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.


After being in our RV camper for 1.5 years I can safely say that Command Hooks are the bomb(dot)com. We have some that range from 0.5lb rating up to 5lb rating. They’re super useful for things like hanging coffee cups in the kitchen, hanging towels in the bathroom, and hanging coats in the bedroom. Or you can start hanging Christmas lights around the living/kitchen/dining area for a little ambiance.
Brent misses traveling full time just as much as I. The other day he told me he thinks about being in Alaska nearly every day. So even if it’s hard to connect over who is going to pick up the boys after school or do the grocery shopping, there is always the crashing waves along the Homer Spit or the golden leaves in Yukon. We can go there in our imaginations together as we continue to figure out how to have adventures while making sure the gas bill gets paid.
7. RV’s aren’t air tight. I don’t care if you’re in a $2,000,000 bus or a $5,000 trailer your RV is not sealed like a bricks and sticks home. Cold air leaks in under the slides, permeates through the walls, and seeps through the windows. If you plan to stay in freezing weather for an extended period of time locate those drafty areas and throw a blanket over them. For our Windy it’s amazing how much cold air comes in through the entry door area, so I cover the stairwell with a piece of board and my rug at night.
Even knowing we began to freeze toward the end, I am still a big believer in skirting your RV to protect it from the cold. I feel this way because I’m certain if we had skirting that was better sealed around the entire RV we could have kept a lot of the cold air out. But, since we were using the full sheets of insulation we had a few cracks for the cold air to sneak in.

How I miss our early years of cuddling on the couch while reading stories about pharaohs and pioneers. Even though I tried to be intentional and savor the moments with them, it has all gone by too fast. I wouldn’t trade our early years of homeschooling or the adventures of road schooling for anything. The only thing I would do differently is start homeschooling sooner and not worry so much about picking “the right” curriculum in the beginning because homeschooling is about so much more!
We ended up spending $1,672 per month during our first year on the road, beating our budget by a little. During those twelve months we saw diesel prices jump by almost 90% from $2.75 to $5.16 per gallon (in the places where we were buying diesel). At the same time, we also learned about boondocking and discovered that we didn’t need to spend anything on campgrounds. Those two unexpected events cancelled each other out!
What a shame that you dropped your 5D MkII in the water; however, I’m surprised that you could not return it to Canon to be repaired (unless it was salt water). The new MkIII — easily the finest full-frame semi-pro camera in existence and one of the best cameras ever made — is $3500 for the body alone, so it isn’t inexpensive. But for what you do, and your imaging requirements, perhaps the MkIII camera is a practical investment even though you guys are trying to save money! Good luck on your new travel plans!
Or maybe you are like me. I took early retirement with a pension of about $1100 per month and I don’t have to work at all unless I want to for whatever reason. I am young and healthy so I am working as a campground host in some beautiful places. That way I can build more of a savings account or spend more as I want. Many people have social security or disability checks they live on.
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.
For me, room to work and live with an 11 year old, 55 pound dog (Capone),  who sleeps with me was a big consideration (sleeping in a cab-over wasn’t an option).   While the whole idea of RV living was to be outside more, I knew I’d be inside working a lot and wanted a separate work/sleep space. I’m also vegan and love to cook, so a full kitchen was a must for me.  Storage was also a big consideration.   I sold everything I owned and didn’t want to pay for storage so all my worldly possessions needed to fit inside my RV (honestly it was just a few storage bins of stuff),  And, because I wanted to start my new life debt free, I had a $10,000 cash budget.
Thanks for the info. I’ve finally convinced my wife to go live in an RV full time. We’ve rented an RV twice this year and so far so good. We almost bought a new RV 2 months ago but since we’re still working, we decided not to do it this year. We own our house and still paying $1200 a monthly mortgage. I’m leaning on selling the house when I retire in 7 years and buy an RV.
For electrical power I also will be going with the solar panels (only a few more) but will use a bank of 6 volt batteries and a 3000 Watt inverter, which gives many hours of power and used only when necessary you have a few days of power. I also have a gas Kubota generator for emergencies and a small rechargeable battery booster unit for emergencies. Have used it and it works great.
Starting for Q2 we are sharing less info that has to do with our website expenses and trying to keep our detailed expenses very broad so it shows ONLY the travel & exploration part of our RV lifestyle. If you want more details read our older expense postings in this article. Remember you can live for a lot less than us or you can spend triple what we do, either way this is how we live and some people find this info helpful. Wanna know how we live? Check out some of our adventures and foodie reviews…we like to say we’re into affordable luxury.

Great information! My husband and I just purchased our first motorhome, a Thor Challenger 37GT that has 3 slide outs. We will be full timers and will be living in the rv in the cold, cold (and hot in the summer) Midwest for the next couple of years until we retire and head out to see the country. My question is, how do we keep the slide areas warm in the winter? Would you skirt the bottom of the rv, then also skirt around the slides? Or is there a way to insulate around the slide when it’s out? Looking forward to comments. Thanks!


We also conserved fuel by minimizing our hot water usage. With no permanent sewer connection, we weren’t using the washer/dryer. Instead, our weekly errands included a trip to the laundry mat. We both had a fitness center at our workplace, so we took advantage of those showers. This had the added bonus that we got into a regular exercise routine. In general, we were mindful of how we used water during our winter RVing — a practice that continues to prove useful in boondocking. 
Very informative site, thank you for all the work putting it together. My wife and I have a small rv and are intending traveling from Fl. to the Jackson Hole/Yellowstone area and would like to know how much hard cash we should carry. We are not trying to skimp, we don’t need to(thank God) and besides we want to enjoy ourselves, but feel we should have some cash with us but not too much.
It was Tuesday evening November 18 where I found myself doing something I rarely do. I was packing to leave my “home on the road” for a few days and drive to Summit County, about 2 hours south here in Colorado. I had to find my travel bag and remember the “stuff” I needed when leaving home. My goal? Three days on snow – skiing VERY early in the season, and for two of them facing “PSIA Examiners” (ski instructor examiners) who would either pass or fail me in an important certification I have been working towards.
It’s okay to start small and work your way up. Before we married, my husband suggested living in a camper and building a house with cash. I didn’t like the idea so I said no, and he respected that. If I had changed my attitude toward alternative living then, we might have had a house right now with no debt attached, nor foreclosure in our past. Attitude is everything!
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.
We have camped at Tiger Run also and the temps got down to -9 F. We got the extended propane tank rented from the campground. We had all the issues and made a cardboard skirt and put a ceramic space heater underneath. That worked, though we left our sewer hooked up and only drained once a week and used the built in facilities during the day. We wrapped the exterior drain pipes with heat tape and insulation. We added hot water to the grey and black water tanks before flushing. Didn’t have a problem. Also made the heated water supply hose with heat tape and insulation. That never froze either. This year we are going back (in 2 weeks! YAY!) and are having a custom skirt made. Combined with the ceramic heater underneath, this should keep the whole thing warmer as well as stop any freezing of the water bay and plumbing. There is one weak link in our trailer, the water lines run through a cabinet, then back out behind the toilet, then under the bath tub, and then into another cabinet where the pump is. This froze twice. I rerouted one of the heater vents to heat the first cabinet by removing the vent exit and setting the vent tube to blow half of it’s air into the cabinet. Ugly but effective in an emergency. This year we are going to try running an LED rope light along that pipe run. This will double as a night light. They use very little power, and don’t get as hot as incandescent bulbs. Allegedly, the skirt and ceramic heater should fix everything but you never know! We’ll follow up as things progress. We agree that winter camping allows us to enjoy snowboarding and skiing places like Breckenridge Aspen, and Jackson Hole and actually afford it! And of course you can bring your doggie or kitty too.

I can go on for hours, but ultimately I can’t wrap my head around the fact I am going to pay rent for another year and get nothing in return in the long run. It seems like a waste of money. What are your thoughts? Is it possible to find a van in that state? Any aspect of van dwelling that you think might not mix well with the college environment? Am I a crazy 21 year old with far off ambitions?
Below is the breakdown of our costs, if you want more details read the posts from 2012 and 2011 as we pretty much spend the same way each year. As usual I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,137 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest ($1,088) also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joes, TJ Maxx (we get some of our specialty foods here) Wal-Mart (for RV supplies), local natural grocery stores, and Cash at Farmer’s Markets.
​The truck needs regular oil changes, new filters, new tires, alignments, and regular maintenance as it gets older and we put more miles on it. It also occasionally breaks. For us this number is relatively low since Tom and I do so much of the maintenance and repairs ourselves. We estimate that we’ve saved thousands of dollars in labor and parts by doing it ourselves. In 2016 we did have a big breakdown that we had to take it to a shop to get fixed (we can lift transmissions by ourselves) that brought our costs way up. Better to estimate high in this category and be pleasantly surprised than the other way around.
It seems like I am really good at always finding something to do and I have had to tell myself to stop and relax and just enjoy the moment. Which does seem easier to do while being the RV. Maybe because we have less to maintain or else because I am truly amazed by the things we are seeing and the reaction that the kids are having. I will continue to work on being better at this!
When I decided to live in an RV,  I did a lot of research.  I looked at YouTube videos and read a multitude of blogs and RV Living websites (Click here to view my favorites).  Then I visited a couple  RV dealers to see what’s available and pick the sales persons’ brains, knowing they’d be eager to make a sale and would spend a ton of time educating me. It was free training!
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.
Many people dream of living in an RV and traveling full time, and for the most part, it’s retirees who are able to live the RV lifestyle. However, there are many young people who are intrigued by the freedom that RVing full time represents. They are hitting the open road as well. One of the first questions prospective full time RVers of all ages ask is – how much will it cost each month?
Hi Folks! We have been camping for 47 years and I am now looking at blogs of people full timing. You have a wonderful site here and I am enjoying it very much. Thank you for all the information you have given us . We have poked along on our trips for the last 8 years. Husband retired and I had summers off. Retired now. Met many wonderful people. We will be looking forward to reading your blog for a long time to come! This year we hope to poke along the Oregon Trail! Happy Trails to you and yours!

Public campgrounds run the gamut from rustic campgrounds on-site at the national parks to state park campgrounds to national forest service and BLM campgrounds to Corps of Engineers campgrounds to regional park campgrounds and fairgrounds. Somewhere along the line there is a crossover to municipal and city RV parks. These campgrounds and RV parks often offer fewer amenities than private RV parks: there may (or may not) be water spigots or vault toilets (non-flushing), or there may be electric and water hookups and hot showers. Usually there are no sewer hookups but there is often an RV dump station in the campground.
Truck Tires (6 for our dually truck) and an oil change for the diesel engine $1,450.96. These tires were 3 years old and had about 50,000 on them, but the tread was starting to wear and we saw cracking in the sidewall of a few tires. We made the decision to replace all 6 at once. We feel that tires are a high priority because our lives and home are resting on them when we travel.
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, being able to “thrive” depends not on someone else’s description of the term, but on our own. Each of us, you and I both, need to decide what makes us happy in life. Deciding that you don’t need to be like everyone else is the first major hurdle jumped in living debt-free, and every person who decides to live without debt has their own reason for doing so.

I decided to upgrade to a high top camper and took my time until one passed me on the road, absolutely beautiful with the same layout as your camper (but a little tighter in space), not what I was looking for, I wanted the bed across the back but the price was just too right to even argue. Next winter in that will tell the tale but it will be the same as yours, not total success no matter what I do to it and to modify anything will reduce the great profit I stand to make just selling it and continuing with my plan to develop a Cube Van I already own.


Thus, we ended up back in our VW Bus, which is super easy to set up / tear down, can be driven anywhere, but you loose out on space. We also want to be in more natural areas, where the larger your rig, the more difficult it is to access or get any remaining spots. But that’s just us, and it sounds like you’ll be closer to towns and therefor possibly more likely to be in RV parks, so with all of that, best of luck in making a decision!
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!! 🙂
2017 Update – YES. We still feel the same way. Clubs are only useful IF you make use of them. There are RV folks who love their club memberships (e.g. Thousand Trails members who do nothing but stay at Thousand Trails), but for our type of camping (mostly public land, lots of State Parks etc) they simply haven’t made sense. The only membership clubs we currently have are Harvest Hosts, Escapees & Passport America. I always recommend that newbies wait on joining any camping clubs until they’ve spent some time on the road and figured out how they like to travel. Read more about my take on Camping Clubs HERE.
Your numbers are more complete than others that I have seen. We have been full timing for 9 years so I know there are a lot of things that need to be considered. It appears that laundry is in your misc. entry. Maybe other things are hidden in there too but I wonder about propane, co-pays for medical and drugs. I think you should have a line item for RV and Jeep maintenance and repairs. This can be a significant amount. Another item is admissions and entertainment. Don’t you buy gifts for each other or for relatives? I didn’t see anything about that. The last item has been mentioned in other remarks but I have to bring it up again and that is RV parks. You mentioned in August, 2016 that you spent 21 nights in RV parks and only spent $260. That is an average of $12.38 per night. I don’t know how you found sites this cheap unless you were in a membership campground such as Thousand Trails. If that is the case then you need to add in the prorated purchase price and the annual fees. If it is not the case then good for you. I have budgeted $25 per night and more recently $35 per night. Going to the east coast is more expensive than the midwest or western states. I agree that boonbocking can save some money but it seems like your numbers are pretty unrealistic.
Nina, I am hoping to set aside some money from the selling of our home and trying to stick close to my financial goals for how much the travel trailer, tow vehicle, and merchandise will cost. Only a real estate agent will tell me if I have that as a realistic number goal wise. I hope to contact a real estate agent next year to see how much the house could sell for after paying the Michigan real estate transfer fee and real estate commission plus how long it will take to sell the house. If I am realistic on that amount, then and only then will I travel down to Indiana to see how much the dream travel trailer will cost or otherwise the Northwood Arctic Fox will have to be it based on what I have seen so far. About the upgrades – most of the things that you would consider an upgrade will be on the travel trailer or merchandise wish list already. Plus you like Mr. Buddy while I will see how the goose down sleeping bags do as those only weighs 8 pounds for the two of them. Plus some of the merchandise that we have is getting old and needs replacing (want to purchase new after getting the travel trailer). There were other things included in the merchandise start up costs such as GPS, maps, kitchen, tools, furniture, sewer/water related products, bathroom, spare parts, cleaning stuff, etc. The solar power was low since I want to have more solar power and another battery or two than originally budgeted for.
For a period of time, we also had a gym membership to Planet Fitness. It cost $20/month and we had access to over 800 locations across the country. If you’re trying to stay in good shape while you’re traveling I would definitely suggest Planet Fitness. They typically have really nice facilities for showering and workouts, plus free massage chairs and tootsie rolls. Need I say more?
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.
$2,070 Cat Expenses: For safety we had to board our cats for several days during the festivals we attended, and for 3 weeks during our Best of the Road competition. Singa had to visit the vet for a cut in his eye from chasing lizards into the brush, and both cats got caught up on their shots/vaccinations. This price also includes their Food, Litter, and Wild Caught Salmon from the grocery story (yes they’re a little spoiled)
We have been using ours since Mark installed it in 2008, both during the winter and the summer, and we love it. We have a whole blog post explaining how this kind of heater works, what the technologies are behind the different styles of vent-free propane heaters on the market, what kind of heat each type of heater produces, and how to install one here:
Looks like you gave a very solid plan! Kirk’s numbers are one of the budget references I plan to link to in my next post. And I totally agree that health care is the biggest single unknown in all this. It’s been (by far) the biggest impact we’ve had to our fixed expenses in the 7 years we’ve been on the road, and it’s one of the most difficult to predict. I have no idea what our costs are going to be next year.
Usually we have the mail sent to a post office, addressed to us via “General Delivery.” We get the zip code for the post office online from www.usps.com. If we are in transit, we try to guess what town we might be traveling through in a few days. The post office holds all General Delivery mail for 30 days, so there is plenty of time to locate the post office and retrieve our box.
Legally you must carry chains to drive many mountain passes during snow storms (especially in California). If you don’t have chains on board and you get busted it’s a hefty fine. We’ve spent winters all over the states, and fortunately we’ve never had to put our chains on. Of course we watch the weather religiously before we plan to drive anywhere. If you’re flexible like we are and you know a storm is coming you have 2 options: 1. Bust out of there ASAP before the snow or 2. welcome the snow with open arms and extend your campground reservation a couple more days.
Thing 1 isn’t just good at playing the piano. We recognized he really has a gift as a classical pianist and needed a teacher and real piano if he was going to continue to grow. He could only learn so much online with a keyboard. (Keyboards, even weighted ones, don’t have the same dynamics as grand pianos.) To not recognize and nurture this gift would cause us and him real future regret. This is a special period in life where he has the time to sit and play for hours without adult worries. 
Yes, we do have a permanent address. We use a mail forwarding company in SD that acts as our address of record for drivers license, voting, taxes etc. We can also get stuff mailed there (and forwarded to us), but meds may be different and certain meds (e.g narcotics) may be controlled. I know many RV folks who get their meds through nationwide pharmacies (e.g. CVS) and just get the prescription transferred to the local shop to pick up as needed. I also know RV folks who get their docs to write 6-mo (or longer) prescriptions which allows them to travel further before needing new prescriptions. Since we take no meds ourselves, I don’t know much more about this so you’ll have to research more. But I have heard from folks who make it work.
We had been accustomed to a two car garage, and now got a new perspective on the task of shoveling the driveway. After one storm, the cars were just barely peaking through the drifted snow. We had to clear an area 40 feet long by 10 feet wide in order to pull the cars in and park them. Our efforts left us with a snow bank just about as long and wide, and about 8 feet high. The good news: our self-constructed snow bank served to block the wind. Well… sort of.

This depends if you plan to be in constant motion, or you’re looking to live a more stationery RV life. We didn’t have too much saved, but we did plan on picking up odd jobs wherever we went. This allowed for money to be made and experiences to be had. I would say always keep a credit card handy for emergencies, you never know what the road will throw at you.
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The various RVs were scattered about a sheet of ice. It was treacherous walking. Our neighbors were predominately construction workers with pick up trucks in abundance. We all had problems getting in and out with those, and sometimes had to park at the office for fear of not getting back out from the sites the next day. So moving the RV was not an option.


All our Fifth Wheels and Travel Trailers are “Extended Stay Approved”. This means that we have engineered them with many of the residential-style qualities found in a fine home. To this end, we have created spacious open living areas and appointed them with extra large windows, large refrigerators, walk in closets, large queen/king beds and many other home-like amenities.     
I could live in my RV, either in my hangar — there’s plenty of room — or on my property where it was already parked and hooked up. The trouble with that was that my RV, the “mobile mansion” is not designed for cold weather living. To make matters worse, I had parked it 66 feet from my onsite water source and I knew the hose running in a makeshift conduit under my driveway was very likely to freeze.
I think a lot of expenses could be eliminated for sure. Dr electric you could easily convert to solar power. Solar panels can be quite inexpensive. The batteries for charging can be costly to purchase but in the long run will save thousands of dollars with solar. You can still hang dry your clothes on hangers in your rv. As far as washing, if you are at a park that provides water/sewage you could easily put in a portable all in one HE washer dryer. May cost around $800-$1200 but again will save $$$ in the long run. Stop eating out. It substandard food anyway and isn’t good for you. If you are all in the rv together on a regular basis, eliminate a phone. There no need for 2phones. If you are writing several letters in a week,unless it’s an emergency, you could have much news to share. I for one would rather have a portable internet connection. That would probably be one of my biggest expenses. Just some suggestions that may cost a bit in the beginning but will end up being the best purchases to save you money over a long period of time.
However, life as they knew it began to feel confining. They started thinking about RV living as a way to explore more with their kids. The transition wasn’t quick or easy. For example, it took almost a year from when they decided to try RV living to actually selling the house and living in an RV. “At first I thought ‘Why wouldn’t everyone do this?'” says Bryanna upon reflection. “Then once we started I understood. It’s hard.”
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Well, it’s been close to 2 years now living in my little motorhome. I’m on the road nearly every night in a new place, doing my best to live comfortably, healthy, and happily. There are moments that are very trying, like coming home from a winter trip to find the couch and bed soaked with water and frozen solid. And yes, it’s very difficult to dry out a waterlogged bed and couch inside a 95 square foot motorhome in the Alaskan winter, but it’s possible.

I apologize if I seem off base but I did quickly see how you were able to get some things at a discount and that sparks my attention immediately as I am a disabled vet and will be working off of a set or close to set budget and I would love to know everything about how I can keep within that budget and if at all possible save some money along the way. The biggest fear for me is the unseen expenses that I either can not find or have not learned about yet going through all of the bloggers sites.
Our highest month was August in Cocoa Beach, FL. We both went on a bioluminescence kayaking tour which was $84. Also Julie got the deluxe adventure package at the Brevard Zoo which included an aerial adventure obstacle course, zip lining and kayaking for $57. We discuss how much fun we had on the Space Coast in our inaugural podcast episode. Our least expensive month was again at Fort Belvoir because there are so many free activities in the Washington DC area (i.e., Smithsonian museums, monuments, and hiking galore).

Very true, Eddie! Except when they don’t, also. But I agree that even with giant housing crashes like we’ve been dealing with the for the past ten years now, eventually home values go up. You can sell when you’re done, though you’re likely not going to get $1000 x 12 months x 30 years in profit (is your $300,000 house today going to be worth $660,000 in 30 years)?
At the same time, being together 24/7 is a challenge, too. It’s one of the reasons we chose to live this way. But, as you can imagine, it poses its own issues since there is no pushing anything under the rug. All issues, hard feelings and frustrations need to be addressed quickly or they just continue to grow and grow, and that doesn’t work in such close quarters.
One of the happiest couples we met when we were sailing in Mexico was a retired couple who had returned to cruising after raising their kids. They had sailed across to the South Pacific and beyond when they were in their twenties and had hilarious stories of what it was like to be a pair of inexperienced free spirits in a little, used, cheap boat on the big ol’ ocean as “kids,” and they were sooooo worldly wise and such seasoned travelers compared to the rest of us retirement aged newbie sailors. I recommend workamper.com and workingcouples.com to find interesting camp hosting and other jobs that are suitable for RVers where a free or inexpensive site is often part of the deal. Have a blast — and please come back and read some more!!

Boondocking – This is a term that essentially means camping without hookups typically in dispersed locations for free (or less than $15 per night). There are many places to camp for free in an RV or tent in the United States. RV boondocking locations include Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and National Forests. Free boondocking sites are plentiful out west, but significantly limited in states east of the Mississippi. To read a terrific review of boondocking sites in Florida, click here.
2011 – We bought a 31-foot camper with our tax return, moved with our three children into the camper, and began our off-grid, small homestead on family land with cash. Nearly one year after he was laid off, my husband was hired by another woodworking company. The new pay rate did not meet our previous living expenses, thus our new lifestyle was still the best route for us.

In this particular case on boondocking I am wondering if you read down to the part where it says Other Resources/Internet Sites and went to the links. Freecampsites.net is a great website and used it in my year one planning. Please read in detail as to how many days that you can stay at the particular campsite, cost of campground since most aren’t free that I’ve opened up, and if RV length mentioned make sure that you can camp there. Usually there is good information on how to get to the campsite in question as well.
Over the past few years we’ve received too many questions and demands from rude people in regards to our spending; so this will likely be the last time we post any business expenses or personal expenses that are not related to RV Travel. Our monthly expenses seem to be pretty similar so if you need to know our expenses in more detail scroll down to the toggles for 2013 and older.Below is a breakdown of our travel costs and expenses from January 01, 2014 to March 28, 2014. In future Full Time RV Expense posts you’ll only see these categories.

We learned this lesson the hard way winding through a tightly tree’d campground in FL in our first year on the road. We didn’t watch the back end of the rig as we turned through a narrow curve. The front made it through fine, but our back end swung out just slightly and the palm tree sheared off the entire slide topper cover on that side. Oops! We’ve never (cross fingers and paws) made that mistake since, but heavily tree’d parks are always difficult for us, and the bigger your rig the more this is true.


Usually there are picnic tables and campfire rings at each site. Often the sites at national park, national forest and Corps of Engineers campgrounds are too small for a larger RV. However, some state park campgrounds have absolutely gorgeous big sites that are in a natural setting with a jaw dropping view. Generally these campgrounds cost anywhere from $8/night to $35/night, depending on the amenities offered, the beauty and popularity of the surrounding area and the the season you are visiting.
Not being “full-timers” ourselves, but are in a category called “extended stay travelers” (one to three month trips). Being rather young to retire last year in our early 50’s, health insurance is the big monkey on our back. Yes, we do have insurance thru my union, but since O-Care ( Obama ) monthly rated have gone up 250% in the last 5-6 years, and coverage gone in the toilet. I guess it is what it is.
Great information! My husband and I just purchased our first motorhome, a Thor Challenger 37GT that has 3 slide outs. We will be full timers and will be living in the rv in the cold, cold (and hot in the summer) Midwest for the next couple of years until we retire and head out to see the country. My question is, how do we keep the slide areas warm in the winter? Would you skirt the bottom of the rv, then also skirt around the slides? Or is there a way to insulate around the slide when it’s out? Looking forward to comments. Thanks!

No one knows what the future holds and where we will be in 1 year or 10 years, but I know for us that this yearning for a life outside of the norm isn’t going totally go away. I am sure it will ebb and change and flow as the years go on and we all get older, but now that we have awakened this feeling inside ourselves, I don’t think it will ever be silenced again!
Of course, at $500 per month this is a sparse life, but I am just showing you that it can be done. In fact I personally know dozens of people who live in their vans and make much less than $1,000 per month, so I know for a fact that it can, and is, being done right now. That still leaves us with the question, where will the money come from? Let me show you some simple strategies for living the cheap RV lifestyle.

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.
If the distribution center is too hard to get to, you can opt to have the package shipped to a UPS Store or FedEx/Kinko’s store or other shipping store like MailBoxes Etc. The store will likely charge you a fee, even if it is a UPS store and you are shipping via UPS or is a FedEx/Kinko’s and you are shipping via FedEx. We’ve seen the fee range from a flat fee of $3 whenever you pick it up to $7 per day, however these stores are more likely to hold the package longer than 5 days. So, check with the store before having something shipped to them to get the details and verify how they want the package to be addressed.
Legally you must carry chains to drive many mountain passes during snow storms (especially in California). If you don’t have chains on board and you get busted it’s a hefty fine. We’ve spent winters all over the states, and fortunately we’ve never had to put our chains on. Of course we watch the weather religiously before we plan to drive anywhere. If you’re flexible like we are and you know a storm is coming you have 2 options: 1. Bust out of there ASAP before the snow or 2. welcome the snow with open arms and extend your campground reservation a couple more days.
We were so exhausted by these repairs (they hit us all at once between August and October of 2015), that I haven’t yet written a blog post about the last one. It just isn’t fun writing that stuff!! However, hopefully you can see the incredible value of getting a motorhome warranty or trailer warranty, especially if your rig is a few years old (ours is a 2007 Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer).
We also conserved fuel by minimizing our hot water usage. With no permanent sewer connection, we weren’t using the washer/dryer. Instead, our weekly errands included a trip to the laundry mat. We both had a fitness center at our workplace, so we took advantage of those showers. This had the added bonus that we got into a regular exercise routine. In general, we were mindful of how we used water during our winter RVing — a practice that continues to prove useful in boondocking. 

Tim you are certainly impressing the hell out of me. I love what you are doing and have been doing the same for about the last 6 months, however, in a much smaller unit. Mine is a truck and older style pop up camper. The winter in the mountains I have been in are far too cold for an old fool like me but I made it work with a few nights in motels and a couple of trips back to the shack for a few days and a couple of weeks on a stretch but for the most part, the camper was home. The morning jumping up and lighting the stove top naked was no fun either.
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If the distribution center is too hard to get to, you can opt to have the package shipped to a UPS Store or FedEx/Kinko’s store or other shipping store like MailBoxes Etc. The store will likely charge you a fee, even if it is a UPS store and you are shipping via UPS or is a FedEx/Kinko’s and you are shipping via FedEx. We’ve seen the fee range from a flat fee of $3 whenever you pick it up to $7 per day, however these stores are more likely to hold the package longer than 5 days. So, check with the store before having something shipped to them to get the details and verify how they want the package to be addressed.
One time we had a package shipped via UPS to a post office General Delivery address in a small town. We tracked the package, and noticed its status was “On the truck and out for delivery.” This seemed to imply that the package was on its way to the post office, so we called the UPS distribution center to find out at what time of day the truck might get to the post office so we could drive in to get it.
The kids, as kids most often do, adapted quickly. The hardest months for the teens were when they started school but we were still living in an RV. The best part about our home on wheels were the wheels and when the wheels weren’t rolling it was an entirely different experience. They didn’t want to invite friends over or be dropped off at the campground. While Brent and I were more than happy to share why we lived in an RV, what mattered to the teens was what other people thought.
It’s hard to make a “firm” assessment on the size issue. A lot of times it depends on where you camp. For example State Parks in CA are notoriously old/small and being 40-foot or larger rules out almost 85% of them. Same thing in the National Forest campsites in the CO mountains (we’ve camped there, but it’s often a struggle to find sites that fit us). On the other hand State Parks in CO are usually quite spacious as are State Parks in OR (we’ve been able to take our 40-footer just about everywhere in OR) and throughout the Mid-West. Also if you like boondocking smaller is always better. So, just depends.
We also use uscampgrounds.info. Great resource. Full-timing is certainly not for everyone. It requires some risk taking, overcoming fears of the unknown, saying good-bye to family and friends, and doing some things that may not seem wise. In the beginning, Paul admits, that one of his biggest full-timing faults is, he has difficulty “rolling-with-the-punches.” I find that the most challenging thing is not looking back so much. I love to reminisce and this leads me to get a bit melancholy. We have enjoyed worshipping with many different denomination and at nondenominational churches. We have made so many new friends that we stopped counting. This is one of the biggest advantages to our lifestyle. Thanks, Nina, for the great blog and giving Paul and I a few minutes of reflecting on our past year.
In my experience a 38 foot 5th wheel takes up as much, if not more space than a 40 foot motorhome, specifically because of the big truck. I can squeeze our little toad in just about anywhere (often we just park it across the front of the MH), but with a big truck you may have to find a separate parking spot, depending on the campground. Many campgrounds will offer that, but it just depends.
The answer to this one is tricky. We’ve found tons of places we could see ourselves living in the future, but right now we just aren’t at a point where we want to settle down quite yet. Top of our list is Nashville, TN, mostly because we’ve made a lot of great friendships in that town and we would have a lot of awesome community. But we’re still definitely keeping our eyes open for more great places to live.
We are avid birders and love the solitude of nature. We imagine we will be staying and volunteering in wildlife refuges, state parks and boondocking for the most part. We are looking at the Northwoods Arctic Fox 32-5M (34’11’).( We love our daily yoga practice and need a floor plan that fits 2 yoga mats) We are heading to the Northwoods dealer in Oregon in the beginning of april to see about trading our truck in for a diesel long bed and buying the fifth wheel. Northwoods just came out with a new fifth wheel floor plan that rocks(35-5z) but it is 38’11”. In regards to bigger is not better do you have any guidance here to help our decision making process? I know this is a very personal decision. ANY input will be helpful. It is just the two of us and our binoculars, camera, bird books, and laptop computers for the most part. This is such a huge decision and we will be living with it for a long time.

Groceries – This figure can vary based on location as the cost of living fluctuates by region and if you are near metropolitan areas or tourist attractions. In addition, taxes can vary. Note: You may choose to put household items like cleaners, shampoo, dish soap, etc. as a separate line item. Since we purchase them with our groceries, we just include them here.
3. Keep the fresh water and pipes from freezing: In my humble opinion your tips and tricks are spot on. I do have an observation and suggestion to make. Your efforts are targeting the “sewer bay” on the driver side of the RV. When we froze in Louisiana, it was the passenger side that was vulnerable. Our fresh water tank has an overflow vent on the passenger side. When the water in the tank freezes, like a pond the top of the water freezes first. In our case that prevented us from putting water into the tank and we ended up with a small crack in the tank. Fortunately, it was on the edge and was easily fixed. I think the freezing occurred because our efforts were on the “sewer bay” side and not the other. I think the answer here is another small space heater on the passenger side of the RV.
Hey Joe – to be honest we never had an issue getting in/out of a gas station with our toad. We try to fill at Costco’s and they always have plenty of room but even small country gas stations have worked. However to your point, you can’t just drive in and expect to make it out, there is some planning that needs to happen to ensure you can get in and then back out without having to disconnect the toad. Which radio do you have?
Great article and right on IMO…I think what you have written is not only true for full time rving but living in general…the key words here are what you wrote in the beginning… that you are providing a formula not necessarily the details….and it will be different for everyone depending on what is important to them…and we always budget for travel, food, wine and fun….:)
Obviously, electric blankets on your bed make for more comfortable sleeping conditions during the cold winter nights. I discovered another great use for electric blankets by accident. I draped one over the sofa and left it on a low setting. Even when I wasn't on the sofa, I left the blanket on. The temperature radiates into the air, adding wonderful warm heat to the RV. My sofa was built in to an extending unit on the RV, so it was a very drafty area to sit on cold winter nights. The heating blanket worked wonders for keeping me warm.
These kinds of activities are difficult to do when you pack up and move every week or two. They require a long term commitment. We could have sat still for months at a time in campgrounds but that isn’t why we bought a house with wheels. And even if we did stay put for months at a time, it wouldn’t address the real issue consistency and friendship. The boys would know that goodbye was just around the corner and that was hard for them.
Everyone has heard the age-old packing tip for a trip – “pack half the clothes you think you need – and then get rid of half of them.”  When you are preparing to live on the road you need to amp up those percentages even more, way more. Only you can make the determination of what is truly “essential” but come be prepared to attack your first “must have” list with an arsenal of scissors and black pens.
I should also add that the graph I created (in the post) showing average monthly $$ is simply my best guess based on the folks we’ve traveled with and those that have shared or published their budget (which admittedly not everyone is prepared to do). It’s possible I’m wrong and many folks spend more than they say (and since we regularly boondock/workamp it’s also possible we travel mostly with the frugal crowd!), but I honestly don’t think it’s too far off.

It seems like I am really good at always finding something to do and I have had to tell myself to stop and relax and just enjoy the moment. Which does seem easier to do while being the RV. Maybe because we have less to maintain or else because I am truly amazed by the things we are seeing and the reaction that the kids are having. I will continue to work on being better at this!
(40 ft). I live for FAR less. For starters, I currently pay $425/mo for a 30 amp site with full hookups and cable/wifi and I figure I will not pay more than $500/mo. I don’t tend to stay in “resorts” either. While traveling stays in parking lots (overnight), low cost or free public parks and half price Passport America private parks keeps my site rental down. The difference ends up in the fuel tank. You can live cheap in an RV or you can live expensive. Just like in a house. I do know that it is slightly cheaper for me to live in the RV than it was in my last house… and I have no yard to mow. I run into people who can’t live on less than $5K per month and folks who live quite well on $1K per month. Most folks fall somewhere in the middle. I will tell you that it is difficult to live fulltime in an RV (traveling fulltime) and have debt.
My goodness. You spend A LOT. Some of your expenses I can’t comprehend. They are or should be one-time expenses, and why the large expense for the website? Hosting is $10 a month. There are free websites. Do you pay for SEO or advertising? I am not understanding. And the cell phones. My Lord. I pay $98 per month for mine; my fiance pays $55, because with mine being a smart phone, he doesn’t need anything fancy. There are family plans, too, with most carriers. Your grocery expenses are a bit over the top, too. Do you or would you use coupons, buy red tag items, etc.? All grocery stores have clearance items, and since your space is limited, this would be ideal. You likely don’t freeze things. If you buy red tag/orange tag/yellow tag/whatever color tag items, and then you use them in the next two days, you could feed your family on as little as $10 a day. And you’d eat well. Gas costs… well, gas costs!!! A lot. No getting out of that one. There are other expenses we wouldn’t have, and I’m thinking your RV is a lot nicer and newer. Anyway, good for you for living on the road. That’s a great experience for you kids. And the Mexican dental is brilliant! People may not know that they can get great dental work done on the cheap in Mexico. That’s why there are travel medicine groups springing up.
Nina and Paul, I just found your blog today on Pinterest, and it is filled with very good information. I will be more or less full-timing it with a friend who currently lives in Okinawa, Japan. He has been living in Japan for 23+ years and plans on moving back to the states permanently. Whenever that happens he has asked me to come along on his life long dream of traveling to all the National Parks/Monuments etc. We don’t plan on moving much more than 100 miles or so per day and may stay in a place for a while if we like it and there is lots to see and experience in the area. I plan to keep watching your blog as it really speaks to what we want to do.
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 live in L.A. Cali and the rents are expensive, try buying a property-forget it!.. Specially for an average Joe making less than 35k a year. I got be a 1997 30’ft. RV that I live in it full time and I pay 400 dollars a month rent to the homeowner of the property to let me camp on his empty back yard.I know I tried to live on the public streets,but it’s too much of a hassle because that RV can’t be just put on one location of public street, the city parking enforcement will cite you, as well gang bangers would vandalize your home/RV.So one day I decided to post on craigslist and a man replied to let me park and live on his backyard for 400bucks a month which he kindly let’s me use his side house restroom (keep my RV restroom clean and unused) and electricity for general purpose ,Except for anytime I need my AC (I USE MY GENERATOR).Im just a basic Joe, I cut on renting small rooms for the same price, but I have more space and better independence. I usually ride my bicycle to work and public transportation (I hardly spend on gas).. Also, I have WiFi internet I get from his home, which he charges extra 20 bucks. I have a laundromat couple feet away from this property, so I just walk with my cart basket on Sundays. Life is great and inexpensive. Yea, renting an apartment in a bad/ghetto area of L.A. COULD cost around 800 to 1,000 a month. Im better off renting on a private property in a Nice safer neighbor hood.

My first winter after living in the COMET for the summer and fall, I rented a TINY 50 square foot closet under the stairs in a collective house/commune and lived there over the winter. Yep, just like Harry Potter. It was less than $100/month and included communal meals and utilities/basic living supplies like soap and toilet paper (bulk items, basically).


I really think it has helped us learn who our kids are as individuals and people. It also allows us to be here for them when they have a question or problem they need help figuring out. We give them as much space as we can, and as they get older they are venturing out more and more on their own at the campground, museums, etc. But it has been great to be such an important and big part in their lives and to continue to spend so much time with them.
After a few years of messing with the little single-load washing machines at laundromats, we discovered that it is much better to use the biggest machines in the place because they are generally the newest machines, they do the best job, and they hold a heckuva lot. Dryers are usually 25 cents for a set period of time that ranges from 5 to 10 minutes, and we’ve found that most commercial dryers need about 35-40 minutes to get the job done. Washers and dryers at RV parks are usually much cheaper than those in the local laundromat.

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.


Besides, since I’d been living in the mobile mansion full-time since the beginning of June, it had become my home, my space. Bought to house two people, a mid-sized dog, and a parrot, it was amazingly comfortable for one person and a tiny dog. After dealing with seemingly countless delays, I’d finally moved it to the piece of land I’d been dreaming about for over a year. I was in my home, on my home. I was loath to give that up, even for a few months.

Pro Tip: Even if you don’t insure your RV through Good Sam, you should definitely spring for their Roadside Assistance service. It’s $80 a year and completely worth it. Plus, if they can’t get to you in time for roadside assistance, they will pay for whoever does end up coming out to save you from the side of the Interstate. After getting a blown tire outside of Coalinga, California, I’m a HUGE fan of Good Sam’s Roadside service. Getting our tow dolly tire replaced billed us $150, which Good Sam promptly reimbursed us for. I’m a huge fan of any service that pays for itself. (PS They don’t pay me to say nice things about them, but they should.)
We started with the curriculum below but after about six months gave “unschooling” a try before going back to a more scheduled approach. I’m glad we tried unschooling but it didn’t work for us at that point in our lives or perhaps I just didn’t give it time. Another post all together. After our failed unschooling attempt, I added an additional writing program because I wasn’t thrilled with Sonlight or Rod and Staff’s writing components.
Do these words stir a fire deep within you, awakening a spirit of wanderlust and travel? Maybe you were a gypsy, vagabond or hobo in a past life, but you think you could never afford to live the life of freedom you long for? It could be you are a survivalist, or just want to drop out of society but don’t know how. Perhaps you are just sick of the rat race and want to simplify your life. Or possibly the bad economy of the last few years have left you with no choice but move into a car, van or RV?
Living in an RV or any small space can have its challenges. The first year of full time RV life flew by in the blink of an eye. As we celebrate our three years of RVing, I want to share some tips that helped us survive the transition to RV living. Whether you’re a solo RVer, family of five or a couple with a dog, I hope you find these tips helpful.
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