We know we changed as the years passed, but this was recently confirmed when we visited some friends from college. The last time we had visited was two years ago, only one year into traveling full-time. This visit, they couldn’t get over how much we’ve changed, especially Brandon. It helped us to see there were more changes than we realized happening and we knew it all stemmed from our experience on the road.
Having never driven more than an SUV, I certainly didn’t feel equipped to pull a 30-foot trailer with a diesel pickup truck (our setup last year). But like riding a bike, practice makes perfect. A few hours maneuvering around a Walmart parking lot, getting a feel for turns and backing into empty spaces, and we felt comfortable enough to head out on the open road. It’s always necessary to do an appropriate amount of route scouting in advance to avoid low overpasses or the possible restricted roads, but within a few weeks’ time, pulling and parking the rig was second nature.
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!
We’re enjoying the “Tutoring” you are providing. We bought our first MH in 1996 and Boondocked almost everywhere we camped due to our hobby. Through the years sorta got out of the habit and we really miss it a lot! We’re pulling the trigger and will be fulltime by January with the stix and brix for sale. Four years in the planning and looking forward to this. Thanks again for your insight in this much needed lifestyle(us). 336Muffin
I think school bus conversions are awesome! But, I’d just mention that you should decide what kind of life you want to have – one where you work to make money to pay for your RV’s monthly installments, and get one that’s in good enough shape that you don’t have to constantly be working on it, or a life where you can work less because you buy a cheaper / older rig, work on it yourself, but will likely work on it a LOT more often than a newer one. I have always chosen to work on cheaper things myself, but it’s a personal choice. Sounds like an exciting time in life for you, James!
I like to read how people manage to live ‘on the road’. I (woman) am bussy now with an old Volkswagen LT and an old caravan Fendt Baronesse/Comtesse to prepare for long trips with my husband. I really like to read everything that you have done till now. I do have an suggestion; eventhough I am living in France I would like to offer help for travellers like you if you are in need because of engine-failure or something like that. The benefits are that you can park on our property and we know all the garages etc. in the neighbourhood. Also we have tools and friends who are mechanics. Share a meal and a cup of coffee with you will not make us bankrupt. I hope that other people will do the same. Enjoy your tour!
When you live full-time in an RV, you don’t just go to the RV resorts and the big towns, but find yourself in random locations around the country you probably never would have visited on a family trip. I like this as an individual, but also think it has been great to expose our kids to so many different ways that people live around our own country.
The entire process – selling items (sometimes even your house), putting other items in storage (“we will need that someday!”), putting aside what you want to bring in the RV and then cutting that in half…and in half again. It ends up being much more difficult than you anticipated. We Googled, asked the advice from other full-timers, and went back and forth on a lot of items. Yet, we still made some mistakes.
Since we rarely move more than two or three times a year, we are huge fans of plywood skirting, most of which we can pick up for next to nothing at building sites and dumps. We tape fiberglass panels, sealed in Mylar. to the wood and it works extremely well. We haven’t found we’ve needed any additional heating under the rig, but then we don’t leave a lot of space for air to accumulate.
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!
O really DO appreciate how you have listed your expenses, especially the “before” posts that listed everything, because we are just in the PLANNING stages of a full time, 3+ month, RV trip. We haven’t even bought an RV or trailer yet; still going through the pro’s and con’s of which way would be best for us. Since budget is a huge concern, we needed to know all the nitty-gritty “small stuff” that still adds up. I’m sorry you have had to deal with the culture of “rude” from people hiding behind a keyboard. I’m sure some questions may have been relevant, but some judgements could be held. You’re just human beings, after all. Not a major company required to do meticulous research with charts, graphs, scientific evidence and everthing else these people seem to require. It’s obviously anectdotal. Thanks again! I truly appreciate it!
My first winter after living in the COMET for the summer and fall, I rented a TINY 50 square foot closet under the stairs in a collective house/commune and lived there over the winter. Yep, just like Harry Potter. It was less than $100/month and included communal meals and utilities/basic living supplies like soap and toilet paper (bulk items, basically).
We are getting ready to do our first cold weather camping and these videos and blogs have been very helpful. I’ve purchased a number of the items you’ve purchased. I have a specific question about the space heater. We purchased one of the models you recommend. It’s the one that you show using in your wet bay in the video. It just arrived and the instructions that come with it are very emphatic about not using an extension cord with it. Have you been OK doing so? Or are you lucky enough to have an outlet in your wet bay or at least accessible from it? The cord it comes with is not long enough to plug to external power unless we will be lucky enough to park our wet bay right next to the electrical hookup.
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.
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.
One of the biggest mistakes that we made was how many tools we packed in the RV and truck! We are so tired of hauling around a bunch of stuff that we don’t ever use. We therefore recommend you stick to the basic tools (screwdrivers, drill, pliers, hammer etc). There’s no reason to haul around specialty tools for that rare occasion or instance that you’ll need it. You can always buy or rent it!
We budget $6k per month and usually have a hard time sticking to it. I guess you would have to put us into that ‘upper’ bracket. We track every penny (we use YNAB as our budgeting tool-Google it), but still don’t deny ourselves anything we really need or want. We moved into the rig in July 07 with a nice portfolio and then suffered through the 07-08 market collapse. We dropped about 38%. We slowed our spending down a bit, workcamped for a season (Crazy Horse Monument in the Black Hills) and within a couple of years our portfolio had returned to pre-recession levels. In fact, our portfolio today is actually just a bit larger than the day I retired. And what’s our secret? Low cost passive index funds from Vanguard.
I make some money blogging, but it’s not a significant portion of our income. I could probably make more if I were more aggressive with product promotion/partnerships and advertising, but it’s simply not my style nor is it the style of the type of writing/blogging I do. I’m very picky about the types of products I promote and work hard to keep my blog honest and relatable. It’s primarily about RV travel and sharing that love of travel online. Everything else is a bonus 🙂
Thanks for the great expenditure report. I am getting our home ready for sale and heading toward the full time lifestyle. It honestly scares me because I am on fixed income of much less than shown in your totals. I will find a way! You might check into a company called Bestmark. Having a Chevrolet you can sign up for oil changes, tires etc. And get paid plus reimbursement. All you have to do is tell them how your visit was. Basically gaining upwards of $75. Plus free service or parts. Just thought that may help you. Thanks again, looking forward to your next post.
Nina – We are devoted readers of your blog. We ourselves are just getting ready to hit the road this spring, and as basic as this question may be, we would like to know what type of dishes you recommend. Do you travel with regular flatware or something more light and durable? We are hoping to find something that does not contain BPA. Just wondering if you could recommend a brand and/or source.
When we initially looked at internet solutions we knew we wanted a Verizon-based system since it was simply the best coverage out there (and our experience has proved that true). We ended up w/ a 2-year 5GB/mo contract which is a little tight for our needs. What we didn’t know was that you can get a Verizon-based coverage using no-contract resale partners such as Millenicom. It’s the same coverage, but simply without the contract! You can boost it just like any system out there too. Millenicom resells both Verizon and Sprint and they won’t/can’t tell you (directly) who they’re using, but you can easily narrow it down via the device (the Verizon-based contract is currently offered on the 20GB/mo deal using the Novatel U760 Device). For more info check the forums.
If you install solar power, a big battery bank, or upgrade your converter or inverter or have any kind of add-on that is pernamently attached to the rig, and you have an older rig that you are insuring for Actual Cash Value, that upgrade will be part of the Actual Cash Value figure that the insurance adjuster will be calculating at the time of a claim. If you are insuring for Replacement Value, check with your agent how best to cover major upgrades.
*European type all-year RV’s (like Exploryx/Bocklet/Unicats/Action Mobil//etc, as well as the winter versions of Hymers/Concorde/etc.), will have some or all of three items: a heated fuel pre-filter, a heated airbox, and a diesel engine heater (works down to -40 Celsius). This unclogs/loosens/melts any wax in the diesel lines on the way to the engine.
It’s okay to start small and work your way up. Before we married, my husband suggested living in a camper and building a house with cash. I didn’t like the idea so I said no, and he respected that. If I had changed my attitude toward alternative living then, we might have had a house right now with no debt attached, nor foreclosure in our past. Attitude is everything!
For this road trip we knew we would have to adjust our lifestyle a lot! We saved our money for years to take this trip across the US and we knew we’d have to be more frugal on the road (mainly because we wouldn’t be making much money during our travels).There are a few things we wont compromise on: We are passionate about supporting small local companies who are involved with the community. A restaurant that serves local farm fresh food or buying beer from a small local brewery, etc. Of course this lifestyle costs a little extra money, but for us it’s totally worth it. So here was our plan to live more frugally on the road: Eat out less, purchase less expensive beverages, shop less often, and camp off the cord as much as possible.Below is the breakdown of our expenses from our 2011 Trip across the Western Half of the USA. We’ve rounded the numbers to make it easier to calculate, but this gives us a general idea of what it cost to live on the Road in an RV.
First and foremost, not all RVs are ideal for full-timing. The most common types of RVs that full-timers use are Class A motorhomes (which can be powered by gas or diesel fuel), Class C Motorhomes, Fifth Wheel Trailers (including Toy-Haulers), and lastly, Travel Trailers. Truck Campers, Class B motorhomes, and Tent Trailers are not traditionally good choices for full-timers.
The first thing on my list of things to do was replace the standard RV drinking water hose that ran from my city water source across my driveway (in a makeshift conduit I’d created) to the mobile mansion. I needed to run some kind of water line that I could run heat tape along. Heat tape (or trace heating) uses electricity to apply a small amount of heat to pipes to prevent freezing. I had some experience with it from my Howard Mesa cabin, where we’d used it on a very short length of hose between a water tank and the building. But rather than a 6-foot length of the stuff, I’d need 66 feet of it. That meant two 30-foot lengths plus one 6-foot length.
Just like the cupboards in your house, everything has a place in an RV. The difference is, when the RV is going down a bumpy road and that bottle of vinegar gets loose because it was put back in the wrong place, you might end up with a mess on your hands. It also makes packing up a much faster process because you know where all the pieces of the puzzle go.
While part-time RVers may love “Home is where you part it” yard signs, cute camper trinkets, and adorable awning lights, the full-time RVer may be less enthusiastic about such gifts. The simple reason most full time RVers are concerned about space and weight and only carry what they really need or love. When your RV is your home, it forces you to be very selective about your belongings. Ask your favorite RVers if there is anything that they need or if you are unsure stick with gift cards or consumables. Please don’t gift your full-time RVing friend or family member large bulky items without asking first. If you really must purchase them a large gift that you think will be just perfect, buy it from a nationwide chain store and include a gift receipt. It’s not that full timers aren’t appreciative, it’s just the reality of living in a small mobile space!
Another great domestic and international networking site I’ve discovered is Meetup.com. It’s not a dating site, although some romance groups are available. All imaginable interests are covered and you can start your own if you don’t find what you’re looking for. This might be a good resource for those who wish to find compatible fellow travelers. For my part, I can’t wait to enjoy the company of fellow vegans throughout the continent, starting with Austin.
Close family ties. People accustomed to frequent visits with family and friends need to consider how they will adjust, and how they will stay connected from across the miles. Some people find it difficult to leave a physical community or geography. On the other hand, we have met RVers who delight in their RV lifestyle as the perfect way to visit with friends and family geographically scattered around the country.
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.
$600 RV Camping – The largest savings compared to our 2011 expenses. The main reason for the change in camping fees: We’ve stayed at several parks that have comped our stay and paid us to shoot a video on their parks. It’s not great money, but it’s saving us money and helping us pay some bills while extending our travels on the road. We haven’t shared many of the campground videos on our site yet, but we’ve just launched a new tab aptly named campgrounds. You’ll find the videos to be pretty happy since we were paid to shoot the parks, but in the text you’ll find our personal take on these RV Resorts (not all the reviews are paid, and we won’t lie and tell you a place is great when clearly it’s a piece of crap). Also we’ve saved lots of money by Driveway Surfing at our follower’s homes; and special thanks to my mom for fitting the bill when she joined us in Montreal Canada.
RV living requires a bit of planning and scheduling. For us, sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn’t, and when plans overlap or scheduling gets off, things get a bit hectic! For example, when it rains, we have Wii tournaments, and when it rains all day on laundry day, supper time is a bit interesting! There is chopping, jousting, sauteeing, cheering, and clothes everywhere! Complete chaos!
Chugging along the ruggedly beautiful Maine coastline, I couldn’t help but reflect on how thankful I was for our current lifestyle. In the prior 30 days, we’d been to a family wedding in Asheville, NC, played top ranked golf courses in the countryside of Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, crashed the driveway of college friends in our Nation’s capital, explored the vibrant streets of New York City, beamed with joy as our pup Ella ran alongside us at a dog-friendly golf course in the mountains of Maine, and we’re now on our way to the beautiful Acadia National Park.
When we wake up in the morning we have to stop and ask ourselves where are we? I think this is especially the case for our 2-year-old Knox. The other day he got up and said “Mommy where are we?”. Does it make us question if that is a good or bad thing – yes! But when we come out of our room and have a view like this we figure it is worth it for everyone!
We’re Millenials, so we can relate to the desire to have new and shiny stuff we can’t afford. A lot of Millenials these days want instant gratification: we want what our parents have without realizing it took them 30-40 years to get there. Who wouldn’t want a big $200-300k diesel pusher? As a young, first time RVer, with less disposable income than most retirees, buy used! RVs depreciate faster than just about any other purchase. Buying used can save you a huge amount of money. Most people use their RV about 4 weekends out of the year, so “used” models are almost new. You can save $10k-50k buying a year or two used. Plus, used RVs usually have all the bugs worked out. New RVs have more issues than used ones. Don’t be surprised for your brand new RV to spend 3-4 months in the shop the first year, getting all the bugs worked out from the warranty. If you buy an RV that’s a year or two or 10 old, the bugs will already have been fixed under warranty.
I have a very unique situation, I think. I hope you can read the basics here and give me some advice. Single mom, works seasonally. I home school and already work in remote areas. This would be perfect, but what about winter? What happens if the power goes out? Does gas cost a ton? I have a ton of questions, but don’t want to write on a message board, can you email me ?
I don’t know if we actually need skirting to keep our pipes and tanks from freezing, but we decided to go ahead and use it just to be safe, and it made a huge difference in keeping our RV warmer inside and preventing heat loss. We made our own removable, reusable vinyl skirting out of recycled billboard vinyl for around $200. You can read more about how we made our skirting in this blog post.
Thank you so much for your kind words! We love to travel to (and hopefully one day we will get to as many places as you’ve been) but having our house on wheels and exploring the USA is wonderful! Congrats on your decision and good luck on your next detour! Thanks so much for reading. If you have any questions about RV life, be sure to check out our resources here https://www.followyourdetour.com/full-time-rv-resources-and-information/
Greetings. Nice post and food for thought. on size, you post that 35′ would be perfect for the two of you. What if you were traveling alone. Would 35′ be just right or more toward 30′? Just curious as I am considering 3-5 month living periods from my home as a single. Ironically some have shared that a small Class C or A would be great, like 24-26′ but as I looked at them there was little storage. The trailers of the same size had more storage. I just am not sure about the amount of storage needed yet. They all seem to have the basics but…
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.
We too fish and hunt and eat everything we harvest. Although we have enjoyed the trips we have taken in our motorhome, my husband is reluctant to travel for more than 2 or 3 months at a time. He does not want to miss out on Spring and Fall turkey season and Fall deer season. How do you afford to hunt and fish outside of your home state? Non-resident hunting and fishing licenses are very expensive in many states.
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.
Hi-just wanted to update here for some real experience and family life. First, THANK YOU MERISSA for your invaluable advice on the choice of camper. We chose a 29′ fifth wheel-1990 model. We have a 14 and 17 year old with us. We have been here for over a month now in our camper and couldnt be happier. We camped for months on end before so the teens were used to it but I can safely say my 17 year old was not too thrilled at first. Over the past weeks however, we have actually gotten him to say that he has adjusted and is really happy here. We are in Fl so the days are perfect really while the nights are still fairly cool. We have used our heat occasionaly but prefer to bundle with blankets if we need to. Downsizing was a little difficult for a few items but actually all of us did fine. There is also plenty of storage room in this camper. The kids, whom lived in theirs rooms on x box or with cable, or both, are now together without problems most of the day and much, much less fighting (mostly about items they had anyhow….). My daughter has been home schooled so this is no change while my son has been enrolled in the local high school. He has recently, however switched half of his classes to at home online with the school (an option here) and only attends now part time. He drives himself now so it is simple. He actually did this because he began to enjoy more time here with us at the camper. Much else has changed and wanted to really put out there. I am in my mid forties- I have suffered severe migraines for the past 6 years now. My husband and I noticed when we were camping last year that they were more manageable. I was getting to be completely unable to function without days of crying and constant pain. The kids didnt have a great mom for that. Stress was another large factor, even maintenance of the house besides costs.Cleaning on top of that was just so stressful as I am leaning on OCD as a personality. I dont know which helped but I am almost certain it is being able to keep air flowing, even in the bedroom. My migraines are less frequent and when they hit I can manage them so much better. I have not slept this well in years in all honesty. I am better for the kids and we are able to do more as a family. At the house I would try to make a day to force seeing each other at least once a week. My very great kids would look forward to it and then I would be down with a migraine and not even nice to be around. We play games together a lot (our christmas was gifts for the camper such as boardgames, karaoke machine, new thick roll up comforters, more pjs and activities with books) and they read more. We do have internet but opted to not have cable. Ours comes off of a dish so that we can move next year without being tied to this spot. There are also other very nice rv parks around here within a few miles and we would like to be free to do that. Our plans have solidified more this past month; we would like to travel more when our son graduates. He would like to go to NY state next year so we are planning to head there for the nicer months. I do work now and we do get monthly rental payments from renting the house out. We would like to follow parks that need local help as part time work to add to savings but it’s not something that is a necessity for us; our expenses are much lower now for sure and we are able to save for the first time in a very long time. No taxes to pay anymore (our yearly taxes on our house actually could pay half of the monthly rent we pay here yearly including our utilities). The downside is you have to be more patient with everything; I have a 30 second rule with the kids, putting something back or washing one of our 5 plates, 5 bowls, 5 cups etc, takes 30 seconds, opening a cupboard or putting something back under your bed takes this time or less. It has worked for all of us so there is minimal cleaning now. I have help for the first time in ages as well! My son is actually saying he is happy to have a nerdy but great mom and pop (smile) and they are both now happy with the smaller things (a barbecue, extra weekly ice cream, a walk to the state park, even a new local baseball hat or even a dvd for the family we can watch together). I am very proud of my kids really. While this cant work for everyone it has been fantastic for us. I am better for my family and they are happy for that; couldnt be more proud of them. Our homeschool schedule is very strict right now and we spend a lot of time at the local library as well. I am in one area but can say for anyone travelling that anywhere you visit for some months, there is a library close enough with guest passes that can be used. Some have options even for a local monthly card for guests that will expire 30 days from the date purchased. It is very inexpensive. We have a state forest pass that will get us into any park here in Fl; there are many other memberships that can be used for full time on the road rvers. We do laundry at the local laundromat once a week-cost runs 5 to $7 depending. We have our showers here in the camper and they are not long-also not every day but every other day on a schedule. The space really is not a problem with the bunks (something I now tell anyone to get with or without kids if they want space or some privacy. This was the largest concern for my son but, with the curtain he feels he can go there for privacy). We are planning to take out the sofa and put a daybed there for my daughter then add curtains along the divider of the slideouts for night privacy. There is a shelf and other areas she puts her books and stuffed toys there behind where she sleeps so she is very happy.
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It’s been just over a year since we moved out of the RV. Even though we knew our decision to stop full time RVing was the right one, moving out of the RV was easier said than done. With the help of some friends, it only took a few hours to get all our stuff out of the RV. The emotional “moving out” has taken much longer. For Brent and I, it’s been a surprisingly difficult painful new “road”.
Thanks for your comments Maria. It’s easy to get confused as there is a lot of misinformation floating about. You must have seen the HGTV episode. We didn’t pay $208,000 and we owned our Monaco Vesta for 3 years. Everyone’s budget and spending habits are different. We list our general costs of living, not the cost of our RV (all costs are variable per person, especially RV’s). Yes depreciation is a factor when purchasing an RV, as with anything.
We both identify as introverts and only keep a few close friends. But living in an RV has made us more social than ever. We are usually up for any kind of RVer meet-up and we've made so many friends this way. Connections are made quick, but deep. Never before have we felt such a strong sense of community while living in a fixed location. We keep up with our friends digitally when not together, but we will go out of our way to meet-up when possible. We plan gatherings in the winter and try to attend Xscapers convergences when we'll be in the area. We have more friends in our circle now than all our years before! We wrote more about how we stay in touch in Staying Social on the Road.