be unrealistic to think we could live a stress-free life, no matter where or how we lived. We deal with the same parenting struggles we did before, but we like to joke that the views are better this way.
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.
My best friend and I just returned from a week away in her 24′ Winnebago. For two ‘very youthful’ middle-aged ladies on the road we couldn’t have had a better time! For the most part we played it by ear; she picked me up at the Atlanta Airport, we pointed the rig toward Savannah, Georgia (great state for RV travel and campsites) and kept going. Spent a few days in Savannah, headed over to Flagler Beach then up to St. Augustine. By far our favorite site of the entire trip was the last one in the Outer Banks. For whatever reason I wanted to go to Rodanthe so we found a very modest small campground for about $30/night right on the Sound side of Hatteras Island. WOW! The sunsets were breathtaking. Mike, the owner of the campground was amazing. Upon our return to PA I went over to the local RV dealer and picked out a 32′ SouthWind. Fell in love with it! Now I just have to figure out how to make money while on the road. Ironically, my primary business isn’t so transportable. Funny, my current business is processing homes, downsizing, relocation, re-directing unwanted personal property through auction and donation to charity, speaking, writing and consulting. It’s always tougher when it’s your stuff. I agree with not storing things – you’re not likely to need them again. I’m giving myself 2 years to clear all of my debt and transfer my income-generating efforts to fit a new, less complicated lifestyle.
While living by yourself in a camper allows more space and freedom, it sure is nice having another warm body around, ha. But seriously, it does keep you a lot warmer at night if you’ve got your lady or your man by your side, so if they are up for having an experience they’ll remember the rest of their lives, have them move on board with you for a bit. And believe me, you really get to know someone when you share a 10 ft. long living space with them!
Fortunately, there are lots of RV parks that are designed with this conundrum in mind, offering activities for kids and adults alike. For example, the Jellystone Parks family of RV resorts has fun, themed activities and tons of amenities like swimming pools, water slides, and bounce houses, making it one of the best solutions to RV vacations for families.
However, just because the tank has extra protection, the residual water in the pipes are still exposed. Unless you enjoy being sprayed with icy water in subzero temps, be sure to also cover the pipes with insulation. This way lingering water in the pipes will not freeze and potentially crack a pipe. This will also make the initial water that comes out less terrifying. It is unnecessary to keep the pipes hot, but be sure to keep them above 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
I am 62, single, healthy and fairly strong in mind and body. I love to travel, have family and friends all over the US. I left my job in NJ to live in Fl. I bought a small home for $23,000 and living on SS. Now my expense are increasing, I pay lot rent and my SS is not going very far and can not afford to travel anymore. Thus is mostly due to miscalculations on my part and a retirement fund that was not nearly what it should have been. Anyway I am now considering giving up this life and going RV. I really miss my family and friends and they can not travel to me nearly often enough. Based on selling my house for at least what I paid for it and a monthly income of about $1600 what do you suggest. Any input will be greatly appreciated. I am giving it till the new year before I make a final decision.
“I’ve been looking for this!” The spring cleaning also reminded us of things we’d brought that we forgot about. This is also a great time to reorganize and optimize storage. After the initial cleaning, most of our bays, cupboards and drawers ended up half empty. That’s also about the time we realized a small Class A motorhome was too much space for us. Now we travel full time in a Class B camper van.
One thing to note with the small space heaters is that they can take up a lot of power. You may end up tripping a couple of breakers as you figure out how the power flows through your RV. If you flip a breaker take a second to note what you have plugged in and where. By doing this you’ll gain a better understanding of what you can run at the same time, and more importantly what you can’t run at the same time.
We also use uscampgrounds.info. Great resource. Full-timing is certainly not for everyone. It requires some risk taking, overcoming fears of the unknown, saying good-bye to family and friends, and doing some things that may not seem wise. In the beginning, Paul admits, that one of his biggest full-timing faults is, he has difficulty “rolling-with-the-punches.” I find that the most challenging thing is not looking back so much. I love to reminisce and this leads me to get a bit melancholy. We have enjoyed worshipping with many different denomination and at nondenominational churches. We have made so many new friends that we stopped counting. This is one of the biggest advantages to our lifestyle. Thanks, Nina, for the great blog and giving Paul and I a few minutes of reflecting on our past year.
I just ran across this today. My husband and I are trying to gather info so we can set out on a full time RVing adventure. I have found this info very helpful since we have not fully committed yet by actually purchasing our RV. (He’s retired and I’m not quite yet!) My question is, what do you do about having a permanent residence for times when that is needed? (Like when it’s time to renew your driver’s license.) We plan on selling our home and this was one of the many questions that came up. Any info would be helpful in making a more informed decision. Thanks.
I loved your article!!! We own a 74 Winnebago Brave and live in it during the summer. We were always wondering if it would even be possible living in it during the cold Canadian Winters. I guess it is!!! I especially love the part about your GF. I feel sometimes it is hard living in an RV fulltime too because of society’s view about how women should look. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell my employers where I was living or I wouldn’t get hired. Thank you for your article. 🙂
We’ve had a Class C (without a tow vehicle, we just used bikes) and it was a pain if we had to drive somewhere for groceries, etc. so we were always looking for RV parks near towns and public transportation. Having a little car to tow along would be easier in those situations, but we don’t personally particularly love the whole hitching up process. When we lived in our Airstream + Ford E-350 combo, it was convenient to have the van and Airstream as separate things (I could work while the family went somewhere for the day, etc.) but again…I hate hitching up and down.
12. Consider how many people will be with you. Many people who RV full time are married couples who have retired. However, there is an ever-increasing population of couples with families who are hitting the road. Regarding the latter, you need to keep in mind that in addition to having less space for belongings, there is also less space for privacy. Learning to live together, and get along, is an absolute necessity and if that isn’t possible, it’s time to rethink your decision. One way around this is to make sure your rig is big enough to assign certain areas for certain children and their belongings, off limits to siblings. That personal space can mean the world to some people.
So the big swing number that I see in what you wrote is camping costs. We workamp/boondock at least 4 months of every year which brings down those costs to around $10-$12/night on average. That’s been our norm for the past 6 years. Last year was the sole exception traveling out East, but even then we only hit $24/night. We have no TV, we travel on average only 6,000 miles per year and we don’t eat out much simply because we love to cook (when we do it’s mostly for beer tasters and a cheap lunch).
You may wish to put insulation around the waste hose to give the fluid more time to drain before the freezing temps cause a problem. I have seen people add heat tape to the drain hose also. I do NOT recommend that. Heat tape works fine on water lines that have water in them. Full lines are less likely to over heat. An empty sewer line may melt or scorch from the heat of a tape. There MAY be tapes made for this purpose, however I’ve never seen them.
If the company goes out of business (and we’ve heard of that happening), not only might you lose some mail, but you are left without a legal address. Of course, it is easy enough to “move” when you live on the road, so you won’t be homeless for long. But you will have to make a lot of phone calls and online address changes wherever your mailing address is recorded.
Remember Annie. This is my families expenses. It is not meant to be “the be all that ends all” or the average monthly expense for nomadic living. Not to mention this is from the “winter months” wherein we splurge and stay at an RV resort in SW Florida where prices are premium because of snowbirding. Do some searching around on sites like Technomadia and Gone With The Wynns or even the Snowmads to see examples of other working budgets.
You added a lot of confidence that my wife and I are planning right for our expected expenses. I had used an average between Howard’s numbers at RV Dreams and Kirks from the Escapees Forum. Then added a figure for annual inflation (2.5%) based on going full time in 2019 when we originally planned on 2023. We are spot on at around $3,007 average in future dollars and with no debt. Our form of travel will include workamping at times so we will be parked at times.
We’ve been RVing for three years and have tried quite a few options for coverage on the road. We’ve actually used something different every year because until this year, we have not been happy with our options. We recently changed healthcare providers and switched to a health-sharing ministry.Our previous health care solution was through the RVers Insurance Exchange and we also tried the Affordable Care Act one year. We currently pay $250/month for both of us on our health-sharing plan, which is significantly less than we used to pay through traditional providers.
In addition, we get to utilize the mortgage interest off our RV payment as a tax deduction (it’s a second mortgage if you have a bathroom—see IRS laws). Besides the memories we make starting from the moment we drive out of our driveway, we are making our money go further. That means more money for more vacations! In addition you will save even more money making your own meals on your travels. Can you say “Ca-ching!”
The questions poured in: How could they go from living in a 2,000-square-foot home to living in a 250-square-foot trailer? What would they do with their stuff? What would their children, ages 6 and 9, do for school? Was this a midlife crisis? The hardest people to convince were Jessica’s parents, who grew up in an impoverished Latino neighborhood in the Bronx and worked hard so their daughter could have a better life. They couldn’t understand why the couple wanted to live like migrant laborers.