We use a mail forwarding service (Alternative Resources in South Dakota) to manage our mail. They keep our mail at their office until we ask them to send it to us. Most RV parks will accept mail or you can send mail as “general delivery” to a local post office and pick-up it later. The address we have in SD also serves as our address on record for the purposes of taxes, voting, car/RV registration, insurance and drivers license. When we established domicile with them we had to make sure we got to South Dakota within a certain time-frame to get our drivers licence (can only be done on-site). You can read more about establishing domicile here:
Winter RVing is loads of fun, but figuring out how to stay warm in an RV on those chilly winter mornings and long cold dark evenings makes all the difference between having a great time and wishing you were in a house. Going to a southern state is a good start, but it may not always fit with your overall full-time RVing itinerary. You might get caught in an early winter storm, like we did in one year in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Or you might get whipped by a blizzard on your way south, as has happened to some of our snowbirding friends who wanted to celebrate the holidays at home in Montana before trekking south to Arizona in January.
We too fish and hunt and eat everything we harvest. Although we have enjoyed the trips we have taken in our motorhome, my husband is reluctant to travel for more than 2 or 3 months at a time. He does not want to miss out on Spring and Fall turkey season and Fall deer season. How do you afford to hunt and fish outside of your home state? Non-resident hunting and fishing licenses are very expensive in many states.
For example if you’re buying an older RV, you’ll want to plan for some initial $$ to fix the things that will undoubtedly need to be fixed before you can get on the road (e.g. new tires? oil changes? new hoses? new suspension? broken appliances?). Also you’ll want to buy some basic stuff (e.g. sewer hose, camping chairs, surge protector, TPMS) to set yourself up for starting on the road. Lastly, if you plan to do some upgrades (e.g. buy a cellular booster, install a solar system) you’ll want to plan for those too. These one-time expenses can easily cost $5,000-$20,000 depending on what the condition of your rig is and what you’re planning to do. Some of of them (e.g. upgrades) will likely spread across multiple years too, so include some extra $$ for these in your yearly plan as well.
Just like anything in life, you can’t please everyone and everyone doesn’t have the same amount of money Which makes this country great. In the US you can work hard and succeed. And those that don’t have nobody to blame but themselves and government that takes so much from those that do work hard. I just found your site and am hoping to find out the cost of going full timing. My hubby and I have no idea what the costs would be or how to determine how much we will need to live our life on the road. I’m hoping reading your site will give me more insight. What would be really nice is a book that gives a good idea what to expect. We have our unit already, after many tries I think we found the one that will serve us the best. If anyone knows of any books on this matter please let me know.
Hi. We have a Balboa Toy Hauler, which is insulated and semi winterized. One of the furnace vents forces hot air into the tank bay under the floor. This heats the floor under the bathroom and kitchen area, but you must leave the furnace on and burn propane. Our first experience was the poopsicle at Jackson Hole, WY at -18! tried to hammer that out with a hatchet, and of course, the hose was brittle and broke! Then it thawed 2 days later. AAAGGGHHHH!!!!. Next we camped 6 weeks in Glenwood springs to ski Aspen and Snowmass all winter. A fellow camper left his sewer drain open after he left and the whole system froze so we couldn’t even use the facilities toilets. Fortunately the manager brought in the big guys with a water jet to unplug the whole system. This was extremely expensive and took a full day. Then 2 weeks later the same camper returned, (gas well inspector) and did it all again. Wow. Poor park owner ate that bill twice.
Just reviewing your sage wisdom once again as I make further preps. Got the truck, mail forwarding service (Dakota Post per your recommendations – they’re every bit as brilliant, friendly and economical as you said) and just this minute joined Escapees (also per your recommendations, of course – who else would I listen to?). I made sure to mention you as referrers in gratitude for your honest, spot-on advice.
Issue: Water Lines Freeze – When temps fall in the single digits our lines from the hot water tank freeze. (The cold water will still work in the kitchen because the freshwater tank is not frozen and the lines come from the bays that are heated with space heaters.) The lines sit on the floor very close to the wall behind cabinet drawers, a typical location for many RVs.
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!
My wife and I are within shooting distance of retirement so I’ve been googling “full time RVing” and found you site. The first thing that caught my eye, other than how frugal you guys are, is the calculator. My late Dad had the exact same calculator. I mean he had that thing for as long as can remember, one day I came home went to the office to get his calculator and it was gone!!!! OH NO Mickey Mouse is gone, I guess after 25 years or so of use it finally died!
$700 Smart Repairs: Includes 1 oil change service, 2 rim replacements, 1 tire replacement. Because our Smart Car is the Brabus edition it has low profile tires and 17” rims in the back (BAD IDEA). We hit a few potholes along the way bending rims and shredding a tire. We purchased a tire and rim warranty and we have AAA for towing (est. savings $2,500)
These days everything is available online and if you’re putting most of your spend on credit or debit cards* it’s super easy to import it into programs (e.g Quicken or Mint) that will summarize and keep track of exactly where your money is going. Not only will this give you a solid idea of your starting point, but it will be key to pointing out places you can possibly save once you change your lifestyle and get on the road.
Ok, all of that information applies only as long as you are in a relatively temperate location. However, there are a number of hardier souls who gladly brave the snow and cold and stay well north all winter long. Many families, in search of winter recreation, use their RV well into the sub-zero winter months. For those of you who intend to winter in extremely cold parts of the country, I really can't help you much. I'm one of those fulltimers who run south at the first sign of a snowflake. However, you can check the weblinks provided below for some first hand tips from folks who like their Rving with a topping of snow!
Emily, you have done an absolutely fabulous job of compiling tons of useful information and we avidly read your blog and go back over things as we prep to hit the road full-time. We love the way you think, your personality and just everything we read. You have been so kindly open with your budgets etc but there are two things we are just curious about being of similar ages and not able to get pensions or SS at this stage in our lives.
In Texas, Escapees has the largest mail forwarding service in the country. They receive a semi tractor-trailer load of mail everyday. We saw this truck come in everyday while visiting the main Escapees Headquarters campus in Livingston, Texas, and we toured their mail sorting facility. We were absolutely floored by the operation (our blog post about it is here: Rainbow’s End – Escapees RV Club Headquarters in Livingston Texas. Another Texas mail forwarding service is Texas Home Base.
Gift Cards – If the gift card is for a full-time RVer, try to stick to larger national chains or internet stores like Amazon. Even though RVers take their kitchens with them, it’s still nice to not have to cook all the time so restaurant gift cards are nice as well. Or an Amazon Prime Membership is a great gift for full-time RVers if they don’t already have one. Our Prime Membership made getting items while traveling full-time so much easier.
Great read and well done! Being a 60 + newbie my wife and I had some angst about our new full-time journey but after reading your real-life experience we both will be resting a lot easier tonight in our 5th Wheel. Most all you Top 10 were planned out and made ready. We are prisoners to our storage costs but feel ok with that due to our 3, maybe 4, year plan. We will be down sizing at a minimum with cost but feel the short run and future needs make it ok. Again, great job, thanks for sharing, I got you booked marked. Do you have. Facebook page? Lionel
RV Parks in San Diego area are slim. we’re staying at a park that runs 1075/mo and with this heatwave we’re paying anywhere between 350-450/mo for electric, some are paying up to 700. We’re retired and on fixed income and have 5 years left on our loan. Our rig is a 2004 and are at a loss as to what to do with everything going up. Stay in it til it paid off ? Then no mortgage, just rent or sell and move to an apartment. We’re 72 & 78 years old and now regretting our lifestyle change that we took in 2004.
To break the cycle I needed to let myself grieve. It felt silly to grieve something that I realize I was very fortunate to experience like grieving a stain on a designer blouse. You know, first world problems. But judging my feelings only served to keep me on the disconnected emotional hamster wheel. So now I let myself grieve as needed and try to suspend judgment on my feelings.
And we closed that chapter in our lives and moved on to the next one. Well, not that easily. I did cry every day for the first week. Luckily, my sister and her family had moved into the campground with us – and were staying right next door. That definitely made the transition easier. Gradually things got better, and I started to realize what we had been looking to do. Hours weren’t spent on cleaning any more. All of our stuff was manageable and there was more and more focused family time.
Also, tanks and fittings are encased in the heated space, so electric pads and tapes aren’t necessary and the plumbing is all protected. This also means the floor is not the outermost part of the insulated envelope, keeping it MUCH warmer. The most hard-core of these units use hot water heat fired by propane or even diesel fuel (handy if the unit’s engine is diesel) and in that case, the heating system also partially heats the engine and fuel tanks to make it even more reliable in the truly bitter cold. The best ones run a heating line parallel to the plumbing lines keeping them all heated and protected. This heating system is really quite genius and the pump that moves the hot water uses surprisingly little power.
Why we recommend Jayco North Point fifth wheel: Among the bulkier versions of the fifth wheels from Jayco RVs are the North point series which are roughly between 12000 and 14000 pounds heavy. This does mean, however, that this RV is really stable and are quite durable. It can hold 4 to 9 people and span from 38 feet on the North Point 315RLTS to the 43 feet on the North Point 387RDFS.
1980s Vanagons can go for quite a few dollars. I recently met a guy who bought a decent one, with the Westy camper and all, for $4000, and he’s in Texas. If you look out west, though, prices are typically higher as those vans are in high demand. A search on Craigslist in Bend shows them going from $3000 – $30,000. The latter is insane, but I believe people get that much for a well maintained, running vanagon with a camper. Still, it’s insane.
The UPS distribution center was small, and they said only the driver would know the exact time. To our utter astonishment, they gave us the UPS driver’s cell phone number. So we called him!! He was very friendly and said he could drive over to where our RV was parked and hand deliver the package in about 10 minutes. We were both totally shocked when he pulled alongside our rig and handed our package to Mark — at no charge. Now how’s that for service?!
6. Insurance is a big deal, so make sure you have it. However, don’t just go with the first policy you come across. This is where it’s best to do a bit of homework, as there are many different options with many different policy payouts and a lot of fine print. There are also some discounts and other options you will want to familiarize yourself with before making a final decision. You will need to types of coverage if something happens to your RV. One type of policy covers the RV itself in the case of damages or theft, and another for personal belongings, much like homeowners or renters insurance. Consider what type of lifestyle you’ll be living, for the most part, and what types of problems you might run across. There is also a medical insurance just for full time RV’ers.
Will they be traveling a lot, or will they settle in an area for extended stays? Can they work from their RV on the road? Do they have skills (like nursing) that are in demand everywhere and can lead to temp jobs? Have they investigated (and plan on taking advantage of) volunteer opportunities with RV parks, state or federal volunteer positions available that provide free RV space? Will they be taking jobs at commercial businesses on public lands? Will they be selling a home with equity?
loved seeing your post, I am a homeschooling widow mother of a 10 years old girl and would love to get on the road in an RV, I did have a truck and travel trailer but could not go very far, I just do not feel safe traveling by ourselves and would love to meet other homeschoolers and travel and explore this wonderful country together, have you met families traveling together?
*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.
I’ve heard that vehicle insurance rates are based on the demographics like population on a county-by-county basis (as well as each person’s age, driving record, etc.). Are you aware of any significant differences in insurance rates between the counties in South Dakota where the mail forwarding services are located? A couple of them are in very sparsely populated counties, but I haven’t seen them promoting this as a reason to choose their services.
Before starting a life of adventure, it may be hard to imagine that you will need or want to have any hobbies. Sightseeing ought to be enough! But it isn’t. After a while, you will want to have pursuits that complement your travels in one way or another or that perhaps are not even related to your travels at all. Our hobbies are photography, writing and mountain biking, and these all cost money.
Regular shower and/or bathroom: At first, a small bathroom seems just fine – until you've been in there a few times. The walls close in. The shower is smaller than most broom closets. Your elbows will touch both sides, as will a lot of the rest of your body at certain times. While it's totally doable to take a shower and still feel like you are OK to go out in public, it's certainly not luxurious.
Andrew, that was an interesting blog entry, because it gives a snapshot of what’s important to your family, you seem to have a good balance between enjoying your life and maintaining your expenses. But the part that really grabbed me about this post was that it reminded me of George Orwell’s “Road to Wigan’s Pier” in that you outlined your expenses. If you get a chance, please have a look at that book (it’s available for free on the internet) and read the part where he reports on the expenditures of different coal miners in the early 1900s Northern England. We’ve all become wealthier, but even after all that time, nothing has really changed, we still make choices to in our lifestyles and our spending choices may be one of the purest epressions of who we are and choose to be.
Besides, since I’d been living in the mobile mansion full-time since the beginning of June, it had become my home, my space. Bought to house two people, a mid-sized dog, and a parrot, it was amazingly comfortable for one person and a tiny dog. After dealing with seemingly countless delays, I’d finally moved it to the piece of land I’d been dreaming about for over a year. I was in my home, on my home. I was loath to give that up, even for a few months.
Nothing could be further from the truth! We too were concerned how our dog Ella and cat Mr. P would handle life on the road. But we quickly learned, they might actually enjoy it more than us! Longer driving days certainly took a little getting used to, but in short time Mr. P loved his spot on the dashboard basking in the sun while Ella reveled in our 20-minute play sessions during travel day stops.
I cannot in good faith tell you that freezing camping is easy camping…but what I can tell you is: typically if you camp where it’s freezing you’ll have the entire place to yourself. Some of our favorite times to camp is in the off season, and freezing camping is always a fun challenge for us. I hope you’ll reconsider heading to the beach in cold weather, it is such a wonderful feeling walking on the beach all alone, bundled up, with the one you love 🙂
Hey! I’m just now discovering all this and I find it very interesting. I’m 22 years old , single, and I just graduated with my Bachelor’s in Violin Performance. Anyway, I plan to be playing in many orchestras around Texas at least until I can land a steadier gig. I’m expecting a pretty low income to start–probably around $25K a year, and certainly not more than $30K. I don’t mind the idea of a house, but I think I’m more adventurous than that, and as long as my work (and some of my hobbies as well) takes me around Texas, I think an RV could be a worthwhile investment. The only problem is that I don’t have the cash to spend on an RV at the moment, so I’m looking for an apartment. I would love to save money and get into an RV by the time my first lease is up. What do you think about bus conversions? There are many old buses on Craigslist for under 5K.
Tim, I liked your story,it’s wonderful to see someone living outside the square. I live in Australia and will soon head off to the Kimberleys and beyond in a tiny caravan, just me and my cattle dogs,I will spend the rest of my life travelling Australia. I did it once before in my twenties for 4 years, but now i can’t see the point of rattling around on my own in a big house. I’m a signwriter, so will be signwriting to pay my way. I can’t see myself stuck in one place forever.The older i get ,the more i realise, not what i want, but what i don’t want, like the tv, which i tossed out years ago. I have a little 2001 jeep soft top, and the caravan i will get is a Little Robin Mini, and the smaller version is called a Little Robin Mini Mini. I hope to read more of your adventures.Beautiful dog.
I drink wine. That and we try to take one day at a time and keep our focus on the fact that we want to deepen our family bond through travel. If a situation isn’t feeling right or if we aren’t getting along we stop to evaluate the situation and work through what is causing the disconnect in our family. Our family has to stay #1 in what we are doing.
For rigs with enclosed tanks, it's often enough to provide some source of heat in the tank compartment and small electric bulbs can be used here as well. If you are too mobile for such solutions, then you should look into special heating pads designed for RV holding tanks. They can be purchased from many RV parts dealers or camping catalogs and will allow you to use the holding tanks as you normally would with no fear of freeze ups. Alternately, many Rvers who travel in the winter simply minimize use of the holding tanks and keep plenty of RV antifreeze handy to treat them.
Question: How did you arrive at the $2,133 cost? It seems that you left out the $900 daily camping fees. If your goal was to COMPARE FT RV costs with a bricks & mortar home, then lots of other costs could be deducted – like groceries and insurance costs. I’m age 68 (spouse is 66) – and not retired (never hope to!) But we’ve arranged our lives around working “full-time” while still traveling extensively. We still have our bricks & mortar home (not really interested in full-timing) but yet, because of the way we have organized our lives, we still… Read more »
We are just putting our house on the market. timing is not perfect but at least we have made the decision. We are really looking forward to hearing more helpful information. The storage thing is a little difficult we have been married 50 years and we know that we will not be able to do this forever. We also know that we have a life style to come back to. So it has been a challenge. Happy trails
Hi Ray. Best of luck with your new plans. It is a big change indeed but could be a very rewarding one. I don’t think I have the right insight on this but will try to point you to people who do. I would definitely check out the Boyink family at Ditching Suburbia. They are Christian RVers who have great resources on their site. I’ve interviewed them on the podcast twice before. Really good people. Also, if you haven’t found them already, the Full-Time Families page and the Full-time Families group on Facebook is comprised mostly of RV people. They are an eclectic bunch, but I’m sure that there are people there who have better info on what you’re looking for. Best of luck Ray, and let us know how it goes!
Pellet Stove – This device will warm up an RV faster and more efficiently than any other heater we’ve seen. The good news is there is zero moisture produced from the heat, the built in fan uses a fraction of the electricity of a space heater and it’s a pretty eco friendly option for heating. The downsides: Install is a crazy mod to both the inside and outside of your RV. If the fan shuts down (i.e. when boondocking and you run out of battery power) you now have a smoke filled RV. Takes up a lot of space so is best for larger RV’s. You have to carry and store large, heavy wood pellets in your RV. Some models you are required to vacuum out the ashes which can be a pain make sure you look at the pellet stoves with a removable ash tray.
Cold-weather RVing is a majestic, yet challenging, experience. If you’re looking for peace, quiet, and beauty, winter RVing has it all. However, it takes a lot of careful planning and work. Without the proper forethought, a night in a winter wonderland can quickly turn into a night in a freezing meat locker. All is not lost, however! Thanks to the many that pioneered cold weather RVing, we have plenty of tips to help you stay warm and dry on your next winter adventure.
The key to maintaining a comfortable full-time RVing lifestyle is how they plan to earn money on the road. If they have an online business, then they are in luck, as it is very easy to run an online business from your RV. I easily run our website while traveling for several months in our RV. In some cases, I am sitting by a pool with my laptop and an adult beverage, writing articles and answering Rving questions and uploading them Everything-About-RVing.com.
Health insurance costs are totally individual, and the coverage for everyone is evolving. We do not have health insurance. Other younger full-time RVers have posted some terrific articles about health insurance and the impact on one’s choice of domicile state. Check out the excellent posts by Wheeling It and Interstellar Orchard. They both reference insurance agent Kyle Henson of RVer Health Insurance who is quickly becoming the go-to agent for all RVers’ health insurance needs.
The Meinhofers and a dozen others who spoke with The Washington Post about this modern nomadic lifestyle said living in 200 to 400 square feet has improved their marriages and made them happier, even if they’re earning less. There’s no official term for this lifestyle, but most refer to themselves as “full-time RVers,” “digital nomads” or “workampers.”