All our Fifth Wheels and Travel Trailers are “Extended Stay Approved”. This means that we have engineered them with many of the residential-style qualities found in a fine home. To this end, we have created spacious open living areas and appointed them with extra large windows, large refrigerators, walk in closets, large queen/king beds and many other home-like amenities.     

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).
We are a Navy family of 6 (+3 cats) just starting out in a 34′ trailer. I am so excited to have found some families living a “full timer” lifestyle. We will mostly be tethered since my husband is still in the service, but we are thrilled that it will make traveling and changing duty stations MUCH easier! WalMart parking lots are fantastic for pit stops, it was a relief to know that I could just pop over to the grocery store if we had forgotten anything! Just wanted to say thank you in advance, since I am already brain-storming ways to organize our limited space, and figure out exactly how much we want to take with us! Best wishes on your journey…

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!

Since selling our house, our monthly bills have decreased. We no longer have utility bills or cable bills. Wahoo! We did finance our RV, but the payment is nowhere near what our house payment was. Spending less on our living expenses has actually allowed us to live more. We are able to travel, have experiences, and buy recreational equipment that we would never have been able to afford before.


Gosh young folks! This may sound critical:-) You don’t seem to have enough good ideas how to live frugally or even inexpensively. You could do fine for half the amount you spent. Just look at your clothing expenditures or the $845 for houseware? D-oh! Hey we find Columbia sportswear and other sick stuff at Goodwill and ARC. You just have to make it a habit to check em out and go to the ones in the nice part of town! Learn to horsetrade and to borrow and lend use of things like kayaks, bicycles and sporting goods or cars. Don’t buy everything! Buy hardly anything brand new! its fun! Add an extra fuel tank and always fill up when in the cheapest regions. Saves a lot.A new laptop battery could be bought online for very little for most any model including MACs. Our phones with limited web access and unlimited text are only $30/month. Always stay at least on model behind the latest and greatest high tech gear. It costs half the price. I am typing on a MB Pro that is not quite as thin as the latest model:-) Who cares?
(In fact, we had a Big Horn 3670 2008. Went to our dealership for some warranty work and was informed that the 2010 BH's were "in". This was about 5 months ago. Well, hubby and I know to never go into a pet store, because we will walk out with a pet. Same way with a trailer. There were just enough changes in the 2 years, that we decided to purchase the newer trailer. We love it.
Think about decoration. If it's just you and a parent or you and one sibling then it will be easy to decorate. Try to get a spot next to your bed. You can velcro up pictures or posters or other items you want on the wall space. Your bedding and choice in pillows can also be reflective, a rug can help. The curtains you choose for your window can also help. If you get a shelf you can tack or tape fake flowers or vines or pictures or hang a sign on the front and sides to give it a nice feel.
The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!
I read this post with tears in my eyes. My husband and I live in a rv right now. I thought it was only a brief thing, but here we are, over a year later, still living in our rv, still saving money to buy property, and it looks like we will be living here for at least another year. My husband, bless him, has been optimistic about the whole thing and counts his blessings. I have become sour and bitter and cry away the nights. Thank you for reminding me that I need to live this one life that I have and that I need to be grateful for what I have. Thanks, I really needed this.
All these questions factor in. I’d say if they can buy the RV outright, if they’re knowledgeable and handy so they can fix or direct the repair of most things on an RV after some study, they could make it with $30,000 in the bank. That would give them close to 2 years to learn the ropes of the road. If they’re frugal. No eating out. No $100 concert tickets. No spurious or unessential purchases. No staying in expensive RV parks. Not too much travel. And assuming they work part time while on the road for either cash or a free RV spot whenever possible.
16. Make sure to have plenty of on-the-road activities available while traveling. Considering the fact that internet access may be intermittent, you will want to make sure you have some of your favorite DVD’s, cd’s and books at arms reach. Portable DVD players are a necessity with children in the RV and you will probably benefit greatly from an e-reader of some sort. If you have a laptop or tablet, these can easily be downloaded and there is a plethora of places to find free reading material.
Where should you establish your home base when Fulltime Rving? Rvers' are lucky, they can domicile in any state they wish. Your choice should be based on how you will full-time. Do you plan to work a full-time job? Meander, or will you have purposeful travel? Read our selecting a state for domicile to help you consider issues such as health insurance, voting, vehicle insurance, income taxes, and more.
Brent and I gave it our best to make full time RVing work for them as teens. We met up with road friends and family regularly. We traveled with other families when the opportunity arose. We spent two winters in the mountains snowboarding. We took Thing 1 to a music camp. We sought out opportunities for Thing 2 to pursue interests like gold panning. We let them have a say in the travel planning. We found online classes when we felt like we couldn’t meet their educational needs. 
We live five months a year in our motorhome spending 7 months in our Mexican casa down in San Felipe, Baja. This has been our life style since 2005. Looking over your expenses have you every shopped on eBay for software products? You can save bundles. . . . I buy a ton of our “needs” on eBay with great savings and success just shipping it to where ever we are staying. Also, I am a thrift store junkie. I love nice, expensive (brands) clothes and kitchenware but don’t like paying full price. I find great bargains in Goodwill and Saver stores. It makes it fun to seek out these stores in all the different stops we make. I “cleaned house” this summer back east in their Goodwill stores. Just a thought. . . I enjoy your website very much. . . you’re having a lot of fun in your travels. I also would rather stay at a Harvest Host site versus Walmart!
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.
It’s good to have an idea of where to go, what to do and how long to stay but don’t have a rigid plan. Be flexible enough to have the option to stay a few extra nights or leave early. Every town we drive into is a new experience. Sometimes we love the town and sometimes it’s just not our cup of tea. Having a flexible schedule means we can stay longer in places we enjoy and take off early if we’re not feeling it.
Thanks for sharing your personal info with us all. One thing about this lifestyle is that you live it and learn as you go. What you did last year will not be what you do next year. Goodwill and other such places across the nation now have right much of the items we started out with. Pretty sure we aren’t done donating yet. See you out there someday.
Yes, you can use a correctly rated extension cord for temporary use. A 20 amp cord minimum for a 1500 watt (12.5amp) heater. Add a surge protector for more safety. The cord could accumulate heat if coiled in closed space next to combustibles, like your plastic RV compartment. Fire from electrical overload is very real and RV’s burn very fast, which is why they all have a second exit in or near the bedroom out the window. Extension cords are prohibited because most people would not follow the safety precautions. RV’ers should! Check your smoke detector for early warning at night. (yes, this sounds like too much concern, but fires happen and RV’s burn fully in minutes)
You don’t have to have a “home” to have an address. There are multiple companies that offer mailbox services. Which means you get an address for a mailbox that is located in one of the cities that the business is located in. The company then scans your envelopes and sends them to you via email (you can let them know if you want them to keep it to mail it to you or throw it away), mails your mail to you once a month – wherever you are, or some even open the mail and scan it and send it to you. It is all for a monthly cost but it is very reasonable. The only thing is you have to have domicile in the state they offered in. The main one’s for Full Time traveling families are Florida and Texas – since the homeschooling laws are best there. However we had heard that Texas wasn’t good for state health insurance since they didn’t offer a nation wide plan – not sure if that matters to you. Here is a link from a full time RVing couple about how to handle mail and a few other things: http://www.technomadia.com/2012/07/chapter-9-nomadic-logistics-domicile-mail-taxes-banking-and-voting/ Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.
Personally, I prefer the smaller the better, but you will need to make that choice on your own. Check out this service if you want to try and give a couple of different types of RVs a spin before you buy, even if it’s just for a weekend here or there. Probably less likely to get a truck / trailer combo on that setup, though, but look around, you never know!

I’ll never regret our four years of full time RVing. The education and life experiences the boys received are priceless. The memories are too numerous to count. Our relationships grew in so many ways. We squeezed every last delicious drop out of full time RVing. So far they have been the best four years of our life but I’m hopeful we will seek out new adventures and the lessons we learned we will carry into our new chapter.
I have been following your blog & youtube videos for awhile now and thoroughly enjoy them. In fact your video on the composting toilet has convinced my sister & I to get a natures head installed in our rv as soon as spring comes along. We plan on fulltiming early 2016 & can’t wait. Too bad you have encountered negative people, you two have been wealth of information for people exploring fulltiming in my opinion. Please keep putting out the great content that you do, it is much appreciated here!
Retirement – Once you have an adequate emergency fund, and are debt free, the next component of savings is your retirement savings. We follow Dave Ramsey’s plan which suggests putting 15% of your gross income into tax-favored plans such as your company’s 401(k) and Roth IRAs. Don’t wait until later to start saving for retirement. You just never know what may happen in the future!
Jay, glad to see you decided to write back! Maybe you are referring to the sponsorships we get like our solar from Go Power or our Thousand Trails membership? We do a lot of writing, testing and documenting in exchange for those sponsorships…so it’s a lot of work, not freebies. As for the different ways we have found to save money or great discount programs we do write about those. For example: how to find free camping, fuel saving tips, mexico for dental and the list goes on. If you haven’t already, spend some time on our RV’in page and you’ll learn about a lot of the ways we keep our expenses down. If you can think of some specific questions, please ask away. We are happy to help put you at ease or help prepare you for those unexpected expenses.
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.
Jan Wesner Childs is a journalist and wife of a 26-year Army Special Forces veteran. She has lived, worked and traveled around the world and the U.S. She is currently a freelance writer based in Florida, where she writes about anything and everything, including local schools, the space and tourism industry, and military spouse and family issues. Her blog, “Beyond the Gilded Cage,” details her family’s RV adventure and gives the scoop on transitioning to life after the Army. She can be reached at janwchilds@yahoo.com.
Annual maintenance costs will vary depending on the type of RV, age, mileage, driving conditions, and other variables. If you are towing a trailer, the maintenance costs for the RV could be less, but you need to maintain the tow vehicle, too. A used motorhome might require more maintenance expense than a new motorhome would, simply due to age. And the more mileage you put on the tow vehicle and/or RV, the more frequently the routine maintenance expenses add up. You also need to consider things on the RV or tow vehicle that wear out over time, like tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and the additional expenses for emissions testing, inspections, license plate renewal fees, and taxes.

If you are staying in a park or resort, find out who maintains, roads, parking, sidewalks, etc. and how often.  What amenities are available to you at the park; are there laundry facilities, showers, pools, exercise equipment, and so on?  What other forms of recreation are available in the local area?  Are there other people staying through the winter and do they get together to socialize?
Retirement – Once you have an adequate emergency fund, and are debt free, the next component of savings is your retirement savings. We follow Dave Ramsey’s plan which suggests putting 15% of your gross income into tax-favored plans such as your company’s 401(k) and Roth IRAs. Don’t wait until later to start saving for retirement. You just never know what may happen in the future!

I love the slides in our motorhome because of the massive amount of space they give internally, but it seems some manufacturers go overboard. Our “beast” has a massive front drivers-side slide with refrigerator in the slide, something I now understand is an engineering no-no. The weight of the slide has been the cause of the only real issues on our home in 2 years. I love slides and will always want them, but in retrospect I would never buy another home with a fridge in a slide-out.
I have been throwing this idea around to my husband. He is a railroader and is gone many days at a time. I was thinking of getting a small cabin as a home base and an RV we could travel with him in and go other places when he is not working. It’s a big crazy idea! I keep going back and forth on it, but we really miss him and he misses out on my boys. What are some of the downfalls of this lifestyle?
I think a lot of expenses could be eliminated for sure. Dr electric you could easily convert to solar power. Solar panels can be quite inexpensive. The batteries for charging can be costly to purchase but in the long run will save thousands of dollars with solar. You can still hang dry your clothes on hangers in your rv. As far as washing, if you are at a park that provides water/sewage you could easily put in a portable all in one HE washer dryer. May cost around $800-$1200 but again will save $$$ in the long run. Stop eating out. It substandard food anyway and isn’t good for you. If you are all in the rv together on a regular basis, eliminate a phone. There no need for 2phones. If you are writing several letters in a week,unless it’s an emergency, you could have much news to share. I for one would rather have a portable internet connection. That would probably be one of my biggest expenses. Just some suggestions that may cost a bit in the beginning but will end up being the best purchases to save you money over a long period of time.
+ $300 or 30,000 Points – Credit Card Points is something I haven’t talked about before. With my credit card we get 1-2 points per $1, and sometimes we get up to 7 points per $1 during specials. We pay with everything on CC and that is what helps me keep track of these expenses, and at the end of the month we get cash back. Consider that money a bonus, put it in the bank, or go out and buy yourself something you would pay “real” money for….and that’s exactly what we do: A Splurge! It is free money right? Of course I you play the points game you must pay your CC off each month otherwise your points are pointless (HA pun intended!)
Of course, at $500 per month this is a sparse life, but I am just showing you that it can be done. In fact I personally know dozens of people who live in their vans and make much less than $1,000 per month, so I know for a fact that it can, and is, being done right now. That still leaves us with the question, where will the money come from? Let me show you some simple strategies for living the cheap RV lifestyle.
The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!
Our highest month was August in Cocoa Beach, FL. We both went on a bioluminescence kayaking tour which was $84. Also Julie got the deluxe adventure package at the Brevard Zoo which included an aerial adventure obstacle course, zip lining and kayaking for $57. We discuss how much fun we had on the Space Coast in our inaugural podcast episode. Our least expensive month was again at Fort Belvoir because there are so many free activities in the Washington DC area (i.e., Smithsonian museums, monuments, and hiking galore).
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.
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."
We recommend spending a small-enough amount that they don’t have to finance it. From what we’ve seen, a lot of full-timers change their rigs (typically downsizing) after the first year on the road, and this is easier if you’re not over-extended on your current rig. It’s very hard to know what you’ll really want until you’ve tried it. We don’t believe in purchasing a new RV (at least not for the first rig). They depreciate so much, and they have more problems than they should for the money spent.
This is a little bit of a whiny thing to say, but it's real. Holiday weekends tend to just blend into the calendar now and it's easy to forget to plan ahead. We've been lucky so far and already had holidays booked totally by accident, found boondocking, and spent Independence Day parked in a dive buddy's driveway, but we have forgotten holidays and so have our friends. Memorial Day weekend campground reservations may be booked months in advance and we just don't think like that anymore. Maybe now is the time to set reminders.
×