2017 Update – TOTALLY still agree with this. Although we’ve gotten used to our “beastly” size I still wish we were a tad smaller and we (still) dream about downsizing. 95% of our camping is on public land and if we were smaller and more nimble we’d have many more options open to us, especially for boondocking. 35-feet would be nice, 30-feet would be even sweeter, but hey we make do. Maybe one day….
Your water hose WILL FREEZE! Do not leave your water hose connected during freezing temperatures. There are special water hoses you can plug in to keep warm, you can also make a heated water hose using Pipe Heating Cable (Heat Tape) and Insulating Foam Pipe Covers. During extreme freeze your ‘heated’ water hose may still freeze. Numerous times I’ve seen people in the bathroom trying to thaw their heated hoses. Save money and save hassle, just fill your fresh water tank and disconnect your hose, repeat when necessary (it’s really not a big deal and it will save you money and you won’t have to store a bulky winter water hose all year)
This figure is an average of all our truck and trailer maintenance costs from 2007 to 2014 rather than being just the expenses we incurred over our six months of summer travels in 2014. We did not use the trailer when we lived on our sailboat, although we did use our truck when our boat was in San Diego and Ensenada at the beginning and end of our cruise, and all that is factored into this average.
Campgrounds can vary greatly by state and proximity to highly touristy areas, Earl. To give you some insight into a few places we’ve stayed longer term, we were getting a full hookup spot in Marathon, Texas for under $400 / month. That’s pretty remote, but we love that little town and the surrounding Big Bend region, so it was a steal for us. We priced a few places in Bastrop, Texas (just east of Austin), and full hookups were from $400 – $570 / month (plus paying for your own electric). While we haven’t ever stayed anywhere else for a month or more we have seen prices that range from about $350 at the absolute lowest end (and those places are not always terrible, though usually they are a bit run down) to somewhere around $800 / month for more highly sought after locations. Here in Austin, where some friends are staying, it’s around $670 and that puts you near the highway, ten minutes from Austin, in a relatively luxury place. Most spots will ask you to pay your own electric. Water is usually included, cable, too. I’d recommend getting a cell phone, so whatever you have for that (AT&T & Verizon are the most reliable nationwide) now would be the same, though if you wanted unlimited data on your phone so you can have the Internet, that might raise your bill. You’d know better about your grocery situation that I would be able to guess. No property tax. 🙂
Departure – Before you depart the campground in cold weather turn on the engine block heater for a minimum of 4 hours and run the generator for 30 minutes with a low-medium load. This routes the fuel to the generator but not all the fuel is burned. The fuel that is not burned follows a return line back to the fuel tank, effectively warming up the fuel and giving the engine warm fuel for a better start. Make sure your engine and transmission have time to warm up before jumping directly onto the highway.
Our highest month was August in Cocoa Beach, FL. We both went on a bioluminescence kayaking tour which was $84. Also Julie got the deluxe adventure package at the Brevard Zoo which included an aerial adventure obstacle course, zip lining and kayaking for $57. We discuss how much fun we had on the Space Coast in our inaugural podcast episode. Our least expensive month was again at Fort Belvoir because there are so many free activities in the Washington DC area (i.e., Smithsonian museums, monuments, and hiking galore).
On the one hand, I think a trip like ours would probably work better with younger kids who didn’t have to worry about school or missing a social life. On the other, we have some friends who were doing it at the same time we were, with elementary school-aged kids. They pointed out that because you don’t have friends or family or babysitters on the road, you can never get a break from little ones. Our kids were lonely most of the time, and didn’t always like being stuck together 24/7. In the end, though, I think it did give them a lasting bond.
For the conduit, I used brown vinyl downspout pipe. That’s the stuff people usually use to go from the gutter on the edge of the roof to the ground. I bought six 12-foot lengths of the stuff and six connectors. I also bought a pair of matching flex elbows to use at either end. I ran the PEX in this pipe, making connections as I went along. Then I laid it in the trench, put the flex pipes on both ends, and connected the ends of the PEX to the water source and RV. When I was finished, the PEX was completely enclosed in the pipe.
The answer to this question will vary greatly depending on your RV lifestyle and choices. It really is a highly individual thing. We like full hook-up campsites which cost a bit more. On the other hand, we like to travel slowly staying in an area for at least a month, which costs quite a bit less. In this article, we discuss the typical budget line items. Also at the bottom of the article, we’ll share our average monthly budget expenses.
Life – This is an area than many people leave out to cut costs. However, if you are relatively healthy, it is pretty inexpensive and can significantly help your family in the event something happens. Any adult who contributes to income should have enough life insurance to help cover the loss of that as well particularly if you have any outstanding debts, like the mortgage, credit cards and car loans. In addition, all family members (including children) should have enough life insurance to cover expenses like funeral and burial costs that can overwhelm a grieving family.
Fortunately, there are lots of RV parks that are designed with this conundrum in mind, offering activities for kids and adults alike. For example, the Jellystone Parks family of RV resorts has fun, themed activities and tons of amenities like swimming pools, water slides, and bounce houses, making it one of the best solutions to RV vacations for families.
You are absolutely right Sondra although we are not at all looking to eliminate many of our expenses. About the only thing we are anxious to do is convert more to solar so we can boondock more in some of our natural parks. Our TT does not have any extra room for hanging clothes or a washer/dryer. We are a family of 3 (the third being a toddler) in 27′. There isn’t a lot of wiggle room, so to speak. As for eating out. Be careful what you say. Eating out is not synonymous with McDonalds and in our case involves some incredible farm-to-table establishments, seafood eats on the waterfront, etc. It is something we enjoy as a family and not something we are looking to cut back on. Your recommendations will surely be helpful to some though. Thank you.
Anything above $5000/mo means you can start to splurge and of course if you have more to spend, you’ll have more opportunities to splurge. The folks at this end of the scale generally travel in larger rigs (= more expensive maintenance/registration/insurance fees), stay in private RV parks most of the time (= higher camping costs), drive more miles and like to eat out. These folks also love their lifestyle.
Thanks for sharing your personal info with us all. One thing about this lifestyle is that you live it and learn as you go. What you did last year will not be what you do next year. Goodwill and other such places across the nation now have right much of the items we started out with. Pretty sure we aren’t done donating yet. See you out there someday.
I grew up in a travel trailer for many years. And now my husband and I are going to do it with our three kids. We looked into it financially and found out, it was a very good option the storage unit, truck, trailer and our land payment would add up to be less than the rent we pay. So when we build, the house will not be such a financial burden, if any. Your post has helped me believe it will end up being the best option even with all the kids.
$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.
We had to skirt our first RV and it worked like a champ. We called the Miller Family from RVSkirting.com and even though they couldn’t install the skirt for us they helped us get set for a last minute freeze in Breckenridge, CO and gave us the confidence that we could install it ourselves. Most manufacturers and dealers don’t understand skirting so make sure you do lots of research or give these guys a call if you have questions about winter camping.If you plan to be in an area with snow you can try the poor man’s skirt, it works pretty well: Take a shovel and pile up snow all around your coach up to the bays. Pack the snow well and it can last for months. During an extreme freeze put a space heater under your coach, don’t worry it shouldn’t melt the snow…I call this the Igloo effect!
$2,500 Insurance: Includes RV insurance, Car insurance, Life Insurance, Renter’s Insurance (to cover our belongings at home), Jewelry Insurance, and a Rider policy for camera/computer gear. We switched to State Farm Insurance halfway through the year and it saved us nearly $75+ per month vs. Geico and Progressive. We do not currently have health insurance, I know don’t yell at us… (est. savings $900)
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!
Or maybe you are like me. I took early retirement with a pension of about $1100 per month and I don’t have to work at all unless I want to for whatever reason. I am young and healthy so I am working as a campground host in some beautiful places. That way I can build more of a savings account or spend more as I want. Many people have social security or disability checks they live on.
Enter PEX. My friend Mike, who’d done most of the interior work on his home in Wenatchee Heights, had raved about it. I did some research. PEX was more costly than PVC but less costly than copper. It didn’t require any welding — or whatever it is that people do to copper pipes to join them — and it was flexible. There were two kinds of fittings. One kind required special (costly) crimping tools. The other kind, known as PTC, let you literally snap pieces together, with no special tools at all. All I needed was a PVC pipe cutter (which I already had) and a very inexpensive tool I could use to separate joined pieces if I made a mistake. The snap fittings were a bit more costly than the crimp type, but I only needed a few. I bought a 100-foot roll of blue 3/4 inch PEX.
We use St. Brendan’s Isle in Florida for our mail forwarding, and use their Mail Scan Pro service. Their address also serves as our legal address of domicile for driver’s licenses, voting, vehicle registration, business registration, taxes, etc. They collect our mail, scan the front of the envelop and notify us via e-mail that we have new mail. We can then view our envelops online and decide what to do with them – scan, send or shred. We can request a shipment to whatever address we’re at. They’re super cool and we couldn’t be happier with the service we have received from them.
Remember to boil the bones of chicken and beef with a little vinegar to bring out the best, the chicken feet have great collegen.. bone broth is great for you. Kombucha is also for the immune system and easy to make. Make all the food you can.. it is very satisfying and better for you and tastes better. get a book and homemade medicine and try the young living essential oils.. The woods is full of medicine. Let me know if I have helped or hindered or can help in the future.
I am hoping you can answer some questions for us with what we will need. I have already started a budget based on your article and answers to questions above. Our goal is to raise the funds through private, like-minded products/corporate sponsorship. What we would love is some advice about where to start with purchasing an RV. We need some way – even if it is a small motorbike to get around once with visit each town. Also – we are open to a trailer and truck combo…just not sure what you’d recommend. We are leaning towards a decent looking RV (if we can raise the funds) so there is a level of professionalism with the tour and because we would like to make that our home after the tour is over to continue our teaching on the road. If we don’t raise too much, we may need other options.
Regarding storage, I found it to be a total loss. By time I paid the monthly rent while I full-timed almost 2 years, I could’ve replaced the furniture and tools with the latest styles for less money when I returned. If you have items that can’t be replaced, put a value on them and assess. If those items are that meaningful, you’ll probably want them with you.
Hi Joe we sold everything 3 years ago and hit the road.We pull a Jayco 28 ft Rls with a Yukon xl. We have 2 large dogs with us .We camphost for 3 months then travel for 3 months. The money we save doing this is our mad money for luxuries in the months we travel. Just wanted ya to know your numbers are pretty accurate. We favor stateparks but have stayed in many different types of campgrounds.Wouldnt trade this life style for any other. Let the good times roll.
RV’s have lots of moving parts and components. Which means, a pretty much never ending to-do list, and parts and labor can get pretty expensive. Thankfully, Brett is pretty handy, so he can tackle most of the jobs that pop up. We have also had really good luck in finding fellow campers that were experienced and willing to step in and help out when he got in over his head.
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?
Using that silver bubble wrap over your windows on the exterior of the rv eliminates almost all heat loss through your windows, description online says the stuff will block ~94% of radiant heat, means it keeps heat in and cold out or vice versa, if yoy can bare to part without seeing out some of your windows. Ive been living in an rv for two years in north dakota, temps can get down to -50°F or worse, my skirting is 2×4 frame with osb sheeting, one inch foam board with reflective backing and R21 insulation behind that, heaters and heat tape and heated hoses are definitely ur friends, at such low temps every little bit helps.
Pay no attention to the the few who want to rain on your (and our!) parade. We appreciate all the work you guys put into putting all this information out there. It’s not easy tracking all the info and then putting it out there for the world to see. Again we appreciate it. I am an Amazon fan and shop there all the time. I hope you get a nice little stipend from them. 😉
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?
The Meinhofers and a dozen others who spoke with The Washington Post about this modern nomadic lifestyle said living in 200 to 400 square feet has improved their marriages and made them happier, even if they’re earning less. There’s no official term for this lifestyle, but most refer to themselves as “full-time RVers,” “digital nomads” or “workampers.”
For the year 1 monthly budget I hope to cut it down to $1,900 per month average as Marvin is in Arizona for the solar power installation so I would not be going to Florida and therefore the campground and gas will decrease accordingly. Before that my campground and gas expenses were 32.7% of the budget. I had done the year one destinations before Nina wrote about the solar power upgrade, but obviously will have to make an adjustment.
When my husband and I left for our travels, towing our 16-foot CampLite trailer, we’d never spent a single night in an RV. Ever. The reason why we were so ill-prepared was because of our financial situation leading up to our departure date: We’d paid off our mortgage earlier in the year, which meant we had to sell our home first before we could buy a truck and trailer. So, we closed on our house, bought the truck and trailer, packed up our rig, and left the next day. It was a whirlwind of stress and insanity that, in retrospect, we should have done differently.
Do whatever you can to practice living in an RV full-time before you actually hit the road. Practicing will help you learn what you need to enjoy this lifestyle and, more importantly, what you don’t. Practicing will help you get comfortable living in a small space and towing it to different campsites. The RV lifestyle will become more familiar, which will make the transition easier when it becomes part of your daily routine.
Hellow . I live in Georgia and get SSI . I have been disabled ,basically my whole life . Tried to hold jobs but I had very many Panic Attacks and didn’t know what they were . Felt like dying . Anyway I get only 800.00 a month . I feel that I need to get to Colorado for my health . But I am not sure that 800 dollars may not make it . I live very cheap ,you can say . Try not to spend much because I don’t have much . I have to move from the weather here . Lived in Wyoming for two years . Colorado we just drove down and looked . I fell in love with it … Anyway I’m just trying to live as long as possible . Grandkids is one of the best reasons . Long winded ,sorry . Just wanted to know what I need to do . I live in a Camper that I can pull with my truck . Can pull it anywhere ,just looking for the best spot and the lowest rate . Thank you . If you can help I would be in your debt for a very long time !!
And don’t forget the discount cards and passes. There are plenty out there and your glovebox should be stuffed with these money-savers before you leave. Tops on that list for any RVer over the age of 62 is the Senior America The Beautiful Pass. For $80 the Senior Pass provides lifetime admission to every national park and 2,000 more recreational sites—and that includes up to three other adults in the vehicle.
And finally there’s just the whole money thing. Money is a “hot” topic and these kinds of posts almost always generate heated debate about how much it really costs. What one person might consider “a pretty good deal” could be construed as “ridiculously expensive” to some one else (“you spend that much on xxx??” is a common response). So I’m going to say this up front. Don’t take ANY of these numbers as fixed. Rather use these posts as a guide together with other folks who publish their data (which I’ll link to) to create your own, individual financial plan.
We are all electric with no propane, now what? Hydronic heating (Aqua Hot) can rely upon a diesel burner for furnace instead of propane. As you correctly pointed out diesel additive is necessary to keep the fuel liquid. We have learned that even though we treat our fuel it remains very cold. Cold diesel doesn’t completely burn and the exhaust can be very smokey and very smelly.
For years, Brent and I have talked about buying a vintage trailer or bus. In a post I wrote in March 2011, I mentioned my dream of rolling down a dusty highway in an Airstream, a shiny piece of Americana. We love bringing old things back to life. Although, we don’t have experience renovating a trailer, we did renovate two 1950s houses in California. A trailer can’t be that much harder to restore than a house, right? Years ago, when we bought our pop-up trailer, our tow vehicle was a Honda Odyssey so we were very limited by weight and budget. Today, we have a bigger budget and tow vehicle so maybe now is the time to pursue our dream of restoring and remodeling a vintage Airstream! We have a perfect space to park it while we work on it.
Wow! Bold, informative, funny, truthful, your on to something. All your information from the Cats to your cell phone service. I feel very blessed to have watched HGTV that day. You are living our dream and at such a young age. Your showing a very young generation that you don’t have to wait till retirement to see the world. Oh I am not old by the way or retired but admire your budgeting skills and dedication to balance life experience vrs $$$.. You guys are getting it right. Ok so medical expenses. What people don’t know is when you pay cash for your medical care you can negotiate with the doctor because they save by not having to bill your insurance and all the clerical and bookkeeping costs. So lets say the cost of a physical is $500.00, well I think we all know that is crazy, but that is what they bill the insurance co. but if you tell them you are paying cash, ask for a discount. Good doctors that care about patient care are happy to do it. My parents do it all the time. Dentist, Eye Doctor.. You can monitor and care for your health with out medical insurance. Sorry so long.
We love the power of our Diesel engine. It can go anywhere and drive any mountain. So, that portion I would probably try and keep. But size-wise I wish we’d gone a tad smaller…closer to 30 or even 35 feet. It can be tough finding accessible sites with “the beast”, and a smaller size would sure make that easier. We love our slides and would definitely buy with slides again (it makes the interior so much roomier) and our layout is good, plus I can’t deny the tanks in this rig are nice and big. There’s just the size thing 🙂
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!