For those who can’t go a day without the Internet, mobile devices, and other gadgets of the Digital Age, RV camping may elicit more groans than exclamations of excitement. Is RVing new to you and your family? Consider these RV camping hacks to create a home-away-from-home that will ease newcomers into the RV lifestyle. Here are a few tricks of the trade from veteran RVers.
I mean come on now, RV living with kids means we are together literally 24/7 so it is bound to happen! And it does. There are days when we are all at our wits end and just don’t want to be together anymore. These are usually the days when we will jump in the car and go for a ride so everyone can be in their car seat, contained, and just relaxing – with the TV on and an iPad in hand. And we don’t feel guilty about it!
We hope this information will help you plan a realistic budget for your RV travels. However, it is important to realize travel is deeply personal and each person has their definitions of what they can or can’t live without. For us, we like great quality food (organic, local, straight from the source), great experiences (we’ll spring for the hot air balloon tour) and free camping (BLM, National Forest…). If you’re curious how we make money while living in an RV full time check out our post: Make Money and Travel – Gone With the Wynns
Hey savvy savages! We have an absolutely incredible story to share today. We had the privilege of interviewing one of the coolest couples around. Heath and Alyssa from HeathandAlyssa.com share their story on how to live in an RV full time. This young couple is the definition of daring to live different and we are obsessed with their story. Enjoy! – T$C
Hey Timmy. Thanks for the article. I moved in a 1954 Fleet Aire slide in pkup camper mounted on a 1978 GMC 4 by 4 last summer and put in my first Mt. winter. Did really we all things considered. Got to do some upgrades though. New thermal pane windows top the list, along with better insulation along the bottom side of the camper. My outfit is strictly run off of propane which mostly is good, although I do wish I could put in a wood stove – but no room. My heat source is a Little Buddy catalitic heater, and it kept up very well at 25 below with a strong wind. And yes, condensation is also my biggest problem.
• We are NOT living on a shoestring budget. We work on the road, so we need special items to keep our business growing, and since we’re in front of the camera we need nice looking clothes so we’re presentable and respectable. We enjoy a bottle of Champagne and a fine dinner once and a while, granted we cook in most nights but we do splurge every now and then. In our opinion we’re living modestly and we’re sharing our expenses so you can learn from our budget and hopefully it will help you project yours. Let’s call our style of living AFFORDABLE LUXURY!
This number will depend on whether or not they are hitting the road with a job. We’d recommend six months of RV living costs if you don’t have a job, and three months if you do. A lot of things can go wrong during those few months on the road, and you want to be prepared for it. This sounds obvious, but worth pointing out—don’t spend more than you have!
Hi Nina and Paul, Fantastic job on your blog; has answered so many questions for us. Kathy and I tend to plan well in advance for such ventures as full time RV’ers.. Being in the starting planning changes, one topic that seems to come up quite a bit is RV length with regards to parks that RV length “issues”. We are looking at the next year or two to sell the “bricks, sticks and mortar”. One question maybe you can answer from your travel experience is the 40′ length issues at some parks with regards to a motor home, how does that compare to, for example a 38 ft. 5th wheel and along with 18′ length of a double cab truck needed to pull it? Does the combined length of the 5th wheel and truck come into play in some or most places, i.e. setting the 5th wheel and where does one typically park the truck, in line, along side? Guess that does not matter when boon-docking. Would appreciate your feedback … regards…. Roman
Wow..we have been following your post since we saw the special on TV. Was hoping to get some information on RV-ing, but did not know you would provide great detailed information. We hope to start traveling in about 5 years and the cost have been on our minds alot this year. Your expense details really help us. Hope to see you on the road sooner than 5 years. Thanks for the posts.
$1,277 Hawaii Trip – We flew to HI for a friends wedding, it’s amazing how expensive 1 week of travel outside the RV can be. Our friends paid for several dinners, entertainment, and our hotel room yet we still ended up spending this much! This amount includes Cat Hotel ($252), Food, Drink, Pedicure Spa day, and groceries. This price doesn’t even include our airfare! It’s nice to get out of the RV for a few days but the expense is hard to chew.$500 Stuff and Things – I’m sure I’ve missed a few things we’ve paid cash for like laundry, parking meters, tips, farmers markets, etc. so I’ve added this buffer.
Some of the most beautiful times of year to visit the country are also the coldest. From snow-frosted mountains and icy lakes, the winter turns green trees and pastures to beautiful seas of white. The unfavorable weather conditions are a deterrent for fellow vacationers during these cold times. Why let the lower temperatures be the determining factor of when you take your camper out?
Thank you so much for your kind words! We love to travel to (and hopefully one day we will get to as many places as you’ve been) but having our house on wheels and exploring the USA is wonderful! Congrats on your decision and good luck on your next detour! Thanks so much for reading. If you have any questions about RV life, be sure to check out our resources here https://www.followyourdetour.com/full-time-rv-resources-and-information/
Wow! and Yikes!! Camping in Massachusetts will be far far different than where we’ve winter camped in the southernmost states. Our stints in snow storms in Colorado and New Mexico have never been longer than one week and we quickly moved to a much warmer place. I lived on a sailboat in Boston Harbor for four years and that was the coldest I’ve ever been. After that I promptly left New England moved to Phoenix Arizona to thaw out! Good luck to you!!
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.
Hi Heather…Saw your post and thought I could help you a little 🙂 …. Go to the web site zillow.com to get the value of your home…When you get on the site, put in your address and see all the great information you will find. Make sure you read the whole page, so scoll down for all your information. the same site will help you with your new hunt as well…Good Journey to you and the family….Enjoy now….OH YES…GET A R.E. ATTORNITY AND HE CAN WRITE UP YOUR SALE CHEAPER THAN AN AGENT….YOUR ON YOUR WAY NOW….HAPPY TRAILS 🙂
This is pretty personal, and it depends entirely on your financial situation. In our opinion, some people shouldn’t spend more than $5k, and others can afford whatever they want. We have a lot of friends who finance everything: TV, couch, vehicles, etc. We are not a fan of this mentality. We realize you can write off your interest as a second mortgage for your RV, but we don’t finance anything, including our RV. We’ve never had a car loan, and we have always paid cash for our vehicles (including our tow rig and our Airstream).
You got it, those should be included in everyone’s budget, but there are a ton of variables. Some people go for a trailer or van they pick up for $1000 while others could go for a brand new motorhome at $300K. No matter what our expenses are, yours will be different. We decided to share our general monthly expenses to help others. If you think its gibberish (poo on you), fine but there are plenty of others who appreciate the information.
You added a lot of confidence that my wife and I are planning right for our expected expenses. I had used an average between Howard’s numbers at RV Dreams and Kirks from the Escapees Forum. Then added a figure for annual inflation (2.5%) based on going full time in 2019 when we originally planned on 2023. We are spot on at around $3,007 average in future dollars and with no debt. Our form of travel will include workamping at times so we will be parked at times.
Hi-just wanted to update here for some real experience and family life. First, THANK YOU MERISSA for your invaluable advice on the choice of camper. We chose a 29′ fifth wheel-1990 model. We have a 14 and 17 year old with us. We have been here for over a month now in our camper and couldnt be happier. We camped for months on end before so the teens were used to it but I can safely say my 17 year old was not too thrilled at first. Over the past weeks however, we have actually gotten him to say that he has adjusted and is really happy here. We are in Fl so the days are perfect really while the nights are still fairly cool. We have used our heat occasionaly but prefer to bundle with blankets if we need to. Downsizing was a little difficult for a few items but actually all of us did fine. There is also plenty of storage room in this camper. The kids, whom lived in theirs rooms on x box or with cable, or both, are now together without problems most of the day and much, much less fighting (mostly about items they had anyhow….). My daughter has been home schooled so this is no change while my son has been enrolled in the local high school. He has recently, however switched half of his classes to at home online with the school (an option here) and only attends now part time. He drives himself now so it is simple. He actually did this because he began to enjoy more time here with us at the camper. Much else has changed and wanted to really put out there. I am in my mid forties- I have suffered severe migraines for the past 6 years now. My husband and I noticed when we were camping last year that they were more manageable. I was getting to be completely unable to function without days of crying and constant pain. The kids didnt have a great mom for that. Stress was another large factor, even maintenance of the house besides costs.Cleaning on top of that was just so stressful as I am leaning on OCD as a personality. I dont know which helped but I am almost certain it is being able to keep air flowing, even in the bedroom. My migraines are less frequent and when they hit I can manage them so much better. I have not slept this well in years in all honesty. I am better for the kids and we are able to do more as a family. At the house I would try to make a day to force seeing each other at least once a week. My very great kids would look forward to it and then I would be down with a migraine and not even nice to be around. We play games together a lot (our christmas was gifts for the camper such as boardgames, karaoke machine, new thick roll up comforters, more pjs and activities with books) and they read more. We do have internet but opted to not have cable. Ours comes off of a dish so that we can move next year without being tied to this spot. There are also other very nice rv parks around here within a few miles and we would like to be free to do that. Our plans have solidified more this past month; we would like to travel more when our son graduates. He would like to go to NY state next year so we are planning to head there for the nicer months. I do work now and we do get monthly rental payments from renting the house out. We would like to follow parks that need local help as part time work to add to savings but it’s not something that is a necessity for us; our expenses are much lower now for sure and we are able to save for the first time in a very long time. No taxes to pay anymore (our yearly taxes on our house actually could pay half of the monthly rent we pay here yearly including our utilities). The downside is you have to be more patient with everything; I have a 30 second rule with the kids, putting something back or washing one of our 5 plates, 5 bowls, 5 cups etc, takes 30 seconds, opening a cupboard or putting something back under your bed takes this time or less. It has worked for all of us so there is minimal cleaning now. I have help for the first time in ages as well! My son is actually saying he is happy to have a nerdy but great mom and pop (smile) and they are both now happy with the smaller things (a barbecue, extra weekly ice cream, a walk to the state park, even a new local baseball hat or even a dvd for the family we can watch together). I am very proud of my kids really. While this cant work for everyone it has been fantastic for us. I am better for my family and they are happy for that; couldnt be more proud of them. Our homeschool schedule is very strict right now and we spend a lot of time at the local library as well. I am in one area but can say for anyone travelling that anywhere you visit for some months, there is a library close enough with guest passes that can be used. Some have options even for a local monthly card for guests that will expire 30 days from the date purchased. It is very inexpensive. We have a state forest pass that will get us into any park here in Fl; there are many other memberships that can be used for full time on the road rvers. We do laundry at the local laundromat once a week-cost runs 5 to $7 depending. We have our showers here in the camper and they are not long-also not every day but every other day on a schedule. The space really is not a problem with the bunks (something I now tell anyone to get with or without kids if they want space or some privacy. This was the largest concern for my son but, with the curtain he feels he can go there for privacy). We are planning to take out the sofa and put a daybed there for my daughter then add curtains along the divider of the slideouts for night privacy. There is a shelf and other areas she puts her books and stuffed toys there behind where she sleeps so she is very happy.
After checking out other blogs that said towing is cumbersome, we were thinking of foregoing a tow vehicle and renting a car when we need to get around. My concern is this might be problematic if we’re boondocking or camping somewhere remote. We considered trading our current SUV in for a mid-size four-down tow-able SUV (like a Honda CRV) then we’d only have to own one vehicle. But if this size is too cumbersome to tow we could get a compact car for towing and store our SUV on some property we own. (We need access to an SUV when we’re visiting back in the mountains of our home state of CO.)
Thank you so much. All this information is very helpful and I do have a few friends who have traveled and lived on the road for more info. Good luck to you and your family. One of my friends traveled across the nation for over a year staying long terms in National Parks with 6, yes I said 6 kids and home schooled them. Interesting life to say the least.
2017 Update – TOTALLY. In 8 years on the road our expenses have actually been flat to slightly down every year despite increasing health care costs. We keep camping expenses low by volunteering in summer and boondocking (= free camping) in winter, and we manage gas costs by how we travel. The point is there is lots of flexibility on the financial side, and my viewpoint on this hasn’t changed. Earlier this year I finally updated our cost posts, so you can now read a detailed account of our RV costs (including tips for budgeting & saving) for the past 7 years HERE and HERE.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area experiences hot, humid summers, with temperatures approaching or exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit during July and August. Mild winters offer temperatures from approximately 35 to 55 degrees. The months of May and October typically see the highest rainfalls, up to 5 inches, while January typically experiences the lowest rainfall, with an average of less than 2 inches.
Their kids are raised and living their own lives now, so this couple is living it up now! They are what you’l consider luxury RVers and they are proud of it. They travel and live full-time in their beautiful and spacious Fifth Wheel Toyhauler with their spoiled cat. This couple still works from the road and finds time to enjoy outdoor adventure and tourist activities.. They typically stay in one place for a month, which gives them a much better rate at the RV resorts they stay at. They have no desire to boondock because they love the convenience of full hook ups and various amenities. Now, that’s the life!
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!
The Dallas-Fort Worth area offers a wide variety of accommodations, including trailer and RV parks. Area mobile home and RV businesses provide year-round sites, with full hookups and daily, weekly, monthly and annual rates. You can find a wide range of sports and activities centers for fitness and relaxation, such as golf courses, day spas and tennis facilities. The humid, subtropical climate in the area often provides pleasant weather for enjoying outdoor activities at local parks and lakes.
Our boat has two diesel Cummins 370 engines, and we’re still tracking our burn rate (with a 440 gallon tank and our slow poke style, it takes a while to get numbers) – but we’re expecting it to be about 1.25 – 2 miles per gallon. A typical ‘driving day’ will likely be 15-30 nautical mile range at 7-8 knots. While our fuel “economy” sucks in comparison to our RV, we anticipate we may cover a 1000 miles a year. So thus our fuel costs boating will be similar to our RVing costs on a monthly basis.
I think a lot of expenses could be eliminated for sure. Dr electric you could easily convert to solar power. Solar panels can be quite inexpensive. The batteries for charging can be costly to purchase but in the long run will save thousands of dollars with solar. You can still hang dry your clothes on hangers in your rv. As far as washing, if you are at a park that provides water/sewage you could easily put in a portable all in one HE washer dryer. May cost around $800-$1200 but again will save $$$ in the long run. Stop eating out. It substandard food anyway and isn’t good for you. If you are all in the rv together on a regular basis, eliminate a phone. There no need for 2phones. If you are writing several letters in a week,unless it’s an emergency, you could have much news to share. I for one would rather have a portable internet connection. That would probably be one of my biggest expenses. Just some suggestions that may cost a bit in the beginning but will end up being the best purchases to save you money over a long period of time.
Capital depreciation is an important consideration because the years go by and you eventually pay for the value in your RV that has been lost over time. That shouldn’t keep you from getting a brand new rig if you can afford it, but it does have to be part of the overall financial assessment of the costs of going full-time. You can see the rigs we chose here. I’ve written an outline of things to take into account when choosing an RV for full-timing here. I recommend starting with a cheap and small RV to practice and learn on here. I’ve got some notes about the thing I think is most important in a full-time RV — the carrying capacity — here.
Budgets and actual expenditures vary over time. Most fulltimers find that they spend a lot more in the first few months of travel than they do once they have been out for a while. It takes some time, and quite a few purchases, to make an RV a home, and most of those costs come at the beginning. These are things like patio mats, camping chairs and grills, tools your suddenly discover you need, area rugs, throw pillows, kitchen gadgets, campground directories, travel guide books, and all those funky gismos they sell at Camping World that are just so perfect for the RV lifestyle.
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.
Our monthly expenses vary depending on where we are and what we are doing. We can go a couple of weeks at a time with the only expenses being groceries and water if we are boondocking and not moving. In that case, we can get by with probably 50 bucks a day or less. Otherwise, we can easily double or triple that budget depending on gas prices and where we are. So maybe on the average, we are spending about 100 a day. Bottom line: $1,500-$3,000 a month.
Instant Pot – A favorite among RVers, the Instant Pot was my Christmas gift from Brent in 2014 and we’ve used it nearly every day since. In fact, I just heard it beep signaling that our BBQ chicken is done. The multi-functional kitchen warrior is perfect for RVing as it serves many purposes: pressure cooker, rice cooker, slow cooker, saute/browner, yogurt maker, and warmer. We have the 6qt IP-DUO60 7-in-1 and it’s plenty big enough for our family. Regularly, I double recipes and as of yet I haven’t had a problem fitting it all in the pot. We LOVE our Instant Pot.
We agonized over the cost of full-time RVing for a long time before we jumped in. The truth is costs are flexible and totally manageable and our experience has certainly proved that to be so. There are great options for saving money both on camping, gas, health insurance, taxes, car/RV registration and other areas. You can take your time and boondock, workamp along the way or run around and stay in pricey resorts. All can be great experiences, but the real beauty is that the choice is there.
I’ve got to give props to my girlfriend Kage, who has been living along with me on the road (and her husky Tobias). Being a man, the camper life isn’t too difficult, but for a woman, it’s an entirely different challenge. According to Kage, it is definitely more difficult to live in a camper full-time as a woman (where society expects you to still look good, as well as having to take care of feminine things), but she really does make it work somehow.
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…
Thanks for sharing these details. Just signed up for your newsletter to get more helpful tidbits as you post them. We are planning on downsizing from our SF Bay Area home to a full-time traveling RV and need to work from the road. It’s especially helpful to us to see connectivity costs, which we were thinking would cost us quite a bit each month. Thus it was shocking for us to see folks being able to spend only $600 total per month. We will be lucky to keep our expenses to $2k/month! Looks like a $3K monthly budget could work even after eating out and buying quite a bit of booze 🙂
Looking at 3/4 time RV-ing to start with. Still have a home place to go to with the plan of selling down the road if we like full timing. Presently have a Lance camper in the bed of my truck. have had it for 21 years and has worked great. Would like to go bigger (35′ range) Also would like to tow a small Jeep. any thought on towing and hanging on to a home base for awhile. My wife and I retired in April and took a 2 month trip in the Lance. Had a Great time and we didn’t kill each other. How nice is that. We did put on a lot of miles and next time would spend more time in one spot. We did put on over 450 miles on the ATV during that time and got to see a lot. Thanks.
So I’ve noticed you folks had 3 different motorhomes, with the last one I saw was a Fleetwood Excursion, I didn’t get its name? So I was wondering what the thought process was for the changes? I’m playing with the idea of going to a fulltime status, selling my house, divorcing, and having ten more years of work, what RV will be best for ME. I’m a avid outdoors person with a custom built jeep and motorcycle. I first thought just get a Gas RV to use, pay cash for a used one. But now I’m thinking maybe get something to have for twenty years, make payments for the Home Owner tax benefit, and a strong RV? When I retire I would be in Alaska, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, western U.S outdoor living. I was looking to hear your feeling would be?
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.
Hey Claire! By “gas” do you mean propane or gasoline? Because gasoline, yeah, it’s pretty expensive, right? Propane, not as much. We’ve downsized to living in a VW Bus, and we’ve been in Mexico for the past year, so it’s all warm weather down here and we rarely ever need to refill even our tiny propane tank, but in the US I recall filling our two tanks cost around $30, and we’d need to refill them every two months or so in the winter, and then they’d last all summer just powering our fridge and stove. I’ll shoot you an email, too. 🙂
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!