I also found that the power steering fluid, transmission fluid and generator oil were bone dry, the engine oil desperately needed to be changed  and I discovered that someone put the wrong fuel filter on, so now it’ll have to be cut off to be replaced (who knows how much that’ll cost!). It also now needs rear ABS service and the air conditioner wasn’t just a recharge, but the compressor is blown which will cost $1000. I knew an older RV would need work, but I didn’t expect it so soon…
Having never driven more than an SUV, I certainly didn’t feel equipped to pull a 30-foot trailer with a diesel pickup truck (our setup last year). But like riding a bike, practice makes perfect. A few hours maneuvering around a Walmart parking lot, getting a feel for turns and backing into empty spaces, and we felt comfortable enough to head out on the open road. It’s always necessary to do an appropriate amount of route scouting in advance to avoid low overpasses or the possible restricted roads, but within a few weeks’ time, pulling and parking the rig was second nature.
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.

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.

Now, we’re not full-timers, but here’s how we keep our monthly expenses down when we are on the road: Budget, Book Early and Save $$$! In order to save money to increase our travel, we launched a new budgeting strategy several years ago. We began our plan, believe it or not, by shifting our yearly spending. It all began in the fall of 2008 when we completed our holiday spending several months early… by the end of October! Honestly, this is a terrific idea as you will find that most Black Friday Deals have the same pricing for sales offered in October. Seriously! Putting this away early allows us to begin to save and prepare for the following year’s travel season ahead of time. We then start to save money from November through January to use for RV travel! We are always ahead of the game! We book our vacations early and ask for “Early Bird Specials”/ AAA/ Good Sam Member/ or Military Specials for trips we plan to take starting in March and we plan trips through October.
1st off I grew up in kick, so hello fellow dott. !! We just moved up to a 5th wheel and have not yet went out, hopefully in March we will get to go . Loved a lot of your ideas, especially the shower. Storage is at a minimum so I hope to use a lot of your ideas on storage . Our dinning are consists of a table and 4 chairs so this will be a lot different , and space is small. Liked reading on your blog and plan to read more !!
Fuel costs are highly variable, both because they go up (and sometimes down) and also because you may drive more or less in any given month. Fuel can cost as little as $0 per month, if you stay in one place and ride your bike around town. Or fuel costs can dominate your budget if you decide to take your RV from Florida to Alaska and back via the scenic routes through New England and Southern California — in six months!
By the time we got serious about the idea, we had about eight months to plan. This included me flying Space-A back to the states to buy a 42-foot, fifth wheel trailer. It had two bedrooms and two full bathrooms, with about 380 square feet of living space. My husband and kids, ages 12 and 14 at the time, thought the video I showed them of it was pretty cool.

I was about to say the same thing. 2,500 is way too much. I was hoping with discount plans to be able to hit the road with about $400k, paid for Truck and 5th wheel and spend about $1000 a month. Just leaving the cash in a normal retirement plan which would return about $700 a month (grandpa is on something similar at the moment) and Social Security (if still available) should be a couple hundred more. Figured out of my pocket I would be spending about $300 – $400 of my own money per month. That would last me pretty much forever and a lot left over for nephews and nieces.


Those first six weeks were brutal. By the first of October, when we had a chance to catch our breath in Florida, we seriously considered giving up. Despite all our research, we were woefully unprepared for RV life. My husband hated towing that behemoth of a fifth wheel, the kids hated sharing a room with bunk beds on either side, and I hated that everyone hated what I thought would be the adventure of a lifetime.
Anxious and excited is how most of us start out, it’s crazy. To be honest, you’ll hear a lot more of the storms in the RV (thinking of your dogs) and you’ll have to take extra precautions for extreme wind, tornadoes, and cold weather. It’s all doable, but you’ll need to be prepared. If you’re staying in one spot, a 5th wheel can feel very residential and may suit your needs. If you aren’t sure that you will stick with it, look for something budget-friendly. If you want to sell or trade it later, it won’t hurt as much.

I went on your site today for some inspiration and ideas. I feel like you two are taking the words right out of my mouth, I have said so many of the things I read here. I love that you are so honest and up front about everything. I’m planning on selling my home and buying a cabin with a few acres but when I search for information on living a simple life the lists i find are just things anybody could tell you, and I find myself saying “well “duh” thats obvious.” This is when I found homesteading sites with folks living off grid.


Many people dream of living in an RV and traveling full time, and for the most part, it’s retirees who are able to live the RV lifestyle. However, there are many young people who are intrigued by the freedom that RVing full time represents. They are hitting the open road as well. One of the first questions prospective full time RVers of all ages ask is – how much will it cost each month?
For electrical power I also will be going with the solar panels (only a few more) but will use a bank of 6 volt batteries and a 3000 Watt inverter, which gives many hours of power and used only when necessary you have a few days of power. I also have a gas Kubota generator for emergencies and a small rechargeable battery booster unit for emergencies. Have used it and it works great.

You might be wondering about what we did with the Littles during the eclipse. You aren’t alone. I spent a week worrying wondering about it because obviously I didn’t want them to lose their vision and by the barrage of eclipse safety in the media you would have thought the sun was a new phenomena. I have no idea how the entire world is not already blind. Anyway, the Littles don’t watch much television but this was one of those time when the benefits outweighed the waste of time. We set them up with a show, toys, and snacks in the RV while we enjoyed the eclipse right outside the door. It was a perfect set up because I didn’t have to worry about them trying to sneak a peek and I could micromanage remind my teens about staying safe without distraction. RVing for the win again!

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.

Heated Water Hose – You can make your own with heat tape and pipe insulation and this works pretty well, although on occasion we have seen people in the bathrooms warming up their frozen hoses during extreme cold snaps.  I’d recommend just purchasing a good heated water hose.  Camco has one on the market but it looks kinda cheap, from the heated hoses I’ve seen in person I’d recommend the Pirit Heated Hose as the construction and the warranty seem top notch.

Love this blog. In 105 days we try our first long term (4 months) full time RV trip. We had a motor home that we loved but did not like the vehicle towing and must have a car to get around once we hooked up. The motor home was fantastic for storage and ease of leveling and hookups but very expensive compared to a travel trailer and tow vehicle (for us half the price). Due to our business we had to sell back in 2006. We just bought a 27′ travel trailer and I do have concerns that it is a few feet too small. I wish I had seen this blog before. However we will make it work for our first trip and excited to be working in a national park for our 4 month trip! Safe travels everyone!
Thank you for the information on RV monthly expenditures. We will be on the road shortly and have so many questions!! When you were traveling in your gas motorhome and pulling your jeep, how difficult was it going up the mountains in the west U.S. A.? My husband says we should get a diesel motorhome instead of a gas, because of the “wear and tear” on the gas engine.

If all you need is a little connectivity on your phone I’d suggest looking at one of the ATT-based Straight Talk plans at Walmart. If your phone accepts it you can buy a SIM at Walmart and then you just pay flat $45 per month for “unlimited” talk/text/data. I put the unlimited in quotations because the fine print says that you get unlimited talk/text but only 5GB of full-speed data (after that you’re throttled pretty heavily). That might be enough for you though? The nice thing about Walmart is that it’s non-contract plan so you can try it for a month and if it doesn’t work out you can just ditch it and do something else. ATT doesn’t get you as wide coverage as Verizon, but it’s pretty darn good. We have it on our phones right now.
We are opening a Facebook group called RV to Freedom: Learning to Live in an RV where anyone can come and ask questions to learn about living in an RV. We truly hope to help people get over their fears, cut through the clutter of opinions and information on the internet, and learn how to live on the road. We hope you'll join us and share your experiences, too. The full-time RV community is welcoming and open and we want to encourage everyone to join, participate, and form connections. It makes us better prepared and better people. We hope to see you there and on the road!
The Cougar X-Lite 32 FBS was the first travel trailer floor plan we came across with a rear master bedroom. When we went to Indiana over spring break, we saw it in person and loved it. There is a ton of space in the back bedroom and there is more floorspace in the Cougar front bunkhouse than some other travel trailers due to the slide out closet and two as opposed to three or four bunks.

6. Insurance is a big deal, so make sure you have it. However, don’t just go with the first policy you come across. This is where it’s best to do a bit of homework, as there are many different options with many different policy payouts and a lot of fine print. There are also some discounts and other options you will want to familiarize yourself with before making a final decision. You will need to types of coverage if something happens to your RV. One type of policy covers the RV itself in the case of damages or theft, and another for personal belongings, much like homeowners or renters insurance. Consider what type of lifestyle you’ll be living, for the most part, and what types of problems you might run across. There is also a medical insurance just for full time RV’ers.

I hate to say this, but were I starting all over, I’d go with a 2009 – 2014 or so Ford E150 with low miles (probably run around $15000), build out the camper myself, pay someone to put a pop top on it (that’s big money though, $7k more or less) and spend more of my time traveling than working on this old girl. At this point, of course, I am in love with our VW and wouldn’t make the choice outlined in this paragraph. 🙂

Boondocking – This is a term that essentially means camping without hookups typically in dispersed locations for free (or less than $15 per night). There are many places to camp for free in an RV or tent in the United States. RV boondocking locations include Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land and National Forests. Free boondocking sites are plentiful out west, but significantly limited in states east of the Mississippi. To read a terrific review of boondocking sites in Florida, click here.

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.
​Since we don’t eat out a lot and we try to buy organic, local food that tends to be a little more expensive, our grocery bill is one of our biggest. We shop a lot at Costco (you wouldn’t think a bulk store like this would work, but the prices are right for the things we like!) and Trader Joe’s for most of our groceries. We also lump in here things like cleaners, toilet paper, shampoo, new clothes, etc. 
So the big swing number that I see in what you wrote is camping costs. We workamp/boondock at least 4 months of every year which brings down those costs to around $10-$12/night on average. That’s been our norm for the past 6 years. Last year was the sole exception traveling out East, but even then we only hit $24/night. We have no TV, we travel on average only 6,000 miles per year and we don’t eat out much simply because we love to cook (when we do it’s mostly for beer tasters and a cheap lunch).

Yes the kids still want toys and yes we still buy them some. However, they are also good at when they are done playing with something they pass it on to someone else or donate it. By April they were already donating some of the Christmas presents they had gotten. And when we left friends we had made in Miami they were giving them their toys as presents before we left. They aren’t attached to many things anymore either.
Since I’m in a wheelchair and can’t do as many outside chores as I used to, we decided that water was too big a problem and so don’t use it in our unit – except for in the toidy, in which we use antifreeze. We drink distilled water anyway, which we purchase in handy 5-gallon plastic jugs, so it’s no big deal. While it’s easy enough to wash oneself in most RV parks, we always carry Huggies soaked in a sterilizing liquid (one part vodka to five parts water) and that keeps what needs cleaning nice and fresh. 😉 We also use One-Step hand sanitizer routinely. Where we like to park, there are excellent rec centers not too far away, so on laundry day we enjoy a good long soak in the hot tub, and then a little time in the sauna, before heading for the showers
Why we’re doing it: Depression, economic hardship, and fear are impacting Americans at an alarming rate contributing to grave uncertainty, growing intolerance, and crippling levels of anxiety. One in ten Americans are on antidepressants; among women in their 40s and 50s, the figure is one in four. Although we spend over 30 billion dollars on these medications, the epidemic of depression has moved suicide into one of the top ten causes of death (www.cdc.gov).

We had planned to stay in the RV for an entire year after being stationary but soon realized that wasn’t going to work. Not only were the boys embarrassed, our 41′ RV shrunk exponentially once we quit moving. Having Yellowstone or Lake Superior as the playground in your backyard is much different from the city campground where the RVs are crammed together like books on a bookshelf. So we found a house and a few months later said goodbye to the RV.
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.
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.

Joe, thank you for your information on full time RVing. My husband and I are in the process of getting rid of all our stuff, house and cars to get ready for retirement in 13 months. We are learning all we can about the RV lifestyle so we will be as prepared as possible and are so excited about this upcoming chapter of our lives. After a lot of research, we decided to go with a Forest River Cedar Creek Silverback 5th wheel and 2500 Diesel truck as our new home. Now the search is on. We have heard a lot about the All Stay app and would love to be entered in your giveaway. We had planned on getting it prior to hitting the road.


Just read all your cool info about your visits to Cloudcroft, NM. Actually visited there many times as a kid when my dad was stationed at Holloman AFB. Lived in Alamogordo too. I remember the artesian wells, horseback riding and camping. Took my wife through Alamogordo many years ago on our way to live in LA. Can’t wait to do it again in an RV. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
I heat my home with a very large woodstove and it takes up so much of my time in the winter hours. I have to collect firewood 12 months of the year just to stay stocked up and I live near St. Louis where it is mostly warm. If you could send me more info. about your cute little wood stove I “wood” really appreciate it. I need something smaller for my greenhouse.
Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when it comes to tracking expenses.  Is anyone really interested in this stuff?  I mean it’s basically the same junk just a different quarter…at least that’s what I keep telling myself!  Then I start downloading our bank reports and before I know it I’m so interested in the numbers.  So, weather you love or hate it, here are our full-time RV expenses from July 01 – December 31, 2014.
As for our tanks, they stayed plenty warm, having the warmth from the storage bay radiating through the floor on one side, and because our skirting kept them warm enough on the other side.  For people who need extra protection against frozen tanks, tank heaters are an option.  However, it’s important to make sure that pipes in addition to tanks are protected from freezing.
It is always hard to sell a house and leave family and friends behind but today’s technologically rich world makes the parting a much sweeter sorrow. WIFI hotspots are becoming more prevalent around North America, especially for travelers. Many campgrounds and visitor centers are wired for your WIFI-enabled devices. Before you leave check out the many service providers and re-sellers who can keep you online and tapped in to the world while on the move. Your rig can also carry along its own satellite dish, hard-mounted or mobile. You can choose how connected you want to be in your RV.
Yes we have a washer and dryer in our RV – but it is mini! So when you see one with industrial size washers and dryers that will dry everything in 25 minutes (instead of 2 hours like the RV one) you get really excited :)! It really does become about the little things you took for granted in a house when you live in an RV. And yes there are times I REALLY miss my large washer and dryer that we had in our house . . .
Full disclosure: When I went full timing in ‘04, I had the proceeds from the sale of my house & belongings, so I bought my RV outright, but also had over $100K in the bank plus a retirement fund to fall back on. I volunteered for a free space or earned money for fun, not because I had to. I also am healthy and had NO health insurance for nearly 8 years. Paid cash when necessary. I know how to be cautious. I eventually signed up at the VA as I’m a veteran.

Thank you for the information on RV monthly expenditures. We will be on the road shortly and have so many questions!! When you were traveling in your gas motorhome and pulling your jeep, how difficult was it going up the mountains in the west U.S. A.? My husband says we should get a diesel motorhome instead of a gas, because of the “wear and tear” on the gas engine.


Even after putting on our skirting last year, I noticed that the floors of the slides in our living area were extremely cold.  There didn’t seem to be a draft, and the seals around the edges of the slides seemed fine; it was actually the floors themselves that were, according to my thermometer, a good 20 degrees colder than the rest of the room.  To solve this problem, I went to Lowe’s and purchased some foam board, and we duct taped it to the bottom of each slide.  This made a huge difference in the temperature of the floor and the warmth of the whole RV.  If I had it to do over again, though, I would use HVAC tape instead of duct tape as it is supposed to be better in all weather and not leave residue when removed.
You’re so right on. Like you, we’ve purged every year since we started RVing. We started out with lots of stuff we thought was “essential” only to realize we never use it. Plus we made the mistake of buying a bunch of “RV stuff” before we even moved in. These days I advise newbies to bring stuff they definitely know they use on a regular basis (hiking clothes, kitchen items) plus a few basic tools (multi-screwdriver, duct tape etc.) and safety items (e.g. Fire extinguisher, surge protector) and then go from there. It’s amazing to find out, once you get into the lifestyle, how little you actually need.
Nina – another great post! This is the first winter that we have spent (prior two winters spent in Florida) traveling in the West, and we are finding that there are many more opportunities to manage camping costs out here, as compared to the east cost. In general, RV site costs in Florida and Georgia, are a bit more expensive than Arizona, New Mexico, Texas. We (like you and Paul) have a large RV, and have found a lot more public campgrounds and public land in the West, that we can fit in. In Florida, state park reservations can be hard to get, and many of the campgrounds primarily have smaller sites (at least this was our experience).
$700 Smart Repairs: Includes 1 oil change service, 2 rim replacements, 1 tire replacement. Because our Smart Car is the Brabus edition it has low profile tires and 17” rims in the back (BAD IDEA). We hit a few potholes along the way bending rims and shredding a tire. We purchased a tire and rim warranty and we have AAA for towing (est. savings $2,500)
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.

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:
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!! 😀
12. Consider how many people will be with you. Many people who RV full time are married couples who have retired. However, there is an ever-increasing population of couples with families who are hitting the road. Regarding the latter, you need to keep in mind that in addition to having less space for belongings, there is also less space for privacy. Learning to live together, and get along, is an absolute necessity and if that isn’t possible, it’s time to rethink your decision. One way around this is to make sure your rig is big enough to assign certain areas for certain children and their belongings, off limits to siblings. That personal space can mean the world to some people.
When I was growing up my parents bought a vacant piece of property and a house trailer. The first year we had to park the trailer on a friend’s farm, so quite literally I can say I grew up in a barn yard! The cows and horses would come and look in the windows and watch us eat and we had to be careful to not get manure on our boots when playing outside.
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