Our family of 6, RVing full-time since 2010, averages $3,000 per month. On months when we are staying still, capitalizing on RV parks’ discounted monthly rates, we spend about $2000. $700 in fixed bills include internet access, insurance (RV, Auto, and Personal), small business operating expenses, food, fuel, incidentals, and entertainment. Months when we are traveling more, our expenses rise to $4,000. This represents increased camping fees (daily and weekly rates are higher than monthly rates), increased fuel expenses, and any time your RV moves, there’s the potential for repair expenses.
* Safety: Do not make alterations or heat an RV in any way that could create a safety hazard. This includes using unvented heaters, such as space heaters or the gas stove/oven, in the living space. Unvented combustion heaters produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can be fatal, and almost ½ gallon of water per gallon of fuel. Any heaters that burn a fuel source inside the living compartment must be vented properly to remove poisonous gases. Make sure to have a fire extinguisher and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
These days everything is available online and if you’re putting most of your spend on credit or debit cards* it’s super easy to import it into programs (e.g Quicken or Mint) that will summarize and keep track of exactly where your money is going. Not only will this give you a solid idea of your starting point, but it will be key to pointing out places you can possibly save once you change your lifestyle and get on the road.
In the case of Nationwide (Allied), there is a four page description of how personal effects are covered and the capping methodology used, including more than a page of listed exclusions. Some highlights: There’s a cap of $500 per individual item. Groups of similar types of items are capped differently, for instance items grouped as “camera equipment” or “fishing gear” or “musical instruments” are capped at $1,000 per group while items grouped as “computer equipment,” “tools” and “silverware” are capped at $3,000 per group.
Greetings, I so enjoy your blog and love the perky and positive style. It’s so fun to read. You guys are very adventurous. I know because we are “nomads” too, having sold our house in Hawaii almost 2 years ago. Now we are part time USA-RVers, part time international travelers, carry-on bags only, thank you. We just spent 5 months in 7 countries in Asia. This life is super! I love how you share so much about your life, including the details, and encourage you to keep it up. To hell with the grump-sters. But as a blogger myself, I understand how criticism dampens the spirit….Keep it up and write more. I love reading it! You can check out the tales of our 2 years of adventure on http://carolsuestories.com. Roll on!
It was a matter getting rid of the things we knew we wanted to get rid of and just hadn’t taken the time to do it. We used online tools like local Facebook garage sales pages and Craigslist to get rid of a lot of our larger items. Then we tried a garage sale, but given where our house was located, we didn’t get a lot of action. And we spent a lot of time pricing everything… I think we overpriced a lot, too. It seems like we thought our stuff was worth more then it really was.
Why we recommend Forest River Wildcat fifth wheel: If you need something even lighter but more spacious than Sundance’s offering then something like the Wildcat 27RL should be right up your alley. It tips the scales at 7466 pounds and has a 31 feet footprint. As with our other choices, there are roomier and heavier options available such as the Wildcat 35WB available too, 23 to be exact. This alone makes the Wildcat worth checking out but it’s features are just as noteworthy too!
I love it in Breckenridge! One of our all time favorite places to stop along our route from CA east and back is Copper Mountain .. last time we took the wonderful bike trail from Copper to Breckenridge .. was a lovely ride (until we had the brilliant idea to ride back up .. which I’d not advise unless you’re in amazing shape and / or used to the altitude :P)
Ok, all of that information applies only as long as you are in a relatively temperate location. However, there are a number of hardier souls who gladly brave the snow and cold and stay well north all winter long. Many families, in search of winter recreation, use their RV well into the sub-zero winter months. For those of you who intend to winter in extremely cold parts of the country, I really can't help you much. I'm one of those fulltimers who run south at the first sign of a snowflake. However, you can check the weblinks provided below for some first hand tips from folks who like their Rving with a topping of snow!
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My husband and I are currently living in Panama but have sold our home and will be moving back to travel the U.S. full-time in a motorhome early next year. More than one time you have said you wish you had gone with a smaller coach. We will want to boondock, camp in (or somewhere close to)all of the national parks, and in BLM land on occasion, etc.. But we are not opposed to staying in RV parks when needed. My question to you is: Do you think we can do that kind of traveling in a 43′ motorhome? We have done tons of research on the manufacturer and make we want to buy. Their 38′ and 40′ models just don’t have a layout that I think will work for us, especially since the 43′ seems to have everything we want in the right place.
This is a hugely variable cost that has changed a lot in our lives over the years. The figure for these six months of summer travel in 2014 is way higher than ever before. Our biggest “eating out” cost comes from getting coffee and muffins at coffee bistros (so nice!). The rest is a combination of beers at cute brewpubs and meals at Subway and other fast food joints. For comparison, in the first four months of 2014 before this trip, from January to April, our monthly restaurant bill was $70. In those months we weren’t camping near many inviting places!
We're handy RVers, not professional technicians. We're happy with the techniques and products we use, but be sure to confirm that all methods and materials you use are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.
Sure, it means you may have to wait a little while ‘till you can afford it, but it’ll be worth it. We all want to be on the road ASAP, and there’s a certain excitement to throwing caution to the wind and going for it, but we always recommend being financially prepared first. There’s no need to add financial stress to your RV experience. Buy what you can afford, or save ‘till you can afford what you want.
Many RV parks have laundry facilities on-site, and some full-timers purchase RVs equipped with a washer and dryer. We like to use the local laundromat in town. We can do four, five or six loads of laundry in two hours flat. We use the biggest front loading washers in the laundromat we can find because they are usually the best ones both for washing and for spinning dry. Laundromats can be a great place to meet people and learn about an area. In Flagstaff, Arizona, if you want to meet Navajo Indians, go to the local laundromat, preferably on a Saturday when it’s busy!
We had to skirt our first RV and it worked like a champ. We called the Miller Family from RVSkirting.com and even though they couldn’t install the skirt for us they helped us get set for a last minute freeze in Breckenridge, CO and gave us the confidence that we could install it ourselves. Most manufacturers and dealers don’t understand skirting so make sure you do lots of research or give these guys a call if you have questions about winter camping.If you plan to be in an area with snow you can try the poor man’s skirt, it works pretty well: Take a shovel and pile up snow all around your coach up to the bays. Pack the snow well and it can last for months. During an extreme freeze put a space heater under your coach, don’t worry it shouldn’t melt the snow…I call this the Igloo effect!
This may sound a little goofy, but a video of a fire burning in a fireplace is really fun and makes the rig cozy. The video simply shows logs in a fireplace burning down to embers, accompanied by the crackling sound a fire makes. It is surprisingly realistic, and quite funky. The crazy thing is that whenever we play it, the person sitting in the recliner closest to the TV always feels a little warm on the side by the fire!
As always, I love reading your blog and if I can gain one new piece of information then I am a happy “camper”! You’ve confirmed a lot of what we have discovered in our year+ on the road. We live in a 35′, 2 slide motorhome that is the perfect fit for us & we have not had a problem yet finding a site. We were turned on to Millenicom at the start of our journey by the Technomads and not only do they offer a great product, their customer service is awesome. Our rig came with a roof-top satelite dish but as we are not avid TV watchers we decided to try the life without hooking it up & have just enjoyed TV when we were at a park with cable or just watching the local stations with our antenna when it is available. We also joined all the clubs our first year and are now down to PA & Escapees.
One of the beautiful things about aging is you carry along the wisdom of years of experience (that, and your wine gets better of course). By many standards you could easily call me but a pup in the great dog-park of life, but as our multi-year journey in RVing progresses I have managed to glean a few gems of sageness which I can happily pass along. In that spirit, here are 10 things I wish I’d known before we went full-timing:
There are several RV websites out there that allow you to pay an annual fee to camp at members’ locations. For example, we use Boondockers Welcome which costs us $25 a year. We are able to stay with Boondockers Welcome hosts throughout the country for no additional charge. Another website out there is called Harvest Hosts. We’ve haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks awesome!
National and State Parks – These are often “no frills,” but found in amazing natural locations. We’ve stayed at some rather rustic ones with power, water, and maybe one old bathhouse, as well as some with full hook ups, large sites, and recreation areas with tons of activities. The cost for these will also vary, but are typically much lower than the resort campgrounds. Some can be very difficult to get a reservation because they are in such high demand. For example, Florida State Parks allow you to reserve up to 11 months in advance and many book as soon as that window opens. They can range from $15 to $48 per night.
Hi! I’m fairly new at this RV living thing and I’m curious about the $153 per month average cost for RV/camping fees you note. I understand that summer is less expensive than winter, for the most part, but a minimum of $20 per night for a week in a National Park, that $153 would come up awfully fast. And full hookups at an RV park I’m seeing anywhere from $20 to $90 (yeh, $90, Candlestick Park in S.F., CA!!! And no, not worth it). Are you boondocking most of the time?
A simpler solution is to use shrink film on the insides of your windows. This film is readily available at home supply and hardware stores. It is a clear film that you cut to size and affix to the window frame using double-sided sticky tape. Once the film is stuck down good, you use a hair dryer to shrink it until it is smooth and tight. This not only slightly improves the R factor of the window, it makes the window airtight. This will eliminate those annoying cold drafts and also help reduce condensation on the insides of your windows. After the winter, you simply peel it off and throw it away. Getting the tape residue off the windows can be a bit of a hassle, but rubbing alcohol works well to remove the sticky stuff. It's a great, inexpensive storm window and is relatively easy to apply. I do almost all of my windows, leaving one window at each end of the rig uncovered so that it can be opened on warmer days.
There is a silent attacker you may not be aware of, it’s name, Humidity. Humidity is already an issue in RVs, which is why we use our dehumidifier a few times a week. However, as the temperature began to drop outside and we ramped up the heaters on the inside we noticed our windows began to develop a crazy amount of water on them, which would then begin to freeze. This left frost on the inside of our windows so we made sure to wipe the windows down and run our dehumidifier every day.
4. I would have checked ALL the fluids before purchasing (not just the oil)– This would have clued me into how well the previous owner maintained the RV. He gave me a huge folder of records that I mistakenly assumed were maintenance records. They weren’t. And the RV was dry of almost all fluids. Not good for the RV and a sign that it wasn’t maintained.
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.
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 are both foodies and people watchers and in our first month we were doing lunch and dinner in nice restaurants and a Starbucks to use he wifi almost every day. We went over our food budget by $2500.00!! the first two months…. Now we have found that we can go to “coffee shops”. Have a lite snack without liquor or expensive beverages and then go home and share a great bottle of wine over a wonderful campfire dinner. Third month is under budget! So I would have to say food and drink was our biggest expense surprise.
The Padgetts quickly reined in their spending by ceasing to treat their new lifestyle like a vacation, where they could always eat out, go on tours of local points of interest and hit up the night life. Their new frugal habits helped them pay off nearly $30,000 in student debt in four years. Their yearly budget in 2014, during which they visited all 48 states on the continent for a documentary, broke down to the following:
Tolls – Toll roads are becoming very commonplace in the US. In many areas, like around Orlando, it is difficult to go anywhere without using toll roads. Plan ahead and try to determine if there are ways to minimize costs and simplify payments. For example, on the northeast coast, you can purchase an EZ pass for tolls at grocery stores. The same applies for the SunPass in Florida.
You are inspiring. My husband and I just made the decision to leave our busy life in Florida, purchase and renovate an RV, homeschool our 3 boys (ages 8,6, and 4) and start traveling. I am still struggling with all the logistics of it all, and how my husband can stay busy with his website business and still have time to spend with the boys and I exploring all the places we travel to. But I’m excited for the adventure. We hope to be in our RV and traveling in 6 months from now.
These were all things we did before we hit the road. But the costs are different now – as we’re frequently finding out about events fairly last minute and sometimes paying late entry rates and sometimes able to pay less for a last minute ticket to an unsold out event. And, sometimes we end up needing to forfeit event fees that we had to sign up for in advance, but routing plans changing to make it unrealistic to attend. Be sure to know the ticket transfer/re-sell policy before you buy.
I first heard about your guys from Heath’s podcast. This was an awesome and inspiring post. We’re a family of three (plus a dog and cat) planning to do the same thing. It is so encouraging to hear from full-timing families that have made it work, while overcoming some of the stigmas and challenges that come with this decision. Thanks again for sharing your story.
One thing we learned from camping in cold temps (and sorry if this has been mentioned already) – is that the basement bays won’t be kept above freezing unless the furnace is running, and while using space heaters up above, our furnace wouldn’t always cycle on. So, interestingly our water was more apt to freeze at 25 degrees than it was at 15 degrees, because at 15 degrees the space heater couldn’t keep up, and the furnace ran more, keeping the basement warmer. If that makes any sense. Bottom line, if the furnace isn’t running, the basement gets cold. That was the case in our coach, and I know not all coaches are the same in this respect.
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!
*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.
Definitely! The “fun” budget is something I include in our “entertainment” category and that’s definitely a part of the flexible budget that’s worth planning for when you go fulltime RVing. We actually spend less on entertainment than we did when we lived in a stix and brix in CA (mostly because we go out to eat less than we did when we both worked in a corporate job), but we do spend something in this category every month. It’s year-round entertainment now 🙂
For months after settling down, I struggled on and off with depression It’s a rather long story but the short of it is I did not adjust easily back to life in a house after four years on the road. It’s been hard. Really hard. At times, I’ve felt like I’m 19 again but not in the life-is-an-open-road-awesome-way but in the lost lonely what-am-I-doing-way. It sucks to be 39 and feel like a depressed confused 19 year old.
With the 2 dogs we knew hotel hopping wouldn’t work, so what is the best way to travel with pets? An RV! We started looking for an RV that we could take on short trips once we downsized. We found a 29 foot Class C which we bought to give it a go. We took our first long trip to Florida in January, and we were hooked. We called my sister and said let’s forget the duplex and travel full-time in our RV!
We have a family HSA Bronze plan that we purchase through the Healthcare Marketplace, with a ridiculously high $13,800 deductible (but includes some preventative stuff and provider co-pays) with an included network that is fairly nationwide. For 2018 we’re sticking with our ‘on exchange’ Florida based EPO plan with BlueCross BlueShield that give us national access to their BlueSelect network. We don’t claim any subsidies, but being on exchange keeps the option open to claim them at the end of the year if we qualify (our income varies).
As they travel, they often pick up jobs to earn money since they don’t want to tap their modest retirement savings, which they dipped into to buy the RV. Right now, they are working in the Amazon CamperForce program that hires about 700 people for warehouse jobs and pays their campsite fees. It’s hard labor — they often go to bed rubbing each other’s feet — but the money they earn from September to Dec. 23 is enough to allow them to take the winter and spring off. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)