There are 5 main steps we followed in order to stay warm during freezing temperatures. With this being our first winter in the RV I’m sure we’ll continue to learn as we travel and experience different challenges. In this post I’ll go into more detail on the tips we’ve learned so far on winter camping, but be sure to check out some of our favorite resources at the bottom of this post.
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.
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.
2. Consider what kind of RV life you want to have. Do you want to be on the road all the time or do you want to set up in one spot for a longer period of time? You might want to set up in one place for a week, then move on to the next place. On the other hand, you might consider finding a spot that would let you stay for an entire month. Are you more comfortable in a secluded area, or do you prefer neighbors and community activities that you can take part in? These are all facets you will want to consider before embarking on your journey.
One last thought on sewer lines. If you are really concerned that they may freeze, add some RV/Marine Antifreeze down the stool. Make sure it is RV/Marine Antifreeze and not engine antifreeze. You can find it a almost any auto parts or home store like Home Depot, Menards, Lowes or even your local hardware or grocery store may carry it if you are in an area where it is demand.
One of the beautiful things about aging is you carry along the wisdom of years of experience (that, and your wine gets better of course). By many standards you could easily call me but a pup in the great dog-park of life, but as our multi-year journey in RVing progresses I have managed to glean a few gems of sageness which I can happily pass along. In that spirit, here are 10 things I wish I’d known before we went full-timing:
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).
Thank you for your videos! We’re finding them very helpful. We are in the early stages of trying to finding the right RV for our family. Can a “cold weather package or winter package” be added after an RV is already built and what would that include? I’ve noticed some RV’s that have a sticker that says winter package on it and we’re wondering what that means.
I am currently 57 and my husband is 62, we are planning to work 5 more years then sell the house along with most of our belongings and hit the road in our 30 foot Windjammer travel trailer. I am excited, but terrified and a little overwhelmed by insurance, mail, making reservations, internet, weather, how to pack, etc. Over 40 years of accumulating things (stuff) – I’m not even sure what to put into storage. We want to be debt free and explore our beautiful country and do alot of fishing. Your information and everyone else’s feedback has been so helpful.
The highlight of our travels this year was visiting our 49th state, Alaska! During the long drive through Canada and Alaska, we listened to many audiobooks like Call of the Wild, White Fang, Hatchet, and Jason’s Gold as we drove through and visited many of the places in the stories. Thing 2 also developed a fascination with gold panning so he spent many hours reading about gold panning and then gave it a try himself near Girdwood and Chicken, Alaska. Roadschooling at its best!!!
Hey there Mama and Jill, what an inspiring story! Because of a downtown in my hubster’s work, last year we nearly lost our house. We were able to keep paying the bills through God’s grace and our hard work, and paring our expenses to the bone. It is possible to live on much less, if you don’t look around at what other people have and/or do. Your story is inspiring and I’ll look forward to following your blog!
The first year of RVing I struggled to find the kinds of campgrounds (natural, green, spacious) that we like to visit. It was a constant battle of going to one website, through a ton of clicks, then another website, then to a map, then to another spot and back again to try and figure out which one matched our route. Early this year I discovered uscampgrounds.info and my planning life changed. If you like public camping there’s simply no better resource out there and I use it as the base for all our travel planning now.
Note that the cheaper you go, the more likely you’ll need to put work into it. You’ll want to get the Bentley Guide to Vanagons which will give you a good amount of the info you need to work on it yourself. It will break down, eventually, and maybe often, depending on how well cared for it was in the past and how well you continue to care for it. Our 78 Bus requires near daily attention, though certainly other people get better rigs and don’t have quite so much work on their hands.
Last year I purchased the 2013 Newmar Bay Star, a 30 ft. It’s designed specifically for fulltiming, with huge basements that extend the entire coach and the desk/buffet option. I’m coming up from a 24 ft Dynamax that allowed me to stay anywhere. The Newmar is very tall so I’m worried that overhead space will be an issue in park camping. I’m a tree gal so height should also be considered if you love forests.
When you trade your home address to live on the road in an RV, you need to decide how to receive mail and what to call “home” on your tax returns. Some of the full-time RVers we meet retained the state of residence where they were living before they hit the road. Most of them still own property in that state, and they often have a relative or friend who forwards their mail.
$1,399 Eating Out – As per the last reports we try to enjoy our experience in new towns through food, drink, and good ol’ conversation. The easiest place for a weary traveler to pull up a chair in a new town…..the Bar, and this tradition has been the same since the beginning of time. On average we eat out 2 times per week, typically at a local eatery that’s come highly recommended by the locals. Here and there we’ve had a few meals comped for being travel writers, we’ve had few of our online friends buy us a warm meal or a brew, and we’ve been treated to a few home cooked meals at homes along the way, and for this we are extremely grateful. Nothing better than sitting down and breaking bread with a few fellow RVers who’ve been following our journey….and then they pick up the tab 🙂 You Guys ROCK!
I loved reading this, ty! My husband and I have been thinking about this with our 3 kids who are 6, 2, and 4 months. Can you tell me what homeschooling method your using? He’s a builder and I just sold my salon so we would be doing this to get to travel and stack some cash. I love the idea of doing this while homeschooling because they can see it, instead of hear about it thru school. I did a lot of traveling growing up my husband has not, so we are both really into this idea. Any pointers with two in diapers?
loved seeing your post, I am a homeschooling widow mother of a 10 years old girl and would love to get on the road in an RV, I did have a truck and travel trailer but could not go very far, I just do not feel safe traveling by ourselves and would love to meet other homeschoolers and travel and explore this wonderful country together, have you met families traveling together?
I hoarded propak fish transport lids from petsmart to insulate my rv windows. Tape them on the inside then stretched shipping plastic wrap to create a seal. I also used these lids to line my spigot well and water entry point. Hit up your petsmart on fridays or wednsdays when they get a fish shipment in and ask the manager if you can have them they just throw them away.
8. Making money on the road is certainly not impossible. There are many parks and campgrounds at which you can work, but these aren’t your only options. Research the area where you are going for opportunities that fit your skill set. Once you have something in mind, prepare a resume and a nice reference list to have on hand that accentuates those skills and make stops throughout the area inquiring as to seasonal or temporary openings.
10. Establishing a permanent legal residence is an absolute must. While you may be planning to be on the road for 11 months and 29 days of every year, there are still very important reasons to have a permanent legal address. You have to consider things like your driver’s license, tax information, bank accounts and voting privileges. There is also the matter of mail forwarding, insurance rates and possibly vehicle inspections. While there are as many different sets of rules as there are states, the most friendly domicile states are South Dakota, Texas and Florida. Again, you will want to do your homework before leaving.
But Yankee ingenuity prevailed on the part of our fellow campers. The gang put their heads together to deal with the trials of winter RVing. One guy had a large pickup that was not street legal, but could get around the campground. Another woman had a relative nearby with a big portable water tank they used on their farm. It fit in the back of the truck and held 300 gallons of water. Another guy had a pump that would pump water from the supply tank to RV fresh water holding tanks.
Inspiring! We are about 6 wks out to our new life on the road (with 3 kiddos & 2 tiny dogs). We are waiting on the final sale of our home, big estate/garage sale (everything will go), sale of our van then bye bye AZ hello open road. Some say we are crazy, many say it’s awesome. I cannot wait. We traveled for almost 4 months several years ago after hubby retired from the USAF & although there were issues here & there, the memories will last & what I treasure most. I love looking back on the photos & reading my posts about what we were doing & where we were. Cannot wait to do it full time for who knows how long. Roadschooling is on my agenda as well. Oh & I agree we can live without so much stuff. What’s the point really?
We miss home every now and then. Our kids have had to say goodbye to friends, and we don’t see family as much while on the road. It’s a little isolating. But I was a Navy brat growing up, and I had to say goodbye to many friends, too. I have a lot of empathy for our kids, but I also know how enriching this experience will be. (And, unlike me, they now have the ability to FaceTime, text and game with friends!)
As for our tanks, they stayed plenty warm, having the warmth from the storage bay radiating through the floor on one side, and because our skirting kept them warm enough on the other side. For people who need extra protection against frozen tanks, tank heaters are an option. However, it’s important to make sure that pipes in addition to tanks are protected from freezing.
Then you move down the road of life to state parks. Now you walk out your little RV door and see nothing but trees and space, maybe a glint of your neighbor through it all, and certainly if they were to yell you’d hear it, but space is not only abundant, it’s beautiful. You’re now paying $20 per night. Rent has dropped to $600 / month. Utilities are still included (except for propane, we spend around $30 / month), though you won’t necessarily have a sewage connection, so you’ll need to drive over to the dump station every few days and let the pipes fly. Depending on your situation, this may happen two or five times a week. But it’s hundreds of dollars in savings in exchange for an hour or so worth of effort.
When RVing, we use mainly public coin laundry facilities. It’s nice to get 2-3 weeks of laundry done in under an hour, and many campgrounds/marinas have laundry facilities on site. The cost of a load of laundry can vary widely by location and facilities. We’ve had them cost everything from free in Louisiana State Parks (seriously!) to up to $5-6. Average is probably around $2.50-3.50 a load. On a monthly basis, we maybe spend $20 on laundry – its not worth micromanaging.
2017 Update – YES. The more time we spend on the road the less we find we need. We end up donating half our clothes to charity almost every year and our outdoor stuff has been cut down to a select set of “glamping” basics. Plus we FINALLY got rid of our big storage unit (whoo hooo!). Paying $$$ for storage all those years was one of our biggest regrets and something we (in retrospect) would not recommend if you can avoid it. It took 7 years for us to tackle ours, but we finally got it done! You can read about my take on storage HERE and how we got rid of ours HERE, HERE and HERE.
In the middle of a northern winter, no one even considers ‘boondocking’. At a minimum you want a spot with electricity and sewer. It is POSSIBLE to do without a freeze proof water source – but not recommended. You can always carry in or buy five gallon water bottles to drink, wash dishes and bodies, as well as flush the stool. However, the thought of carrying sewage away from your camp site just seems like an insurmountable obstacle, for me. Okay if push came to shove, you could use one of those blue totes and drag it through the snow to a dump site. But – yuck!
After a year of full time RVing in a Class A motorhome, we sat down to look at our RV living costs. Some costs are calculated on an annual basis and other costs are calculated on a monthly average. RV living costs will vary depending on the number of people, pets, life style, spending habit, and other factors. We hope you find this information helpful as you plan for full time RVing.
If the company goes out of business (and we’ve heard of that happening), not only might you lose some mail, but you are left without a legal address. Of course, it is easy enough to “move” when you live on the road, so you won’t be homeless for long. But you will have to make a lot of phone calls and online address changes wherever your mailing address is recorded.
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.
Suddenly, it started getting dark. Being in denial that the Bigs are actually pretty grown up, I was still worried about them frying their eyeballs. Then someone said, “The sunset is all around us!” I stopped worrying about the Bigs taking off their glasses to soon and spun around to take in the most amazing 360 degree sunset. Next someone else shouted, “Look at the corona!” I pulled off my glasses and, overwhelmed by the beauty and the most pure light I’ve ever seen lost my mind. Lost. My. Mind.
We use a similar method for personal hygiene. Wet wipes can take care of most basic hand and body cleaning. A bathroom sink full of water can be used multiple times before it goes into the waste tank. If the park where you are staying has shower facilities available, make use of them. If they don’t you may take what my mother called “possible baths”. You wash down as far as possible, then wash up as far as possible and leave ‘possible’ for another time. When you do use the shower in your RV, wet down, turn off the water, lather up, turn water on to rinse. Here is a video I found that shows another way to shower using a 2 liter bottle.
Great article! We have 2 young boys (4 and 8 month) and we are strongly considering this full-time. Working in a downtown setting feels like my soul is being sucked out of me everyday. We were originally inspired by the documentary Surfwise. Must be great to sit around a fire every night or lay under the stars with your kids instead of staring at a TV. Im in the middle of launching 2 online businesses and planning on quitting job in July. Maybe we’ll see you out there!
Gear / Modifications – Your RV dealership may or may not provide some of the basic “gear” that is needed to live and travel in an RV (see our Gear Guide here). You may also want to complete certain upgrades for safety or convenience. For example, we were not happy with the tires that came on the Fifth Wheel, and purchased all new tires (at our own expense). Many RVers like to boondock, or camp off-grid, and outfit their RV with solar. Others remodel and paint, change flooring or fabric to make it their own. This is often an ongoing expense that you should budget for as just like in a sticks and bricks home, people like to upgrade and make changes to improve their daily lives.
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.
Cold-weather RVing is a majestic, yet challenging, experience. If you’re looking for peace, quiet, and beauty, winter RVing has it all. However, it takes a lot of careful planning and work. Without the proper forethought, a night in a winter wonderland can quickly turn into a night in a freezing meat locker. All is not lost, however! Thanks to the many that pioneered cold weather RVing, we have plenty of tips to help you stay warm and dry on your next winter adventure.
Again, we're not stuck to a vacation timeline. We are not on vacation, this is our life. So instead of pulling in for a week and cramming our days full of sightseeing, we balance our days with work and play. We choose what we would like to see, but don't feel compelled to "get our money's worth." We may stay a few days or a few weeks depending on what we want to explore in the area. During this time, we're carrying on a normal life similar to a resident by shopping at local stores, eating at local restaurants, and participating in daily life. I cannot say we are true citizens by any stretch, but it does give us a better sense of place than a vacation usually does.