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.
We have received many Post Office General Delivery packages shipped by both UPS and FedEx without being charged a penny by the Postal Service. However, we have received just as many packages where we were charged a fee of as much as $12, depending on the size of the package, when we went to the post office window to pick it up. There is no way of knowing what the fee will be ahead of time, as it is out of the hands of the company that shipped the package and is entirely up to the local Post Office that delivers it to you via General Delivery.
I don’t quite understand why anyone regardless of available resources, would not want to cut costs. Even as a service to other RVers to collectively help lower costs for all. I hope your remote job doesn’t involve profit and expense decisions. I’m sixty years old retired Accountant and on SS Disability for a missing limb. I work part time although I’m not working currently. My home recently burned down so I’ve got about $12,000 in the bank. I saw a 2007 Denali Camper for $8,000 in great shape. the very best I can rent a one bedroom apartment for is about $800 plus utilities. I’m sure I can beat that RVing. My only problem is getting a 3/4 ton pick up to pull the camper. It’s tandem axle but not sure about the weight. I probably wouldn’t be moving but once maybe twice per year. It might be less expensive to rent a truck to move the Camper rather than buying one.
During the 30 days leading up to leaving, there was a day when I stood in the kitchen bawling and asking my husband if we were making the right decision. I physically did not feel like I’d be able to walk out of this dream house we had built and leave it all behind. He said, “Do we want to look back 10 years from now and say we wish we would’ve? Or do we want to close this chapter in our life and start a new one? And guess what? If we don’t like it, we can always come back, buy a house, and go back to our old life.” That actually gave me the strength to make this big change and move on.
Since I’m in a wheelchair and can’t do as many outside chores as I used to, we decided that water was too big a problem and so don’t use it in our unit – except for in the toidy, in which we use antifreeze. We drink distilled water anyway, which we purchase in handy 5-gallon plastic jugs, so it’s no big deal. While it’s easy enough to wash oneself in most RV parks, we always carry Huggies soaked in a sterilizing liquid (one part vodka to five parts water) and that keeps what needs cleaning nice and fresh. 😉 We also use One-Step hand sanitizer routinely. Where we like to park, there are excellent rec centers not too far away, so on laundry day we enjoy a good long soak in the hot tub, and then a little time in the sauna, before heading for the showers
The biggest difference in costs between living in an RV full-time and living in your own stick-built house is that the RV will depreciate very quickly while the house will appreciate over time. The recent real estate collapse notwithstanding, housing prices always increase as the decades go by. In contrast, RVs, cars and trucks quietly make their way to a value of $0 and eventually breathe their last breath in the crushing facility.
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!
Visit Lazydays RV in Colorado, Arizona, or Florida to receive comprehensive RV maintenance before your family sets out on their next adventure, or to learn about the different types of RVs available. You can also visit one of our rallies or events to meet like-minded families that are just as enthusiastic as you are about this wonderful, rewarding lifestyle.
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.
2. I would have taken it to a mechanic before buying it – Being a 23 year old RV, I knew I’d have to put some money into it and I budgeted for that. But knowing WHAT I’d have to repair would have given me much needed peace of mind. Every time I took it out the first few months, I lived in fear of breaking down on some country road in the middle of nowhere. Knowing what was likely to break (and when) would have been comforting and allowed me to budget better.
When they are grown men and looking back at their childhoods, our biggest hope is that they know they were loved. An older wiser mom once told me that kids have “fuel tanks” and to make sure it’s filled with love every day because if it’s filled with love they are less likely to look for other things to fill it. Despite all our parental imperfections, baggage, and failures, we want them to know we love them “bigger than the sky times infinity”. We want them to leave home with filled love tanks. Our me-culture may tell us to do what’s best for us and “radical self love” is almost a religion these days. (BTW I’m all for “radical self love” when it’s not at the expense of others.) However, selflessness acted out with pure intentions in regard to the other may not be sexy but it is still and will always be one of the purest forms of love. And one of the hardest. Selflessness doesn’t come easy for me. I usually scoop myself the biggest bowl of ice cream. And take the biggest piece of cake. And tend towards putting my feelings above others.
Marla- good stuff, if one owns their property…those working and staying in campgrounds probably wouldn’t be able to do the mods you did. Digging definitely a no-no, but campground water/sewage has closer hook ups to use a heated/electric hose. All in all good initiative and networking! Kudos on a LIFE…being lived…Given all you do/have done… I hope you are finding ways to SHARE this kind of life w/ other women and young girls…self-confidence, self-reliance, and independence is essential to building stronger women and breaking the cycle of abuse in women and children! Namaste-
I admire your stamina and am jealous of your bravado and lifestyle. Just a note to tell you how to fix almost all of the things you mentioned as extra-difficult living in an RV in the winter in Alaska. I have seen RVs designed specifically for use in such conditions. The alterations are designed in from the beginning and built into it. The era your unit was built, they didn’t do these things and I’m sure buying one that is equipped this way costs WAY more than the one you bought, but I can also say I suspect you could sell yours to someone living a bit more southerly for a pretty good penny, though I also suspect you’re not particularly interested in making a change since what you have is actually working for you.
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.
Food — Studies have found that the average home in the U.S. wastes 25 percent of their food. This is due to spoiled food or uneaten food. When you live in an RV, space for food is limited. It is rare to throw something out because you didn't see it at the back of your small refrigerator. I think you also tend to eat healthier since you are hiking in the outdoors more. Assuming an average $440 per month for two people, you save about $75 a month.
Worst case scenario: our RV’s transmission went out a month before we were supposed to head out on our trip. That took $2000 out of our emergency fund before we even started, but it gave us peace of mind that the transmission would be good for the trip. So, we kind of got lucky. Moral of the story: have an emergency fund that can cover your worst case scenario.
We try to find parks that are around $30 a night. We use our Passport AmericaPassport America discount as often as possible, which saved us around $700 during our first 6 months of RVing! We don’t boondock as often as we’d like, mainly because we didn’t consider this when purchasing our first RV. The fifth wheel we bought didn’t have very large holding tanks, which limited us in how many days we could dry camp. If you are shopping for an RV, be sure to read these tips first to avoid making similar mistakes we did.
I understand there are monthly costs to van dwelling, but I am in a unique situation being at school. I have a free gym membership that has all the amenities. I have friends with houses, apartments, yards, etc. where I can freely park and utilize some of their amenities. I have access to WIFI anywhere on campus and bathrooms everywhere I look. I have a different scheduled each day and a part time job. I am ALWAYS on the move. From an outsiders standpoint, I feel as if I would mesh right into the van dwelling life. I want to live a less material life. I own too much random…. stuff. I want to minimize my living “standards.” I want to remove anything in my life hindering me from experiencing life.
Some people leave both their gray and black tanks closed during cold weather and only open them for dumping, but we really wanted to be able to leave our gray tank open and not have to worry about it. After researching, I realized that unless we were in a climate where liquid could freeze in the amount of time it took to travel through the hose (which we were not), it would be okay to leave our hose hooked up and our gray tank open as long as it could drain quickly without any places where liquid could collect.
Jennifer, good questions! We have always thought about building our own RV/Tiny House/Trailer too! Sometimes what you really want doesn’t exist and the best way to get it is just to make it yourself! Considering you are not planning on moving the house a lot, the rain capture system will come in super handy! So, here are my top (at least that I can think of right now) suggestions.
Tank heater pads aren’t of much use if the rest of the tank isn’t insulated. As was pointed out, RV skirts are a really good idea and I know of the old trick of putting light bulbs in compartments and under the skirted RV to keep spaces at temperatures above freezing. This works effectively in RV sites with electrical hookups, i.e. relatively limitless electricity at 30 Amps (3600 watts).
You can set the Netflix download quality. We have it set to “lowest” quality which used 0.3 GB per hour. So, it just depends how much we stream that month. And yes, we do get connectivity most places we go, even the boonies. There’s occasional spots we don’t have it, but we usually make it a priority to stay where we do. We both need it for work, so it’s a pretty important part of our daily lives. We have both ATT & Verizon PLUS we have boosters so we can pull in signals from fairly far away.
3. How big does your rig need to be? Another major facet of the full time RV life is the size of your RV. You need to be truthful with yourself in considering how much room you want and need for the lifestyle you’re going to be undertaking. If you have little in the way of belongings and you don’t look to acquire very much in your travels, a smaller rig or pull behind might be right for you. It’s also a good choice if you know you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the more remote campsites where maneuverability will be an issue. On the other hand, if you are going to be making use of bigger sites, spending more time in one spot and don’t want to give up a great deal of your belongings, bigger will be better.
I grew up in a travel trailer for many years. And now my husband and I are going to do it with our three kids. We looked into it financially and found out, it was a very good option the storage unit, truck, trailer and our land payment would add up to be less than the rent we pay. So when we build, the house will not be such a financial burden, if any. Your post has helped me believe it will end up being the best option even with all the kids.
Induction Cook Top – Campground fees almost always include your electricity so it makes sense to use electric appliances when possible and conserve your propane. This is why we regularly use an induction cook top. Another benefit is that it frees up another burner if you are cooking multiple dishes. Our induction cook top has held up well but if you are looking for something a little fancier with a little more wattage there is this one. Note: You must use cookware (I’m eyeing this set.) made out of magnetic-based metal to work with induction cook tops. Induction cook tops make great gifts especially for the very utilitarian RVers.
2017 Update – TOTALLY. In 8 years on the road our expenses have actually been flat to slightly down every year despite increasing health care costs. We keep camping expenses low by volunteering in summer and boondocking (= free camping) in winter, and we manage gas costs by how we travel. The point is there is lots of flexibility on the financial side, and my viewpoint on this hasn’t changed. Earlier this year I finally updated our cost posts, so you can now read a detailed account of our RV costs (including tips for budgeting & saving) for the past 7 years HERE and HERE.
Joyce Ann Seid (84) and Steven Seid (77) bought their first RV in 2001 to travel on weekends to see the grandkids and visit casinos and parks. By 2010, they moved into the RV full-time. “We rented our house and wound up getting a bigger RV and then we wound up living in it because we liked it so much,” Steven said. “If we don’t like our neighbors, we just pack up and leave.”