For this road trip we knew we would have to adjust our lifestyle a lot! We saved our money for years to take this trip across the US and we knew we’d have to be more frugal on the road (mainly because we wouldn’t be making much money during our travels).There are a few things we wont compromise on: We are passionate about supporting small local companies who are involved with the community. A restaurant that serves local farm fresh food or buying beer from a small local brewery, etc. Of course this lifestyle costs a little extra money, but for us it’s totally worth it. So here was our plan to live more frugally on the road: Eat out less, purchase less expensive beverages, shop less often, and camp off the cord as much as possible.Below is the breakdown of our expenses from our 2011 Trip across the Western Half of the USA. We’ve rounded the numbers to make it easier to calculate, but this gives us a general idea of what it cost to live on the Road in an RV.
After a year of full-time RVing, we slowly added these items to our home on wheels and they greatly improved RV life for us. We never expected to want or need these items when we first started out and love sharing them with newbie RVers! If you’re interested in finding out what these items are, check out this post: 5 Items That Improved RV Life for Us!
I guess my best recommendation would be to look at back clearance. What we’ve found boondocking with friends is that some of the longer 5th wheels have a lot of back overhang (behind the rear wheel) and/or low clearance at the back. We went to some BLM land with buddies last year that had a 38 foot 5th wheel and they were scraping the back end over all the bumps while our 42-foot MH cleared them all with no issue. It’s not a critical thing, but I think if you really feel like you’ll be doing a lot of boondocking, then it makes a difference.
I like to read how people manage to live ‘on the road’. I (woman) am bussy now with an old Volkswagen LT and an old caravan Fendt Baronesse/Comtesse to prepare for long trips with my husband. I really like to read everything that you have done till now. I do have an suggestion; eventhough I am living in France I would like to offer help for travellers like you if you are in need because of engine-failure or something like that. The benefits are that you can park on our property and we know all the garages etc. in the neighbourhood. Also we have tools and friends who are mechanics. Share a meal and a cup of coffee with you will not make us bankrupt. I hope that other people will do the same. Enjoy your tour!
a) We notice you didn’t sell your home, but decided to lease it out? Do you mind sharing what made you make that choice throughout your RVing, Cruising and now RVing again days? Just thinking it is added shackles that bind at times dealing with property and tenants. Was it because of negative equity situation? It generates positive cashflow so made sense that way? Or just psychologically having the security of still keeping a SnB?
But there was one more thing I needed: pipe insulation. I wanted to wrap the pipe with the heat tape on it to help keep it warm. I checked out my options and decided on an adhesive wrap. Although it came in 15-foot lengths, I wound up needing 7 rolls of it because it had to go around the pipe. (This, by the way, is also when I learned that when you buy stuff for a home project at a place like Home Depot, always buy more than you think you need. It really sucks to run out of something in the middle of a project and you can always return unused items later. Home Depot has an excellent return policy.)
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 🙂

Even after bidding goodbye to your physical address you will still need to establish a permanent legal address for such dreary souvenirs of your former homebound life as driver’s licenses, vehicle inspections, voting registration and bank accounts. There are 50 different sets of rules and regulations and your home state may not be the most accommodating to a nomadic lifestyle. Among the options to consider are taxes, insurance rates, and efficiency of mail forwarding. Three of the most popular domicile states for full-time RVers are South Dakota, Texas and Florida.
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).
I sell RV’s, and love it. The people I sell to are excited and eager to get on the road, love my customers. Anyhow, some things I would mention tell your RV sales person about yourself and your plans, most of us in the RV industry have experience and can help with idea’s and help find you the right coach with items or without items you may not even know you will need or that will greatly enhance your time. Also most RV sales people have resources, and it’s not a used car salesman tactic (well not where I work) we want to help and for you to refer us and come back. I full timed for 4yrs, with 3 kids a dog and a cat as a single mom. Let me say we did have our struggles, but I LOVED it. Now I get to help others too. So my suggestion is let your RV sales person help and ask them questions, they generally have a wealth of information.

This is a little bit of a whiny thing to say, but it's real. Holiday weekends tend to just blend into the calendar now and it's easy to forget to plan ahead. We've been lucky so far and already had holidays booked totally by accident, found boondocking, and spent Independence Day parked in a dive buddy's driveway, but we have forgotten holidays and so have our friends. Memorial Day weekend campground reservations may be booked months in advance and we just don't think like that anymore. Maybe now is the time to set reminders.


Annual maintenance costs will vary depending on the type of RV, age, mileage, driving conditions, and other variables. If you are towing a trailer, the maintenance costs for the RV could be less, but you need to maintain the tow vehicle, too. A used motorhome might require more maintenance expense than a new motorhome would, simply due to age. And the more mileage you put on the tow vehicle and/or RV, the more frequently the routine maintenance expenses add up. You also need to consider things on the RV or tow vehicle that wear out over time, like tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and the additional expenses for emissions testing, inspections, license plate renewal fees, and taxes.
One fine winter day, the campground had a problem with something that caused them to turn off the water temporarily. While they were doing their repairs, the water froze under the ground in the park. And that was that. The pipes were made of PVC, so they could not be heated to get the water flowing again. We were all out of luck until it warmed up. A good couple months of winter RVing, minimum.
I think school bus conversions are awesome! But, I’d just mention that you should decide what kind of life you want to have – one where you work to make money to pay for your RV’s monthly installments, and get one that’s in good enough shape that you don’t have to constantly be working on it, or a life where you can work less because you buy a cheaper / older rig, work on it yourself, but will likely work on it a LOT more often than a newer one. I have always chosen to work on cheaper things myself, but it’s a personal choice. Sounds like an exciting time in life for you, James!
Full-timing can be done in many different ways, and whether or not a young couple needs a big nest egg depends entirely on how much money they can earn on the road. Someone with a mobile, high paying profession, like contract nursing, doesn’t need a big nest egg. Someone that will be relying on work camping at campgrounds and RV parks may want more in the bank to handle emergencies that will require more money than their salary can provide.
16. Make sure to have plenty of on-the-road activities available while traveling. Considering the fact that internet access may be intermittent, you will want to make sure you have some of your favorite DVD’s, cd’s and books at arms reach. Portable DVD players are a necessity with children in the RV and you will probably benefit greatly from an e-reader of some sort. If you have a laptop or tablet, these can easily be downloaded and there is a plethora of places to find free reading material.

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Satellite internet. When we bought our coach used it had a Motosat internet satellite on it. We activated it and use it a lot. It has worked flawlessly except for when Hughes changed frequencies and that was a big dust up and PIA to get working right again. There was no equipment failure just software junk from Hughes. I bring this up as you mentioned sat internet in your “10 things”. The thing that is really really great about the sat internet is that you can be boondocked in the middle of no where and it works if you have clear vision to the satellite. For the most part it is not as fast as Verizon 3G with a good signal. But it is pretty fast. Now that there is a second big player just launched a bird (a San Diego company BTW) Hughes will have some competition and I would guess everyone will get faster. You can buy motosat dishes used.
When considering a potential extended-stay home, you will want to choose a manufacturer who produces solidly engineered units of the highest quality, who offers groundbreaking floor plans and provides the highest rated customer service. Grand Design RV has met these standards and has set the bar with our innovative “next generation” RV’s. Visit your nearest Grand Design RV dealer and you will see exactly what we mean!

You also don’t want clutter. Make sure everything has a safe spot where it won’t get broken during travel. Invest in tubs, baskets, and storage items that will help you stay organized. You definitely don’t want your small space feeling even smaller because of all the items inside of it it. I hope these tips help you minimize your items in order to maximize your adventure! If you need more tips or suggestions for what to bring along in your RV, feel free to send us a message. We’re here to help.
There are other flexible costs which are smaller than these two, but can also be managed to match your individual needs. This includes things such as groceries, entertainment, electronics, gifts and clothing. In our case we spend about the same on groceries as we did before we hit the road (we love our food), somewhat less on entertainment and electronics, and way, way less on clothing (we don’t need much of a wardrobe on the road!).

If they are new to RVing and unsure if the lifestyle fits, they should go cheap but functional. I have Airstreamed all my life, but our first trailer was a 24’ Nomad that cost $3000. We learned a LOT in that trailer. Lots of what to do, and even more of what NOT to do. We had repairs and enhancements to do. We sold it 1 year later, but that was due to my parents giving us their Airstream.

Part of being a parent is giving our kids the wings and space they need to become who they are. We were willing to take that risk if it meant our kids could have this amazing opportunity to see the world and that we were able to do that with them before they left the nest and were on their own. Our hope is through the bond we are building as a family all of them will always find each other and us no matter where life takes them and we will find ourselves together more often then not.
Hence the idea started brewing about first downsizing then freeing up time and money and, finally, traveling. We had been planning to homeschool the kids since our oldest was 2, so that opened a huge door since we weren’t stuck on the school schedule. My husband had a job in IT which meant he was working remote 1 day a week and could potentially do more remote work or find another job which offered that.
ha ha ha and this is exactly why it seems most bloggers struggle with posts on this topic… what is crazy cheap to one is crazy expensive to another! This is true in stix and brix as it must be in the full time RV world we are working to try and figure out. I love the discussions though because it really makes you realize that the guy that says he can do it for 1k a month is for real and the people that say they cant believe it could not be done for less than 6k are just as for real and seem just as silly to those that cant imagine doing it for less than 9k a month…. You would think that with some much variability in these discussions that it would not be much help to those of us trying to figure out how we can make this work for us but then the light bulb starts to get brighter for us and we start to understand that just as in stix and brix you can make this work for you at what ever level you are comfortable with living… thanks to you for posting these discussions and thanks to all that reply it is so helpful!!!
My wife and I are also kicking around the idea of becoming full time r.v.ers maybe this year. I have been doing some homework for health insurance, seems to me one of the better ones is First Health. The initial start is a little expensive around 600.00 dollars to start for myself then drops after that but it seems to be a good plan and it is not an HMO plan it is a PPO plan. Seems to be the best one.
My husband and 3 kids are about to embark on a camper journey of our own rather unexpectedly. The home we’ve rented for 2 years is being sold due to landlord’s health. Our poor decisions of our younger years has left our credit as less than desirable but getting better. Housing costs being what they are, we are left with little choice but to try camping as a lifestyle. We are all equally terrified and thrilled at the prospect and have learned a great deal since deciding to do it. I’m going to learn more about the Allstays app. It will come in very handy in my area. We don’t intend to travel so much as live and save every penny we can, so that someday we can buy a home. If nothing else, this will be a grand adventure…
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.
The value of Personal Effects coverage available generally ranges from $2,000 (National Interstate) to $20,000 (National General), and the full amount is reimbursed in the event of the RV’s total loss. In the event of theft, there has to be proof of forcible entry and a police report must be filed (the time limits for filing the report vary). In case you disagree with the value the adjuster assigns to an item at the time of a claim, it helps to have dated photos of each item and receipts.
New RVers may want to think about including inflation expectations into their budgets. We use a rolling multi-year budget, and incorporate expected cost increases. Lower fuel prices during the last few years, has been very good for RVer budgets, but this could change. Many economists are now expecting inflation (o.k. now I am showing my geek side) to increase with the new administration.
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.
This is a hugely variable cost that has changed a lot in our lives over the years. The figure for these six months of summer travel in 2014 is way higher than ever before. Our biggest “eating out” cost comes from getting coffee and muffins at coffee bistros (so nice!). The rest is a combination of beers at cute brewpubs and meals at Subway and other fast food joints. For comparison, in the first four months of 2014 before this trip, from January to April, our monthly restaurant bill was $70. In those months we weren’t camping near many inviting places!
Choosing to drive fewer miles obviously helps conserve your gas mileage. Not only are you using less fuel to move around, but putting down some temporary roots at a campground you really like can also bring other monetary benefits your way. The longer you stay at a campground, the deeper your discount (especially if you’re traveling off peak season). The decision to stay in one spot also gives you the opportunity to thoroughly explore your new home away from home. Who knows, maybe you’ll find something exciting on one of your adventures!
Monthly & Weekly Rates: For staying in RV Parks, monthly rates are the best rates followed by weekly, and help balance out shorter stays while we’re in transit. Urban locations are typically more expensive – so if we need to be somewhere like San Francisco, Austin, St. Louis, etc. – monthly rates can be $500-1300. Some locations have seasonal rates too, so if we need to be in Florida during the winter (where our family is), it’s more expensive. If we don’t need to be near an urban area, the lowest we’ve paid so far is $300/month.
I admire your stamina and am jealous of your bravado and lifestyle. Just a note to tell you how to fix almost all of the things you mentioned as extra-difficult living in an RV in the winter in Alaska. I have seen RVs designed specifically for use in such conditions. The alterations are designed in from the beginning and built into it. The era your unit was built, they didn’t do these things and I’m sure buying one that is equipped this way costs WAY more than the one you bought, but I can also say I suspect you could sell yours to someone living a bit more southerly for a pretty good penny, though I also suspect you’re not particularly interested in making a change since what you have is actually working for you.
So you may wonder after three years on the road if we have plans to buy land, jump on a boat, or keep driving. We can whole-heartedly say we want to keep driving. We love the RV lifestyle and what it has brought us. So much so that we are diving in even more and focusing on RVing in our work lives, too. We have big plans for the coming year and we are excited about what we are doing next. We want others to share in this journey and know that they can do it, too.
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