[…] The down-time is also giving us some space to plan our next steps. In the last big storm we discovered yet another leak in…guess what?…our”big” slide on the front drivers side of the rig. This same slide, and the woes of getting it fixed was the very reason we rushed ~1000 miles cross-country to Oregon almost 3 years ago. Back then the main problem was in the back of the slide near the fridge. Now, the front has moved out of alignment with the front edge dangerously close to catching under the rim of the RV. Simply put it’s just a poorly engineered design and we should never have bought a rig with a heavy object like the fridge in it (one of our “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Fulltime RVing“). […]
Awesome list, and we pretty much discovered each of these too! Well, we actually never realized how easy it is to find great campgrounds, so that one’s off our list (wish we had known about that website!). And even though our fridge was in our slide, we didn’t have any problems with it (but maybe that’s because we sold it before the issues could emerge?). But other than those, I feel ya. 🙂
Hi Nina and Paul, Fantastic job on your blog; has answered so many questions for us. Kathy and I tend to plan well in advance for such ventures as full time RV’ers.. Being in the starting planning changes, one topic that seems to come up quite a bit is RV length with regards to parks that RV length “issues”. We are looking at the next year or two to sell the “bricks, sticks and mortar”. One question maybe you can answer from your travel experience is the 40′ length issues at some parks with regards to a motor home, how does that compare to, for example a 38 ft. 5th wheel and along with 18′ length of a double cab truck needed to pull it? Does the combined length of the 5th wheel and truck come into play in some or most places, i.e. setting the 5th wheel and where does one typically park the truck, in line, along side? Guess that does not matter when boon-docking. Would appreciate your feedback … regards…. Roman
As for winterizing. I’m not sure I completely understand the question. If you’re asking if you can RV in the snow/winter it’s certainly possible. Most RV’s don’t really have the proper insulation so you’ve got to prepare for the weather by using skirting, covering windows, using heat-tape on your pipes etc. I prefer to RV where the weather is mild, but if you’re dead-set on winter stuff I’d recommend asking questions on the RV forums. In general, the forums are a great place to learn about new things and “meet” other RVers. I have a post about forums here:
For healthcare we keep $8,000 in our HSA account (tax-free health savings account). This not only covers our regular yearly self-pay checks, but also covers the individual deductible on our health care plan in case we should ever need it. We keep an additional 4-6 months of savings in ready cash (e.g. cash, money market, savings) for unplanned RV, pet & other expenses and regularly add to these savings through our monthly budget.
The full-time RV lifestyle is absolutely fantastic, and we’ve been loving our nomadic life since 2007. Many people who are new to the idea of RVing full-time wonder how full-timers get their mail or file their taxes or what kind of insurance they buy. What the heck do they use as a home address (known in legalese as a “domicile”) and where do they register to vote? And how do they save money on RV park and campground costs?
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!
With the bigger rigs I always feel it’s harder to back-in and maneuver in tight spaces (always better with a spotter since there are so many blind spots in a big rig), whereas the smaller rigs drive more like a car and can more easily be parked without help in just about any space. Also the smaller rigs use smaller (= much cheaper) tire sizes, can get serviced at a regular oil change place (instead of a specialty truck spot), and are easier/cheaper to maintain. All stuff I’d prefer as a solo traveler.
Allison, the Thousand Trails resorts have been mostly great campgrounds. We have really only visited one that we would never want to go back to. The amenities were nice but the rest of the campground was a bit rough. There is a TT in between Savannah and Charleston that was great and we also really liked the parks in PA. I will get it together soon and write some reviews.
5. I would’ve understood that low mileage doesn’t necessarily mean an RV is in good shape – RVs need to be driven. The longer they sit the more things dry up and crack. If I had to do it over again, I’d ask if it was stored inside or outside, how much it was driven and how often routine maintenance was done. If the owner doesn’t know this and doesn’t have records, I’d either take it to a mechanic before purchasing or keep looking.
You are going to need a set of solar panels. Forget a generator. I don’t know why almost every RV I ever come across is running a generator. I’m here to tell you that a gas-powered generator is almost completely unnecessary. A good set of solar panels placed properly on your roof (you want at least 60 watts, I’d like to have more one day) will give you enough power every day (even cloudy days) to charge your cellphones, power your lights all night, power the propane furnace for increments when the wood stove isn’t running, and watch movies.
Great tips! I boondocked for an entire winter in Canada a few years ago, it reaches -45C a few times. Once you get your trailer, appliances and technique dialed in it’s very enjoyable! I wish I would have documented the entire experience. All of the points above are very useful. Another few lessons I’ve learned is to use flex to direct your exhaust from your generator to your lp tanks when it gets really cold, as well as keeping the battery bank warm helps a lot. When I did my winter adventure I was constantly searching for drafts and cold spots to remedy, and believe me, when you don’t see warmer than -20C for months it’s almost a constant challenge. Be creative, be safe! Never get discouraged!
When we’re driving in sub-freezing temps we do 2 things: Run the small space heater in wet bay and run a large space heater inside the RV. If you have solar it should keep your batteries charged no problem, otherwise you’ll need to run the generator. We only do this when the temps are around 25 degrees or below outside. Also we have a digital wireless thermometer in the wet bay so we can monitor when it gets too cold.
My first rv, an older 28′ class A motorhome, was a gift from family member, and we used it part-time, mostly in Arizona, since we lived at Lake Tahoe, with long, snowy winters. My second rv, a 32′ diesel, with double panes windows, but no slide-outs, no basement, and no levelors. A great rv, but our 33 ft, 2014 motorhome with 2 slide outs, automatic levelors, ample basement storage, and nice size refrigerator is great for us as we are still part-timers. I do miss the diesel (so much quieter), the double-paned windows, and our small truck which we towed, carrying our bicycles. I preferred the view from the first 2 motor homes as the built-in dinette with large window was across from soda bed, which also had a large window. We now have no view on passenger side except for small kitchen window. My second rv also had a better arrangement for queen bed, which faced forward, enabling view out front dashboard window, with two regular size windows on sides of bed. If you like to camp in gorgeous nature, as we do, views are important. When we did extended stays, we alternated camping in “nature areas” with minimum or no hookups for a week or more, then moving to private campgrounds with laundromats, and some food services for a few days. We especially enjoy the national and state parks. I enjoy the motorhome over a 5th wheel or trailer as we do not have to get out in the rain when we arrive at a campground, and, as we did one night, when we didn’t feel safe, just started the engine and left. I would enjoy trying full-time Rv living, and realize there will be days that will range from glorious to trying.
You guys rock. Love the expense detail. I’m a director/producer myself and my wife is an actress/spokesperson. Have talked about living full time in an RV, but mostly within the state due to business, clients, elderly parents, etc., – with the occasional road trip. Can’t tell you how much you guys have helped us plan. Your videos are excellent too, and I know what I’m talking about!
Hydration Pack – If your favorite RVers are outdoor enthusiasts gifts like backpack hydration packs will be appreciated. In our experience, hydration packs are a must for hiking with kids. Our boys have Dakine hydration packs similiar to this one. Brent and I both have Camelbaks with insulated drink tubes (similiar to this one) that along with hiking in all temperatures, we wear when snowboarding.
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.
Living in an RV has helped bring Alyssa and me closer together in our first couple years of marriage. We’ve seen more of America than either of us could have imagined we would (and still have a lot to see!). Because we are self-employed, we’ve been able to pick up and go when new opportunities come our way. Not to mention, in the past few years of travel we’ve also been able to pay off all $27k of my student debt.
I also bought PTC fittings. I needed one to join the PEX to a male hose connection and another to join the PEX to a female hose connection. I had a tiny bit of trouble with that — PEX connections normally work with pipe threading, not hose threading. (The fact that the two threadings are different is something I learned back when I set up the irrigation system at my Wickenburg house years ago.) The Home Depot pipe guy helped me get what I needed.
We made the transistion slowly. (Our son is very resistant to change.) Each day we’d play out in the camper a little longer and slowly move his toys into it. Finally after about 2 weeks of this and moving things over we spent the night and didn’t have any issues! I’m not sure what we would do differently, we are pretty happy with how everything has gone. Our RV is a 39 foot bunkhouse. (So it has 2 rooms)
Inspiring! We are about 6 wks out to our new life on the road (with 3 kiddos & 2 tiny dogs). We are waiting on the final sale of our home, big estate/garage sale (everything will go), sale of our van then bye bye AZ hello open road. Some say we are crazy, many say it’s awesome. I cannot wait. We traveled for almost 4 months several years ago after hubby retired from the USAF & although there were issues here & there, the memories will last & what I treasure most. I love looking back on the photos & reading my posts about what we were doing & where we were. Cannot wait to do it full time for who knows how long. Roadschooling is on my agenda as well. Oh & I agree we can live without so much stuff. What’s the point really?
3. How big does your rig need to be? Another major facet of the full time RV life is the size of your RV. You need to be truthful with yourself in considering how much room you want and need for the lifestyle you’re going to be undertaking. If you have little in the way of belongings and you don’t look to acquire very much in your travels, a smaller rig or pull behind might be right for you. It’s also a good choice if you know you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the more remote campsites where maneuverability will be an issue. On the other hand, if you are going to be making use of bigger sites, spending more time in one spot and don’t want to give up a great deal of your belongings, bigger will be better.
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.
This is a hugely variable cost that has changed a lot in our lives over the years. The figure for these six months of summer travel in 2014 is way higher than ever before. Our biggest “eating out” cost comes from getting coffee and muffins at coffee bistros (so nice!). The rest is a combination of beers at cute brewpubs and meals at Subway and other fast food joints. For comparison, in the first four months of 2014 before this trip, from January to April, our monthly restaurant bill was $70. In those months we weren’t camping near many inviting places!
Obviously these are not the same fixed costs for everyone. What kind of rig you buy, where you insure it, how much maintenance you do (incl. paid versus self-maintenance), whether you keep a storage unit and what kind of internet plan you get are all individual choice. But once you’ve made those decisions they’ll become fixed, recurring expenses that you should expect to pay each month.
Public campgrounds run the gamut from rustic campgrounds on-site at the national parks to state park campgrounds to national forest service and BLM campgrounds to Corps of Engineers campgrounds to regional park campgrounds and fairgrounds. Somewhere along the line there is a crossover to municipal and city RV parks. These campgrounds and RV parks often offer fewer amenities than private RV parks: there may (or may not) be water spigots or vault toilets (non-flushing), or there may be electric and water hookups and hot showers. Usually there are no sewer hookups but there is often an RV dump station in the campground.
Boondocking – This is a term that essentially means camping without hookups typically in dispersed locations for free (or less than $15 per night). There are many places to camp for free in an RV or tent in the United States. RV boondocking locations include Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and National Forests. Free boondocking sites are plentiful out west, but significantly limited in states east of the Mississippi. To read a terrific review of boondocking sites in Florida, click here.
In our case there are months we pay almost ZERO here (e.g. when we are sitting still in one place and either volunteering or boondocking) and there are months we chose to splurge. Either way we are able to completely manage how much we want to spend and can ramp it down (or up) as needed to match our income. Honestly if we’d fully understood the power of this flexibility we probably wouldn’t have fretted quite so much over costs before we got on the road. This is a BIG DEAL!
New in 2017 for us is storage fees as we switch back and forth between boat and RV. RVs can use storage lots across the country which should be fairly affordable (in 2018 we’re splurging on covered storage as hail is a very real concern in central Texas). Long term, we have purchased a lifetime lease at an Escapee’s Co-Op park in Arizona – which will be our storage spot for the bus, our winter base camp and a ‘casita’ for storing stuff. The actual costs of this remain to be seen.
Can you afford Fulltime Rving? Many people think it's an expensive lifestyle, and it can be if you buy a fancy motor-home, travel constantly, stay in all the best resorts, and eat out all the time. Many people enjoy Rving without breaking the bank though. There are very cost effective RVs available that can be considered when selecting an RV for full-timing. There are countless RV resorts that are beautiful and inexpensive. Consider your budget, and if will you continue to earn income or not.
Wow!!!! have I ever enjoyed your written article,I will tell you you have a gift of writing.stay at it and enjoy your life style ,not too many folks have the kahoonas to do it ,me included, I do build some awesome custom traveling campers &wagons of Aluminum,spray foam sip insulated,wood facade rustic looking,lightweight . My product we call Woolywagons & Woolycabins. We also welcome tiny house dwellers here at our woodsy central Indiana lazyaa B&B Guest Ranch home of the Woolywagons custom built RVs I am 62 and love building and people and traveling with my horse.I have done some whitewater canoeing but Man you are one radical kayaker too too cool If ever in Indiana I would sure appreciate chewing the fat with you at our campfire.This invite is good for all of you
Been trying to convince my husband for YEARS that we should do what you are doing. I just recently got him to start the process of selling our “big-popular-neighborhood-expensive-house-that-requires-two-incomes-but-we-really-can’t-afford-anyway” and buy a fixer-upper on more land with no HOA. We already have a buyer (our neighbor’s inlaws) and just need to settle on a price which is hard considering the foreclosures in the last few years. While we’ve been looking at what is available in our north GA area, we have literally turned up our noses at the listings that are “just a trailer” on land. What a snob I have become. Time to change the way I look at these things.
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.
6. Necessities and storage: ‘Take only what's necessary’ is easier said than done, but these tips should help. Have each family member lay out everything they want to take with them, and then have them pick out one thing they can do without until the pile is reduced as much as possible. Invest in some vacuum seal bags for clothing, and a hand-vac. Full-time RV living is a lot like camping, and necessitates much of the same equipment.
4/ wet suits and beach/surf gear – for some reason we had it in our heads we’d use these a lot. Instead they took up a bunch of space and we rarely (a few times per year?) used them. We decided it makes more sense to rent these as needed. We feel the same about kayaks and paddle-boards. You may end up differently, but my advice is leave these at home when you start out until you have some experience with where you travel and what you like to do. You can always rent and if you really miss them you can brings them along on the next trip.
$1264 Dining Out It’s beautiful to go back through and see where we spent our money eating out. The only chain is Chipotle which we ate at 4 times this quarter. The rest is made up of coffee shops, small restaurants, and different breweries. Of course this number is skewed a bit as 10% of these expenses likely belong in the grocery category because we purchase whole bean coffee and specialty beers from many of the coffee shops and breweries we visit.
14. Make a commitment to eating healthy. It can be all too easy to just stop in at the nearest fast food restaurant and grab something to go, but that certainly isn’t the healthiest option. You will need a well-rounded diet more on the road than anywhere else, so it would be best to make a plan for such a diet. There are many places where finding fresh fruits and veggies isn’t easy, so stock up when and where you can. Use stay-fresh bags to store these items in and learn to can these items as well for longer storage possibilities.
We protected the water connection coming into the RV with heat tape, pipe insulation and wind barriers — and did not have a problem in that regard. However, we did have the water pump itself freeze. A light bulb in the plumbing bay solved that problem. We added a weather station inside the coach and put the thermostat that reads the external temperature in the plumbing bay. So from then on we could just look at the display to keep tabs on things.
Hey Bill, keep working on the wife! As for your questions, please remember we are travelers, not banking or financial experts and definitely don’t feel comfortable advising anyone on the subject. So, what works for us, may not be best for you. We have a permanent address in Texas (our home state) and have a CPA that handles our taxes. There very well could be some deductions for you, but you will need to talk to a CPA to find out.
Theresa first let me say YOU GO GIRL! Lots of women travel alone, so you won’t be the only one but many women are too afraid to travel alone, so yeah for being brave! I would join a group like NuRvers and/or fulltime families. There are lots of great people to meet up with along the way so you will feel a part of a community and it gives you a broad group of people to reach out to if you are having any issues or questions.
Those first six weeks were brutal. By the first of October, when we had a chance to catch our breath in Florida, we seriously considered giving up. Despite all our research, we were woefully unprepared for RV life. My husband hated towing that behemoth of a fifth wheel, the kids hated sharing a room with bunk beds on either side, and I hated that everyone hated what I thought would be the adventure of a lifetime.
Living in an RV or any small space can have its challenges. The first year of full time RV life flew by in the blink of an eye. As we celebrate our three years of RVing, I want to share some tips that helped us survive the transition to RV living. Whether you’re a solo RVer, family of five or a couple with a dog, I hope you find these tips helpful.
I’ve been wondering what to do with my life. I;m single and own a home with a mortgage. Going it alone is tough…especially when things break down, like the water heater. I have been looking into either leasing or selling my house and getting out of debt, then buying an RV. The thing is, I’m looking to set up permanently in an RV park and wondered how / IF that is an option and how would it work. Any advice or info about this would be greatly appreciated.
Our oldest turned 10 this year. 10 – that is double digits! We have a 10 year old yet we still don’t feel like we know what we are doing as parents. . . do you ever?! Him reaching this age has really made me stop and think how crazy fast life is and how we can’t spend all this time trying to do it perfect and right but instead have to sit back and just enjoy it at times too. As we go along this journey, we’re constantly figuring things out, but the more we learn, the more we see how much we really don’t know.
I am currently looking for suitable stories to feature in the series and we’re keen to contact people who may be interested in taking part. I came across your website and thought I would contact you as I’m trying to find Expat British/Irish families attempting to live self-sufficiently in wilderness locations overseas and I was wondering if you’re aware of any British expats that could be interested?
I live in L.A. Cali and the rents are expensive, try buying a property-forget it!.. Specially for an average Joe making less than 35k a year. I got be a 1997 30’ft. RV that I live in it full time and I pay 400 dollars a month rent to the homeowner of the property to let me camp on his empty back yard.I know I tried to live on the public streets,but it’s too much of a hassle because that RV can’t be just put on one location of public street, the city parking enforcement will cite you, as well gang bangers would vandalize your home/RV.So one day I decided to post on craigslist and a man replied to let me park and live on his backyard for 400bucks a month which he kindly let’s me use his side house restroom (keep my RV restroom clean and unused) and electricity for general purpose ,Except for anytime I need my AC (I USE MY GENERATOR).Im just a basic Joe, I cut on renting small rooms for the same price, but I have more space and better independence. I usually ride my bicycle to work and public transportation (I hardly spend on gas).. Also, I have WiFi internet I get from his home, which he charges extra 20 bucks. I have a laundromat couple feet away from this property, so I just walk with my cart basket on Sundays. Life is great and inexpensive. Yea, renting an apartment in a bad/ghetto area of L.A. COULD cost around 800 to 1,000 a month. Im better off renting on a private property in a Nice safer neighbor hood.
Hey there! We are Kelan & Brittany, high school sweethearts obsessed with personal finance and on a mission to help families learn how to budget their money, save like crazy, and find unique ways to make money from home. After Kelan quit his job to become a full-time personal finance blogger we have been featured on sites like USA Today, The Penny Hoarder, Bankrate, Credit Cards, Discover, Nerd Wallet, Rockstar Finance, Life Lock, Making Sense of Cents, Millennial Money Man, and many more.
In a five year period, a brand new rig (that is, a motorhome/car combo or truck/trailer combo) will typically lose 30% to 50% of its value, and by the end of a decade it will be down to 25% to 40% of its original MSRP. The only way to know what the full-time RVing lifestyle really costs is to know both what you paid for your RV at the beginning and what you sold it for at the end. The difference, divided but the number of months you lived in it, is the true cost of ownership.
Avoid bringing the items you could easily just buy while on the road if you absolutely needed them, especially if your space is limited. It’s easy to go overboard buying all sorts of accessories for the RV. We recommend getting the bare minimum and then you can always purchase more as you, if there are items you wish you had. It’s much easier to do this then deal with the frustration of having too much crammed in!