I just found your blog on Pinterest, and learned some important tips. My retirement fantasy is to RV full-time and follow the warm weather through Canada and the US for a few years. I’ve just bought a 5th wheel that will be staying put in a nearby RV park for three or four years until I can afford a tow vehicle, but I’m very excited to experience RV life. Since I’m in Canada, that won’t be until next Spring, but is something to keep me busy planning for during the winter.
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.

For the conduit, I used brown vinyl downspout pipe. That’s the stuff people usually use to go from the gutter on the edge of the roof to the ground. I bought six 12-foot lengths of the stuff and six connectors. I also bought a pair of matching flex elbows to use at either end. I ran the PEX in this pipe, making connections as I went along. Then I laid it in the trench, put the flex pipes on both ends, and connected the ends of the PEX to the water source and RV. When I was finished, the PEX was completely enclosed in the pipe.


I love to cook as well…but then I like checking out the local brewski scene even better. About 80% of our going out during the winter is at the Elks which is cheap for both food and beer…$5.50 a pitcher and dinner for $9…but in the travel season we tend to eat at the local Elks maybe 10% and the rest at various hole in the walls. I don’t think we could get to your numbers even if we cut out the DirectTV fees and workamped…but then travel style is different for everybody…and one of the big drivers is what you can afford to spend. We’re fortunate that we can (mostly) not really budget…we could get down to JC’s 6K per month if we needed to without much strain…and if we needed to we would…but we don’t so we don’t. Our secret was to turn all of that money stuff over to a financial planning service up in the DC area when we went on the road…sure, we’re paying their annual percentage but we’re in a medium growth and income portfolio profile…we’ve averaged about 5% return since 1/1/13 and have taken out about $50K over that time frame for big ticket items like the new truck, trip to Ireland, trip to Alaska, etc.
i had the same idea, and i am willing to invest and become partner in such an adventure, but would be nicer to have 15 to 20 spots, we could go over costs , find a place not farther than 35 to 40 min from a city center with ammenities, resturaunts, shopping & movie theatre, i live in s. florida and theres alot of land for sale out west, and not too far from everything, i had an idea to do a shipping container homesite, doing the same thing, same idea,,, its hard to find like minded people wanting to co-exist but the living expenses would be so low, commpared to a house and great for retirees that do not have alot of savings,, we could be a community helping each other out, i am all for that idea. would have to get plans and find out from the building departments what we can do or cant do..
Hi Jill, I pinned a picture you have on pinterest. Bright orange poppies with LOTS of ruffled petals. Love them!! My grandmother had them in her yard when I was a child. I cannot seem to find any seeds like them for sale. All other types of poppies but not these. Interested in selling a handfull? Please le me know. I will pay for the seeds, the envelope, postage and your time!!
This is a big one. And to be honest, one I have mixed feelings about. There are still times I miss our old life and our old house. And I feel that by introducing all of us to this lifestyle it would be really hard to go back to what our old life was. My biggest fear is that our kids are going to continue traveling the world for their whole life and end up settling down all over the place so we won’t all be in the same location when our kids start having kids. Crazy right – then why the heck did we do this then??

I paid cash on a used F250 and will do the same with the trailer, as well as making some changes upfront that you and Mark recently discovered made vast improvements in driving your rig. While my plan is to boondock more often than not (friends are already beckoning me to their driveways across the country!), there is the matter of being a tech nomad. However, I’ve been living in the country with a Virgin USB stick (and a looped slice of aluminum soda can attached w electrical tape as an additional antenna) about ten miles from the nearest tower for the last few years, so more of the same there. The main budget changes I’ll notice are the absence of an electric bill and addition of laundromats.

However, this is extremely personal. We are of the mentality of having a solid savings account before heading off. Stuff is going to come up: you’ll need new tires, or a new transmission, or you’ll decide you want a huge battery bank with solar and a monster inverter. You’ll want some money socked away to handle these issues as they arrive. A lot of young RVers are living paycheck to paycheck, and they have a tough time making their savings account grow. While that can be fun and exciting (and it certainly works for some people), we recommend having a solid amount of money in savings first. We didn’t feel comfortable leaving until we had $20k+ in our savings. What if you’re unemployed for a few months? What if something big goes out? We think it’s better to be prepared. There’s no one dollar amount that’s going to be ideal for everyone, but we think it’d be smart to have 6-12 months of living expenses in your savings account before heading off.
However, this is extremely personal. We are of the mentality of having a solid savings account before heading off. Stuff is going to come up: you’ll need new tires, or a new transmission, or you’ll decide you want a huge battery bank with solar and a monster inverter. You’ll want some money socked away to handle these issues as they arrive. A lot of young RVers are living paycheck to paycheck, and they have a tough time making their savings account grow. While that can be fun and exciting (and it certainly works for some people), we recommend having a solid amount of money in savings first. We didn’t feel comfortable leaving until we had $20k+ in our savings. What if you’re unemployed for a few months? What if something big goes out? We think it’s better to be prepared. There’s no one dollar amount that’s going to be ideal for everyone, but we think it’d be smart to have 6-12 months of living expenses in your savings account before heading off.
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.
Bedroom Layout – At first it seems like the only travel trailer floor plan option was a back bunkhouse and a front queen bed with the head of the bed situated at the front of the trailer. But then I found the front bunkhouse models. These typically have more room around the master bed and since the littles sleep in our room with us (they do in our house too) this would be much more comfortable and give Brent a good space to work for extended trips. The tradeoff is a smaller bunk room but the teenagers they don’t need as much space as they once did since we aren’t full time. Even in our Gateway they spend a lot of time lounging in their beds so we are leaning towards a larger master bedroom.
We are all electric with no propane, now what? Hydronic heating (Aqua Hot) can rely upon a diesel burner for furnace instead of propane. As you correctly pointed out diesel additive is necessary to keep the fuel liquid. We have learned that even though we treat our fuel it remains very cold. Cold diesel doesn’t completely burn and the exhaust can be very smokey and very smelly.
We did have one issue with freezing last year, when the city water pipe sticking out of the ground that our mobile home park was supposed to be responsible for winterizing froze.  The only thing they had done to protect the pipe from freezing was to wrap it with insulation and plastic, and the part right next to the ground wasn’t adequately protected, and it froze during a cold snap where the high temperatures were in the single digits.  After a neighbor helped us thaw the pipes with a crazy high powered industrial heater he brought from his place of work, I removed the park’s insulation, wrapped the pipe with electric heat tape, covered it with more insulation and plastic, then for good measure I lined a Rubbermaid storage tote with foam board and put it upside down over pipe.  It did not freeze again, lol.
Good post Nina…but I’m a little skeptical about 3500 being a reasonable budget unless you either boondock/workamp a lot…or don’t go out much. I won’t say money is no object for Connie and I…but we’re plenty comfortable due to long term investing when we were younger…my guess based on talking to folks in general for the past 5 years is that we’re probably better off financially than 80% of the full timers we run into…not to brag about it but just giving you a little flavor for this post. We’ve averaged 30.46 a night since summer of 12 for about 925 a month in parking…plus another 80-100 a month from Nov to April for power at our winter site. From actual 2016 expenses…add in DirectTV, phone data plan, and MiFi data plan and that’s another 500 a month or so. 450 a month for groceries, 345 for eating out, 120 for brews at the Elks, 275 for diesel fuel (we do about 10K miles a year on our truck)…that’s already up to 2700 a month not including medical insurance and bills, misc other stuff, and any repairs on rig or truck or vehicle expenses. While we could economize on some of those…our average for 2016 was about 6700 a month (that doesn’t include our truck payment which comes directly out of our investments and is our only expenditure from investments currently). We could economize of course…eating out and too many brews at the Elks could somewhat go away if needed and we could get that probably down to 300 instead of 500 without feeling too deprived. Like you said…what you spend depends on you…and how much you got but we at least would feel pretty cramped by a 3500 a month budget.
Of course, the best RV for your family individually depends on your travel style and individual situation. For example, a family of 4 might not require a large, Class A motorhome with slide-outs… but a family of 6 would almost definitely benefit from having the extra space. Also consider whether you and yours are more outdoorsy or simply into traveling for the scenery. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time inside, invest in extra space!
As for costs it’s a very variable question, but I would say most RVers are in the $2500-$3500/mo range with a few RVers who do it much cheaper (around $1,000-$1,500/mo) and some who use alot more ($5,000/mo). Your biggest variable budget item will be gas & RV park costs, both of which can be managed by how far you drive and where you stay (or if you volunteer, workamp etc.).

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.
            It may seem obvious that the less things that get dirty, the less has to be cleaned.  However, how you apply that knowledge can make a lot of difference.  We use paper plates (not foam) and paper cups almost exclusively.  When possible we cook in the microwave in Glad or Ziplock containers so that leftovers store in the same container in which they cooked.  We do use regular silverware but I’ve often thought that chop sticks would work just as well for most things (I haven’t cleared that one with Ella – GRIN.) 
If you are staying in a park or resort, find out who maintains, roads, parking, sidewalks, etc. and how often.  What amenities are available to you at the park; are there laundry facilities, showers, pools, exercise equipment, and so on?  What other forms of recreation are available in the local area?  Are there other people staying through the winter and do they get together to socialize?

Thank you for providing so much good info. Sorry to hear the internet trolls have been critical. Ruins it for the rest of us that want to learn. It appears your average cost of leaving is ~$10k per quarter. Really appreciate you both share what your doing. Don’t know if you have posted this, but would be interested in what each rig cost. Feel free to email direct if you like. The way you live / travel appeals to us and we are trying to figure how much it will cost initially to start the RV life style. Thanks again and safe travels 🙂


If you drove 12,000 miles / year, getting 7 mpg, which is pretty likely with a Class C or truck/trailer combo, I believe that would put you at around $500 / month in gas. Of course, this is the one area you have the most control over, because you can certainly drive less than that if you’d like. It all depends on how much commuting you do (drives to town for groceries, sightseeing, etc. still happen) and how far you travel each month.
I am really scratching my head as to why you would not include the cost, finance, and depreciation of your RV in your calculations. I understand that everyone’s RV values will be different but by avoiding those calculations all the other calculations you’re are giving just gibberish. For example that $100,000 RV will only be worth $50,000 in five years. Just the depreciation alone over 5 years would be $833.00 per month! Then there is DVM fees, insurance,
We cook with an electric plate, which works well for us, as our diet is simple because we’re both diabetic. We only use propane to run the fridge when we’re traveling, and have disconnected the propane hoses from the stove and furnace – we never use either – and we stuffed the vents with loads of rags years ago. We’ve never had a problem with rodents or bugs in any season.
The time living on the road has been a lot of fun, and a big learning experience. I’ve met countless people that have influenced my life and heard stories that have rearranged my perspectives on life’s shenanigans. Most encounters have been very positive and the RV has helped open windows of connections with people that I would not have had otherwise. As for the other end of the spectrum, I’ve only had a couple of run-ins with people telling me to move on to another camping spot (literally only 2 times the last couple years).
$2,319 Fuel Cost – So far we’ve put a lot less miles on the RV this year (around 5,000 so far) however we’ve been driving our Smart Car loads more (probably double last year)! Everyone complains about fuel costs, but if you look at it our fuel isn’t our largest expense, and how much really does a 10 cent increase per gallon cost? You’re either going to travel or you’re not, I’m tired of hearing people use the excuse of fuel costs as a reason they don’t take out their RV. Suck it up, put on your big boy pants, and travel….you’ll thank me later as you realize the trip only cost an extra $25 because of the rise in fuel cost. Sorry for the rant, we just hear this excuse over and over and it’s a moot point.

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.
3.  I would have test drove some newer ones – I only test drove three or four 20+ year old RVs. Since I’d never driven an RV before, I had no idea how it should feel or sound. Had I known, I might have been able to detect some of the problems it had (a bad catalytic converter, for example).  Test driving something newer might have given me a baseline for how it should feel to drive one.

Before starting a life of adventure, it may be hard to imagine that you will need or want to have any hobbies. Sightseeing ought to be enough! But it isn’t. After a while, you will want to have pursuits that complement your travels in one way or another or that perhaps are not even related to your travels at all. Our hobbies are photography, writing and mountain biking, and these all cost money.

You might be wondering about what we did with the Littles during the eclipse. You aren’t alone. I spent a week worrying wondering about it because obviously I didn’t want them to lose their vision and by the barrage of eclipse safety in the media you would have thought the sun was a new phenomena. I have no idea how the entire world is not already blind. Anyway, the Littles don’t watch much television but this was one of those time when the benefits outweighed the waste of time. We set them up with a show, toys, and snacks in the RV while we enjoyed the eclipse right outside the door. It was a perfect set up because I didn’t have to worry about them trying to sneak a peek and I could micromanage remind my teens about staying safe without distraction. RVing for the win again!


Fortunately, there are lots of RV parks that are designed with this conundrum in mind, offering activities for kids and adults alike. For example, the Jellystone Parks family of RV resorts has fun, themed activities and tons of amenities like swimming pools, water slides, and bounce houses, making it one of the best solutions to RV vacations for families.
The average cost we run in to is $1.75/load for washing and $1.25/load for drying. Most campgrounds have low-end but decent enough washers and dryers and you hardly ever have to run a load multiple time. It is important to note that many campgrounds and parks will not let you hang clotheslines so you can’t depend on that as a way to reduce expenses.
Neither of us knew anything about RVs. My parents and I lived in a small travel trailer off and on for three years when I was in elementary school, and Mark’s family lived in one for a few months while his dad was transferring jobs, Other than that, neither of us had spent any time in an RV since we were kids. While Mark had towed several big boats and U-hauls, neither one of us had ever towed even a small camper, let alone a king-sized RV like those you see on the roads today.
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.
We went into Little Havanna in Miami and the kids were dancing right along with an older Cuban man at a restaurant that was playing Cuban music. They didn’t know that he was a different nationality and came from a different country. They heard music and saw dancing and jumped right in. We are hoping our travels will continue to inspire their behavior in this way and that as they grow older they don’t learn to fear things that are different, but instead look at the world and people as equals no matter what their background is or what they look like.
When you live in an RV, you adopt a mantra: one in, one out. There just isn’t the room to collect things. We started paring down our collection of stuff in preparation for living in an RV, but once you're in it, the lack of extra storage space really helps to curtail any retail therapy you may employ. The fact that we no longer watch much TV and even fewer commercials means we're not as bombarded by messaging to buy, buy, buy and have less impulse to go shopping. We now collect memories and sunsets with a few smashed pennies and stickers thrown in for good measure.
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