You can spend your time in fancy RV resorts that cost up to $100 per night, or at state and county parks that are typically $30 or under per night. On-base campgrounds are usually inexpensive, sometimes as low as $20, but they don’t always give you that “local” experience. We chose a mix, mostly staying in mid-range campgrounds both on and off base, as well as some national, state and city parks. We even stayed at a fairgrounds in Mariposa, California, near Yosemite. Boondocking wasn’t for us – we typically stayed in places that had water, sewer and electricity hook ups.
This is a wonderful blog! We are getting ready to start our RV adventure as newbies, in our 34 footer! We are avid motorcycle enthusiasts and will be planning our trips based on where the best motorcycle roads are in the US. Regarding the comments about size considerations, we will pulling a 10 foot trailer with the motorcycle. Will that have to factor into size considerations for sites, or can we just get creative with how we park the trailer? Any feedback is greatly appreciated!
To make money blogging you need a very significant traffic flow, first and foremost. Plus you need to partner with advertisers and such. It’s possible, but I would certainly not rely on this as your main source of income in the beginning of your travels. It can take years to build up the traffic levels & SEO on your blog so you can create the types of partnerships you need to make a living. So my advice is to have a plan to make money elsewhere, especially in the beginning. As time goes on and you create enough valuable content to build your blog traffic, you can start to rely on some income from it, but be prepared for some growing pains to get there.
We moved from Tennessee to California & we are basically starting over again. We are currently living with a family member until we can find a rental place or buy an RV. We can’t afford to buy a house right now so I was thinking of buying an RV for a family of 7 & live in it until the house prices drop. I like the idea of RV living because if we don’t like the place we are at we can easily drive to another place. My question is how well does the water pressure for taking a shower & also for the plumbing? I think it’s a great idea to live in RV to save money but my husband doesn’t think it would be a great idea since we have 5 yr old triplets & two teenagers. My husband wants to rent a house & I want to buy an RV to live in temporary until we can buy a house.
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….:)
lived full time 3 years, in Colorado in mountains in a optimized 1989 truck camper (since upgraded to a bigfoot 4 season camper built in british columbia specifically FOR winter camping. The bigfoot should allow water in pipes not to freeze, so I am told. they also make class C rvs. the construction is the best of any RV I have ever seen. better than artic fox truck campers because its 2 pieces of boat hull fiberglass clamshelled together top and bottom, no seams, just the windows. plus extra insulation.
Your post regarding the expenses is exactly what I want to know. Thank you so much for sharing. I have one more year before I retire and the plan is to sell the house and get rid of as much stuff as possible. My husband and I will be living on 2 social security checks, 1 pension check and our 401k savings. We still need to sit down and crunch the numbers. I’m thinking like one of your other responders that I am hoping it will be cheaper living and traveling in a motorhome than a house that comes along with a mortgage, taxes, maintenance and heating, electric and water. We were also thinking we would need a 36’+ motorhome but are also rethinking much smaller and of course used. Thanks again for all of your info it is most appreciated and good luck with your downsizing and continued travels!
We’re enjoying the “Tutoring” you are providing. We bought our first MH in 1996 and Boondocked almost everywhere we camped due to our hobby. Through the years sorta got out of the habit and we really miss it a lot! We’re pulling the trigger and will be fulltime by January with the stix and brix for sale. Four years in the planning and looking forward to this. Thanks again for your insight in this much needed lifestyle(us). 336Muffin
For the most part, CPS can’t take your kids JUST because you are living in an RV, there has to be another reason. Living in a van means you probably didn’t have running water or a toilet and that could raise some red flags. I only ran into one family who lived in an RV who had issues with CPS but that was because they were running from an open case that happened while they were still in a house. The accusations were pretty serious and the mother had some very obvious mental illness and she was dry nursing her 5-year-old.
When you first hit the road, you’re going to want to see it all. You might log thousands of miles the first year in a race to see Seattle, the Everglades, and everything in between. The constant go-go-go of new full-timers is a common trap. Of course, it’s a trap that we fell into as well. But, you might ask, isn’t seeing the country the whole point of full-time RVing?
$795 Cell Phone Expenses – Nikki is still on Verizon ($432) and I’m on AT&T ($363). We both have the bare minimum talk and text plan, with (grandfathered in) unlimited internet. Basically I’m throwing my money away 50% of the time because AT&T’s coverage outside of major cities is CRAP! My contract is up in January so I’ll probably switch over the Verizon (even though I’m going to lose my unlimited internet, yes….AT&T has been that bad). Doubt we’ll be able to save any money here, but at least I won’t be wasting money on a phone that doesn’t get reception.
The grand total for the third quarter (July 01 – September 30) of our 2013 Expenses of Living on the Road Full Time in an RV: $10,275Below is the brief breakdown of our costs and expenses of full time living in our RV, 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.$2,477 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest, groceries also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joe’s, local natural grocery stores, and Farmer’s Markets.
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.
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!
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!!!

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!! 🙂
$3,555 Groceries: We shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and if available local natural food markets. What’s most fun is trying to purchase local at each place; trying a new salsa, hummus, fruit, beer, etc. The ULTIMATE shopping experience comes at local farmers markets where you can purchase the most plump heirloom tomatoes ($2/lb), the brightest strawberries ($1.50/lb), and the best natural foods offered in the area. Best of all shopping at a farmers market supports the locals, and saves you money vs. buying at the grocery store. (est. savings $200)
  An electric heat strip taped to the water hose and covered with circular foam tubing insulated it. This system worked for another 10 degree drop. Next the valve, where the water entered the RV, froze. One winter tip from other RVers was to hang two trouble lights with 40-watt bulbs in the storage pod and plug them in when the temperature dropped. Heat from the light bulbs should prevent freezing. It may have also kept our water tank in working order.

I love the slides in our motorhome because of the massive amount of space they give internally, but it seems some manufacturers go overboard. Our “beast” has a massive front drivers-side slide with refrigerator in the slide, something I now understand is an engineering no-no. The weight of the slide has been the cause of the only real issues on our home in 2 years. I love slides and will always want them, but in retrospect I would never buy another home with a fridge in a slide-out.


So interestingly enough we’ve not seen much of an inflation factor impact in our budget over the last 7 years. For example fuel prices have varied enormously during our time on the road (anywhere from $2.00 to $4.50 per gallon), yet our fuel numbers have not really reflected those changes simply because we adjusted how far we traveled each year. I DO think it’s good practice to add an inflation factor to any budget you look at (we do this in our long-term retirement budget planning too), but you may find the actual impact (once you’re on the road) to be less than you expect.
3/ decorations – we bought a bunch of RV type decorations (e.g. Hanging lamps for our awning) that we never used and ended up giving away. My advice is don’t buy too many decorations until you get on the road, since you’ll quickly figure out what you use and what you don’t. Some camping chairs and a small collapsible side-table will get you started on your outdoor gear. Add on from there as you go.

Ill start with my RV, aptly named Harvey the RV The Mac-Country Lodge. I picked up Harvey early October in Calgary. I had spent weeks trolling Kijiji looking for the right rig. Harvey is a 25ft 1979 Dodge Empress, its previous owner had been a handyman and done ton of upgrades including; new awning, solar panels, new fridge, LED lights, steel cargo box, airbag suspension, and outdoor shower. It was perfect and turn key! First trip was down to Ikea to furnish it.

When they are grown men and looking back at their childhoods, our biggest hope is that they know they were loved. An older wiser mom once told me that kids have “fuel tanks” and to make sure it’s filled with love every day because if it’s filled with love they are less likely to look for other things to fill it. Despite all our parental imperfections, baggage, and failures, we want them to know we love them “bigger than the sky times infinity”. We want them to leave home with filled love tanks. Our me-culture may tell us to do what’s best for us and “radical self love” is almost a religion these days. (BTW I’m all for “radical self love” when it’s not at the expense of others.) However, selflessness acted out with pure intentions in regard to the other may not be sexy but it is still and will always be one of the purest forms of love. And one of the hardest. Selflessness doesn’t come easy for me. I usually scoop myself the biggest bowl of ice cream. And take the biggest piece of cake. And tend towards putting my feelings above others.
We are fortunate in that our health insurance is a benefit of my corporate job. We are with Cigna and all three of us have full coverage including dental and vision. Our deductible has become increasingly higher since 2012 and we are now at a Silver plan which gives us a $5000 deductible each. Our prescription plan is less than stellar and we maintain our insurance primarily for our daughter and for unforseen medical circumstances. While on the road though we typically see an Urgent Care physician which costs $35/visit. We currently pay $430/month for health insurance.
Nikki, Thank you for your reply. I meant no disrespect by using the word “gibberish.” I appreciate all your videos and valuable information: So in your case, If I may ask, what was the cost of your current RV, the taxes, and the documentation fees? Did you purchase an extended warranty? What was the cost? Did you finance your motorhome? If so, for how many years? what is the interest rate? What is your current monthly payment? How much of the interest can you write off as a first or second home on your taxes? as a full time RVer is there a particular state I should be setting up a fictitious residence so I can save on taxes? For example in Oregon they do not have sales tax on cars or RV’s (that’s about a $10,000 savings on a $100,000 motorhome). Any idea what your current motorhome will be be worth when you sell it in 5 or 10 years? 25% less, 50% less. Once again I want to thank you for all your valuable information.
So I am curious. Why can you talk about the cost of the RV? You mention you aren’t allowed to discuss the cost of the Windy, and you only suggest you are leasing the new one. My concern is that it may be false representation of the life style. I am sure many people would like to do what you do and can. However, not many people under 30 years of age can drive around in a 200K RV doing what you are doing. I tend to think the RV’s are discounted to you or even loaned to you as part of financial agreements with companies you work for. If this is true, this isn’t something the average person can do. Can you please be more transparent if you are in fact trying to promote this life style. (I am not trying to be a hater, i just want to better understand how you are doing this).

This is an important budget item. In our third year of fulltiming, we had huge repair expenses including the clutch and air conditioning going out in our tow car (2 year old Forester that just had engine replaced by Subaru because of oil consumption issues). We seem to go through tires quickly on the Subaru too even though we are religious about rotations and alignments. Our RV steps cost over $600 to get repaired (three different places over 2 states). We also had to have a $300 repair on the propane heater. Our Tiffen motorhome is 15 years old, has undergone major refurbishment and in great shape but you have to expect repairs, just like in an older home. Better than having a “house” payment to us. Our motto has become “Expect the unexpected”. If you are lucky and don’t have any problems, enjoy the “bonus” at the end of the year.

RV maintenance depends on how handy you are and what kind of rig you have. I do all of my regular maintenance on the Airstream, so I usually only have to budget for maintenance parts and not labor. That’s only a couple hundred dollars a year. Since we have a tow vehicle, maintenance of that will also be lumped in I guess. I’m not really a person who has done strict budgeting, but I think a couple thousand bucks a year to put away as an emergency fund is a good idea.
In the summertime, the opposite is true as we try to avoid having our windows facing the sun. Our best orientation in the summertime is for the truck to be headed northwest. This way, although we get blasted with some sun in the morning, our biggest windows are blissfully shaded during the long hours of blazing hot sun as it shines from the south and sets in the northwest.
I think RV living would be awesome but I’m not sure if we could do it full time (or that my wife would want to) but I could see us trying an extended trip someday. I couldn’t imagine it with 3 kids though – our 1 daughter keeps us busy enough 🙂 I’m glad to hear that shifting to RV living full time has been a good experience and that your online work seems to be going well! Enjoy the experience!
I have raised 5 sons,and paid for two farms and have brought our twin sons in with us when we built a new barn housing 150 plus dairy cattle .Gardening and raising cattle and kids is time consuming and must be home every am and pm unless you can find some one to do the chores. That is one reason I would like to go off grid.. a little simpler life. I am sure our Grandchildren wouldn’t mind and I think it would do them all good to do the simpler way of life. (all 10 of them, ranging from 20yrs to 2 months)
Wow, you are SOOO patient, answering all the repetitive questions (that you have already answered) like it’s the first time!! I’ve been reading for hours. We have a 24 ft diesel class c and we love it, we usually only stay out about 4 nights at a time. We like to stay off grid but are not as careful with water and the tanks as we could be. Plus, we have J.O.B.S.
For cash needs, you can get “cash over” on a debit card at the supermarket without any fees rather than worrying about finding a branch of your bank in some obscure town or paying extra to get money from an ATM machine. Buy a pack of gum for a buck and get $100 over. If you need to deposit a check, get the mailing address of your bank branch and mail them a short explanatory note, a deposit slip and the check, endorsed “For deposit only.”

If at all possible, buy well before you plan to embark on your trip, and spend some time in it on short weekend trips and vacations. An even better option, especially if you were overseas like we were, is to rent an RV for a vacation. Even consider doing it more than once if you can. Just remember that living in it and vacationing in it are two very different things.
Chris, I live in Maine and this will be my first winter in my rv. I’m stationary but running a hose which is all outside, I don’t have the means to run heat tape but really have been looking for any possible way to keep running water. I have skirting the bottom with hay bails and plastic for drafts and wrapped my bump outs with insulation and plastic. I’m hoping to add an entryway with a wood stove for back up heat. do you have any other suggestions on what else to do so I don’t freeze up my lines in the brutal cold ? Thank You 🙂
Hey Bill, keep working on the wife! As for your questions, please remember we are travelers, not banking or financial experts and definitely don’t feel comfortable advising anyone on the subject. So, what works for us, may not be best for you. We have a permanent address in Texas (our home state) and have a CPA that handles our taxes. There very well could be some deductions for you, but you will need to talk to a CPA to find out.
This book is written very minimally and appears to be written by someone with little to no experience in modern RV living. I do not recommend this book even though it has a snazzy cover and seems like a good choice. That's how they get you. It's annoying because there is no real effort put into the writing and no information you couldn't obtain from a Wikipedia article. It actually had very little concrete content and is written like a high school essay where you spend most of your words filling up the paper writing things like "RVS are vehicles that travel with or behind vehicles. Many people enjoy RV Living. There are many challenges to RV Living. Despite this, people enjoy RV living.“

Thanks for the article, Tim! I really enjoy hearing and reading about folk’s experiences when living and traveling small. I never made time for it even though it was a dream and, now that I’m old, it will be one of those things that I’ll say, “If only…..”. Everyone reading this article: Please do everything you can to have a bucket list, and then do it! Don’t have regrets. I DO have a bucket list now and will do everything I have time for. Your story encourages me to keep going.
It’s been over three years and I still love living in an RV with my five kids. I realize living in an RV and traveling with kids is not on most people’s bucket list and for good reason.  It’s challenging and requires a great deal of perspective.  Most days I do have to stop and remind myself why this is a conscious choice made with intention.  There are many reasons I love this lifestyle, but here are seven of the reasons I wake up excited to be living in an RV and traveling the world with my kids.
Lisa, I don’t think that is an option, but there is really only one way to find out. It all depends on how well insulated your RV is. Also, to run your water pump all night you would need to have ample batteries or be plugged into shore power. However, If you use skirting or create a barrier around your RV and run a heater like we talk about above, you shouldn’t have problems with your pipes freezing.
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.)
Eventually they got permits to put the trailer on the property and that summer my father dug a basement with a backhoe and my mother and him poured a foundation by hand and laid cement blocks while my sister and I 4 and 8 years old, did our best to help. It took a couple of years before we could finally move out of the trailer, but even then we were only able to live in 1/2 the house! I think all told my sister and I had to share a room for 2-3 years in the trailer and 2 more years in the house until we had bed rooms that were built for us! Our original room was the laundry room and the room my parents have now as a dining room used to be their master bedroom!
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