If at all possible, buy well before you plan to embark on your trip, and spend some time in it on short weekend trips and vacations. An even better option, especially if you were overseas like we were, is to rent an RV for a vacation. Even consider doing it more than once if you can. Just remember that living in it and vacationing in it are two very different things.
This is in answer to Liz about our 5er. We have a 30’11” Crossroads Patriot, a 2011 model. The model number is 28 something or other. You can’t use the model number as the length, by the way. You usually have at least 2 more feet of trailer. We bought our 5er fully expecting to retire early and get back on the road. We were full time for a while because of my husband’s job. Since then we have become guardians of our now 16 year old granddaughter, and have a few more years left at home. I think I would reconsider to about a 30′ length Class A now that you can get shorter diesel pushers. I miss having enough room for family in the vehicle, being able to get to the bathroom without pulling over, and being able to get to the “bedroom” without getting out of the vehicle. There are lots of RV sites with info about choosing a trailer or a Class A or C. Just depends on what your preferences and needs are at your point in life. I think we will be happier with our trailer when we are living in it, doing campground hosting and/or whatever life hands us. Right now, we actually removed all the living/kitchen area furniture except the table and chairs. Our youngest son and his wife and daughter, and our 16 yr. old, all set up cots in that area and are able to join us to camp without packing all their gear. We enjoy being outside when we are camping, so this set up has been lots of fun, and we have camped in our local mountains in all kinds of weather. If you look at Nina’s Eagle Nest State Park photo in the blog, we were in that exact spot 10 days ago, but we have also camped in Santa Fe National Forest while it was snowing. Lots of variety here in New Mexico! Had to get in a plug for my home state! My advice, if you haven’t had a lot of experience with different RVs, is to get a used rig and get some experience, and don’t spend major money at first. There will always be things you like and don’t like, though, no matter what you choose!
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.).
But Yankee ingenuity prevailed on the part of our fellow campers. The gang put their heads together to deal with the trials of winter RVing. One guy had a large pickup that was not street legal, but could get around the campground. Another woman had a relative nearby with a big portable water tank they used on their farm. It fit in the back of the truck and held 300 gallons of water. Another guy had a pump that would pump water from the supply tank to RV fresh water holding tanks.
This item is here because it is a regular part of the boondocking lifestyle (you’ve gotta go every two to three weeks at a minimum). Many RV dump stations are free, but if you have to go to an RV park to dump the tanks because there aren’t any free ones nearby, it will generally cost anywhere from $5 to $15. Our RV dump station page has other tips and tricks related to managing the holding tanks.
Always, always, always expect to incur maintenance charges each month. Expecting to pay each month for maintenance will save you many headaches and knots in your stomach when you inevitably break down, blow a tire, shatter a brake pad, or have a propane leak–all of which happened to us. You’ll need to be changing your oil and refilling on propane regularly anyway, so it’s best to just count this as a guaranteed expense.
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.
Hi Jill, I pinned a picture you have on pinterest. Bright orange poppies with LOTS of ruffled petals. Love them!! My grandmother had them in her yard when I was a child. I cannot seem to find any seeds like them for sale. All other types of poppies but not these. Interested in selling a handfull? Please le me know. I will pay for the seeds, the envelope, postage and your time!!
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.
Yes, Craig and I still find time at night for each other when the kids are sleeping. But throughout the day, everyone is up in each other’s business. We are okay with this. It works for us and we are all used to it by now. And everyone has found ways to find their own little space either in their bed, outside at the picnic table, or wherever they can find it.

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
We also keep the Careington Telemedicine plan offered by RVer Insurance that includes a telemedicine service, which gives us access to virtual doctors visits over phone/internet and a discount dental & vision network across the nation. The cost is $149/year for both of us – and we use this far more often than our insurance plan, as finding providers as we travel difficult.
We have received many Post Office General Delivery packages shipped by both UPS and FedEx without being charged a penny by the Postal Service. However, we have received just as many packages where we were charged a fee of as much as $12, depending on the size of the package, when we went to the post office window to pick it up. There is no way of knowing what the fee will be ahead of time, as it is out of the hands of the company that shipped the package and is entirely up to the local Post Office that delivers it to you via General Delivery.
Just reviewing your sage wisdom once again as I make further preps. Got the truck, mail forwarding service (Dakota Post per your recommendations – they’re every bit as brilliant, friendly and economical as you said) and just this minute joined Escapees (also per your recommendations, of course – who else would I listen to?). I made sure to mention you as referrers in gratitude for your honest, spot-on advice.
  Electricity: If you plan on using a generator, check to see if yours has a winter setting, switch if necessary. Furnaces use considerable battery power to cycle off and on. If you're not plugged into power, you need a solar panel system or an inverter or some other method to keep your batteries fully charged. Look for winter camping spots that provide a good source of power. It avoids many other problems.
Thanks for the blog. Do you have any suggested blogs on full time rving with kids? My wife and I have 4 kids and the thought of cutting the cord locally while I still have my sales job (I cover all of So Cal) so I can pretty much go wherever for the timing. Basically changing scenery weekly or monthly sounds fun. Just didn’t know if you had any details on doing it with 4 little ones. Thanks!

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.
We have just become full-time RVers after 44 years of camping in a tent up to a diesel pusher.We now live in a Landmark 365 42′ fifth wheel, tow vehicle is a F350 4×4 dually, and I drive a CRV Honda. My husband is a transpo driver for a RV dealer during the winter so he is comfortable hauling the beast. Yes, I take my CRV and follow, I don’t mind the drive be it 100 or 1000 mi.
We made the transition not long after college, so we really hadn’t accrued a lot of stuff. We had to get rid of a TV, few pieces of furniture, and a lot of our clothes, but other than that—not too much. This was probably much easier for us than it would be someone who has lived in a home for 20-30 years. I can understand the difficulty of what that might look like when I see my parent’s home where my brothers and I were raised. I can only imagine how hard it must be to give everything up.
We spent years preparing to get on the road but didn’t give much thought for preparing to get off the road. There were practical and financial challenges like starting over with nothing in terms of furniture and selling our truck and RV to replace them with something more weekend friendly. The month following Thing 4’s birth our family couldn’t go anywhere together because our truck only sat five people. There were emotional challenges like letting go of my dream to homeschool the boys and watching our friends travel while we sit still. There were physical challenges like having a new baby and the hormonal sleepless nights that followed. There were relational challenges of connecting with each other in the mundane and finding friends in our new community. It was so easy to connect with other nomads but we’ve found it hard in a town of 500,000+ people to find our tribe. After four years in the slow lane, I had forgotten how busy people are and it’s been overwhelming. I can’t and don’t want to keep up and often feel like I’m on the outside looking in. To top it off, there is the spiritual challenge of having found my identity in the external, being a nomad, instead of finding it in the internal, which for me is God. Nothing like a little identity crisis to keep the emotional roller coaster oiled.
There are many options when it comes to RV types, starting with choosing motorized or towable.  Motorized come in three types: Type A, Type B, Type C, depending upon the size and layout that fits your style. If you already own a suitable tow vehicle (pickup truck or SUV) consider a travel trailer, fifth wheel, folding camping trailer or truck camper. For those who don’t want to tow or move their RV frequently, there are park models. Prices can vary greatly, which makes it a good idea to analyze the various options to see what is best for your budget. To learn the difference between RV types, go here.
Within the first few weeks of owning it I blew a tire and had to replace all 6 ($1000). The next month, the catalytic converter needed to be replaced ($750), the original kitchen faucet snapped off and had to be replaced (I did it myself for $65, but it took all day because of a broken gasket in the water line I had a hard time finding at the hardware store), the house battery had to be replaced  – twice! ($290) and I’ve had to replace a fuse for my radio and odometer several times (and now it’s shorting out to the point of danger, so it has to be fixed…. soon!)
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).
The first thing on my list of things to do was replace the standard RV drinking water hose that ran from my city water source across my driveway (in a makeshift conduit I’d created) to the mobile mansion. I needed to run some kind of water line that I could run heat tape along. Heat tape (or trace heating) uses electricity to apply a small amount of heat to pipes to prevent freezing. I had some experience with it from my Howard Mesa cabin, where we’d used it on a very short length of hose between a water tank and the building. But rather than a 6-foot length of the stuff, I’d need 66 feet of it. That meant two 30-foot lengths plus one 6-foot length.

7. Being thrifty should become second nature. Unless you’ve won the lottery or have a handsome retirement package, you can definitely benefit from making every dollar stretch to its maximum potential. Before you embark on this lifestyle, you should make a habit of logging every dollar spent to see exactly where your money is going, and for what. Doing this allows you to see where cuts can be made and where it might benefit you to stock up on certain things that you buy often. A good rule of thumb is to check with other RVers who already live this lifestyle and ask for their input on this matter. Everyone has their own favorite tips and solutions so be prepared to take notes.
Anything below $1500/mo is tough IMO especially if there’s two of you and you throw health care, insurance and other fixed costs into the mix. The folks on this end of the spectrum are super-budget and generally travel in vans or smaller rigs (= lower maintenance & insurance/registration costs), boondock or workamp most of the time (= ultra-low camping fees), limit their travel (= less gas costs) and cook at home most of the time (= low entertainment costs). It requires some frugal dedication, but it’s do-able. We know several folks traveling this way who absolutely love the freedom of their super-budget lifestyle.
There is an RV ready to match your dream. Use your vacation RV trips to test different rigs. If you are visiting off-the-beaten-track tourist nooks and wilderness sites a more maneuverable RV could be preferable to a motorcoach. Or your dream RV just may not have as much room as you need to live on the road full time comfortably. Be honest with yourself up front and you will save yourself the hassle of trading up or down in your first few years untethered from a home base.

One of the easiest ways to winterize an RV is to shrink-wrap the screen door. By covering the screen door with a thin layer of plastic, you can keep the big RV door open all day long, close the screen door, and let the sunshine fill your rig with light and warmth. It is really surprising that just a thin layer of plastic on the door is all it takes to keep the cold air out and let the warm air in (if you aren’t in sub-freezing temps!!).
Penni Brink (62) and Chip Litchfield (59) have a “Welcome to Margaritaville” sign outside their RV and the kind of easygoing spirit that immediately draws you in. The couple met in the late 1980s when they were working in the same business complex in Vermont, but Chip was married to someone else at the time. Their paths crossed again a few years ago at a craft fair and as their relationship blossomed, Chip suggested they travel in an RV. Penni was apprehensive at first.
Slide outs – Are slide outs a must? If so how many and where? Two slide out bunkhouse trailers tend to put one in the back bedroom and another one in the middle living area. Three slide out trailers have a few more options. Some have one in the back bedroom and two in the middle. Others have two in the back bunkroom and one in the middle. A few have one in each room. Regardless, if we decide we “need” slide outs, we are trying to decide if we want more space in the living room or bedrooms. We are leaning towards extra living room space but trying to decide how important double living room slide outs are to us.
It can be a challenge to figure out what to bring for full time RV living. “Is one pair of sandals enough or do I need a second pair for campground showers?” We ended up having way too much stuff. After a month of RV living we decided to sell the bicycles because we never used them. A few months later, we performed a spring cleaning by re-evaluating everything in the RV. Many articles of clothing ended up in the donation pile because neither of us had touched them since we moved in.

That said, it is not for everyone. We have met very few full-time RVers who boondock as much as we do. Most people who enjoy boondocking, or “free camping,” do it from 25% to 75% of the time, at most. For full-timers who work, it is hard to find a boondocking location near most jobs, and you have to pack up and go to the RV dump station every 10 days to 2 weeks, disrupting your life. Even if your work is location independent, and you work out of your RV, finding good boondocking locations that have adequate internet access to do that is not easy. During the summer of 2014 we spent 5 weeks camping in places that were 10 miles or more from the nearest internet access.


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.
While living by yourself in a camper allows more space and freedom, it sure is nice having another warm body around, ha. But seriously, it does keep you a lot warmer at night if you’ve got your lady or your man by your side, so if they are up for having an experience they’ll remember the rest of their lives, have them move on board with you for a bit. And believe me, you really get to know someone when you share a 10 ft. long living space with them!

We once had our oven fly open and our cast iron skillet came screaming out! A few times we have forgotten to close our refrigerator tight and it flew open spilling food all over the floor. We have also had a drawer fly open and the contents spilled everywhere. Most recently a piece of debris from a construction site flew up and shattered the side window over my daughter’s bunk bed!! Luckily, my husband has not been hit by any flying object while driving!


This was going through each room to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of. This is where the mind shift started to happen. Did the kids really need 5 sweatshirts what are we going to do with all of these books?! Did we really have to keep all of those Christmas lights when we only used half of them. Things like that. We started looking at our stuff differently and really evaluating what we wanted to have versus what we had just because we didn’t want to make a decision to get rid of it or not. Just keeping it had been easier.

Wow! What a learning experience we are having when it comes to finances on the road…. We have been on the road 3 months and I have been amazed at how expensive things can be if you are not careful. It is not a matter of denial of experiences but rather choosing wisely to enjoy the same things that keep our expenses manageable. An example would be eating lunch out instead of dinner. Usually 1/2 the price.
So if you can live off the grid / rough it a bit, and keep your rent to around $300…that puts you at a total of about $1100 / month in expenses, which would seem to work for your expenses. I’m sure there are other ways you could spend that money that I haven’t listed here, but maybe you could use this as a basis and go from there. Note that this doesn’t make for an easy life always. But I personally find it to be infinitely more fulfilling.
We once had our oven fly open and our cast iron skillet came screaming out! A few times we have forgotten to close our refrigerator tight and it flew open spilling food all over the floor. We have also had a drawer fly open and the contents spilled everywhere. Most recently a piece of debris from a construction site flew up and shattered the side window over my daughter’s bunk bed!! Luckily, my husband has not been hit by any flying object while driving!
My husband realized that he doesn’t want to go back to work full-time, unless it is the perfect opportunity. I started focusing again on my writing career and am building a solid freelance business. I also volunteer with our local downtown revitalization association. Our kids are back in regular public school, doing sports and extracurricular activities and, slowly making friends outside the military.
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.

Thanks, Daniel. I’ll try to update the article to reflect that information soon. One thing that really helps when we stay at private campgrounds is the monthly rate. We stayed at a Jellystone in February and the regular rates were $55 per night, but using the monthly rate it only averaged $19.33 per night. That’s more than 50% off! And that was not using any type of military discount.
That was very nice of you to list your expenses like that. Many of us appreciate it. As you mentioned, this is your lifestyle choice. Personally, I think it is a great one. I don’t get why some other posts are trying to compare it with monthly expenses for owning a home. You and your family are living the life you want. Good for you. You are open and honest. After reviewing your expense sheet, it is my opinion that you and your family are living a frugal lifestyle compared to most of us. I love the simplicity of your life without the baggage of all the stuff. Blessing to you and yours!
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!
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