$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)

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.
You could use LED’s from amazon or ebay, but I have used 12 volt led STRIPS that I wire right into my 12v light sockets. I sometimes uses a 50 watt 12 volt windshield heater to keeps my hands from freezing. I have used black tar on my roof and COMPLETELY stopped the leaking,don’t know why folks are having more leaking problems after that..probably doing it wrong. If you have to snake a 120 volt cord outside your RV to run a window a/c or heater..cut the cord as short as possible. It draws less. Buy brand new breakers, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be in the middle of a meal and have flip the breaker every 5 seconds because it’s 120 degrees outside and I just want a cool 98 inside the RV. It sounds trashy, but I bought a roll of that textured windshield sun-blocker and cut it to fit my windows,thereby blocking a crap-ton of sunlight and heat from entering my poor RV. I use bricks and the outriggers to further stabilize the trailer,because outriggers alone will NOT make all RVs stable. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR ANODE AND HEATING ELEMENT HOLY CRAP! it sucks when you jump in the shower and out comes liquid ice. yeah we all have propane…but propane is for cooking…and maybe the furnace once in a while. If you have to live in an RV, don’t be afraid to REMOVE furniture from it! I removed a pullout couch, kitchen table and the useless cabinets inside my bedroom(don’t know what they were thinking with that curved wall and I was always hitting my head on the cabinets). I removed the stock microwave and put a toaster oven in there. Let me tell you, you can cook damn near anything in that oven. Microwaves suck…especially when you have limited amps available, but you can stick that oven on 180 and cook a damn pizza all the way in about 10 minutes. ALWAYS defrost your fridge and freezer once a month! I actually have a small dorm fridge tucked into a corner that has come in quite handy.
Eating out – Many people like to sample local eateries when traveling. This is the one area that you have the greatest control over. The great thing about living and traveling in an RV is that you can always prepare your own meals. You have refrigeration and cooking appliances. I even prepare our own meals on travel days, and appreciate stopping at rest areas to eat in the comfort of our RV, rather than at fast food establishments.

Prices for LP are all over the map, and we haven’t been very diligent about shopping around. We just buy it when we need it from whoever has it nearby. We’ve been paying anywhere from $2.59/gallon to a little over $4.00 a gallon in 2014. We use about 15 gallons per month: a little more in December/January/February when we use our vent-free propane heater to heat the trailer, and less in summer. RVers that stay in RV parks and campgrounds with electric hookups use a lot less propane than this, because they don’t run their refrigerator on propane 24/7. If you have hookups and don’t have metered electricity, you can save on propane costs in the winter by using an electric space heater.
We’ve always travelled with regular ceramic dishes and flatware. We just enjoy the feel of eating on the “real” stuff. I put “grip it” type dish separators between each plate and we’ve never had a problem with rattling or breakage in 5 years on the road. Many RV folks love Corelle, or melamine type dishware coz it’s really light, but we’ve never been able to switch away from the classic stuff.
For detailed National Forest campsite info check out forestcamping.com where Fred and Suzi Dow have catalogued virtually all of the US National Forests and National Grasslands campgrounds and have detailed info on the campgrounds that are suited to RVs. The info on their website is free. If you want to have the same info for reference when internet is not available there is a very reasonable charge for downloading their regional guides, We have found their info to be extremely helpful for both long range planning as well as last minute searches. We love National Forest camping but many of the older campgrounds are not suitable for our 37 foot DP. Having their downloaded info has saved us a lot of frustration.
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.
With our system, we can use the faucet to fill our fresh water tank. However, you can not leave it hooked up to a hose when the weather drops below freezing.  The hose has to be disconnected from the faucet so that the faucet can drain to down below the freeze line.  If you leave the hose hooked up the faucet will freeze and break.  That is an expense and inconvenience you don’t want in the middle of winter.
Many National Forests and most lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allow RVs to camp outside the confines of their campgrounds. Also, it is generally legal to park in public parking areas and rest areas that are not posted with signs prohibiting overnight parking. And you can always camp out in a friend’s driveway! The price for these kinds of overnight stays is $0. However, you need to equip your rig to run without hookups to take advantage of these places for an extended period of time.
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.
Your RV has feelings, and it hates being cold just as much as you do! Just kidding, but you will experience some big problems if you don’t keep it warm. Even though many RVs come with thermal packages, which include extra insulation, it’s still not enough for sub-zero temperatures. If you’re camping in extreme cold, put your RV in a skirt! Skirting the RV will keep the battery bays, plumbing, and other important components warm. If you don’t have a skirt, you can pack snow around the RV bays.
Usually there are picnic tables and campfire rings at each site. Often the sites at national park, national forest and Corps of Engineers campgrounds are too small for a larger RV. However, some state park campgrounds have absolutely gorgeous big sites that are in a natural setting with a jaw dropping view. Generally these campgrounds cost anywhere from $8/night to $35/night, depending on the amenities offered, the beauty and popularity of the surrounding area and the the season you are visiting.

We moved from Tennessee to California & we are basically starting over again. We are currently living with a family member until we can find a rental place or buy an RV. We can’t afford to buy a house right now so I was thinking of buying an RV for a family of 7 & live in it until the house prices drop. I like the idea of RV living because if we don’t like the place we are at we can easily drive to another place. My question is how well does the water pressure for taking a shower & also for the plumbing? I think it’s a great idea to live in RV to save money but my husband doesn’t think it would be a great idea since we have 5 yr old triplets & two teenagers. My husband wants to rent a house & I want to buy an RV to live in temporary until we can buy a house.


Getting a smaller propane tank helped make our lives much easier, although it wasn’t necessarily cheaper. As with many RVs out there we have a built in propane tank that is larger than the standard tanks you pick up for grilling. The only problem for us was in order to fill the large on board tank we would’ve needed to drive 45 minutes one way to get it filled. Knowing we were only going to be in Wisconsin for 3 more weeks we decided to get a smaller tank.
 This is a tough one. Many of us live lives of quiet desperation, hating our jobs, and just enduring our life. We meet our obligations and conform to societies dictates. On the surface, all looks good. But on the inside is a desperate but muffled cry for a life of passion, adventure and travel. Summed up in one word it is a cry for FREEDOM!! This is probably overstating it, but if you look at your life, you can probably find some element of it in there. What holds us back? Why can’t we break out of our rut into a new and exciting life? For most of us it is fear. We have an unconscious fear that “An unpleasant but acceptable present is better than an unknown and dangerous future.” So, how do you overcome your fears? Allow me to lead you through an exercise to overcome a fear.
My wife, dog and I are newbies who plan on selling everything and doing this for a year to figure out where we will live next (and last)on the mainland. We will be going both to camp sites as well as around some towns (not really cities, though). We have never RV’d before. What would be the right length/size RV for our situation? I see you are talking about 36 foot. Any recommendations on manufacturers and models? I think we might buy a year old one since we are only going to use for a year and then sell it. Don’t want to take too much of a hit on depreciation. Also, do you tow a small car for local transportation? Great website!

After a year of full time RVing in a Class A motorhome, we sat down to look at our RV living costs. Some costs are calculated on an annual basis and other costs are calculated on a monthly average. RV living costs will vary depending on the number of people, pets, life style, spending habit, and other factors. We hope you find this information helpful as you plan for full time RVing.


Currently we are not full-timing it, but we are on the road for up to 6 months straight. For those extended periods, monthly expenses can vary depending on what campground or resort we are staying in. Campground prices vary widely. If you are staying in one area long-term, your best bet is to pay a monthly rate for your campsite. That will give you a deep discount, but in most cases you will be responsible for the monthly electricity (and sometimes water usage) for your campsite. Depending on the area you are staying in, monthly rates could be as low as $300.00 a month plus electricity. In more popular areas, the cost could exceed $600.00.

Living in an RV or trailer home can save people plenty of money, but it also provides just as many opportunities to burn through cash. "When we first started RVing, we had no idea how expensive or cheap it could be," Alyssa Padgett said. "We blew through four grand during our first month—way more than our typical monthly spend as 23-year-olds—and kind of freaked out that RVing would bankrupt us."
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.
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.
We already discussed becoming more social, but meeting other full-time RVers in this community is one of the best things that has happened to us. There are some people we consider friends that we haven't even met in person yet. The RVing community is welcoming and open and we often start friendships online through Facebook groups or Instagram before crossing paths in real life.

Volunteering & Workamping: We also haven taken fun volunteer positions from time to time – such as interpretive hosting at a lighthouse in Oregon. We get to do something incredibly fun and give our time for under 20 hours a week, and get a full hook-up site in a gorgeous location. With our full time work commitments however, we rarely have time for the extra hours however. Many campgrounds will accept ‘workampers’ for a few hours a week in exchange for a site – check Workamper News for more information.
When we first started RVing we signed up to just about every camping club out there, Sam’s Club, Escapees, Club USA etc. In retrospect (again because of where/how we like to camp) these were not worth it. The only camping club I currently consider is Passport America, mostly for short stops and I do like the Escapees Days End list, but even these have mostly been replaced by overnight “freebies” when we need them. The rest of the time we’re out in nature/boonies where club memberships do not go. For some people clubs are great and they can certainly be cost saving if you make use of them, but for us they’ve simply not made the cut.

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.


When I travel on a 6-8 week roadtrip with two people, my expenses average about $100/day. That includes food, fuel, and lodging. I drive a lot (20,000 miles/ yr), so my expenses are high. When I stay at an RV park in FL for the winter, my expenses are lower because I have little to any fuel expenses. Lots of RVers spend less than I do because they drive fewer miles and often do free camping on Federal land. Also, some don’t include food expenses because those expenses would be the same if they didn’t do RV travel.
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
We have posted a detailed article explaining the issue as well as a detailed analysis of the committee hearing written by the Escapees Advocacy Director in an email to Escapees members. The comments made by Senator Tieszen at the hearing make it clear he is going to continue to work towards eliminating the voting eligibility of people who are not physical residents of the state.

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.


RV windows lose a ton of heat, no matter how insulated the manufacturer claims they are. There are several ways to insulate them: foam insulation boards, bubble insulation, solar blankets, etc. For extra warmth, line your windows with heavy-weight thermal curtains. Use electric or propane space heaters to supplement your RVs furnace. Don’t forget to bring along a heated blanket to stay warm in bed!
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

Windows; Dual pane windows are a must have item if you are going to spend the winter in your RV. If your RV does not have dual pane windows you can get storm windows made which is basically a second pane of glass that you slip onto the inside of the window to create a dead air space. Another way to do this is with stick on plastic. The main reason this is needed is to prevent condensation form building up on the inside pane of glass and then freezing and melting, the water can run down the wall and cause rot and mold.
I am really scratching my head as to why you would not include the cost, finance, and depreciation of your RV in your calculations. I understand that everyone’s RV values will be different but by avoiding those calculations all the other calculations you’re are giving just gibberish. For example that $100,000 RV will only be worth $50,000 in five years. Just the depreciation alone over 5 years would be $833.00 per month! Then there is DVM fees, insurance,

planned to try it out for a year, but we fell in love. (Read how it all started here.) Like all matters of the heart, what works for one person might not be the best situation for the next. RV living definitely isn’t for everyone, but if it piques your interest at all (I’m guessing it must or you wouldn’t be here), please keep reading our pros and cons of living full-time in 35 ft RV with three kids.

Hi Kirsten, those are great questions! I have written a number of posts about organization, personal space, etc. You may be able to find what you are looking for on my blog by using the search box on the bottom right hand side, using search terms like organization, small home living, camper living with kids, etc. You will also find videos of the inside of our camper on http://youtube.com/americanfamilynow. Our 31′ camper is a bunkhouse. It has four bunk beds on one end and a full size bed on the other end, with a couch, table, and kitchen area in between. We shopped around quite a bit until we found what we were looking for. Campers come in all shapes and sizes! Thanks for reading!

When considering a potential extended-stay home, you will want to choose a manufacturer who produces solidly engineered units of the highest quality, who offers groundbreaking floor plans and provides the highest rated customer service. Grand Design RV has met these standards and has set the bar with our innovative “next generation” RV’s. Visit your nearest Grand Design RV dealer and you will see exactly what we mean!
[…] I think we will end up trying to travel with the weather but we have not decided on exact plans yet. Luckily there a LOT of people that travel the country and there are so many helpful websites, blogs, instructional and educational videos out there. I have also heard that full time RVer’s are very kind and helpful and care about their communities. I have found some awesome tips about RVing with dogs, Rv campsite review websites, public land camping and free locations to park, and all kinds of amazing videos about how to replacing flooring and painting the walls and of course all kinds of lists like the “10 things I wish I’d known before RVing“. […]
My State Farm agent Will Tweed set me up for success when helping me plan our insurance needs. Thanks to Will I just received a check from State Farm for nearly $3,700.00 to pay for my replacement camera mentioned below in the additional gear section. This brings our 6 month spending total to $19,164 that’s $1,597 per person per month for living full-time on the road. Not too Shabby.Expenses 02/01/2012 through 07/31/2012$22,864.00 Grand Total for 6 months of RV Travel for both Nikki and I to live full time on the road in our Motorhome. This is approximately $1,653 per person per month. At this rate we’re on target to spend a similar amount as 2011. This really stinks as I feel we’ve been more frugal this year on the road vs. 2011. In certain areas we’ve saved literally thousands, but in others we’ve added expenses!Here are few ideas on how we can save money: (if you have any ideas, we would love to hear them)
Get custom skirting made: Custom vinyl skirting can be ordered from multiple upholstery companies.  Getting vinyl skirting made has its advantages. It has to have some give to it, so when the ground freezes it won't push up the bottom of your trailer, denting the trim. The main idea of skirting is to create a dead air space below the trailer. This acts like insulation. Also custom skirting can be removed and installed in minutes and can be stored easily in a compartment. A definite must have for winter camping!
17. Ditch the electronics and have some old fashioned fun. Teach your kids how to play various card games and board games, or learn a new one for yourself. There are a great deal of hobbies, as well, that do not require electronic gadgets including cross stitch, crocheting, drawing, photography, jewelry making, wood carving and many more. There are also hobbies that can be taken advantage of at the campsites as well including bird watching and identifying plants, trees and insects.
Great info, We have been agonizing over what size rig to go with for over a year now. We have bounced back and forth between a 40′ Legacy and a 5th wheel but now after reading so many blogs as well as yours, to more than likely go with a Class C Itasca Navion which is 25’8″ and is built on the Sprinter chassis. Your blog really used us over the edge with your hindsight on smaller size. I always thought that a bigger rig would be better but now I am comfortable making that leap with a smaller rig. Thanks for the great info and Go Gators!!! Class of 85′
While you can certainly live for free out of your van, especially if you get a Northwest pass (I think that’s what Washington’s is called…or maybe you won’t need one if you’re working for DNR) then there’s ample free camping up in the Evergreen State, but you’ll still have costs. Gasoline, a solar setup if you want to have power, and propane if you want to have heat and a stove, which I would think you might in Washington…
4. Exercise: Sitting in a moving vehicle is no healthier than sitting at home, so plan to schedule regular exercise, just as you would living in a house. Long hikes, walks, bike rides, and runs are great ways to get the most out of your destination. Also, be sure to take turns driving during long hauls so that everyone can stretch out and move around.
Windows; Dual pane windows are a must have item if you are going to spend the winter in your RV. If your RV does not have dual pane windows you can get storm windows made which is basically a second pane of glass that you slip onto the inside of the window to create a dead air space. Another way to do this is with stick on plastic. The main reason this is needed is to prevent condensation form building up on the inside pane of glass and then freezing and melting, the water can run down the wall and cause rot and mold.
So here we are again in Tiger Run. We had a few problems en-route: Heater blower motor in the truck failed, fortunately they had one in Salt Lake City and it was warranted. Yay! Then the generator began spewing gas and failed. It smelled so strong we were afraid to light the furnace or fridge. We got a room instead and dried it out in the wind while going down the road. Fixed that yesterday in Salt Lake. Also had a skirt made for us by Zack, on the spot. Awesome! Thanks for that recommendation. Last night was our first time with a skirt, so an experiment. Outside temp was not to cold, 27 degrees, and the temp under the bay inside the skirt was 30. Ceramic heater on low. Nothing froze! We have the heat taped, insulated water inlet pipe instead of filling the tank. I find the water tastes better, and didn’t want to haul an 80 gallon ice block if we had a problem…. I have extra hoses if one freezes up. I therefore have not yet tried to use the LED rope light, but allow me to clarify, I was not intending to use this for the tanks, rather just running it along our water pipes inside the trailer like a heat tape, though I believe it won’t melt the pipes. In my case, I only need to keep them above freezing in the cabinet and behind the toity, and under the tub. The new discovery is that the skirt will probably solve this as our floor was the warmest it’s ever been last night! Also, the vent for the generator was hemorrhaging heat from under the skirt, so I temporarily stuffed some cardboard in there which brought the temp up a few degrees under the skirt. If the skirt fixes my internal pipe issues, then I will never know if the LED rope light works because I won’t bother to install it. It would be a royal pain to do so. We’ll keep you posted between trips up the mountains!
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!
I just love the fact that you just went ahead and decided to live your dream. I also had to downsize because of illness in the family. But, I have to say not to this extent. My parents also had this dream, but my Dad got sick too soon for them to experience all the years they were looking forward to. I admire you both very much. Good life to you and Congratulations !
My wife and I just purchased our first travel trailer. We bought it as a way to allow our two newly adopted children from China to see their new country and create some amazing memories with us. I am sorry to hear people are judgmental and rude but we have really appreciated all the information (including personal) you have shared. I am certain for every jerk there are ten “newbies”who you have really helped and I am sure that’s why you started this site in the first place! Thanks again, keep up the great work and we look forward to seeing you at a campground in the near future!
It was a matter getting rid of the things we knew we wanted to get rid of and just hadn’t taken the time to do it. We used online tools like local Facebook garage sales pages and Craigslist to get rid of a lot of our larger items. Then we tried a garage sale, but given where our house was located, we didn’t get a lot of action. And we spent a lot of time pricing everything… I think we overpriced a lot, too. It seems like we thought our stuff was worth more then it really was.
There is an RV ready to match your dream. Use your vacation RV trips to test different rigs. If you are visiting off-the-beaten-track tourist nooks and wilderness sites a more maneuverable RV could be preferable to a motorcoach. Or your dream RV just may not have as much room as you need to live on the road full time comfortably. Be honest with yourself up front and you will save yourself the hassle of trading up or down in your first few years untethered from a home base.
Nina and Paul, I just found your blog today on Pinterest, and it is filled with very good information. I will be more or less full-timing it with a friend who currently lives in Okinawa, Japan. He has been living in Japan for 23+ years and plans on moving back to the states permanently. Whenever that happens he has asked me to come along on his life long dream of traveling to all the National Parks/Monuments etc. We don’t plan on moving much more than 100 miles or so per day and may stay in a place for a while if we like it and there is lots to see and experience in the area. I plan to keep watching your blog as it really speaks to what we want to do.
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!
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