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.
It’s official, we froze! Well, to be more clear our freshwater tank froze. After surviving months in the Colorado Rockies without freezing, imagine our surprise when we froze solid in AZ! Well, I honestly can’t believe it. After careful consideration, and a talk with the service technicians at Monaco here’s what I’ve learned about our Vesta, and this applies to most any RV that’s not completely sealed.
Okay, so I hope that in Part One I convinced you that you want a site with a sewer hook up.  Now, about that hook up, you want to keep the dump valve closed until you have at least three-quarters of a tank so that you get a clean dump.  You need the force of moving liquid to move the solids.  That's as nice a way of saying as I could think of.  .  It is critical that the sewer hose has a constant decline to the sewer.  If it does not have enough of a drop, waste will collect and freeze in the hose.  Many people (myself included) run the hose into or through a PVC pipe to make sure that there is no ‘sag’ in the line.  Other folks use a section of rain gutter as a bridge that holds the hose.  Either of these systems will work.
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.
Many retirees are finding that life can be restrictive in a home designed for full time living. Grand Design RV offers a complete line of Extended Stay vehicles designed to remedy this issue. Numerous camping resorts in the USA and Canada now offer versatile Extended Stay plans. Because of this, many Grand Design RV owners are enjoying our products as a part-time “second home”. They find it considerably more affordable than a condo or small house and much more versatile because they can park it in superb locations and move it whenever they please.
For those who travel a great deal, it is a good idea to purchase emergency coverage that will not pay medical costs, but will, under the appropriate circumstances, provide regional medical referrals and oversight as well as a means of getting travelers and their vehicles back to their home bases at no cost. Good Sam Club sells one that costs around $110 per year and covers all travelers.
I really appreciate it when you pointed out that being an owner of an RV means that I should learn a little about electrical, plumbing, and roofing work so that life on the road will be a little easier. Maybe it is time that I get myself a book and educate myself about the basics of troubleshooting. After all, I do intend to get an RV for myself soon since my dream job is to be a nature journalist. Thanks for the tips.
Hi there! I’m Katie and this is my husband Eric, and we’re the faces behind Mountain Modern Life, where we share our passion for creating a home you love, regardless of square feet. We’re currently traveling the US in our tiny home on wheels and our goal is to inspire YOU to create the environment you’ve always wanted, whether that’s through design, a certain lifestyle, or a combination of both. You can learn more about us here.
Brent and I gave it our best to make full time RVing work for them as teens. We met up with road friends and family regularly. We traveled with other families when the opportunity arose. We spent two winters in the mountains snowboarding. We took Thing 1 to a music camp. We sought out opportunities for Thing 2 to pursue interests like gold panning. We let them have a say in the travel planning. We found online classes when we felt like we couldn’t meet their educational needs. 
Help! I am in school and traveling my way to spending my life in debt. Not from school but trying to decide living options. RVS are so expensive I have thought about travel trailers and tiny homes. I never know which way to go. People urge me towards equity in a home and stability for my son but we live in oklahoma with no beautiful landscape and can never take time off from work because our jobs are perpetually oppressive. I need to know that this works. It’s not scary, it is healthy and people are safe on the road aswell. We are battling obesity and other health related issues at only 25 from a sedentary and work driven lifestyle any support would be awesome!

While you can certainly live for free out of your van, especially if you get a Northwest pass (I think that’s what Washington’s is called…or maybe you won’t need one if you’re working for DNR) then there’s ample free camping up in the Evergreen State, but you’ll still have costs. Gasoline, a solar setup if you want to have power, and propane if you want to have heat and a stove, which I would think you might in Washington…
I drink wine. That and we try to take one day at a time and keep our focus on the fact that we want to deepen our family bond through travel. If a situation isn’t feeling right or if we aren’t getting along we stop to evaluate the situation and work through what is causing the disconnect in our family. Our family has to stay #1 in what we are doing.
In the middle of a northern winter, no one even considers ‘boondocking’.  At a minimum you want a spot with electricity and sewer.  It is POSSIBLE to do without a freeze proof water source – but not recommended.  You can always carry in or buy five gallon water bottles to drink, wash dishes and bodies, as well as flush the stool.  However, the thought of carrying sewage away from your camp site just seems like an insurmountable obstacle, for me.  Okay if push came to shove, you could use one of those blue totes and drag it through the snow to a dump site.  But – yuck!
Think about decoration. If it's just you and a parent or you and one sibling then it will be easy to decorate. Try to get a spot next to your bed. You can velcro up pictures or posters or other items you want on the wall space. Your bedding and choice in pillows can also be reflective, a rug can help. The curtains you choose for your window can also help. If you get a shelf you can tack or tape fake flowers or vines or pictures or hang a sign on the front and sides to give it a nice feel.
Well, Caroline, I’m certainly no financial advisor, so take that into account. Would your house sell for $23,000? With that, you could probably get a decent, used Class C RV, or possibly a decent used trailer + used truck to pull it. However, it would be tight quite honestly and if I were actually going to recommend something to you specifically, given that you’re on a fixed income, I would just make sure you do your due diligence. Used trailers especially, can require a lot of maintenance. Used RVs can too, but something about trailers, it just seems like they’re either not built as well, or maybe their frames aren’t as solid, so things are constantly breaking. On a fixed income, it may become daunting to be able to save some of your money every month for a “just in case” fund say, if your fridge needed repaired or your water lines froze or something even more major happened.
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.

$1,277 Hawaii Trip – We flew to HI for a friends wedding, it’s amazing how expensive 1 week of travel outside the RV can be. Our friends paid for several dinners, entertainment, and our hotel room yet we still ended up spending this much! This amount includes Cat Hotel ($252), Food, Drink, Pedicure Spa day, and groceries. This price doesn’t even include our airfare! It’s nice to get out of the RV for a few days but the expense is hard to chew.$500 Stuff and Things – I’m sure I’ve missed a few things we’ve paid cash for like laundry, parking meters, tips, farmers markets, etc. so I’ve added this buffer.
Will we be traveling around the country in an RV forever? No. We have an end date in mind, though we still aren’t quite sure where we will settle or what that will look like. We are viewing this trip as a bit of a reset for our whole family — a way to reprioritize what matters and to spend a year making incredible memories together. Sure, the youngest will probably not remember any of it, but we like to say he will remember this trip in his bones.
Right now, I am a Junior in college studying civil engineering, at the University of Alabama. Not trying to name drop or anything, just insight as to who I am. This summer I’m working in the state of Washington with the department of Natural Resources. Long story short, towards the end of the summer I’m considering selling my car and using the money saved from my job to purchase a van to drive back to school.
I’ve got to give props to my girlfriend Kage, who has been living along with me on the road (and her husky Tobias). Being a man, the camper life isn’t too difficult, but for a woman, it’s an entirely different challenge. According to Kage, it is definitely more difficult to live in a camper full-time as a woman (where society expects you to still look good, as well as having to take care of feminine things), but she really does make it work somehow.
For your expenses, you’re going to have both fixed and variable expenses. Fixed are going to be the same every month and HAVE to be paid. These are things like cell phone, internet, and insurance bills. If you have a loan on your RV or vehicle, they would also fit into this category (*Note: we highly recommend eliminating this monthly expense if possible by buying less-expensive used RVs/vehicles.) Trying to get these Fixed Costs down is key to a low-cost lifestyle, so try to find way to eliminate or reduce these when possible.
What puts an RV on the list: There’s obviously a huge difference between RVing once in a while and RVing full time. To make sure you get the closest feeling of living in a home we’ve hand picked the ones with a good mix of bunkhouse and regular floorplans. We’ve also made sure they have enough 40 feet+ length floorplans since space can be a concern when RVing full time. After a few spec comparisons it all boiled down to the ones which had the best reviews.  Here are the Top 5 Best Fifth Wheels For Full Time Living.
This is most helpful and informative! Can’t wait to see what you have in store for the next more specific $$ post. I noticed you didn’t really mention anything about if your still paying for the rv…making a monthly note. Obviously that would be in the fixed column of the budget. Was a rv payment figured into your mean average of $2500 to $3000 a month budget?

Chris, I live in Maine and this will be my first winter in my rv. I’m stationary but running a hose which is all outside, I don’t have the means to run heat tape but really have been looking for any possible way to keep running water. I have skirting the bottom with hay bails and plastic for drafts and wrapped my bump outs with insulation and plastic. I’m hoping to add an entryway with a wood stove for back up heat. do you have any other suggestions on what else to do so I don’t freeze up my lines in the brutal cold ? Thank You 🙂
We agonized over the cost of full-time RVing for a long time before we jumped in. The truth is costs are flexible and totally manageable and our experience has certainly proved that to be so. There are great options for saving money both on camping, gas, health insurance, taxes, car/RV registration and other areas. You can take your time and boondock, workamp along the way or run around and stay in pricey resorts. All can be great experiences, but the real beauty is that the choice is there.
RV parks have all your basic amenities—bathrooms, showers, washateria (not all of them), internet (typically slow wifi), and the occasional pool. One of the first things we realized early on was the difference between an RV Park vs. a Trailer Park. RV parks are places where RVers like us or retirees typically stay. A trailer park is… well, what you think of when you think of trailer park.
Being last-minute planners meant we didn’t have reservations so we took our chances and headed up to Muddy Mountain, Wyoming in hopes of finding a spot to boondock on BLM land. It was getting dark as we wound our way up the dirt road and we were starting to get nervous about finding a spot to set up the RV. Parking in a campground after dark is not the best idea but finding dispersed camping on public lands after dark is dumb. Really dumb if you are pulling a big trailer. Of course, the setting sun didn’t stop me from jumping out to take a picture on our way up the mountain.
Then there is boondocking, where you basically stay on BLM land or National Forests for free (check out campendium.com regardless of what kind of camping you think you want to do). There are no hookups, so you need a generator (which increases gas consumption) or a solar power setup (and having both is typically necessary, since the sun doesn’t shine everywhere, every day). The cost is often free, or very cheap, to stay at these places.

For the year 1 monthly budget I hope to cut it down to $1,900 per month average as Marvin is in Arizona for the solar power installation so I would not be going to Florida and therefore the campground and gas will decrease accordingly. Before that my campground and gas expenses were 32.7% of the budget. I had done the year one destinations before Nina wrote about the solar power upgrade, but obviously will have to make an adjustment.

You’re ready to add a small flock to your homestead (or backyard) and you want to do it right. But where do you start? What’s the first step? And what the heck are you going to do about a chicken coop? Consider this your great-big-everything-you-ever-needed-to-know-about-chicken-coops resource. It includes lots of photos, as well as plenty of dos & don'ts I've gathered over the last 9 years of keeping chickens!

We use Verizon for voice and some data, DirecTV with the dome on the roof of the RV and DirecWay for most of our internet connections. Since we use DirecWay we have to carry the dish everywhere and spend time setting it up, of course we can place it anywhere within reach of the RV, which is beneficial. It is however big and it takes up a lot of room. We haven’t gotten rid of it, because we like having it at home and it has been very reliable! We are debating changing to another service, but we have not made up our minds what the replacement would be.

I totally concur with you on the fuel costs. We did the math, if fuel went up $1/gallon and we drive 10k miles – at our fuel economy, that’s a $1500/year increase. Heck, when I owned a home I had an insurance bill that went up by that much in one year. With the fuel, you can at least move at a slower pace to cut the expenses if you need it. Or cross a state line and save a few pennies.
It is obvious that when we’re comfortable, we are much keener in recognizing and appreciating beauty. The winter is a stunning time to camp and explore. With fewer campers willing to tolerate the lower temperatures, winter camping can be a magical experience. By following these tips, you’ll be able to witness the true exquisiteness that winter reveals that others will never encounter. Stay warm my friends.
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you out of the blue. I am a researcher working for major independent production company Optomen Television in London. We are currently producing a new documentary series for Channel 4 in the UK about people who have quit the rat race and moved to live in remote locations the world. It will be an inspirational series following the incredible stories of ordinary people who are living a unique way of life in some of the most beautiful and breath-taking places. The presenter, Kevin McCloud, best known for presenting the hit TV series ‘Grand Designs’ will visit people in their wildness homes and get to experience first-hand the wonder of life in these stunning locations.
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.
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.
So I’ve noticed you folks had 3 different motorhomes, with the last one I saw was a Fleetwood Excursion, I didn’t get its name? So I was wondering what the thought process was for the changes? I’m playing with the idea of going to a fulltime status, selling my house, divorcing, and having ten more years of work, what RV will be best for ME. I’m a avid outdoors person with a custom built jeep and motorcycle. I first thought just get a Gas RV to use, pay cash for a used one. But now I’m thinking maybe get something to have for twenty years, make payments for the Home Owner tax benefit, and a strong RV? When I retire I would be in Alaska, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, western U.S outdoor living. I was looking to hear your feeling would be?
Wow! Bold, informative, funny, truthful, your on to something. All your information from the Cats to your cell phone service. I feel very blessed to have watched HGTV that day. You are living our dream and at such a young age. Your showing a very young generation that you don’t have to wait till retirement to see the world. Oh I am not old by the way or retired but admire your budgeting skills and dedication to balance life experience vrs $$$.. You guys are getting it right. Ok so medical expenses. What people don’t know is when you pay cash for your medical care you can negotiate with the doctor because they save by not having to bill your insurance and all the clerical and bookkeeping costs. So lets say the cost of a physical is $500.00, well I think we all know that is crazy, but that is what they bill the insurance co. but if you tell them you are paying cash, ask for a discount. Good doctors that care about patient care are happy to do it. My parents do it all the time. Dentist, Eye Doctor.. You can monitor and care for your health with out medical insurance. Sorry so long.
It’s funny that several of the blogs I’ve come across with budgets have talked about judgment on expenses and what a commenter feel is an excessive expense. Everyone has priorities in their lives and budgets. I’m sure if you looked into the finances of these commenters, you could find spending that you may think is excessive to you, but to them it’s a necessity. People need to LIGHTEN UP! 🙂
[…] Our life in that storage, or so we thought. But after a certain number of years you start to question that whole premise and whether your “life” is really worth the ever-increasing storage $$ you throw at it? 6 years on and we feel this more strongly than ever. In fact I’ve talked about it many times on the blog before and it’s one of the key regrets I featured in #8 on my popular post “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Fulltime RVing“. […]

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.
Solution: This issue happened twice in very cold weather.  We decided not to bother with a fix since the temps were rising in the coming days.  The issue could be fixed with multiple options but I would do one of these:  1) skirting adds an extra layer of insulation and will keep the basement compartment warmer, thus keeping the floors warmer.  2) Install pipe insulation around all lines that sit on the floor and/or touch the outside walls.  If you’re planning to be in sub-zero temps for multiple days you might want to do both.
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.
No matter which way you decide to go, make sure you cover and insulate any exposed piping coming from the water supply and the spigot!  If your water connection to the RV is on the exterior of the wall (not inside a bay/basement) you will also need to cover and insulate that connection very well.  If you do have a wet bay you should consider placing a space heater in the bay just in case temps get low enough to freeze and burst the connection.
Have you ever thought about living full-time in an RV? Or wondered how you would choose where to live after military retirement? Jan Wesner Childs and her family did both at the same time! In this guest post, she shares her family’s experience as full-time RVers after her husband retired from the Army. They traveled for a year to explore the U.S. and decide where they wanted to settle.
In 2015, the couple paid cash for their used 30-foot Four Winds trailer and Dodge 3500 pickup. Downsizing into the rig was relatively easy since their tiny two bedroom apartment didn’t have room for too many possessions. “We cut it to the quick when we moved out of the apartment,” says Kristy. “I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how little we actually needed, even with the kids.”

Skirting your RV – If you have an RV without insulated bays, or a trailer, you will need skirting in extreme weather. The majority of RV’s are not made for extreme cold so chances are if you plan to be in consistent freezing temps you should look into investing in this. In some cases if temperatures drop below 0 degrees you will need to run a space heater under your coach (inside your skirting) to keep it warm. I stay away from propane heaters and use an electric commercial heater under our RV.
This is an excellent post, Nina. People ask us all the time what it costs to RV full time, and we’ve come up with just about the same answer as you —we figure $3500 for a comfortable and varied lifestyle that includes a mix of state and federal parks, some boon docking, occasional expensive RV resorts, and camp hosting. We travel a lot of miles every year driving from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and back, which I realize isn’t typical.
To set up residency in almost any state all you have to do is establish a physical address at a place like mailboxes and more or the UPS store has mailboxes that count as a physical address and you need to receive bills like a power bill, or other utility bill. You will need to have these bills with your address on them when you go to the licensing dept. to get your new license that makes you a residence. It gets easier or more difficult depending on the state.
6. Insurance is a big deal, so make sure you have it. However, don’t just go with the first policy you come across. This is where it’s best to do a bit of homework, as there are many different options with many different policy payouts and a lot of fine print. There are also some discounts and other options you will want to familiarize yourself with before making a final decision. You will need to types of coverage if something happens to your RV. One type of policy covers the RV itself in the case of damages or theft, and another for personal belongings, much like homeowners or renters insurance. Consider what type of lifestyle you’ll be living, for the most part, and what types of problems you might run across. There is also a medical insurance just for full time RV’ers.
Emergency Fund – The most important part of savings is your emergency fund. Conventional wisdom suggests you should have at least six months of expenses in a savings account. I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of a traditional savings account where you might only earn 1% interest annually. However, if you think about it anything is better than earning 0%, or not having savings and going into credit card debt for emergencies, which will cost you 10% in interest or more.

We’ve always talked about it but about a month ago my husband and I started seriously planning a year-long road trip through central America with our two little ones (2yo and 10 months) We aren’t planning to leave for about another 18 months but over the last week, I’ve started to get increasingly nervous about the practicalities of day-to-day life on the road. I think the universe is trying to tell me something because I just listened to Bryanna’s interview on the Zero to Travel Podcast and then saw this post in a Facebook group! It is possible. Back to the map!! 🙂
Regarding rig size, if you stay primarily at private parks you’ll have no trouble at all with a 40-footer. Just about ANY private park will take that size, It’s only if you want to stay on public land and in more off-beat places. We make do with our rig, but we are a tad more limited in site and campground choice. Still, it’s not a game-stopper. You can find spots even if off-beat places iv you do your research.
I went back and got to work. The biggest chore was attaching the heat tape to the pipe and insulating it. The big challenge there was straightening the PEX. It does straighten, but it straightens easier when it’s warm and it does require muscle. (Needless to say, I was sore the next day.) I cut off about 70 feet of the stuff and ran it across my driveway from the water source to my RV’s water connection area. Then, with the sun shining full on me the next morning, I brought out a clean damp rag (to clean away dust on the PEX as I worked), set up a chair, and got to work.

*Most will also utilize a water heating system with radiators (running on propane or diesel), here there is no added humidity from heating with the propane/diesel. Air heating is also used, but the air is collected from the inside, and not the outside of the RV, so no added humidity from the condensation formed where cold air meets warm air. However you do need to ventilate in addition to using the heater, if not your own breathing will use up your oxygen and add a lot of humidity.
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.
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.
×