$1,779 Spain Trip – This fall we decided to attend our first ever bloggers convention, mostly due to the fact it was being held in Spain. Sometimes you have to get out of the RV and explore a little differently. Only bad part about leaving the RV is your realize how expensive typical travel really is. We visited Girona, Spain and Costa Brava for a total of 10 days – 4 days at the conference, and the rest traveling the coast (oh yea and a 16 hour overnight layover party in Amsterdam). Since we were traveling to a bloggers conference we did get some special treatments from our travel industry friends and the event coordinators and hosts: We had our flights comped but we had to pay the fees ($215), our first hotel was 50% off but still cost $400 for 4 nights (the other hotel nights were comped), several of our meals were taken care of but we still ate out on our own several days ($639), ATM Withdraw ($278), Rental Car was 80% off, Public Transportation in the Netherlands ($25) and of course there were the conference tickets ($222 for both of us). These rates also include the credit card currency conversion fees, and the 2 ATM fees. It just blows me away that we had something like $4,000 comped during this trip and yet we still managed to spend nearly 2 Grand in 10 days. For those who think RV travel is expensive…think again!


Having more than a Hobbit-sized refrigerator: If Hobbits had fridges, I'm sure it would be similar to the one we have in our RV. It's more like a dorm fridge with a small freezer on the top. Oh, and RV refrigerators don't operate like the one you buy down at Sears. Oh, no. These babies work by what's known as gas absorption, which entails heating ammonia that magically cools the fridge. I won't go into the gory details, mostly because I'm not too versed in the wizardry behind it. Just know that it is usually too cold (your veggies are going to freeze) or too warm (your veggies are going to rot) and you may have to fiddle with the buttons to keep things right. 
The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
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.
During this 30 day window I lost 10 pounds (no time to stop and eat!) and slept about 4 hours a night… but we did it. We downsized to what we could fit into our RV and our cars. Yes, my husband’s car did turn into our garage for a few months. And we only ended up with about 4 storage bins which we kept in my parent’s basement. They were mostly filled with photos and other family memories.
In the dead of summer, the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. During the day it is high in the sky, almost directly overhead. In mid-winter, the sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest, traversing a very low arc in the sky. At its highest, the sun is only halfway up the sky. These low angles are advantageous for keeping an RV warm in winter, however, as the sun shines directly in the windows into the center of the coach.
Nina – another great post! This is the first winter that we have spent (prior two winters spent in Florida) traveling in the West, and we are finding that there are many more opportunities to manage camping costs out here, as compared to the east cost. In general, RV site costs in Florida and Georgia, are a bit more expensive than Arizona, New Mexico, Texas. We (like you and Paul) have a large RV, and have found a lot more public campgrounds and public land in the West, that we can fit in. In Florida, state park reservations can be hard to get, and many of the campgrounds primarily have smaller sites (at least this was our experience).
When it comes to bathroom and kitchen items, my general advice is to bring 1-2 per person in the RV. So things like towels, plates, cups/mugs, etc you won’t need your standard full set of. Remember, there is not much sink space for dirty dishes and not much hamper space for dirty clothes and linens. Dishes are washed immediately after use and towels are washed weekly, so there’s really no need for spare items.
And to add some encouragement for you, years ago when my children were young, I homeschooled/unschooled them for the majority of their education. We were fortunate to have moved across the country for work a few times and had the opportunity to do a lot of camping. They are now both rising seniors in college and doing extremely well. They are pursuing their passions instead of checking a box. I know their unconventional formative years are a contributing factor to their life choices.
Hello, I’m a retired mechanic at age of 55, my wife is a stay at home/retired CNA….we have adopted 2 children now 11 and 12 yrs. We have been tossing around the idea of RV lifestyle for a while. Looking to find other Christian based RVers. Ideally we would like to travel small town and help along the way in the fashion of helping with folks not as blessed as we are. Believe me when I say this will be a HUGE change for us. I was planning to travel when I retired….just had not planned on doing it with children,(what do ya do?). so with that in mind how would a family make contact with churches and possibly fill some needs as we go.
Our windows are only single pane, so we cover them with plastic to reduce heat loss in our RV, and it makes such a big difference.  This year I was kind of lazy about getting them covered and we ended up having some cold days with them uncovered, and on one of those days when it was around 32 degrees outside I found that while our thermometer read 75 degrees on our refrigerator, it read 66 degrees after being moved next to a window.
- You should remove snow from slide-outs regularly to reduce water damage. As snow accumulates on top of the slide-out, the heat from inside the RV can melt the bottom layer of snow, creating an ice dam. You also can add insulation by using rigid insulation sealed to the camper body. However, angle any insulation you place on the top of the slide-out to allow water to drain away from the RV.
I have homeschooled for a few years, and some of these things are already true for us (particularly the showing, dressing, and 24/7 with each other). But the others I am excited for for our own future. We have our house on the market, and are down to 2 travel trailers we may purchase. Reading your posts has made me even more excited to get started!
Hi! We also celebrated our 2-year nomadiversary the same week as you! I started writing our blog post about it, but realized I was writing almost the exact same points as you did. You really nailed it! So, I hope you don’t mind, I decided to just share your post on my blog post (http://www.liferidingshotgun.com/2016/07/our-two-year-nomadiversary.html). We’re on fb as: Life Riding Shotgun. We wish you all the best and maybe our paths will cross soon!
My only issue with this article is the title “The real costs” which implies that you are about to tell us that full time RVing is not as cheap as some people might think. Instead you provided your expenses which I would speculate are much higher than the average. As a number of people mentioned your lot rent is perhaps two to three times higher than the typical rent.
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.
She was perfect for our family and if we were going to do it again, we’d buy her. Honestly, we have no regrets but now that we are no longer traveling full time, it doesn’t make sense to keep her. Not to mention we no longer fit in our truck now that we are a family of six so if we did want to keep her we’d have to buy another truck. During this next season of our life it doesn’t make sense so we are hoping she’ll go to another family who will love her and have as many or even more adventures that we did!
Retirement – Once you have an adequate emergency fund, and are debt free, the next component of savings is your retirement savings. We follow Dave Ramsey’s plan which suggests putting 15% of your gross income into tax-favored plans such as your company’s 401(k) and Roth IRAs. Don’t wait until later to start saving for retirement. You just never know what may happen in the future!
When it comes to pleasure items, you will have to keep the list low. The more people who are trying to fit in the R.V., the less space you personally will have. Take the most special and most used toys. If you plan to take furniture, take smaller items and remember that they have to be secured or they will shift when driving. You can put extra items in storage units.
Honestly if you’re looking at a loan to buy a new RV, I would recommend scrapping that idea and looking at paying cash for a used, quality RV. RV’s depreciate like crazy, and new RV’s are mucho $$. There are tons of quality used rigs out there where you can get A LOT more for your money and still leave cash to spare for repairs and travel. Plus with a used rig most of the depreciation will be already accounted for, and you’ll get more back of your original $$ when you sell too.
During this 30 day window I lost 10 pounds (no time to stop and eat!) and slept about 4 hours a night… but we did it. We downsized to what we could fit into our RV and our cars. Yes, my husband’s car did turn into our garage for a few months. And we only ended up with about 4 storage bins which we kept in my parent’s basement. They were mostly filled with photos and other family memories.
I could “camp out” in my hangar at the airport. The hangar has two offices with baseboard heaters, as well as a full bathroom. My furniture is already there, so it’s just a matter of reorganizing it to meet my needs for the few months I’d need to live there. Unfortunately, I didn’t think my landlord — the folks who manage the airport — would like those arrangements.
This article isn’t personal financial advice, but it does show you how a wide range of RV experts handle the financial aspect of their lifestyle. We’re grateful to all the experts who responded—especially considering the fact that we asked for personal financial information. We really appreciate the sincerity, transparency, and humility of everyone who took part in this survey. Thanks, guys!
Of course, the whims of the economy are beyond anyone’s control. In the spring of 2008 diesel fuel prices soared out of sight in just a few months. Half a year later the world economy fell apart. Yet, the full-time RVers that were on the road then just kept on going — like everyone else — finding ways to make the best of a grim situation. So, once you launch your full-time RV lifestyle, you will find yourself adapting as the world changes around you — just like you did at home.
We’ve camped in Mammoth and Park City over the winter months. I haven’t needed chains yet but am seriously considering getting them. Have you actually ever put the chains on your rig? I have a Class A DP, 39′ and tried to find low profile chains for both the front and rear. I am not retired so I don’t necessarily have the flexibility of waiting out the storm.
Choosing to drive fewer miles obviously helps conserve your gas mileage. Not only are you using less fuel to move around, but putting down some temporary roots at a campground you really like can also bring other monetary benefits your way. The longer you stay at a campground, the deeper your discount (especially if you’re traveling off peak season). The decision to stay in one spot also gives you the opportunity to thoroughly explore your new home away from home. Who knows, maybe you’ll find something exciting on one of your adventures!
But there was one more thing I needed: pipe insulation. I wanted to wrap the pipe with the heat tape on it to help keep it warm. I checked out my options and decided on an adhesive wrap. Although it came in 15-foot lengths, I wound up needing 7 rolls of it because it had to go around the pipe. (This, by the way, is also when I learned that when you buy stuff for a home project at a place like Home Depot, always buy more than you think you need. It really sucks to run out of something in the middle of a project and you can always return unused items later. Home Depot has an excellent return policy.)
You’ll notice that none of these RVers, nor us, shared how much we pay monthly for other items, such as debt (student loans, mortgages if we still have property somewhere, credit cards, etc.), medical supplies, car and RV monthly financing payments, clothing and other personal purchases, memberships/subscriptions (RV memberships as well as Netflix, Spotify, etc.), and business/work expenses.

Hey there Mama and Jill, what an inspiring story! Because of a downtown in my hubster’s work, last year we nearly lost our house. We were able to keep paying the bills through God’s grace and our hard work, and paring our expenses to the bone. It is possible to live on much less, if you don’t look around at what other people have and/or do. Your story is inspiring and I’ll look forward to following your blog!
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!
Yes, we are new to RVing full time, but not to camping, we have camp in a tent to a diesel pusher for the past 44 years. We purchased a Landmark 365 42 ft fifth wheel and have a F350 4×4 dually, and I have a CRV Honda. My husband is a transpo drive for a RV dealer during the winter and is comfortable hauling the mighty beast. I drive my car to where ever our destination for the summer will be, be it 1000 miles or 500, I don’t mind driving.
I ran across your post during my search for RV cost of living. I just recently semi-retired at 48 and was wondering what this lifestyle would cost. I’m always amused (read frustrated) by how many readers make critical comments about other people’s decisions on how to spend their money. “You pay $1100 for space rent? I boondock in a slaughter house parking lot with a view of a brick wall for free!” or “You spend money on fancy craft beer? I only drink grain alcohol mixed with Capri Sun, or I’ve sober since 1989, you need to meet Bill W.” Myself, I want freedom that’s why I chose to change my lifestyle. That said, I like being near a beach. I like “resort” style living with a pool and a jacuzzi. I love eating in great restaurants. I appreciate you breaking this down in a realistic way, its given me some food for thought.

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.)

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