Like everything related to money, a good, well thought-out plan and budget is key. But I’m here to deliver a message – full-time travel is much more affordable than one might think. The average monthly campground / RV park fee is far less expensive than most mortgages or rent, and the varying price points of RVs and travel trailers can fit almost any budget. Sure, a decked-out class A can be expensive, but used travel trailers are priced quite affordably. Our very first travel trailer cost us only $8,000 – try buying a house at that price point!
Utilities: Depending on how much you cook and how cold the temperature is outside, you might need to fill up on propane once every month or two. A full 20-pound tank costs about $19 to fill, so let’s say $19/month for simplicity’s sake. Sometimes you have to pay extra for your electric, internet, etc. at your campground, but this is usually built into the rental cost. Finally, your phone bill is likely $75-$100 per person per month.
Having more than a Hobbit-sized refrigerator: If Hobbits had fridges, I'm sure it would be similar to the one we have in our RV. It's more like a dorm fridge with a small freezer on the top. Oh, and RV refrigerators don't operate like the one you buy down at Sears. Oh, no. These babies work by what's known as gas absorption, which entails heating ammonia that magically cools the fridge. I won't go into the gory details, mostly because I'm not too versed in the wizardry behind it. Just know that it is usually too cold (your veggies are going to freeze) or too warm (your veggies are going to rot) and you may have to fiddle with the buttons to keep things right.
Some of my neighbors go all out with the skirting by building complete frames out of 1x1s and attaching the foam board with plastic pop rivets. Others only make a frame to attach the bottom of foam. Personally, I find the board when taped together with aluminum duct tape is sufficient. Because the insulation will have gaps at the bottom due to the uneveness of the ground, I use expanding foam from a can to complete the seal. The foam also helps to stabilize the board against the wind and snow.
I have looked into propane wall heaters (and used them in houses) and using in the RV, but for simplicity, the stove effectively is 100% identical. not vented, burning propane at a fairly low rate. my truck camper would use 1 bbq tank of propane per 7 days in colorado winter. thats $20 exchange for BBQ tank. (bbq tanks can hold 20 lbs, when refilled, but only 15 lbs when exchanged because the exchange companies just want to make more money and charge more and give you less, so if your trying to calculate gallons of propane used, I dont know, I only know lbs, do your own conversion.) There are 2 kind of wall heaters, infrared & blue flame. I would say infrared is better at throwing heat further distance, but they are identical as far as CO and humidity goes, because they are not vented and burning the same amount of propane for same BTUs output. Blue flame is = stove top flame.
Hi Nina, thanks so much for the prompt reply. Follow up question to your comment “couple who had a large 5th wheel last year and they had so much low overhang on the back of their rig that it kept bottoming out on bumpy roads” Are you referring to the distance of the furthest rear axle to the back end of the 5th wheel or simply the ground clearance at the back end of the 5th wheel? I can see it being a problem the greater the distance between the rear axle to the end of the trailer on any bumpy road as being a problem, and I have seen some motorhomes that would have the same issue.
The entire process – selling items (sometimes even your house), putting other items in storage (“we will need that someday!”), putting aside what you want to bring in the RV and then cutting that in half…and in half again. It ends up being much more difficult than you anticipated. We Googled, asked the advice from other full-timers, and went back and forth on a lot of items. Yet, we still made some mistakes.
After you have identified your fears, accept them, even embrace them; they are a natural instinct given to us to keep us safe and from taking stupid risks. They are a good thing unless we let them paralyze us. When that feeling of fear and panic starts to well up from your gut, take a really deep breath and literally thank it for the wise warning it’s offering you. Then assure it you will consider the warning very seriously. This may seem very “new-agy” but try it any way.
Hi I was reading the comments and noticed you decided to hit the road. It was a few years ago I know but wondering how it went? I’m a single woman and will be traveling alone. I’m scared but what scares me more is not following my dream of seeing the world. I mean I don’t know what will happen and it does concern me. If I’m traveling and get sick where do I go if my medical Insurance is in la county. I have so much to learn.
Why do we share our expenses of full time life on the road in our RV? To help others who travel like us. If you like the occasional splurge, fine bottle of wine, a couple of new outfits each season, and you don’t mind paying for a cool adventure then you’re expenses might be pretty similar to ours. If you don’t spend a lick on fashion or local sips and bites then your expenses will be nothing like ours.
Now that we've gotten the rig pretty airtight, we've got a new problem to deal with. Moisture from cooking, washing and just our breathing raises the humidity inside the RV. As it gets colder, this moisture condenses out on cooler inside surfaces like window frames and doors. This can lead to mold and mildew, water stains or even worse. The best way to prevent condensation is to avoid introducing excessive moisture into the air. A good practice is to always use the range hood vent when cooking and the bathroom vent when showering. This will draw most of that moisture out of the rig. It may be necessary to keep a roof vent open slightly to provide some ventilation and keep condensation in check. Insulating exposed surfaces that tend to collect moisture will also help. A small dehumidifier or some of those little tubs of desiccant crystals may be necessary, depending on the RV and how many are living in it.
To break the cycle I needed to let myself grieve. It felt silly to grieve something that I realize I was very fortunate to experience like grieving a stain on a designer blouse. You know, first world problems. But judging my feelings only served to keep me on the disconnected emotional hamster wheel. So now I let myself grieve as needed and try to suspend judgment on my feelings.
Kaelee This is a very big questioned that you just asked because each person's situation varies so much. At the very least I suggest reading everything you can about living and/or traveling in an RV (especially my own articles here, of course lol). Find some RV forums, read, and ask questions. Visit RV dealerships and look at many, many RVs to see which type would work best to suit your needs, finances and goals. Talk to lots of RV mechanics to learn about the inner workings of RVs. Take a professional driving course. If, after doing all of this, you still want to give it a go, have at it! Most importantly, do not try to "fly blind" on this one. Knowledge is power. Good luck and happy trails.
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.
The question I get the most is what do I do for heat. Heating and condensation is the bane of my winter existence. RV’s especially those built in the 70’s have little to no insulation. I spent about a month trying to fill all the little nooks and crannies with whatever I could find to insulate. Even with all the windows covered in cellophane, and covered in reflective insulated foam it doesn’t keep super toasty. I have a propane forced air furnace which helps but I don’t like running it during the night for fear of carbon monoxide. The key to winter RV living is blankets, flannel sheets, and slippers. Under my blankets during the night. Its super comfortable until I get out from the blankets and run to turn the thermostat on. One of my proudest moments this winter was up skiing at Rogers Pass when it was -34 outside during the night. I woke up and it was only -10 inside! Knowing that I had insulated enough to cause a 24 degree difference made me really happy, my friend who was staying with me at the time didn’t understand the celebration of a -10 morning inside the RV.
You two are amazing! My fiancé and I just saw your “house hunters” episode today and wanted to check out your blog! We are seriously amazed at how you are making this amazing experience work. We are both “tied down” with jobs and such, we looked at each other and said “how refreshing!” Now, we haven’t made any serious life-altering decisions or taken any steps yet but there is no doubt both of our wheels are still turning! Just wanted to share a thank you for a reminder of the beauty in our world, you are super inspiring, and good luck in your travels!!
You could also go the old-fashioned route and pick up some actual board games to take on the road. many lifelong camping memories revolve around evenings spent at the table over a pair of dice, a deck of cards, and a game of chance and strategy. You can’t go wrong with favorites like Monopoly, Scrabble, Sorry or, for younger players, Candy Land — although fun, new games are still being produced all the time. Have you played Speak Out yet?
I get it. I grew up with my parents RVing all over, went in the military and traveled all over and got out and bought a small 16′ toy hauler, that lasted a year (do to the cramped style of it). we then bought a 27′ toy hauler and full timed in it for 5 years (still cramped with no slide outs)before deciding to take the leap. We now live Full time in a 36 1/2′ RV with 4 slide outs. it has a nice size bedroom w/ king size bed and washer and dryer, nice size bathroom with shower, big kitchen and dining area (which I re-modeled) and a big front living room with two fold out sofas and a complete entertainment system which I upgraded. did I mention that it’s a 5th wheel? any how, we have no problem that can’t be fixed at a lot cheaper price than a house and sleeping arrangements, she gets the bedroom and I get the sofa when snoring, which i might add is NOW very comfortable with the extra 4″ thick full length padding I added. we have a house on wheels 3 heaters, 3 AC units, wine cooler, ice maker, washer / dryer, 3 TV’s and so much more. I have added a lot of this to make life comfortable . I just wanted to say that RV living does not have to be a nightmare. It is what you want to make of it. It looks like you have decided NOT to make it a permanent life style like us and just use it as a means to get by while you build your dream home. that’s great too. however, I would change the title of your segment to “OUR 10 ugly truths of fulltime RVing in a small RV.” or something more related to the size of your RV. because when you get into the bigger RV’s your 10 ugly truths don’t really apply. except one item, GENERAL WEAR AND TEAR. I totally agree that the furniture is not made as durable as it should be. but then again things in or on a house wear out also. and that stuff will cost you a lot more than on a 5th wheel or TT Type Trailers. motor coach’s are different. depending on what breaks, they can get very expensive. I have one small question, when your house is built and you are settled in will you take your trailer out and go camping?
He did not seem like he wanted to move . . . we all quickly ran up the hill on the side of the path and waited for him to pass . . . He made a few grunting noises at us and walked past. In the meantime, Craig had gotten his bear spray out just in case! We were glad it wasn’t a bear but were all still a little freaked out. Luckily he just walked by and went on his way.
Thank you so much for sharing your family’s story. As I read this, I found myself crying because it is exactly what we want for our family. My husband and I have 4 kids, ages 6, 4, 2, and 2, we homeschool, and we live in a duplex with other family members. We have been wanting to make the leap to full-time travel life but have not yet done it. You have inspired me to keep pushing for it. Thank you and congratulations to your fault for breaking free!
This change in the rhythm of life ultimately affects how you spend your money. You begin to realize that this is not a vacation, so you can’t spend money as if it were. You begin to slow down and appreciate the truly priceless pleasures, like a quiet morning reading a book, or an afternoon hike that has no other purpose than to smell the fresh air.
Try to limit yourself to 1 or 2 of each of the following items: coat/jacket, swimsuit, sweatshirt and sweatpants, tennis shoes, etc. Find solid clothes that can pair well with many things. People often refer to this as the “capsule” wardrobe. While there are variations, the concept is to have around a dozen staple pieces of clothing in coordinating colors that can be worn often and interchangeably, thereby saving closet space but still giving you up to 30 or more different outfits. Google it and you’ll find tons of resources to help!
To show just how variable the fuel cost can be in the full-time RVing lifestyle, during the four months prior to this trip, from January to April of 2014, we stayed in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area and had dramatically lower fuel costs. We towed the trailer very short distances (20-40 miles) every few weeks as we explored different places in a 50 mile radius of downtown. We drove the truck on its own only once every few days. During that time our average monthly fuel bill was $195. Our lowest fuel bill was $112 (in January). Diesel prices during that time ranged from $3.59 to $3.79 per gallon.
Love reading this! We do not live in an RV but we do live in an 800 sq ft 1969 Model mobile home at this time. It’s hard for a family of 6 space wise but we have made it work for the last almost 4 years. We will however be moving next week into a 2700 sq ft home that is definitely a fixer upper so the price we got it for is just amazing. Good things come to those who wait! Good Luck to you in your Journey!
I have left out some expenses as they might be comparable regardless of your situation. Those expenses are gasoline, home owner’s associations vs. RV clubs, phone and internet costs. While you may think the average RVers spends more on gas / year, we don’t. There is no daily commute, and no one said you have to, or even realistically will, drive hundreds of miles every day. Here are our findings on that (and all things environmentally friendly about living in an RV).
Electricity: If you plan on using a generator, check to see if yours has a winter setting, switch if necessary. Furnaces use considerable battery power to cycle off and on. If you're not plugged into power, you need a solar panel system or an inverter or some other method to keep your batteries fully charged. Look for winter camping spots that provide a good source of power. It avoids many other problems.
I understand there are monthly costs to van dwelling, but I am in a unique situation being at school. I have a free gym membership that has all the amenities. I have friends with houses, apartments, yards, etc. where I can freely park and utilize some of their amenities. I have access to WIFI anywhere on campus and bathrooms everywhere I look. I have a different scheduled each day and a part time job. I am ALWAYS on the move. From an outsiders standpoint, I feel as if I would mesh right into the van dwelling life. I want to live a less material life. I own too much random…. stuff. I want to minimize my living “standards.” I want to remove anything in my life hindering me from experiencing life.
28. RVing teaches you to fix things. I hoped I was going to be rich enough to pay a mechanic all the time. That strategy hasn’t worked out for me yet, so now I know how to flush my radiator, fix my generator, check gauges, and a lot of other manly stuff I couldn’t do before. I even recently outfitted our Honda CR-V for proper towing, Dad would be proud.