We miss home every now and then. Our kids have had to say goodbye to friends, and we don’t see family as much while on the road. It’s a little isolating. But I was a Navy brat growing up, and I had to say goodbye to many friends, too. I have a lot of empathy for our kids, but I also know how enriching this experience will be. (And, unlike me, they now have the ability to FaceTime, text and game with friends!)
That said, it is not for everyone. We have met very few full-time RVers who boondock as much as we do. Most people who enjoy boondocking, or “free camping,” do it from 25% to 75% of the time, at most. For full-timers who work, it is hard to find a boondocking location near most jobs, and you have to pack up and go to the RV dump station every 10 days to 2 weeks, disrupting your life. Even if your work is location independent, and you work out of your RV, finding good boondocking locations that have adequate internet access to do that is not easy. During the summer of 2014 we spent 5 weeks camping in places that were 10 miles or more from the nearest internet access.
When we started out we spent around $4,500 on initial start-up $$. That covered tow modifications, new sewer hose, extra water hoses, surge protector and power cords (30 to 50A cable, plus a 30A extension cable), Lynx leveling blocks, wheel covers, camping chairs and tables, outdoor grill and mat. We also spent smaller $ on various cheap plastic storage bins (for sorting our stuff in the downstairs bins). We didn’t initially buy a TPMS system, but that’s something I’d recommend for folks today and does add around another ~$500 to the total. All these start-up costs were easily covered by selling furniture and various “stuff” from our house.
As I said before, our monthly lodging expense is relatively low because of free boondocking, staying with friends and family, and our use of RV Memberships. We stayed at places owned by family or friends for 142 days in 2017 at no cost to us (THANK YOU!! We love you all!). Besides Boondocker’s Welcome and Harvest Hosts for the occasional stay, we heavily relied on our Thousand Trails Zone Passes. We received our first one for 2015-2016 for free with the purchase of our RV (perk from dealer), and then we purchased Buy One Get One passes for $545 for the entire West Coast. The first 30 nights were included, and then it was $3 a night after that. We ended up staying 143 nights in Thousand Trails campgrounds with our NW/SW Zone Pass, which brought our average cost per night staying at these (mostly) full hookup sites for less than $6/night.
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
Foldable Vases – Inexpensive and perfect for RVing, a foldable vase makes a great gift for your favorite RVer. Foldable vases allow you to bring the outdoors in without taking up space or adding weight. On top of that, they are unbreakable which is always good when your RV basically experiences a mini earthquake every time you move it. They come in multi-packs and as singles. The first time I saw one was when a friend brought me one as a hostess gift and I have been hooked since!
I also soon learned how to juggle the use of coffee maker and hair dryer in conjunction with the heaters. Normally, using both at the same time is not a problem. But with the draw of the electric heaters, plugging too many things into the wrong line shut down the electricity totally. This meant a trek outside to unscrew four tiny wing nuts (virtually impossible to do in winter gloves) to get behind a panel to reset the breaker. Try doing this in the dark in the wee and snowy hours before daybreak and you don’t make the same mistake twice.
$1237 Editing Software – We finally purchased Adobe Photoshop CS6 ($600), I’ve been using an old version for the past several years. We also purchased the newest version of Lightroom ($150). Both of these programs allow us to view, edit, and post our RAW photographs more beautifully and professionally. If you’re not heavy into photo editing or design I DO NOT recommend purchasing Photoshop, it’s a bulky, expensive, and difficult to understand program. Save your money and get a more consumer based photo editing program. I also purchased a great video plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro video editing software. This new plug-in suite from Red Giant ($480) allows me to make similar enhancements to my video that I can make on my photos.
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 spent years preparing to get on the road but didn’t give much thought for preparing to get off the road. There were practical and financial challenges like starting over with nothing in terms of furniture and selling our truck and RV to replace them with something more weekend friendly. The month following Thing 4’s birth our family couldn’t go anywhere together because our truck only sat five people. There were emotional challenges like letting go of my dream to homeschool the boys and watching our friends travel while we sit still. There were physical challenges like having a new baby and the hormonal sleepless nights that followed. There were relational challenges of connecting with each other in the mundane and finding friends in our new community. It was so easy to connect with other nomads but we’ve found it hard in a town of 500,000+ people to find our tribe. After four years in the slow lane, I had forgotten how busy people are and it’s been overwhelming. I can’t and don’t want to keep up and often feel like I’m on the outside looking in. To top it off, there is the spiritual challenge of having found my identity in the external, being a nomad, instead of finding it in the internal, which for me is God. Nothing like a little identity crisis to keep the emotional roller coaster oiled.
Maybe wintering out west or in southern Texas would allow us to save some money…but when we researched back in 2014 or 2015 an equivalent park in Mission Valley would only have saved us 100 bucks a month or so over what we’re paying here in Fort Myers. Fortunately…we’re well enough off so that budget isn’t our primary concern at this point…not because we’re brilliant investors but because we started saving 40 years ago…both always worked but lived on one salary and invested the rest…and because I invested my Navy retirement when it started in 1991 and my wife worked for a doctor’s professional organization with very good benefits. Mostly though…it was a case of living below what our salaries would have suggested and long term investing…compound interest is your friend.
Bedroom Layout – At first it seems like the only travel trailer floor plan option was a back bunkhouse and a front queen bed with the head of the bed situated at the front of the trailer. But then I found the front bunkhouse models. These typically have more room around the master bed and since the littles sleep in our room with us (they do in our house too) this would be much more comfortable and give Brent a good space to work for extended trips. The tradeoff is a smaller bunk room but the teenagers they don’t need as much space as they once did since we aren’t full time. Even in our Gateway they spend a lot of time lounging in their beds so we are leaning towards a larger master bedroom.
I love that wood stove and it sure is the answer to heat. My unit when finished should be around 120’ or if I say to hell with a back shed I can use the entire cube it will be 144’ “haven’t decided yet”. With lots of head room I can put in a queen Murphy bed that will turn into an office when folded up and I can mount it high enough to clear the tops of lots of seating area when being used as a bed. I might need a little step to get into it or maybe a rebounder. I intend to also have a comfort buddy by the time it’s completed if I find a fine lady who wants to live like that and cozy up to my pudgy but extremely cute parts but will probably end up with another Border collie. My last old girl loved getting away on our trips but I would have to kill a bunch of people to get her back and they are all tougher than I am so will have to find a replacement (yes dog lovers, it is not fair to have a Border in a camper but you argue that one out with Maggie and she will chew on you like she did the two big guys who tried to enter our comfy abode on a dark night).
In Florida, cruising sailors have relied on St. Brendan’s Isle mail forwarding for ages. To my knowledge, they were the first (by at least 5 years) to provide a virtual mail service where you could see a scanned image of your mail in an email message. This kind of service is now provided by America’s Mailbox and Escapees and others as well. Other mail forwarding services in Florida are Nato Mail, Escapees, Good Sam Club and My RV Mail.
On the other hand, it’s a VERY individual thing. After 7 years on the road I can honestly tell you there’s a very good reason why no-one ever gives you an exact number. That’s because many of the big fulltime RV expenses are totally flexible! What kind of rig you buy, where you decide to camp, how much you drive, whether you decide workamp, whether you eat out (or in) etc. -> ALL these are flexible costs that can vastly alter your spend numbers. There are ranges (and I’ll go through them below), but there is quite simply no one single number for everyone.
I would have to say we love the idea of someone living and getting of the grid per say. We have a few hurdles though we are major preppers so we worry about storing our stockpile and we have kids and pets. The kids are teenagers so it would be easier to get them out on their own before downsizing. Our pets though are family how well will that work we wonder and what about weather. We live in Indiana south of the lakes so our weather is unpredictable and sometimes very severe blizzards, tornados, ice storms and hail. We wonder about durability and temp control during super hot humid and super sub zero. Has anyone else confronted these things? We have 5 years to prep and have 2 year stockpile for 6 people is it realistic and feasable for us to accomplish?
If you are considering living in an RV and traveling, think about where you’d like to see yourself spending most of your time. We live in an RV because we like an ever changing backyard, which means we pack light in order to move easily. Many people downsize to an RV to save money, but are looking to stay put in RV parks and can hang onto a lot more stuff.
The truck needs regular oil changes, new filters, new tires, alignments, and regular maintenance as it gets older and we put more miles on it. It also occasionally breaks. For us this number is relatively low since Tom and I do so much of the maintenance and repairs ourselves. We estimate that we’ve saved thousands of dollars in labor and parts by doing it ourselves. In 2016 we did have a big breakdown that we had to take it to a shop to get fixed (we can lift transmissions by ourselves) that brought our costs way up. Better to estimate high in this category and be pleasantly surprised than the other way around.
I went on your site today for some inspiration and ideas. I feel like you two are taking the words right out of my mouth, I have said so many of the things I read here. I love that you are so honest and up front about everything. I’m planning on selling my home and buying a cabin with a few acres but when I search for information on living a simple life the lists i find are just things anybody could tell you, and I find myself saying “well “duh” thats obvious.” This is when I found homesteading sites with folks living off grid.
@Chris: Wood stoves have killed many an unlucky sleeper. Combusting wood in sleep quarters can kill in a multitude of ways. Of course, wood smoke is an established carcinogen. Wood stoves in a small mobile high vibration environment are double jeopardy. Fail to be vigilant in the daily maintenance and wake up dead. On the bright side all the bumps on the road might knock the creosote build-up off the stack walls, but then again it might not. Probably the biggest risk with a wood stove is human nature/carelessness/extenuating circumstances/etc. At some point the operator will be tempted to operate the vehicle with live coals in the stove…
But a multi-player video game might just be a great way to spend a rainy afternoon — or even a sunny one on which mom and dad just can’t take one more off-campsite excursion. It doesn’t even have to be a fancy, expensive new model. The Nintendo Wii, for instance, has tons of fun and interactive multi-player games and can easily be purchased for less than $100.
For vehicle registration it very much depends on where you plan on establishing domicile during your fulltime RV travels. Typically you get a drivers license and register your RV in the state that you establish domicile. Most fulltime RVers chose either SD, TX or FL as their domicile states since they are income-tax-free states and are very “RV friendly”. If you plan on keeping a house or address in your home state however, then that may change how/where you can establish domicile. I’m not familiar with the rules in any of the states you mentioned so I don’t know the requirements for domicile in those states.
Kindle – Most of my mentions of my Kindle are met with but “I love the feel of paper books.” I do too. More than the feel of paper books I the smell but when you live in an RV or travel a lot you need to make choices and finally getting a Kindle was one of the best purchases ever. In fact, we now own four Kindles, one for each person who can read. Two years ago, I got Brent the Paper White as a Christmas gift and since have confiscated it for myself. I love that I can take hundreds of books, a booklight, and a “highlighter” with me in one light device. Our Kindles include a Kindle Fire, a Kindle Touchscreen and an earlier generation of this one. Out of the three, the Paper White is my favorite. I really like the adjustable built-in light for night reading. Unlike my phone or a computer screen, the Paper White doesn’t give me a headache while reading at night. A Kindle is a perfect gift for RVers and travelers.
One thing in my traveling, I have to have a dependable vehicle & RV to travel with. That is the last think I want to worry about is a break down. Presently looking for that next RV trailer (Arctic Fox, ORV or Highland Ridge). Full times travel in a full range of RV’s from cars, vans, B’s, C’s and A’s classes. New million dollar rigs, to $1,000 cars or vans. All the power to them….I follow many on their YouTube channels the last 5 years.
We rarely buy new clothes and other personal items (where would we even put them?) and we limit our spending on nearly everything. We wish we could find free parking more often, but it’s not usually a huge priority. We travel often because that’s the main reason we chose to full-time RV. We love seeing as many new places as possible as often as possible.
I always tell people that unless they have a reliable way to make money from the road, have at least 6 months’ worth of savings. That way you can at least enjoy an extended trip if you never find a way to make money. At some point, it will either be a lifestyle change if you can find a sustainable income stream, or it will just be an adventure before going back to a life with a normal job.
We have camped at Tiger Run also and the temps got down to -9 F. We got the extended propane tank rented from the campground. We had all the issues and made a cardboard skirt and put a ceramic space heater underneath. That worked, though we left our sewer hooked up and only drained once a week and used the built in facilities during the day. We wrapped the exterior drain pipes with heat tape and insulation. We added hot water to the grey and black water tanks before flushing. Didn’t have a problem. Also made the heated water supply hose with heat tape and insulation. That never froze either. This year we are going back (in 2 weeks! YAY!) and are having a custom skirt made. Combined with the ceramic heater underneath, this should keep the whole thing warmer as well as stop any freezing of the water bay and plumbing. There is one weak link in our trailer, the water lines run through a cabinet, then back out behind the toilet, then under the bath tub, and then into another cabinet where the pump is. This froze twice. I rerouted one of the heater vents to heat the first cabinet by removing the vent exit and setting the vent tube to blow half of it’s air into the cabinet. Ugly but effective in an emergency. This year we are going to try running an LED rope light along that pipe run. This will double as a night light. They use very little power, and don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs. Allegedly, the skirt and ceramic heater should fix everything but you never know! We’ll follow up as things progress. We agree that winter camping allows us to enjoy snowboarding and skiing places like Breckenridge Aspen, and Jackson Hole and actually afford it! And of course you can bring your doggie or kitty too.
In the winter you’ll notice condensation accumulating on the windshield, on walls, etc. Condensation is your enemy. I know it sounds contradictory but you need to crack a vent or a window at all times. Condensation can build up, get in the walls, etc and cause mold. You do not want this! Simply crack a window and turn on a fan to circulate the air, if you’re already using a space heater with built in fan you don’t have to worry about running a separate fan. You can also put the dehumidifier pellets like Damp Rid or DriZair (you can purchase at most stores) in the areas that seem to draw the most condensation. We’ve found the condensation will not pose a problem as long as it’s 40% relative humidity or less inside the RV.
Living in a camper, RV, trailer whatever you want to call it is a wild ride filled with amazing travels! We have also realized that living this life has made us appreciate a lot of things that we took for granted when we lived in a house. RV living is definitely a different kind of living. Being on the road means there are really good times and also times of frustration and struggles where you miss the comforts of a house.
• If you live a different RV lifestyle please share it in the comments section below, no topic is more important for travelers than spending/saving $$$. Tell us how much you travel and how much you spend on the road; obviously you don’t need to go into ridiculous amounts of detail like my long winded report, but give us the cliff’s notes.08/01/2012 – 12/31/2012
This 35-45 year old solo RVer travels by them self in a 2017 travel trailer and typically stays at RV parks and campgrounds, rather than dry camping (boondocking) for free. This solo RVer travels often and is hittin’ the road every few days. The activities this RVer enjoys is outdoor activities, as well as checking out local restaurants, bars, and cafes while exploring new cities.
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.
Now… we aren’t full time RV living like most people – we are completely stationary and have no intentions of touring around the United States in our RV! That said, if that’s what you ARE interested, here are some quality blogs, YouTube channels and Facebook groups of folks that are doing such thing… hopefully they’ll be a great additional source of inspiration to you!
The kids, as kids most often do, adapted quickly. The hardest months for the teens were when they started school but we were still living in an RV. The best part about our home on wheels were the wheels and when the wheels weren’t rolling it was an entirely different experience. They didn’t want to invite friends over or be dropped off at the campground. While Brent and I were more than happy to share why we lived in an RV, what mattered to the teens was what other people thought.
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!
If you want to regain your floor space perhaps you should add a project to your list … a ‘charging station’. Find a ‘power-strip’ which can be mounted on a wall, usually with 2 screws and find a little wall space. ;o) ha ha! Perhaps above shoulder height alongside your seating area. Mount the power-strip and then make some small shelves or use ‘cup hooks’ to ‘hang’ your electronic devices from. Coil up your cables and use Velcro ‘cable ties’ to secure them neatly out of the way.
Using that silver bubble wrap over your windows on the exterior of the rv eliminates almost all heat loss through your windows, description online says the stuff will block ~94% of radiant heat, means it keeps heat in and cold out or vice versa, if yoy can bare to part without seeing out some of your windows. Ive been living in an rv for two years in north dakota, temps can get down to -50°F or worse, my skirting is 2×4 frame with osb sheeting, one inch foam board with reflective backing and R21 insulation behind that, heaters and heat tape and heated hoses are definitely ur friends, at such low temps every little bit helps.
Pay no mind to the ignorant few; the rest of us really find value in the information you share. We’ve been transitioning away from the “american dream”, sold our house, are doing some major downsizing now and learning to live on less than half of what we made before. We are putting all our time/effort into selling our stuff and inventory from our micro inventory-based business (i.e. Ebay/Etsy shop) and transitioning to multiple streams of revenue that allows us to travel lightly. We only pay for essentials right now so we can save the rest. People just don’t know the whole story and like to play the victim game when they hear of people leading fulfilling lives and assume you are loaded; like you we are choosing to empower ourselves and our dream, not be stuck in fear and everyone else’s view of what life should look like. Bravo Nikki and Jason!
Now that we've gotten the rig pretty airtight, we've got a new problem to deal with. Moisture from cooking, washing and just our breathing raises the humidity inside the RV. As it gets colder, this moisture condenses out on cooler inside surfaces like window frames and doors. This can lead to mold and mildew, water stains or even worse. The best way to prevent condensation is to avoid introducing excessive moisture into the air. A good practice is to always use the range hood vent when cooking and the bathroom vent when showering. This will draw most of that moisture out of the rig. It may be necessary to keep a roof vent open slightly to provide some ventilation and keep condensation in check. Insulating exposed surfaces that tend to collect moisture will also help. A small dehumidifier or some of those little tubs of desiccant crystals may be necessary, depending on the RV and how many are living in it.
The Sundance is also quite impressive in terms of features. You have at least 3 sideouts in every floorplan, meaning a lot of additional space along with copious amounts of baggage space with a slam latch doors. You also have a dual-ducted air conditioner and a 8 cubic feet refrigerator that can be upgraded to a 15,000 BTU AC and a residential style refrigerator. In a nutshell, the Heartland Sundance is a good choice to consider if you’re RVing full-time.
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.
People enjoy the full-time RV lifestyle on all kinds of budgets, and the money full-timers have to work with comes in all kinds of forms. Some retirees have big pensions but not a lot of savings. Others have a nest egg of savings but no pension. Many younger full-time RVers work while they travel, either to cover all of their living expenses or to supplement other income streams.
Inside, the RV is cool but not cold. Both radiators are on, although the one in the bedroom is set to low. I have an electric blanket on my bed so I’m never cold at night. The RV’s gas heater with its loud fan supplements the heat in the living room in the morning. I know I could keep it warmer if I’d just close the blinds, but I’d rather put on a sweater than miss out on the views outside my windows.
Area parks feature hiking trails, sports facilities and green spaces for your family picnic. The city of Dallas manages over 21,000 acres of parkland, with 17 lakes and over 60 miles of biking and jogging trails. The city also operates more than 40 recreational facilities, featuring tennis courts, soccer fields, community swimming pools, playgrounds and picnic areas for you to enjoy. The city of Fort Worth manages more than 200 public spaces, including the Forest Park community swimming pool, McLeland Tennis Center, softball fields at Gateway Park and track and field facilities at the Haws Athletic Center.
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.
Now, about emergencies; who ya gonna call? (No! not Ghost Busters) Is there on-site help for mechanical and electrical problems and how do you contact them? What days and hours are they available? Is 911 service available (if you are fulltiming, you most likely are using only a cellphone – cellphones may NOT work with the 911 service since they do not give you LOCATION)? Where are the closest Doctors, Dentists, Veterinarians, Pharmacies and Hospitals?