I really did enjoy this article. I haven’t camped in Alaska but I have camped in some very cold weather in a tent camper, so I do have a couple of hints. I warm my camper up on very very cold nights with three oil lamps. I use ultra pure lamp oil because it does not smell at all. I have a couple very small oil lamps that I use when we go to bed. I turn them down very low and can turn them up if I have to get up in the night. This saves battery power. If you can place bubble wrap over your windows it lets in light and keeps out the cold.
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.
I’m a Thousand Trails zone pass member. I pay $35/mo +$3/night. En route to TT Parks I generally use my 50% discount with Passport America to keep it under $20/night. On average, I pay close to $200/month lodging, utilities included. My average trip costs me $60 in gas. Averaging around 3 moves per month puts me at a little less than $400 per month in travel/lodging.
Carrying a washer and dryer is an option however they take up a lot of space so if you’re planning to go small (under 35′) you might not have space for one. There is also the option for the ‘All-in-One’ washer and dryer which washes and dries your clothes in the same unit however we’ve had many RV’ers say they dislike this as it takes 2 hours per load and the loads are very tiny.
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.
Great info, We have been agonizing over what size rig to go with for over a year now. We have bounced back and forth between a 40′ Legacy and a 5th wheel but now after reading so many blogs as well as yours, to more than likely go with a Class C Itasca Navion which is 25’8″ and is built on the Sprinter chassis. Your blog really used us over the edge with your hindsight on smaller size. I always thought that a bigger rig would be better but now I am comfortable making that leap with a smaller rig. Thanks for the great info and Go Gators!!! Class of 85′
I am so glad to have found your site. Retirement is probably a decade away for me but I find myself dreaming about traveling around with a little trailer I plan to buy (a Happier Camper or HC1). I have started researching being a full timer. I am single, have two dogs and plan to continue having dogs. (i.e., if I don’t get to do this for 10 years, I will have two dogs then; possibly three). I would not have all the luxuries of an RV with fully equipped showers and stuff, but I guess that would cut down dramatically on some expenses too. Were I to do this today. I’d be driving my 2016 Jeep Renegade, pulling the lightweight HC1, a kayak and my bicycle. And writing about my travels. I am so glad that well-written sites like yours are out there! Any ambitions to go International in your travels? Thank you again.
After a few years of messing with the little single-load washing machines at laundromats, we discovered that it is much better to use the biggest machines in the place because they are generally the newest machines, they do the best job, and they hold a heckuva lot. Dryers are usually 25 cents for a set period of time that ranges from 5 to 10 minutes, and we’ve found that most commercial dryers need about 35-40 minutes to get the job done. Washers and dryers at RV parks are usually much cheaper than those in the local laundromat.
The full-time RV lifestyle is absolutely fantastic, and we’ve been loving our nomadic life since 2007. Many people who are new to the idea of RVing full-time wonder how full-timers get their mail or file their taxes or what kind of insurance they buy. What the heck do they use as a home address (known in legalese as a “domicile”) and where do they register to vote? And how do they save money on RV park and campground costs?
Good article, I think the initial start up costs (besides repairs to a used unit) could be added to your article. We bugeted $10,000 and after full timing almost a year on the road now, we are fast approaching that number for: tow bar, base plate, braking system, drive shaft disconnect (our choice instead of a new toad) installations, modifications, grill, chairs, road side service, extended warranty, insurance, memberships, hoses, tools, heaters (no lpg available once) fans, tables, ladder, bikes, bike racks, etc.. It adds up fast.
Again, this depends on several factors. What type of RV do you have? The maintenance on a Class A is considerably higher (think tires alone) than on a travel trailer. It also depends on how far and how much you’ll be traveling. For our set up, a new model F350 dually coupled with a 2009 42 Ft Heartland Cyclone, we spend approximately $1,000 per month or $12,000 annually for maintenance and repairs.
Haha, thanks Ambra. We do our best to stay positive and answer as many questions as humanly possible…but at some point we realize sharing certain information just adds unwanted questions over, and over, and over… So we decided to nip it in the bud and simply share the necessities from here forward in regards to our expenses. Hope you still found it helpful.
Turns out I was right about not harming the RV, but I wasn’t right when it comes to freezing in general. That first night when the temperature dropped we left our outside water source plugged in. While it didn’t completely freeze I did notice icicles hanging from our basement water area the next morning. I’m glad I noticed them because it kicked me into high gear on making sure we didn’t fully freeze.
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.
And we closed that chapter in our lives and moved on to the next one. Well, not that easily. I did cry every day for the first week. Luckily, my sister and her family had moved into the campground with us – and were staying right next door. That definitely made the transition easier. Gradually things got better, and I started to realize what we had been looking to do. Hours weren’t spent on cleaning any more. All of our stuff was manageable and there was more and more focused family time.
I can go on for hours, but ultimately I can’t wrap my head around the fact I am going to pay rent for another year and get nothing in return in the long run. It seems like a waste of money. What are your thoughts? Is it possible to find a van in that state? Any aspect of van dwelling that you think might not mix well with the college environment? Am I a crazy 21 year old with far off ambitions?
We are new to your blog and new to the world of RVing. We are in the process of selling the house and plan to become fulltimers within the next 3-6 months. Our big issue right now is with size. We like our creature comforts, but we also want to use state and national parks and forests as much as possible. In your comments you suggested that the next time you might stay in the 36-38 foot range. We are thinking 40. I recently read something that indicated that anything over 35 would rule out 85% of state and national parks. If that is true, how much worse does that number get if you are in a 40 footer vs something in the 36-38 range? And, if the percent available is pretty much the same between 36 and 40, why not go 40?
*Diesel is mixed with additives and processed by the fuel companies in three stages (summer goes to -11 degrees, autumn/spring goes to -24 and winterdiesel goes to -32 Celsius), so here you do not have to worry as much about wax forming in the diesel. A tip is to not fill too much at lower altitudes, as gas-stations at higher/colder parts of the country will change over to the next “level” earlier in the season. so fill up when you get there, not before…
The majority of our income comes from my web design business, Donna. We don’t have health insurance…it’s still cheaper to pay the fine than the ridiculous premiums for those of us who want to travel frequently between states. More on that in one of our latest articles, which though it is about living in a van, the insurance part applies to RVing or any other method of full-time travel.
There really is a lot of variation out there and the variation certainly does match income, as you would expect. Folks on a limited income typically travel more frugally (smaller rigs, more workamping/boondocking, less eating out etc.) and make it work for less, whereas folks on a more abundant income go ahead and spend more. I do think there’s a pretty distinct bottom number (It’s really hard to get below $1500/mo as a couple IMO), but I don’t think there’s necessarily any upper limit. There’s certainly no one answer and no one “right” way…
I believe the owners told me everything they new about the RV and weren’t trying to pull the wool over my eyes in any way. They just didn’t know. They only drove it a few hundred miles a couple times a year and probably figured they didn’t need to do a bunch of maintenance on it. Had I known ahead of time all that it needed, I could have offered less or continued looking. – Lesson learned.
2) They are both skilled at something or can take advantage of Workamping opportunities, and a good handyman or woman can easily find free places to park their RV if they will work for the park. Some places even pay a small stipend along with providing a free camping spot. I’ve worked both as a handyman and as office staff in order to save hundreds per month in spot rental fees. And I got to enjoy some beautiful areas. Lake Tahoe is one such spot where I worked for the Forest Service 4 days a week for a free RV spot.
For toys/kids stuff we are building a special area for his clothing. Baby things are hard to hang up so I’d rather have drawers. Toys will have one area in the camper. That way it’s all contained in one spot, we can have minimal things, and there is always a place for the toys to go back to. I also plan on having a special area with learning things. Paper, markers, stickers, any activities that we will do together. We can think of this as our “school drawer.”
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.
After reading their story, if starting a blog is something you are interested in we put together a step-by-step tutorial for you. Like Heath and Alyssa, we have discovered that starting your own business, like a blog, can lead to a TON of freedom in life. If you have the desire to live in an RV and travel full time starting a blog should be one of your top priorities.
Another idea to save big time is to spend a few months in Baja California every winter, where food is crazy cheap, boondocking is abundant (you can even find spots with lots of other American / Canadian snowbirds if you’re concerned about safety, but it’s completely safe in our opinion after having been down in Mexico in general for a year), and in general the sun shines all winter long.
Note: Although many or even most cold weather RVers use electric heaters, some people say it’s not safe to do so, and there are horror stories surrounding their use. I am comfortable with our setup and willing to accept any associated risk, but please do your own research and get to know your camper or motorhome’s electrical systems before making the decision to use one.
With a little creativity you can find ways to make money while you travel. The possibilities here are endless, only limited by your abilities and imagination. With access to the Internet, many traditional jobs can be done remotely as you travel. Here are some possibilities but they are just to jump-start your thinking. There are many books and websites with a huge selection of ideas:
What we weren’t prepared for is that with freedom comes a lot of choices when you live on the road. When you get up every day and basically can do what you want with the day it can be intimidating and confusing. We don’t live a structured life and have consciously chosen to do that and love it in a lot of ways. Yet also get overwhelmed by it at times. What route is right for our family? Well there is this way and that way or this way or that. What would be good for me, for Craig, for our kids?? So many choices as a full timer!
People enjoy the full-time RV lifestyle on all kinds of budgets, and the money full-timers have to work with comes in all kinds of forms. Some retirees have big pensions but not a lot of savings. Others have a nest egg of savings but no pension. Many younger full-time RVers work while they travel, either to cover all of their living expenses or to supplement other income streams.
My first rv, an older 28′ class A motorhome, was a gift from family member, and we used it part-time, mostly in Arizona, since we lived at Lake Tahoe, with long, snowy winters. My second rv, a 32′ diesel, with double panes windows, but no slide-outs, no basement, and no levelors. A great rv, but our 33 ft, 2014 motorhome with 2 slide outs, automatic levelors, ample basement storage, and nice size refrigerator is great for us as we are still part-timers. I do miss the diesel (so much quieter), the double-paned windows, and our small truck which we towed, carrying our bicycles. I preferred the view from the first 2 motor homes as the built-in dinette with large window was across from soda bed, which also had a large window. We now have no view on passenger side except for small kitchen window. My second rv also had a better arrangement for queen bed, which faced forward, enabling view out front dashboard window, with two regular size windows on sides of bed. If you like to camp in gorgeous nature, as we do, views are important. When we did extended stays, we alternated camping in “nature areas” with minimum or no hookups for a week or more, then moving to private campgrounds with laundromats, and some food services for a few days. We especially enjoy the national and state parks. I enjoy the motorhome over a 5th wheel or trailer as we do not have to get out in the rain when we arrive at a campground, and, as we did one night, when we didn’t feel safe, just started the engine and left. I would enjoy trying full-time Rv living, and realize there will be days that will range from glorious to trying.
Starting for Q2 we are sharing less info that has to do with our website expenses and trying to keep our detailed expenses very broad so it shows ONLY the travel & exploration part of our RV lifestyle. If you want more details read our older expense postings in this article. Remember you can live for a lot less than us or you can spend triple what we do, either way this is how we live and some people find this info helpful. Wanna know how we live? Check out some of our adventures and foodie reviews…we like to say we’re into affordable luxury.
What about interest though? At a 4% interest rate, the total cost of that $343,000 home would be over $471,000 over 30 years, before you factor in all of the other monthly bills!. It’s hard to compare these things exactly though, as a house can last for many generations, whereas most RVs will have a hard time lasting for an entire person’s lifetime (especially if you buy used when you’re still young). Airstreams and very well built Class As are the exception.
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.
Many RV parks have laundry facilities on-site, and some full-timers purchase RVs equipped with a washer and dryer. We like to use the local laundromat in town. We can do four, five or six loads of laundry in two hours flat. We use the biggest front loading washers in the laundromat we can find because they are usually the best ones both for washing and for spinning dry. Laundromats can be a great place to meet people and learn about an area. In Flagstaff, Arizona, if you want to meet Navajo Indians, go to the local laundromat, preferably on a Saturday when it’s busy!
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.
We’ve got the Optimus heat dish and yes it is kinda big. But we are in a cold wet environment so we put up with the large size because is works so well. It will not fit in a compartment. A guy I used to work with was an RV tech, who lived in his RV for two years up here in the Northwest, and he told me to get a light bulb (one with the grips on it) and put it in your compartments. I did that this winter (our first in the RV) and we withstood temps down to 15 degrees F. This friend also recommended heat tape on the fresh water line. That worked great too.
Draft/Condensation: Many RVers find they have condensation in their RVs but we were fortunate that this wasn't a big problem. However, hints that may help you stay in control are to tape windows along the edges as well as the frames of unused doors or put plastic over the windows (inside or out). For a tight fit, use the kind of plastic that you heat with a hair dryer. A small dehumidifier may also help. We cut down on a draft by the driver's door when we pressed a twin bed sheet of egg shell foam inside the door.
For me, there used to be an underlying pressure to choose the “best” curriculum similar to researching and picking the safest car or best vacuum. (<== OCD much?) I may have traded a few months of my life researching curriculum when we first started homeschooling 6 years ago. It seemed like, if I just read every. single. review. and every thread on every homeschooling message board on the entire internet I would find that perfect curriculum and my kids would be on their way to Harvard before their 13th birthdays.
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.
Boondocking is basically camping at free spots without hook-ups. Several State Forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) locations have free dispersed camping. Typically, you can stay in one location for a maximum of 14 days. We have also found a few state parks have free campsites. While this option is free, you do have to find and pay for dump stations.
The figure here is our average monthly fuel cost for a six month summer season of travel. We drove a loop from Phoenix, Arizona through Nevada to Crater Lake in central Oregon and then went from northeastern Oregon to Sun Valley Idaho and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and finally dropping south through Ouray Colorado and into northern Arizona and back to Phoenix.
Yes, we are new to RVing full time, but not to camping, we have camp in a tent to a diesel pusher for the past 44 years. We purchased a Landmark 365 42 ft fifth wheel and have a F350 4×4 dually, and I have a CRV Honda. My husband is a transpo drive for a RV dealer during the winter and is comfortable hauling the mighty beast. I drive my car to where ever our destination for the summer will be, be it 1000 miles or 500, I don’t mind driving.
Obviously, electric blankets on your bed make for more comfortable sleeping conditions during the cold winter nights. I discovered another great use for electric blankets by accident. I draped one over the sofa and left it on a low setting. Even when I wasn't on the sofa, I left the blanket on. The temperature radiates into the air, adding wonderful warm heat to the RV. My sofa was built in to an extending unit on the RV, so it was a very drafty area to sit on cold winter nights. The heating blanket worked wonders for keeping me warm.
Emergency Fund – The most important part of savings is your emergency fund. Conventional wisdom suggests you should have at least six months of expenses in a savings account. I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of a traditional savings account where you might only earn 1% interest annually. However, if you think about it anything is better than earning 0%, or not having savings and going into credit card debt for emergencies, which will cost you 10% in interest or more.
Once again, the answer may not be what they want to hear. The amount a young couple should spend on their first RV is what they can afford. It’s really as simple as that. Unless they know they can afford and support debt, then they should buy what is affordable, whether it’s a smaller used RV or something new. It’s much easier to upgrade than downgrade, so think about what is actually needed versus what is wanted. We sometimes get caught up thinking we need all those fancy gadgets and toys when it may be possible to get on the road much sooner if we become more realistic with our needs.
Would love to hear how you deal with four kids and car seats. We have a Winnebago tour which is set up for four passengers and haven’t figured out how to put the car seats in there according to regulation for our two grandsons. Did you have something special he installed or is the view just configured properly for your needs. Our extra seats are on a sofa with no back to Heather bolts and the seats would be facing sideways which is not ideal for children any tips would be appreciated
Being last-minute planners meant we didn’t have reservations so we took our chances and headed up to Muddy Mountain, Wyoming in hopes of finding a spot to boondock on BLM land. It was getting dark as we wound our way up the dirt road and we were starting to get nervous about finding a spot to set up the RV. Parking in a campground after dark is not the best idea but finding dispersed camping on public lands after dark is dumb. Really dumb if you are pulling a big trailer. Of course, the setting sun didn’t stop me from jumping out to take a picture on our way up the mountain.
I believe it’s around 10amps at the highest setting, but like an oven, when it reaches pressure/temp, it turns the heating element off (and back on when needed). We have 320w of solar and 400 amp hours of lithium ion batteries. They key though is having a large enough inverter to run things like the instant pot. You would need at least a 2000w pure sine inverter. Ours is 3000w.
I don’t quite understand why anyone regardless of available resources, would not want to cut costs. Even as a service to other RVers to collectively help lower costs for all. I hope your remote job doesn’t involve profit and expense decisions. I’m sixty years old retired Accountant and on SS Disability for a missing limb. I work part time although I’m not working currently. My home recently burned down so I’ve got about $12,000 in the bank. I saw a 2007 Denali Camper for $8,000 in great shape. the very best I can rent a one bedroom apartment for is about $800 plus utilities. I’m sure I can beat that RVing. My only problem is getting a 3/4 ton pick up to pull the camper. It’s tandem axle but not sure about the weight. I probably wouldn’t be moving but once maybe twice per year. It might be less expensive to rent a truck to move the Camper rather than buying one.
this is also interesting. we own a 20 year old fore travel that has just over 100K on the cat diesel engine.our goal is to get it to700,000 miles before we trade it in. we started out slowly with trips from Florida to Mass yearly last year we expanded to go into Canada usually 6 weeks at a time. this year we are taking 6 months and going west then across Canada and back to Maine and down the east coast. i budget $5K per 6 months and keep a $5K contingency budget. my expenses look very similar to the wyns.we do all our own repairs; thankfully. We are now renovating the inside of our home. i say we are practicing for retirement. WE should be really good at it by the time we actually retire. we also maintain a home base in Florida and a condo in hawaii.
Our second year of homeschooling, we enrolled the boys in a new a hybrid classical school. It was a fantastic year blending the best of both worlds. The boys were home with us four days a week and went to school three days a week. They got the benefits of a classroom setting, like positive peer pressure (and a teacher who could keep up with Latin) and I got a break. Since I didn’t need to create schedules, choose curriculum, and find social opportunities our homeschool days were even more relaxed. The one thing I would have changed about this year was math. At the time, the school used Saxton which turned out to be a poor fit for both boys. Not only was it boring but it was less advanced than their previous curriculum. When we went back to homeschooling the following year we had to go back a year in Singapore.
Anyway, what a great life you are living, I love it but want to be more stealth than you are so I can park anywhere. I just spent a few months off and on in Canmore Alberta and you could tell who the guys in the campers were and I met a few who had stealth down to a science. They were totally off the grid and didn’t leave their unit physically where they slept and the vehicles just looked like PMVs with a couple of quirky things on them like low stacks and vents. The cube will look just like a work truck with exterior tool box doors except for the furnace exhaust but many work trucks are heated so I will have an edge.
The following is a summary of how the various quotes I received were explained to me. I list the specifics here not so much to suggest one company’s product over another but so you can see just how much you need to press for the exact details if you really want to understand the insurance you are buying. Obviously, the companies mentioned may change their policies, and it’s possible I misunderstood something.
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.
Nina – We are devoted readers of your blog. We ourselves are just getting ready to hit the road this spring, and as basic as this question may be, we would like to know what type of dishes you recommend. Do you travel with regular flatware or something more light and durable? We are hoping to find something that does not contain BPA. Just wondering if you could recommend a brand and/or source.
No matter which way you decide to go, make sure you cover and insulate any exposed piping coming from the water supply and the spigot! If your water connection to the RV is on the exterior of the wall (not inside a bay/basement) you will also need to cover and insulate that connection very well. If you do have a wet bay you should consider placing a space heater in the bay just in case temps get low enough to freeze and burst the connection.
On the one hand, these are supremely useful posts. Costs are a huge question for anyone who is considering getting on the road and one of the most searched-for items for newbie fulltimers. I remember it was one of the top things we fretted about before we went fulltiming and we had such a hard time figuring it out. Could we afford it? For how long? What kind of budget would we need? We found several blog posts, but no-one seemed to be able to give us an exact number. How are you supposed to work with that??
The sales tax rates also vary from state to state. The sales tax in one particular state may not seem important for someone who is going to be traveling all over the country, but the sales tax in your home state can actually be very important. If you buy a new vehicle — car, truck, trailer or motorhome — during your travels, you will register it in your home state and pay that state’s sales tax in the process. Many full-time RVers upgrade either their RV, tow vehicle or “toad” at some point. We have purchased tw trucks and two trailers during our years on the road. The sales tax rates in the most popular states for full-time travelers are:
With the 2 dogs we knew hotel hopping wouldn’t work, so what is the best way to travel with pets? An RV! We started looking for an RV that we could take on short trips once we downsized. We found a 29 foot Class C which we bought to give it a go. We took our first long trip to Florida in January, and we were hooked. We called my sister and said let’s forget the duplex and travel full-time in our RV!
On the other hand, it’s a VERY individual thing. After 7 years on the road I can honestly tell you there’s a very good reason why no-one ever gives you an exact number. That’s because many of the big fulltime RV expenses are totally flexible! What kind of rig you buy, where you decide to camp, how much you drive, whether you decide workamp, whether you eat out (or in) etc. -> ALL these are flexible costs that can vastly alter your spend numbers. There are ranges (and I’ll go through them below), but there is quite simply no one single number for everyone.
The most popular inexpensive campground membership is offered by Passport America. They charge an annual fee of $44 ($79 for 2 years, $399 for lifetime) and offer a 50% savings off the nightly rate at any of the 1,900 member RV parks. Another similar membership program is Happy Camper which costs $40 per year and also offers 50% off at their 1,200 member RV parks.
And to add some encouragement for you, years ago when my children were young, I homeschooled/unschooled them for the majority of their education. We were fortunate to have moved across the country for work a few times and had the opportunity to do a lot of camping. They are now both rising seniors in college and doing extremely well. They are pursuing their passions instead of checking a box. I know their unconventional formative years are a contributing factor to their life choices.
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.
A very important #11 is having an RV insurance policy specifically designed for full-timers – equivalent to homeowner’s insurance. A windstorm uprooted our carport and threw it into our neighbor’s trailer at the campground and caused some damage. After calling State Farm, we learned that our RV policy was good for nothing, and by no means adequate for a full-timer. A standard RV/auto insurance policy doesn’t cover any liabilities and also won’t cover the loss of any personal valuables (jewelry, guns, clothing, etc)
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.
We have a two-week rotation of clothes for both warm and cold weather, and since we started traveling we have replaced almost all of these garments. Commercial washing machines are hard on clothes and they wear out. Our biggest clothing expense is shoes. We replace our hiking shoes and running shoes regularly, and we buy high quality, expensive shoes. As a side note, if you get a credit card from Cabellas, REI or another outdoors store, and put all your living expenses on it, and pay it off each month to avoid interest charges, you can use the points each year to get your hiking shoes or other camping gear for free.
I think the most encouraging part about traveling is that once you hit the road you start to meet people with a similar mindset who can affirm your beliefs and values. I know that sounds obvious, of course you’ll meet people on the road who also like to travel. It’s hard to envision what that feels like when you’re only surrounded by people who don’t understand why you’d want to sell everything and go travel in an RV.
We are just now in the “sell everything” stage, about to go full time in our RV, and we have two little girls — a four year old and a two year old. We’ve really been out in our RV so often that it’s no big deal for them. Come to think of it, we got our first camper when our oldest was just 6 months old, so she’s grown up around the camper (not that she’s really grown up yet LOL). Our girls absolutely love it! They get so excited when we start packing it up. I’ve talked with our oldest about what it will be like when we live in the camper and how it will be better to get rid of all our extra stuff that we don’t really need. She seems to understand it and we are all super excited about it. We have yet to see how it goes a few months into it, but I can’t think it would be any worse than our longest trips (about two weeks) which were wonderful times for us. I wish you the best of luck in getting yours all fixed up! I can’t wait to see the pictures because I might want to borrow some of your reno ideas!! 😀
It Sounds like your rear brakes may be freezing up. Are you setting the parking brake? If so there is probably moisture in the brakes and when you set the parking brake, (which sets the rear brakes only) the brakes then cool and the moisture turns to ice, thus freezing the brake pads to the brake drum. I am assuming this is the trouble because they seem to release when you try to reverse, which is a common reaction to this problem.
I’ve had several eager 20-something future full-timers email me saying they wanted to live in an RV after college because they didn’t want to throw away money on rent and they didn’t think buying a house would be a good investment. Unfortunately, an RV involves “throwing away” lots of money too. In the end, the cost of owning an RV — from purchase to sale and through the thick and thin of all the maintenance and repairs in between, not to mention the cost of campgrounds and RV parks — probably adds up to the same amount as renting an apartment or paying a mortgage/taxes plus utilities.
First and foremost, not all RVs are ideal for full-timing. The most common types of RVs that full-timers use are Class A motorhomes (which can be powered by gas or diesel fuel), Class C Motorhomes, Fifth Wheel Trailers (including Toy-Haulers), and lastly, Travel Trailers. Truck Campers, Class B motorhomes, and Tent Trailers are not traditionally good choices for full-timers.
Tim, I liked your story,it’s wonderful to see someone living outside the square. I live in Australia and will soon head off to the Kimberleys and beyond in a tiny caravan, just me and my cattle dogs,I will spend the rest of my life travelling Australia. I did it once before in my twenties for 4 years, but now i can’t see the point of rattling around on my own in a big house. I’m a signwriter, so will be signwriting to pay my way. I can’t see myself stuck in one place forever.The older i get ,the more i realise, not what i want, but what i don’t want, like the tv, which i tossed out years ago. I have a little 2001 jeep soft top, and the caravan i will get is a Little Robin Mini, and the smaller version is called a Little Robin Mini Mini. I hope to read more of your adventures.Beautiful dog.
1980s Vanagons can go for quite a few dollars. I recently met a guy who bought a decent one, with the Westy camper and all, for $4000, and he’s in Texas. If you look out west, though, prices are typically higher as those vans are in high demand. A search on Craigslist in Bend shows them going from $3000 – $30,000. The latter is insane, but I believe people get that much for a well maintained, running vanagon with a camper. Still, it’s insane.
Another idea to save big time is to spend a few months in Baja California every winter, where food is crazy cheap, boondocking is abundant (you can even find spots with lots of other American / Canadian snowbirds if you’re concerned about safety, but it’s completely safe in our opinion after having been down in Mexico in general for a year), and in general the sun shines all winter long.
7. Being thrifty should become second nature. Unless you’ve won the lottery or have a handsome retirement package, you can definitely benefit from making every dollar stretch to its maximum potential. Before you embark on this lifestyle, you should make a habit of logging every dollar spent to see exactly where your money is going, and for what. Doing this allows you to see where cuts can be made and where it might benefit you to stock up on certain things that you buy often. A good rule of thumb is to check with other RVers who already live this lifestyle and ask for their input on this matter. Everyone has their own favorite tips and solutions so be prepared to take notes.
My husband and I have decided to sell our home and look for a place that is more “us” while he has to travel for work. We currently have 3 children and two dogs and have looked extensively at RV’s before deciding on a 5th wheel sprinter with a bunkhouse. I know the journey will be something to learn and get used to but we decided that if he has to travel with his work then we want to travel with him. Going from a 2k+ sq ft home to even a large 5th wheel is a very very hard thing for myself and my teenage girls, but when we look at the larger scale and we will finally have to travel it gets so much easier. More time with dad and going places we couldn’t before because our house ties us down with mortgage and bills. My 3 yr old son is just happy to have his dad around more often. I have been looking for all the advice I can on the net and this has been useful for the start up, less is better for us because along the way you may acquire more. I make jewelry one of my daughters is an artist and my other daughter is into design so we have sat down to make sure we have gotten our priorities right. For me living in the RV until we are able to find our place is a way to learn to let go and focus on what matters. I spend little time with my kids doing the stuff we want to do and more time cleaning and organizing and running errands to keep all that up. And when my husband gets to be home we end up spending more money just to get out and spend time together with the kids. So for anyone out there who is also considering this way of life, I say find out what it means to you. Take good advice from blogs like this and enjoy! Thank you for the great advice blog and to those who commented more great advice!
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3. Commit to healthy eating: Switching to the RV lifestyle is a great chance to rethink your family's eating habits. Our advice? Store fruits and vegetables in green bags to maintain freshness, and consider canning or freezing as much as you can store for year-round freshness. Keep in mind that it may be hard to find healthy food in some parts of the country, so stock up when possible. The last thing you want is to have fast food as your only option.
You’ll notice that none of these RVers, nor us, shared how much we pay monthly for other items, such as debt (student loans, mortgages if we still have property somewhere, credit cards, etc.), medical supplies, car and RV monthly financing payments, clothing and other personal purchases, memberships/subscriptions (RV memberships as well as Netflix, Spotify, etc.), and business/work expenses.
The point I made was that children are much safer when protected by seat belts. This is much easier to do when you keep them in a tow vehicle. When in an RV, there is a tendency to allow them to play in the open areas, etc., but this is extremely dangerous because if they are not safely held in place and a collision occurs, they can become flying missiles that can kill them as well as any other people they may strike. A vehicle traveling at 60 mph may stop suddenly, but anything that is "loose" within that vehicle, continues forward at that rate of speed, including children. For this reason, traveling by a pull trailer or fifth wheel that you are towing behind a car or truck is the safest way to travel with children, as long as you keep them in seat belts while you are moving.
Hi. We have a Balboa Toy Hauler, which is insulated and semi winterized. One of the furnace vents forces hot air into the tank bay under the floor. This heats the floor under the bathroom and kitchen area, but you must leave the furnace on and burn propane. Our first experience was the poopsicle at Jackson Hole, WY at -18! tried to hammer that out with a hatchet, and of course, the hose was brittle and broke! Then it thawed 2 days later. AAAGGGHHHH!!!!. Next we camped 6 weeks in Glenwood springs to ski Aspen and Snowmass all winter. A fellow camper left his sewer drain open after he left and the whole system froze so we couldn’t even use the facilities toilets. Fortunately the manager brought in the big guys with a water jet to unplug the whole system. This was extremely expensive and took a full day. Then 2 weeks later the same camper returned, (gas well inspector) and did it all again. Wow. Poor park owner ate that bill twice.
Tim you are certainly impressing the hell out of me. I love what you are doing and have been doing the same for about the last 6 months, however, in a much smaller unit. Mine is a truck and older style pop up camper. The winter in the mountains I have been in are far too cold for an old fool like me but I made it work with a few nights in motels and a couple of trips back to the shack for a few days and a couple of weeks on a stretch but for the most part, the camper was home. The morning jumping up and lighting the stove top naked was no fun either.
My bucket list included photographing eagles along the Mississippi River in winter. We arrived in Davenport, Iowa and were lucky enough to find a county park open with electric. No problem our basement was heated, so we thought. That plumbing bay has a plastic bottom with a hole for the sewer hose. Did you know plastic is a conductor of cold? We didn’t consider it util our water filter froze and the pump dumped 90 gallons of fresh water on the ground.
Andrew, that was an interesting blog entry, because it gives a snapshot of what’s important to your family, you seem to have a good balance between enjoying your life and maintaining your expenses. But the part that really grabbed me about this post was that it reminded me of George Orwell’s “Road to Wigan’s Pier” in that you outlined your expenses. If you get a chance, please have a look at that book (it’s available for free on the internet) and read the part where he reports on the expenditures of different coal miners in the early 1900s Northern England. We’ve all become wealthier, but even after all that time, nothing has really changed, we still make choices to in our lifestyles and our spending choices may be one of the purest epressions of who we are and choose to be.
On our current Class A motorhome, we spend an average of about $600.00 per year on maintenance, but that is because I do a lot of the routine maintenance and repairs myself. Annual maintenance on an RV varies by type. A Class A or C motorhome will cost more annually than a Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer, because they have engines to maintain. But even with the trailers, you have to include the maintenance cost of your tow vehicle.
The American Express Platinum card has some of the best perks out there: cardholders enjoy the best domestic lounge access (Delta SkyClubs, Centurion Lounges, and Priority Pass), a $200 annual airline fee credit as well as up to $200 in Uber credits, and mid-tier elite status at SPG, Marriott, and Hilton. Combined with the 60,000 point welcome offer -- worth $1,140 based on TPG's valuations -- this card is a no-brainer for frequent travelers. Here are 5 reasons you should consider this card, as well as how you can figure out if the $550 annual fee makes sense for you.
I’ve been trying to feel grateful for the life we had and I do. I feel extremely grateful but when I only focus on being grateful and try to bury all of the other emotions, I feel bad. I feel angry at myself for feeling any other emotion other that gratitude. Then I feel disconnected from the people around me because “they don’t get it”. And mostly I feel guilt. Guilt for feeling angry and disconnected and for basically feeling anything else other than gratitude. So then I try harder to feel grateful and the cycle would continue.
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!
We sometimes receive products for evaluation at no cost, and The RVgeeks participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. But our opinions are our own, you won’t pay an extra penny, and we only link to products we personally use, love and can recommend to friends with complete confidence.
Propane allows us to run the furnace, cook, and (if we choose) have hot water. We try to use it sparingly by cooking outdoors on the grill, wearing ample clothing during cold seasons, and use campground showers when possible (and inviting enough.) Filling our propane is easy enough as a number of RV resorts offer on-site fill or contract a company to fill your tanks on-site. You can also exchange tanks or fill them at truck stops like Flying J, Loves, and others. The average in most states is $22 for exchange and $18 for a refill of a 10lb. tank.
6) They’re willing to live frugally. This can NOT be stressed enough. At the ages of 25-35, full timing can either be a joy or a chore. They’ll be surrounded by old people, in perhaps less than stellar conditions, in a cramped hovel that’s difficult to either keep cool in summer or warm in winter. But… they can move with the weather. And frugal living helps them afford to do that.
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.
5. Make sure you have Wi-Fi access: Investing in an internet service plan that includes hotspots or a robust mobile service will make your life easier, especially if you telecommute for work while on the road. The kids will want access to the internet too, especially during long drives. If you can’t get a strong signal while on the road, consider scoping out Internet cafes at your next pit stop.
Thanks for the tips & thoughts. We’ve had very good coverage with Verizon since we started using them (only a handful of campgrounds where we couldn’t get signal) so for the time being we’re happy w/ their service. I think if we travelled regularly to sites without Verizon coverage we might opt for a movable satellite dish, but so far it’s not made the list.
We are concerned about how this one would do in colder climates though so we will be doing some more research. Also the front bunkhouse is a little tight if there is an outdoor kitchen but it’s fine without the outdoor kitchen. A few more with this great floor plan are the Prime Time Lacrosse 336BHT and the Prime Time Avenger 32 FBI. We aren’t familiar with the Prime Time brand but we love the layouts.
For a period of time, we also had a gym membership to Planet Fitness. It cost $20/month and we had access to over 800 locations across the country. If you’re trying to stay in good shape while you’re traveling I would definitely suggest Planet Fitness. They typically have really nice facilities for showering and workouts, plus free massage chairs and tootsie rolls. Need I say more?
Boondocking/Free: We enjoy mixing in a lot of boondocking. This might range from awesome places on public lands (BLM, National Forests, etc), staying in lower cost public campgrounds without hook-ups, ‘blacktop boondocking’ overnight in commercial parking lots or rest stops, to driveway surfing with friends & family (got bus parking? We love invitations!). These low/free cost stays not only bring our average cost down a lot, they’re some of our most memorable stays.
Lastly with regards to safety, I think attending some rallies, talking with other RVers and going on the forums might help. Also, when you first start boondocking I might recommend joining a group or camping in places where there are other RVers. There are many boondocking groups out there (again, Escapees comes to mind) and going for the first time with others may help allay your worries. The boondocking community is quite close-knit and you’ll quickly make friends. We’ve never felt unsafe on public land, but then again I’ve been hiking/exploring since I was a teenager. Sometimes it just takes time.
We are a family of four and are saving up to travel for 2 yrs or maybe more! I am a cancer survivor and I want to see everything I possibly can due to my new outlook on life. My kids are excited about it (my husbands getting there ;). It was his idea to go camping in 2 wks & go look at Rv’s next week so that’s a good sign lol. I will read your blog through & through …I’m going to need a lot of good tips 🙂 Thank you.
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?
I don’t know if we actually need skirting to keep our pipes and tanks from freezing, but we decided to go ahead and use it just to be safe, and it made a huge difference in keeping our RV warmer inside and preventing heat loss. We made our own removable, reusable vinyl skirting out of recycled billboard vinyl for around $200. You can read more about how we made our skirting in this blog post.
How do we do it? We do 99% of our spend through credit cards (where we actively collect points too**) and I’m old-fashioned so I import all my bank & card data into an Excel spreadsheet. I do this every month, allocate each line to a category (e.g. entertainment, RV parks, insurance, groceries etc.) and then churn out a pretty pivot table to display it in one place. I’ve been tracking our spend this way for over 13 years and before that I used paper, so I literally have detailed spend numbers going back to when I was around 17 years old (crazy, I know).
Our highest grocery month was September. We had a problem with our inverter while traveling and lost everything in the freezer. Conversely our lowest grocery month was when we were at Fort Belvoir near Washington DC. We were right down the road from a fabulous farmer’s market and saved a ton of money shopping there almost exclusively. Our highest dining out month was December when we spent 2 weeks in a hotel in Las Vegas, NV and a week in a hotel in Rockville, MD.
The eclipse was one of the most intense and beautiful 2 minutes and 20 seconds of my life. It was sublime in the truest sense of the word. Mind blowing. My body buzzed for a full 30 minutes afterwards. The moment when the last sliver of sun disappeared, that moment of totality when I took off my glasses, was like instantly being transported to another world. Everything familiar but so different. Completely surreal. A 360 degree sunset. And the corona of the sun… No words. Just awe.
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.
Not only does it not exist in the RV but also at the campsites! Sometimes we will be at a place where no one else is there – but most of the time we have people living right next door to us and a lot of the time those neighbors are literally right there – as in our awning would touch their campers! This can be stressful if one of the kids is having a breakdown and we don’t want the whole campsite to hear. But normally it is just helpful for all of us to work on keeping our voices down and not yelling at each other!
Loved all the info. I will be winter camping this year in my 2008 Itasca Maridian motorhome. Will be in the coach three to four days a week. I ‘m a marketing person for a company that’s in the midwest. will be in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. Will try and hook up to shore poer when possible but will always have the diesel generator to fall back on when camping at Wal-Mart parking lot.. I understand the skirting around the bottom and the benifits but with the short amount of time in between locations this is not practical. I will try insulation in the wet bay along with small heaters in basement and wet bay areas. I will also try space heaters in the coach along with reflective insulation sheeting. Went camping this past weekend with family it got down to +25 degrees. I went through 3/4 tank of propane in there nights. The furnace would turn on and off about every 5 to 10 min. apart . The coach would warm up and within 2min after shut down you could feel the temp drop inside coach. Any other ideas would be great. Heat pump did great during the daytime temps in the 50s
Will we be traveling around the country in an RV forever? No. We have an end date in mind, though we still aren’t quite sure where we will settle or what that will look like. We are viewing this trip as a bit of a reset for our whole family — a way to reprioritize what matters and to spend a year making incredible memories together. Sure, the youngest will probably not remember any of it, but we like to say he will remember this trip in his bones.
Our house was sold 3 days after we decided to start full-timing, but the sale fell through 2 weeks later as we were wrapping things up to go. So we rented it (much easier to find tenants than buyers). It has worked out favorably financially, so we keep doing it. It is a burden, but if you hire a property manager you can lessen the burden significantly, you just give up some cash. I’ve written about the Sell vs. Lease decision here.
I’ve just found you, and I’m soaking in all this information. Thank you. Do have advice for a single woman in her 60’s thinking about full timing for a while? I’m retiring and don’t know yet where I want to live. So considering traveling around for a while to find the right place. No experience yet with driving or living in an rv… Yikes! Help? 🙂 Thanks!
Induction Cook Top – Campground fees almost always include your electricity so it makes sense to use electric appliances when possible and conserve your propane. This is why we regularly use an induction cook top. Another benefit is that it frees up another burner if you are cooking multiple dishes. Our induction cook top has held up well but if you are looking for something a little fancier with a little more wattage there is this one. Note: You must use cookware (I’m eyeing this set.) made out of magnetic-based metal to work with induction cook tops. Induction cook tops make great gifts especially for the very utilitarian RVers.
Two adults, four children, and a dog all living in a 2006 class C motorhome!! Now, that’s downsizing! This adventure seeking family stays busy by traveling every week to 2 weeks. As you can imagine, they keep busy running a business on the road, enjoying kid-friendly tours and attractions, and lots of outdoor activity. They try to cut costs by utilizing their RV park memberships and boondocking a few days a month. However, that’s a lot of mouths to feed!
The biggest problem for full-timers is covering their personal belongings. Anything that was not originally sold with the RV and is not attached (imagine turning the RV upside down to find out what’s “not attached”), is considered “Personal Effects,” and most RV policies include some kind of coverage for Personal Effects. However, from my research, this coverage is woefully inadequate if you have anything beyond basic camping gear in your rig.
And a tip. If you are trying to get chrome tape to stick to your fiberglass exterior in cold weather, say, to put up reflectix, try this:wipe where you want the tape to stick with a hot damp rag. It will dry quickly and the tape will stick to the warmer surface. I’ve done this in sub 20 degree weather! Make a square of it around window, then run your next square of tape over top if it when you put up the window covering. It will stick to that easily. Maybe precutting them and sticking them inside my coat helped to keep them warm too.
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.
$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)