Relax. Every second of every minute does not need to be planned out to make the most of your vacation. Instead enjoy laying in bed as a family for 2 hours in the morning. Spend hours swimming together in the pool or at the beach. Don’t worry there will still be time to do some activities. Some of the best moments are on the unscheduled and unplanned time you have together as a family.
To let you know what kind of weather we’re preparing for in our RV, a typical winter day in this part of the country is below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. Usually we will get a couple of weeks each year where the high temperatures don’t get above freezing and the lows are close to zero, but we rarely get sub-zero temperatures. And although we usually get at least some snow and possibly ice, the snow doesn’t stay on the ground for more than a few days.
In my former corporate life, I hit Starbucks most mornings and ate dinner out almost every night. We owned and maintained two cars, and we each had significant commutes. Now we eat dinner out very infrequently, and we limit our coffee shop splurges. We own just one vehicle and drive much less. Where we used to have property taxes, utilities and HOA fees, we have none of those things in our RV lifestyle. All in all, we spend about $500 less per month in our RV than we did in our house. But that huge savings is entirely a function of what our old lifestyle used to be and what our current lifestyle is now. Other full-time RVers might not see those same savings.
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.
Just so everyone doesn’t get the idea that all RV parks in SW Florida are that expensive. We have been living in our paid for RV TT which is 30′, and 4 yrs.old, for 4 yrs. in Central, and SW Florida which is where we currently are, we have never paid that high for monthly fees with or without electric included. The most we have ever paid is $400 a month, which is almost what we pay now. And in the area we are in this is the most expensive park. It is very rural here which is what we choose to do also, as our “little” girl who lives with us is in college locally. Our monthly expenses are well under $1000 a month. And that includes, satellite and internet, and food. So there are alot of options in SW Florida that are alot cheaper. When you have a college student you make different choices. The cost is very high there. It is all about where you choose to park your RV, and what amenities are important to you.
When you give up your home owner’s policy, you give up a lot of nice blanket coverages that come with it, like liability coverage and the loss of personal belongings. Quite a few companies offer “Full-time RV insurance” that includes liability coverage similar to what would typically come with a home insurance policy. Coverage for personal belongings is a whole different story, however. See below.
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Gift Cards – If the gift card is for a full-time RVer, try to stick to larger national chains or internet stores like Amazon. Even though RVers take their kitchens with them, it’s still nice to not have to cook all the time so restaurant gift cards are nice as well. Or an Amazon Prime Membership is a great gift for full-time RVers if they don’t already have one. Our Prime Membership made getting items while traveling full-time so much easier.
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.
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.
This year we also abandoned book science and took a hands on approach by taking advantage of our travels to national parks and museums. The boys earned over 50 Junior Ranger badges that year. It was also an amazing year for history as we read books like Johnny Tremain, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, and Moccasin Trail and then visited the places in the stories.
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?
Great article to read as we are well into our first Canadian winter in our 1991 21ft Toyota Winnebago- “ourmoonwarrior”. Many helpful hints we can use! Unfortunately the costs associated with propane heaters are too expensive for us and the electric heaters are not an option as we rarely have power hookup. We installed a small wood burning stove with a chimney out the roof to keep warm in the recent -40(Celsius) temperatures!
$827 Costco – Because we didn’t find many farmers markets or affordable natural food stores on this portion of our trip, we renewed our Costco membership. For the amount cooking we do, Costco is the best way for us to get reliable organic, natural, and affordable food items. Yes you must purchase in bulk, however we try not to over-purchase, and we rely on Costco for our staples only like tomatoes, beans, hummus, chips, etc. Sometimes we’ll even find local venders in Costco from coffee roasters, to pastry makers, to exotic cheeses made from nearby farms….and that’s why we choose Costco over Sam’s Club.
If you are staying in a park or resort, find out who maintains, roads, parking, sidewalks, etc. and how often. What amenities are available to you at the park; are there laundry facilities, showers, pools, exercise equipment, and so on? What other forms of recreation are available in the local area? Are there other people staying through the winter and do they get together to socialize?
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 have enjoyed reading your blog. Great ideas and information. My husband and I have just retired and sold our home! We will be heading out shortly…and are excited for the journey. The All stay app sounds like a key…would love to be included in the drawing. I can’t wait to show my husband your site…if he hasn’t seen it already! Thanks for sharing! Happy Trails!
Total Expenses for this time period: $18,377$1532 Fuel Cost – From the Jersey Shore, through PA, into Indiana for Service, to St. Louis for a wedding, Dallas, Cloudcroft New Mexico, and into Lake Havasu City. We logged a lot of miles across this great country in both the RV and the Smart car. Can’t really balk about this expense, it’s a lot lower than the both of us taking a few flights. If you’re curious about mileage check out the post Monaco Vesta Fuel Economy you’ll find way more info than you’ll ever need to know on our fuel economy, and how to calculate your RV Fuel MPG.$76 RV Park Camping – Camping for next to nothing: Possibly the biggest “Happy” Point for our 2012 travels across the Eastern part of North America! Thanks to our Thousand Trails membership, several nights of Wal-Mart & Truck Stop camping (if you’ve never stayed at Wal-Mart in an RV you must watch this Video Boondocking at Wal-Mart it’s actually our most popular video of all time!), and a few friendly people who opened up their driveways, we were able to stay for next to nothing the past 5 months. Also we’ve been doing a few trade-outs with campgrounds providing video and photography of their campgrounds for a small fee plus free camping. Goes to show you if you have something to offer a campground, reach out to them and see if they’re willing to do a trade (we know several people who camp for free because of a specific service they offer the campground).$982 Smart Service and Repair – This is the first major service we’ve had to complete on our little SMART car. Apparently we’ve been a little rough on this little guy, when we were in for our SMART’s yearly oil change, we were informed he sprung a small leak in the oil pan from a puncture wound. Considering we drive our little SMART off road, over mountains, and tow it behind our RV for thousands of extra miles, I’m not complaining one bit. On a happy note: We only busted 1 tire in the past 5 months (and ZERO rims) and my tire warranty paid for the replacement. Also in these expenses is a $300 spare rim and tire (our tire and rim warranty covered the replacement of a busted rim from the beginning of the year, I paid $200 to have the rim repaired, and $150 for a new tire to go on it. Now for the first time since owning the SMART we have a spare rim and tire! What a relief, now when we bust a rim or tire there will be a swap available in the RV….ahhhh the little things that make life a little more simple and stress-free).$220 RV Service and Repair – No issues over the past 5 months. We did take the RV to the “new” Monaco factory in Wakarusa Indiana for service however all our issues were covered under warranty. The TX registration sticker cost $220 for renewal to keep our plates up to date.$1034 Insurance – Carrying the same insurance coverage as the previous report minus the SAAB as I’ve now sold that….and no we still do not have health insurance. Although I did get a quote for catastrophe coverage and the cost was nearly $300 per month and we would pay the first $10,000, then the insurance would pay 80% of anything over $10k. Health insurance for individuals who own small businesses just plain stinks! Oh and if you’re like us and working from the road with expensive equipment you must purchase a ‘rider’ to make sure your gear is covered while traveling outside of the RV. Our policy sent me a check for nearly $3,700.00 when I dropped my camera into the creek. See the previous post for details.$2893 Gone With the Wynn’s Website – In case you haven’t noticed we have a completely new look! From tip to toe we’re sleeker and sexier (or at least we think so). Downside is these enhancements didn’t come for free. In order to dish out this contemporary new look we were hit with website theme fees ($100), Hosting Fees ($100), Email Distribution Fees ($120), Video Hosting Fees ($100), Facebook Fees ($120), and so on and so on! We also had to hire a website designer and a website developer to help us make the move, address all the unknown issues that came up during the transition, to help us customize the site to fit our niche needs, and for that we spent a lot more than we ever anticipated: $2353. Needless to say for a website that doesn’t directly make us any money we’re forking over a lot of dough to keep this thing going. OK, enough bitchin’ right? Let’s move on to something more fun….
Vents are a crucial part of ventilating your RV but are also a major source of heat loss. By purchasing a vent cover, not only will it keep you warm, but will still promote ventilation preventing condensation and humidity buildup inside your camper. Vent covers add an extra layer of insulation and allow extra moisture to escape, preventing the growth of mold in your home.
Obviously these are not the same fixed costs for everyone. What kind of rig you buy, where you insure it, how much maintenance you do (incl. paid versus self-maintenance), whether you keep a storage unit and what kind of internet plan you get are all individual choice. But once you’ve made those decisions they’ll become fixed, recurring expenses that you should expect to pay each month.
There are a lot of families living this same life right now, and they are all making it work in so many creative ways. If you want to hit the road full time, but don’t have a job that will let you work remotely, see what other people are doing to afford this lifestyle. Check out the #FulltimeFamilies hashtag on Instagram to find other families traveling, as the name implies, full-time.
Many RVers go into a winter counting on their propane furnace to see them through the season, but it will only take you a few weeks to burn through your propane when it gets really cold, so you might want to consider an alternative form of heat. One of the most popular methods to keep warm without burning up all of your fuel is to use portable electric heaters. These gadgets are compact, and affordable, and many newer models come with RV friendly feature like automatic shutoff if they get knocked over. If you're in a larger RV, you can even pick up a couple of them and heat the RV with relative ease. There is a catch: make sure that when you're plugging in your heater, that you're not overloading your electrical system.
We have just decided that we are going to plan a 6 months tour of the US in an RV! I have been looking forward to this moment for years and years! I was born in the US and have lived the the UK for most of my life but feel the need get back, something keeps trying to pull me back and now I’m a coming!! I also was separated from my brother when I was 2 years old and never met, I search for him through adoption agency for years and guess what HE found me!! So we are coming over in September to meet my brother and his family after 47 years!! holy moly! My bother and I are super excited…. So, I need to ask a question what type of RV should we purchase for me and my partner and we also have 2 dogs? I have been looking at the Thor Ace but not sure if this is a good choice or not, any advice would be much appreciated.
When we first started talking about RVing full-time, we had no idea how much it cost to live full-time in an RV. Was it going to cost more than living in a house? Was it going to cost less? How much would we spend on gas a month? I had no idea, and I wasn’t about to uproot my life if we couldn’t afford it. If you’re wondering how much it costs to full-time RV, well, then you’re in the right place.
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.
We’ve had the Postmasters at several different Post Offices give us totally conflicting information. We pressed two different Postmasters to call their district supervisors to get the details clarified, and even then we got conflicting information. So it seems the Postal Service is is still working out its relationships with UPS and FedEx as far as General Deliveries go.
There are 5 main steps we followed in order to stay warm during freezing temperatures. With this being our first winter in the RV I’m sure we’ll continue to learn as we travel and experience different challenges. In this post I’ll go into more detail on the tips we’ve learned so far on winter camping, but be sure to check out some of our favorite resources at the bottom of this post.
My husband and I are currently living in Panama but have sold our home and will be moving back to travel the U.S. full-time in a motorhome early next year. More than one time you have said you wish you had gone with a smaller coach. We will want to boondock, camp in (or somewhere close to)all of the national parks, and in BLM land on occasion, etc.. But we are not opposed to staying in RV parks when needed. My question to you is: Do you think we can do that kind of traveling in a 43′ motorhome? We have done tons of research on the manufacturer and make we want to buy. Their 38′ and 40′ models just don’t have a layout that I think will work for us, especially since the 43′ seems to have everything we want in the right place.
A better option is to get a good and efficient heater. The factory installed propane furnaces that come with most RVs is very inefficient. The blower uses a lot of electricity. What’s worse, the heater goes through a lot of propane, because much of the hot air is exhausted outside the RV (just go outside on a cold day and put your hands by the RV furnace vent — they’ll be warm in a jiffy!).
Consider using two different circuits, not just different outlets, since two or more electric heaters can draw more than the 15 amps allowed on any one circuit. This can be tested by shutting off circuit breakers to determine which outlet is on which circuit. If you must use the same circuit, use a 15 amp power strip that prevents overloading a circuit and plug both heaters into that. (former firefighter)
In Texas, Escapees has the largest mail forwarding service in the country. They receive a semi tractor-trailer load of mail everyday. We saw this truck come in everyday while visiting the main Escapees Headquarters campus in Livingston, Texas, and we toured their mail sorting facility. We were absolutely floored by the operation (our blog post about it is here: Rainbow’s End – Escapees RV Club Headquarters in Livingston Texas. Another Texas mail forwarding service is Texas Home Base.
The first year of RVing I struggled to find the kinds of campgrounds (natural, green, spacious) that we like to visit. It was a constant battle of going to one website, through a ton of clicks, then another website, then to a map, then to another spot and back again to try and figure out which one matched our route. Early this year I discovered uscampgrounds.info and my planning life changed. If you like public camping there’s simply no better resource out there and I use it as the base for all our travel planning now.
Chip took Penni to a used RV lot just to “check it out” in 2015, but they ended up buying a 395-square foot camper they call “Daisy.” They say they love this lifestyle now and have no plans to return to a typical home. Penni is selling her condo in Montpelier because they don’t think they’ll need it anymore. They track how many states they have been to on a map on the side of their RV. The current tally is 25.
We are lucky and my sister and her family (she has 2 kids) also travel fulltime. So we spend a lot of time with them on the road. Plus my parents have joined us on the road too :)! I know it isn’t normal but part of us being able to do this was knowing they would be joining us a lot on the road. We definitely struggle with not seeing my husbands family as often. Skype helps and they have come out to visit us on the road and we hope they will come even more in the coming year. We also make sure to get home for a month or more once a year.
We live five months a year in our motorhome spending 7 months in our Mexican casa down in San Felipe, Baja. This has been our life style since 2005. Looking over your expenses have you every shopped on eBay for software products? You can save bundles. . . . I buy a ton of our “needs” on eBay with great savings and success just shipping it to where ever we are staying. Also, I am a thrift store junkie. I love nice, expensive (brands) clothes and kitchenware but don’t like paying full price. I find great bargains in Goodwill and Saver stores. It makes it fun to seek out these stores in all the different stops we make. I “cleaned house” this summer back east in their Goodwill stores. Just a thought. . . I enjoy your website very much. . . you’re having a lot of fun in your travels. I also would rather stay at a Harvest Host site versus Walmart!
Great information! My husband and I just purchased our first motorhome, a Thor Challenger 37GT that has 3 slide outs. We will be full timers and will be living in the rv in the cold, cold (and hot in the summer) Midwest for the next couple of years until we retire and head out to see the country. My question is, how do we keep the slide areas warm in the winter? Would you skirt the bottom of the rv, then also skirt around the slides? Or is there a way to insulate around the slide when it’s out? Looking forward to comments. Thanks!
For vehicle registration it very much depends on where you plan on establishing domicile during your fulltime RV travels. Typically you get a drivers license and register your RV in the state that you establish domicile. Most fulltime RVers chose either SD, TX or FL as their domicile states since they are income-tax-free states and are very “RV friendly”. If you plan on keeping a house or address in your home state however, then that may change how/where you can establish domicile. I’m not familiar with the rules in any of the states you mentioned so I don’t know the requirements for domicile in those states.
We use a mail forwarding service (Alternative Resources in South Dakota) to manage our mail. They keep our mail at their office until we ask them to send it to us. Most RV parks will accept mail or you can send mail as “general delivery” to a local post office and pick-up it later. The address we have in SD also serves as our address on record for the purposes of taxes, voting, car/RV registration, insurance and drivers license. When we established domicile with them we had to make sure we got to South Dakota within a certain time-frame to get our drivers licence (can only be done on-site). You can read more about establishing domicile here:
Good Morning to all. I have read and skimmed my way through the initial posting and the comments. So here is my 2 cents. I have been full time RV’ing since August 2015. Sold my home in NY State because it was too expensive to run on my retirement and Social Security. I made the same mistake & stored a fair amount of belongings & furniture. That will go this summer. I still own property in NYS and barns, but that will be another year. I started out with a 37′ 5th wheel, drove to Florida and spend 6 months & 1 day at a campground on the Space Coast. Thoroughly enjoyed the time there and will be going back this November. (November 1 through May 1). I bought a new 5th Wheel in Florida and am enjoying it much more that my last one. You mentioned size, but I generally don’t have an issue. I have not tried dry camping yet and I have not done that in an RV before, The new 5th wheel is 42′ in length plus a spare tire and bike rake. I drive a 3500 Silverado diesel dually and I am very comfortable in all situations, including in town if I am going to a campground there or just following a detour, which I ran into in Nebraska. This past spring after leaving Florida, I traveled westward to Colorado to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. I was still in the mode of “make as many miles as possible in a day”, but I am now realizing that I really don’t need to do that, I’m retired. On previous trips out to South Dakota & Wyoming, I saw Badlands National Park, Devils Tower, Mount Rushmore and stayed in Cody, WY before moving on to Yellowstone & the Grand Tetons. Therefore after visiting with some friends in Wyoming, I headed back east. Now I wish that I had stopped along the way, even though I had seen those sights. I missed the Badlands and the Wild Horse Reserve south of Rapid City and the area around Rapid City. Another good reason to settle down and enjoy the sights. I am back in Upstate NY for the summer and will be heading back to Florida around the end of September. I am also considering a resident state in either South Dakota or Florida. Medicare supplemental plans will make that decision for me. Right now I have a great plan from Excellus BC/BS in NY and that will be what I will want from either of those states. I’m thinking about alternate routes other that I-81 & I-95 heading south. I am a single guy not by choice, so I have to do all of the things to keep the adventure going. I purchased a Magellan RV GPS and I feel very comfortable with it. The next 2 years will hopefully see me travel to Montana for the Glacier National Park and then south through Utah for all of the parks and the natural beauty. In 2018, I am planning to drive up to Alaska. That plan is in it’s infancy right now. Just gathering data and trying to throw out bad info and keeping what sounds reasonable. I’ve also donated at least 50% of my clothes because I don’t wear them. Takes up space and a lot of weight. I’m always looking to reduce weight. I hope that this gives someone else some ideas about life on the road.
Unlike Maintenance & Repair costs which must be done (although some can be put off until you have the funds to do them), upgrades to the rig are entirely optional. The figure here is the average of all our improvement and upgrade costs on our truck and trailer since we bought them rather than just the upgrade costs we incurred during our six months of summer travel in 2014.
At the same time, being together 24/7 is a challenge, too. It’s one of the reasons we chose to live this way. But, as you can imagine, it poses its own issues since there is no pushing anything under the rug. All issues, hard feelings and frustrations need to be addressed quickly or they just continue to grow and grow, and that doesn’t work in such close quarters.
4. Exercise: Sitting in a moving vehicle is no healthier than sitting at home, so plan to schedule regular exercise, just as you would living in a house. Long hikes, walks, bike rides, and runs are great ways to get the most out of your destination. Also, be sure to take turns driving during long hauls so that everyone can stretch out and move around.
Remember Annie. This is my families expenses. It is not meant to be “the be all that ends all” or the average monthly expense for nomadic living. Not to mention this is from the “winter months” wherein we splurge and stay at an RV resort in SW Florida where prices are premium because of snowbirding. Do some searching around on sites like Technomadia and Gone With The Wynns or even the Snowmads to see examples of other working budgets.
Brent and I so badly wanted to raise our oldest boys out of the box and in the slow lane of full time RVing until it was time for them to take flight on their own. We had so many ideas and plans for our family. During the first three years it seemed possible that they would grow up on the road happy and fulfilled but then they and their needs, particularly Thing 1, started to change. It was gradual but it became clear that full time RVing was no longer the best fit for our family. We were reluctant to admit it because Brent and I enjoyed our life as it was but we knew in our hearts that continuing to full time RV as a family would be…well…selfish. It wasn’t like we had to stay on the road. We weren’t following Brent’s work. We weren’t living in a RV because we were going through hard times. We were doing it because we loved the simplicity of life and it was fun. Crazy fun!
Our motorhome had a diesel furnace that provided heat and hot water. Because the electric was included in the campground fee, we ended up using a couple of catalytic heaters for most of our interior heating needs. This also helped us conserve fuel so we wouldn’t have to cart diesel back to the RV to fill the fuel tank as often. The most critical function of the furnace for winter RVing was to keep the bays heated so nothing would freeze (tanks, plumbing lines, etc.).
While neither of us were ever crazy planners, Kerensa did like to have a general plan of where we were going and what was around when we got there. Sometimes that skill still comes in handy like planning for the Florida Keys, but for the most part, we don't make reservations anymore. We prefer to stay loose with our plans and be able to adjust quickly to meet friends, dodge weather, or choose a destination on a whim!