If you are planning to work camp in exchange for an RV campsite, or if you will be working part-time jobs as you travel, or working via the internet from your RV, your choice of overnight parking spots may be based more on your job’s requirements than on the whims of your travel interests, and your camping costs and the kind of work you do will subsequently be tightly linked.
But no matter what kind of trip you’re taking, whether it’s just a quick weekend, a month-long circuit of the National Parks, or even the foreseeable future, living in a motorhome with a family is a totally different animal than going solo or with a spouse. We want to ensure your family RV experience is a pleasant one, not a nightmare — so here are our best tips for living in an RV or camper with kids without going crazy!
The Cougar X-Lite 32 FBS was the first travel trailer floor plan we came across with a rear master bedroom. When we went to Indiana over spring break, we saw it in person and loved it. There is a ton of space in the back bedroom and there is more floorspace in the Cougar front bunkhouse than some other travel trailers due to the slide out closet and two as opposed to three or four bunks.
I think living in an RV before you try to get fully into it isn’t a bad idea at all. Rental RV’s are a great way to do this. Just try it out for a while, travel around to get a feel of living in the thing in different areas and see how you feel. We’ve met many traveling nurses who fulltime and enjoy the comfort of having their own bed/home wherever they go. Good luck with everything!
Both the McKenzies and Padgetts pay for RV living through a variety of income streams. The Padgetts collectively run a film production company, dabble in marketing consulting, write books on how to live the RV lifestyle and more to generate a six-figure annual income. The McKenzies also boast long résumés, with Dan working remotely for a software company and Lindsay freelance writing. The couple also plans on launching a series of online courses on full-time RV living for people interested in taking to the road.
In Florida, cruising sailors have relied on St. Brendan’s Isle mail forwarding for ages. To my knowledge, they were the first (by at least 5 years) to provide a virtual mail service where you could see a scanned image of your mail in an email message. This kind of service is now provided by America’s Mailbox and Escapees and others as well. Other mail forwarding services in Florida are Nato Mail, Escapees, Good Sam Club and My RV Mail.
I want to thank you for sharing your expenses so far as it gives me an idea of how much I might spend on the road. Many of the negative comments and rude feedback comes from individuals who might be a little green eyed. Unfortunately, it is very upsetting for some people to see such a young couple living so comfortably on the road and sharing it for the YouTube and internet world to view and read. I encourage to not allow the “haters” to keep you from sharing your blessing. There are many of us who look forward to your helpful videos showing your mistakes, great adventures, purchases, and campground tours. Your solar videos are 100% helpful. I will not hit the road until I have solar installed.
Pay no mind to the ignorant few; the rest of us really find value in the information you share. We’ve been transitioning away from the “american dream”, sold our house, are doing some major downsizing now and learning to live on less than half of what we made before. We are putting all our time/effort into selling our stuff and inventory from our micro inventory-based business (i.e. Ebay/Etsy shop) and transitioning to multiple streams of revenue that allows us to travel lightly. We only pay for essentials right now so we can save the rest. People just don’t know the whole story and like to play the victim game when they hear of people leading fulfilling lives and assume you are loaded; like you we are choosing to empower ourselves and our dream, not be stuck in fear and everyone else’s view of what life should look like. Bravo Nikki and Jason!
I agree with your list. Howard and I are part-timers, in the RV during the winter months and home in Colorado during the summer months. We start off at the end of October and we ALWAYS seem to take too much “stuff” and way too many clothes. Last year I took more winter clothes than summer and did not really need them at all. We purchased our coach in 2006 and have been out on-the-road every winter since. You would think I could gage what clothes I will need by now, but for some reason this task eludes me!
Heated Water Hose – You can make your own with heat tape and pipe insulation and this works pretty well, although on occasion we have seen people in the bathrooms warming up their frozen hoses during extreme cold snaps. I’d recommend just purchasing a good heated water hose. Camco has one on the market but it looks kinda cheap, from the heated hoses I’ve seen in person I’d recommend the Pirit Heated Hose as the construction and the warranty seem top notch.
I’m a Thousand Trails zone pass member. I pay $35/mo +$3/night. En route to TT Parks I generally use my 50% discount with Passport America to keep it under $20/night. On average, I pay close to $200/month lodging, utilities included. My average trip costs me $60 in gas. Averaging around 3 moves per month puts me at a little less than $400 per month in travel/lodging.
Thank you for your videos! We’re finding them very helpful. We are in the early stages of trying to finding the right RV for our family. Can a “cold weather package or winter package” be added after an RV is already built and what would that include? I’ve noticed some RV’s that have a sticker that says winter package on it and we’re wondering what that means.
Did you say,only 50k miles? When I was working, I recall 1 week, on night service, well what with the heat ( 93, or 94 ) but that was 1500 miles in NJ, my last car 355k miles, anyhow , if I ever go on the road it probably HYMER 1.0 but it would only. Be me.Wife can’t ever see anyone living in a vehicle, the other is my age 77, and 1.35 million miles, so I now only use a 1/2 tank per month ! 2013 Ford Taurus.
We were city dwellers before heading out on this never-ending trip. We drove daily to work in big cities like Dallas and the area around New York City (for her part, Kerensa will readily admit she took public transportation daily in NYC and was already out of practice). Doing it in a car is one thing, but in a motorhome is an altogether different experience. Cars tend to zip around you and most people don't realize how long it takes for an RV to stop. It can be a little nervewracking. To combat this, we try to avoid rush hour and may take alternate routes. PSA: Don't cut off an RV in traffic. You may think you're jumping ahead, but you may be dooming yourself to being rear-ended by something 5 times your size.
When we started out we spent around $4,500 on initial start-up $$. That covered tow modifications, new sewer hose, extra water hoses, surge protector and power cords (30 to 50A cable, plus a 30A extension cable), Lynx leveling blocks, wheel covers, camping chairs and tables, outdoor grill and mat. We also spent smaller $ on various cheap plastic storage bins (for sorting our stuff in the downstairs bins). We didn’t initially buy a TPMS system, but that’s something I’d recommend for folks today and does add around another ~$500 to the total. All these start-up costs were easily covered by selling furniture and various “stuff” from our house.
Portable Solar Panel – We loved having a full solar system but that’s quite an investment and if you aren’t going to be doing a lot of boondocking then a portable solar panel is a better option. Portable solar panels allow you to keep your devices charged and a battery topped off for short stints off the grid. Of course, check with your RVer first before investing in such a gift.
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).
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.
Monthly Stays – Marinas tend to charge by the foot for monthly stays, ranging from $10 – 30 per foot (we’re 47′ long, so anywhere from $500-1400, plus electric and liveaboard surcharges). Like RV Parks, these are the cheapest marina rates and we’re looking forward to a slow pace of travel spending time in marinas in cool downtowns with lots to do in walking range.
There are private RV parks everywhere. They are extremely easy to find online, in commercial guide books and by asking at visitors centers. The AllStays App is a very popular resource. Private RV parks range from about $30/night to $60/night or more, tending to even higher prices in popular destinations at peak season in choice sites that offer more amenities (like a view). The parking is generally laid out in rows, and the sites can range from drycamping sites (no hookups) to electric and/or water only to electric/water/sewer with cable TV, telephone and free WiFi. Usually the site includes a picnic table, and sometimes the park has a pool, showers, shuffleboard or horseshoes, sometimes bike and canoe rentals, a small store, or other goodies.
You guys are terrific. Your details of showing your budget is incredibly helpful. Both with business info and now without (thanks to mean people) I love watching yalls videos. Been telling my wife about your adventures . I email her lots of rving videos and she watched the 2 bike Chicago videos and she is now hooked on watching your adventures. I have been talking full-time for 4 years, she kept saying no. Now she is quickly seeing what we could do fulltiming thanks to The Wynns. If ever in Houston Tx area yall can park on our back 1 acre with 110 plug, sorry no 30 or 50 amp. Better hurry tho, full-time might be coming next year for us. Fingers crossed. Thanks again for yalls openness and for sharing.
Sounds like a good time to leave, right? Well yes, but meanwhile back at the sites, we were all living on a glacier. The gravel roads in the campground were seldom plowed – just sanded. Since we were located at the top of a mountain, the sun would melt the snow and ice a bit on sunny days and then it would freeze each night. Add some snow, sleet and freezing rain now and then.
HI Timmy! Great blog! Loved it! My husband and I are 63 years old. We have done it all! Lived in a tiny travel trailer (10 x 7 foot inside measurements) 13 feet long (including the hitch and the bumper). It was the ’70’s and we had two children, and one on the way. We had already owned a 4 bdrm., two bath home when we were 20, and the only way my husband could get me to move from the security of being near my family in Tucson, Az., and live this way was to move to the Santa Cruz Mountains. He agreed!! The trailer was a choice we made to live the lifestyle we chose to live! What a joy it was! We lived in an old resort spot in the Redwood forest in Northern California, with others our age living the same way in small rvs, trailers and school buses, I think everyone there was a musician. 🙂 Our next step was buying a HUGE 35 ft. travel trailer with a ‘tip out’. It truly did seem huge to us. Even had a home birth (our 3rd child) in that little travel trailer. My sister and niece came and lived with us for awhile also. We fit! My husband customized the back bedroom with tiny little ‘dwarf’ sized bunkbeds for our babies. They even had tiny little headboard bookcases for their cherished books. The baby slept in a Moses basket until she was able to move into her tiny little portable bed. It was the most precious time of our lives. We lived outdoors so much, showered at the ‘club’ showers, even used the toilets there when we were in the tiny trailer. (we also had to buy ice for our ice box every 3 days…no fridge!) 🙂 Would I do it all again? Yes…in a HEARTBEAT!! We have taken early retirement for the rest of our lives (after our tiny trailer days)…raising our 6 children..running our own business for 30 plus years, getting our kids through college, weddings for 4 daughters, and guess what? We are now living in a 29 foot travel trailer (with a 14 ft. slide out). We have our raised bed gardens growing strong, our hydroponics doing beautifully! Our lives are simple…but so joyful again!! Not much money…no debt…but joy!! We have moved to the Mountains again as well. I just wanted to tell you that I’m SO proud of the two of you…living your heart!! No regrets! …no regrets!! Enjoy your life to the max! Being our age, it was a little hard for our kids to grasp the fact that this is what we WANT to do….but they are coming around! 🙂 So happy for you!! Love your story! That’s what life should be all about…being happy…and creating the story we want to share with others! So happy that we have lived the ‘crazy’ simple life we CHOSE to live, and still choose to live!! So happy you are as well!!
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 are with Progressive Insurance. It helps that we have been with them for 10 years now through various vehicles, have no traffic infractions, and have not once relied on our deductible. Other than that though Jerry (which is comparable to your history) I don’t know. We don’t use an agent but rather deal directly with the insurance company, we are a one-car household, and keep low miles (by their standards).
For healthcare we keep $8,000 in our HSA account (tax-free health savings account). This not only covers our regular yearly self-pay checks, but also covers the individual deductible on our health care plan in case we should ever need it. We keep an additional 4-6 months of savings in ready cash (e.g. cash, money market, savings) for unplanned RV, pet & other expenses and regularly add to these savings through our monthly budget.
Hello again! Enjoyed reading your helpful post and the comment about not having health insurance. That is one of the big items that the hubby and I are debating about right now as we prepare for full-timing next August! We are both pre-Medicare age by several years, and have no ongoing insurance provided by our current employers upon retirement. We are debating about having a “catastrophic” policy and dealing with general health care needs on a cash basis. Out of curiosity, how do you prepare yourselves for the potential of a catastrophic need – such as a big medical issue, or an accident? (heaven forbid either of these happen to either of you!) thanks for your insight!
If you’re looking to find financial freedom and are willing to make some significant lifestyle changes to do that, then RVing could be a path to achieve that but it is NOT a golden ticket quick fix – it’s a bit more complicated than that. I'd suggest checking out Mr. Money Mustache for some good financial tips and tricks if you're really looking to make some changes in your pocketbook.
I am hoping you can answer some questions for us with what we will need. I have already started a budget based on your article and answers to questions above. Our goal is to raise the funds through private, like-minded products/corporate sponsorship. What we would love is some advice about where to start with purchasing an RV. We need some way – even if it is a small motorbike to get around once with visit each town. Also – we are open to a trailer and truck combo…just not sure what you’d recommend. We are leaning towards a decent looking RV (if we can raise the funds) so there is a level of professionalism with the tour and because we would like to make that our home after the tour is over to continue our teaching on the road. If we don’t raise too much, we may need other options.
To make sure our hose drained quickly, we built a downhill track for it out of cheap vinyl guttering and cinder blocks. (We did have one of those accordion folding type of sewer hose supports, but it was constantly falling over and we wanted something sturdier.) Additionally, our sewer hose runs under the bottom of our RV and is fully enclosed with skirting, so frozen sewage hasn’t been a problem for us.
I also soon learned how to juggle the use of coffee maker and hair dryer in conjunction with the heaters. Normally, using both at the same time is not a problem. But with the draw of the electric heaters, plugging too many things into the wrong line shut down the electricity totally. This meant a trek outside to unscrew four tiny wing nuts (virtually impossible to do in winter gloves) to get behind a panel to reset the breaker. Try doing this in the dark in the wee and snowy hours before daybreak and you don’t make the same mistake twice.
Joe, thank you for your information on full time RVing. My husband and I are in the process of getting rid of all our stuff, house and cars to get ready for retirement in 13 months. We are learning all we can about the RV lifestyle so we will be as prepared as possible and are so excited about this upcoming chapter of our lives. After a lot of research, we decided to go with a Forest River Cedar Creek Silverback 5th wheel and 2500 Diesel truck as our new home. Now the search is on. We have heard a lot about the All Stay app and would love to be entered in your giveaway. We had planned on getting it prior to hitting the road.
- Rodents may be attracted to the dark and warm areas created by adding skirting to an RV, so use some rodent control measures. Your best option is to seal any hole larger than ¼ inch. Fill holes with expanding foam and place a thin piece of aluminum cut from a pop can over the holes. You also can use traps and poison baits if the sealing material leaves some gaps.
6) They’re willing to live frugally. This can NOT be stressed enough. At the ages of 25-35, full timing can either be a joy or a chore. They’ll be surrounded by old people, in perhaps less than stellar conditions, in a cramped hovel that’s difficult to either keep cool in summer or warm in winter. But… they can move with the weather. And frugal living helps them afford to do that.
Cover Windows, Doors and Stairwell – It blows me away how much cold air seeps in from the windows, the entry door and the stairwell, by adding insulation to these drafty culprits you can keep the inside of the RV much warmer. Purchase a heavy fabric and make curtains to keep the cold from coming in. You can do fun curtains or you can install snaps/Velcro around the windows and doors to add an extra layer of insulation. Some people use bubble wrap, the bubble insulation, or the R-Max Foam boards which are all practical but do not look very good. For the stairwell have a board cut and adhere insulation to the bottom of it, at night cover the stairwell to keep out the cold air.
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!
For income, the pair relies on occasional real estate investments, though they are currently out of the real estate game and filling in as campground hosts in Florida in exchange for free rent. Their job entails greeting and assisting fellow RVers, keeping an eye on the campground and driving a tram that runs to the beach. They still look at potential real estate opportunities as they travel, but they’re not too eager to invest.
You can spend your time in fancy RV resorts that cost up to $100 per night, or at state and county parks that are typically $30 or under per night. On-base campgrounds are usually inexpensive, sometimes as low as $20, but they don’t always give you that “local” experience. We chose a mix, mostly staying in mid-range campgrounds both on and off base, as well as some national, state and city parks. We even stayed at a fairgrounds in Mariposa, California, near Yosemite. Boondocking wasn’t for us – we typically stayed in places that had water, sewer and electricity hook ups.
this is also interesting. we own a 20 year old fore travel that has just over 100K on the cat diesel engine.our goal is to get it to700,000 miles before we trade it in. we started out slowly with trips from Florida to Mass yearly last year we expanded to go into Canada usually 6 weeks at a time. this year we are taking 6 months and going west then across Canada and back to Maine and down the east coast. i budget $5K per 6 months and keep a $5K contingency budget. my expenses look very similar to the wyns.we do all our own repairs; thankfully. We are now renovating the inside of our home. i say we are practicing for retirement. WE should be really good at it by the time we actually retire. we also maintain a home base in Florida and a condo in hawaii.
This category includes all the tools and supplies we use to keep the rig in good shape. Mark loves to try new products and has a growing collection of tools in his toolbox. Before we left, he made the mistake of selling almost all of his tools. If you are handy and can work on your rig, don’t make that mistake too! He tried to “make do” with the bare minimum of tools for the first year, which is why this category didn’t used to exist for us, but now he regularly buys little goodies that make his maintenance tasks easier.
I’m terrified and excited at the same time! We’re both In our early 50s and planning to sell our home to live a simpler life. My fear is being in a small space while a crazy storms is going on around us (our home base ATX so we won’t be on the road) or if the weather drops below 20s. My hubby wants a 5th wheel but I’m not sure because we want to try this for a year and see how we do, but of course need to make the right choice because money doesn’t grow on trees. We have two 10yr old chihuahuas who hate the thunder! Any advice?