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Learning to live in a camper is its own full-time job in the beginning, and it can take months to get into the flow of this lifestyle. You have to learn how to efficiently organize a very small space. You have to learn how to cook (and store food) in an incredibly small kitchen. You have to learn how to manage your fuel and water resources so you don’t run out of either when you’re camped in the middle of nowhere.
Avoid bringing the items you could easily just buy while on the road if you absolutely needed them, especially if your space is limited. It’s easy to go overboard buying all sorts of accessories for the RV. We recommend getting the bare minimum and then you can always purchase more as you, if there are items you wish you had. It’s much easier to do this then deal with the frustration of having too much crammed in!
Great article to read as we are well into our first Canadian winter in our 1991 21ft Toyota Winnebago- “ourmoonwarrior”. Many helpful hints we can use! Unfortunately the costs associated with propane heaters are too expensive for us and the electric heaters are not an option as we rarely have power hookup. We installed a small wood burning stove with a chimney out the roof to keep warm in the recent -40(Celsius) temperatures!
This is something we cannot advise you on. Our experience is life on the road is a little less expensive than sedentary life. I do know there are several people out there living extremely inexpensively in an RV, but I’m not sure where to direct you. I would think living in an apartment would be less expensive and more comfortable than trying to live in an RV. The one piece of advice I can offer, don’t purchase a motorhome (RV with an engine) if you’re going to leave it sitting, purchase a towable that does not have an engine.
Feature-wise you’ll find that the Eagle has a lot of appreciable features. A ‘whisper quiet’ 15,000 BTU Air Conditioner and an electric patio awning with LED. Jayco has also added a ‘luxury package’ to this camper by default which adds a sound bar, frameless windows, handcrafted maple cabinet doors among other things too. If you wish to take it up a notch, there are over a dozen expansions and optimizations available, which truly makes this a best-in-class fifth wheel!
We create a monthly budget. While many expenses are not monthly in nature (registration, insurance, maintenance, etc.), we choose to break them up into monthly line items for our budget, and put that amount into savings each month. This ensures we don’t come up short when the expense is due. For example, our RV and truck insurance is due twice a year. We divide the amount into six and that is what we put into savings each month.
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.
This was another big challenge. We chose Florida Virtual School, which is an online public school for Florida residents. We were worried about our ninth grader having the right credits for ninth grade, and about our own abilities to home school. But since it was the same curriculum as public school, it took almost the same time commitment per class each week.
I always tell people that unless they have a reliable way to make money from the road, have at least 6 months’ worth of savings. That way you can at least enjoy an extended trip if you never find a way to make money. At some point, it will either be a lifestyle change if you can find a sustainable income stream, or it will just be an adventure before going back to a life with a normal job.
Steven wanted to go on the road for years, but Joyce said she wouldn’t do it unless he made her a home office where she could write a book. Steven gutted the little room in the RV that had a bunk bed and turned it into an office for Joyce that even has a sliding door. Together they remodeled much of the interior, adding sunflowers, a reminder of Joyce’s home state of Kansas, and their RV has a washer and dryer.
Since we rarely move more than two or three times a year, we are huge fans of plywood skirting, most of which we can pick up for next to nothing at building sites and dumps. We tape fiberglass panels, sealed in Mylar. to the wood and it works extremely well. We haven’t found we’ve needed any additional heating under the rig, but then we don’t leave a lot of space for air to accumulate.
RV shows are great places to meet fellow RV’ers, the forums like irv2 are great for chatting and asking questions and membership groups like escapees are there to help people through the process. Then of course there are blogs like ours where we try to share helpful information and a general glimpse into the lifestyle. Blogs are a fantastic resource and if you spend some time watching videos and reading through you will learn a ton.
The other huge and unexpected expense was for internet access. We have been very disappointed at how difficult good service is to find in campgrounds. We use the lodges as much as possible but still need a hot spot with smart phone / ipad etc…. We are now up to $300 on this item just to have backup hot spot. We are thinking about a second service such as Millicome (sp) so that will add another $100 month. Our wifi ranger has made a huge difference but it is still only as good as the router it picks up. Our Wilson has helped with the phone connection. Once again here was another big expense we hadn’t expected.
Carrying a washer and dryer is an option however they take up a lot of space so if you’re planning to go small (under 35′) you might not have space for one. There is also the option for the ‘All-in-One’ washer and dryer which washes and dries your clothes in the same unit however we’ve had many RV’ers say they dislike this as it takes 2 hours per load and the loads are very tiny.
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.
Hi Kirsten, those are great questions! I have written a number of posts about organization, personal space, etc. You may be able to find what you are looking for on my blog by using the search box on the bottom right hand side, using search terms like organization, small home living, camper living with kids, etc. You will also find videos of the inside of our camper on http://youtube.com/americanfamilynow. Our 31′ camper is a bunkhouse. It has four bunk beds on one end and a full size bed on the other end, with a couch, table, and kitchen area in between. We shopped around quite a bit until we found what we were looking for. Campers come in all shapes and sizes! Thanks for reading!
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.
Why we recommend the Jayco Eagle fifth wheel: If budget is something you’re also concerned about when choosing between fifth wheels for full-time living, then we highly recommend the Jacyo Eagle. While it’s MSRP is nearly the same as some of the others, it’s actual sale price is lower, and it offers the same amount of features and versatility of a good fifth wheel. For example, the Eagle 293RKDS offers has a very good build, weighing 10310 pounds and being 35 feet and at the same time they also have the Eagle 347BHOK which is 40 feet long and weighs pounds!
So here we are again in Tiger Run. We had a few problems en-route: Heater blower motor in the truck failed, fortunately they had one in Salt Lake City and it was warranted. Yay! Then the generator began spewing gas and failed. It smelled so strong we were afraid to light the furnace or fridge. We got a room instead and dried it out in the wind while going down the road. Fixed that yesterday in Salt Lake. Also had a skirt made for us by Zack, on the spot. Awesome! Thanks for that recommendation. Last night was our first time with a skirt, so an experiment. Outside temp was not to cold, 27 degrees, and the temp under the bay inside the skirt was 30. Ceramic heater on low. Nothing froze! We have the heat taped, insulated water inlet pipe instead of filling the tank. I find the water tastes better, and didn’t want to haul an 80 gallon ice block if we had a problem…. I have extra hoses if one freezes up. I therefore have not yet tried to use the LED rope light, but allow me to clarify, I was not intending to use this for the tanks, rather just running it along our water pipes inside the trailer like a heat tape, though I believe it won’t melt the pipes. In my case, I only need to keep them above freezing in the cabinet and behind the toity, and under the tub. The new discovery is that the skirt will probably solve this as our floor was the warmest it’s ever been last night! Also, the vent for the generator was hemorrhaging heat from under the skirt, so I temporarily stuffed some cardboard in there which brought the temp up a few degrees under the skirt. If the skirt fixes my internal pipe issues, then I will never know if the LED rope light works because I won’t bother to install it. It would be a royal pain to do so. We’ll keep you posted between trips up the mountains!
If you are considering living in an RV and traveling, think about where you’d like to see yourself spending most of your time. We live in an RV because we like an ever changing backyard, which means we pack light in order to move easily. Many people downsize to an RV to save money, but are looking to stay put in RV parks and can hang onto a lot more stuff.
+ $300 or 30,000 Points – Credit Card Points is something I haven’t talked about before. With my credit card we get 1-2 points per $1, and sometimes we get up to 7 points per $1 during specials. We pay with everything on CC and that is what helps me keep track of these expenses, and at the end of the month we get cash back. Consider that money a bonus, put it in the bank, or go out and buy yourself something you would pay “real” money for….and that’s exactly what we do: A Splurge! It is free money right? Of course I you play the points game you must pay your CC off each month otherwise your points are pointless (HA pun intended!)
Months away from family and friends can be scary, no doubt. Though we too worried about missing close ones, Brittany and I actually found that we spend more time with friends on the road. We rarely enter a state without connecting with a college friend, former colleague or relative, and more often than not, end up parking our Winnebago View in their driveway (saving on campground fees, too!).
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!
When we first started on the road we rushed like crazed animals on stampede to see as much and as far an area as we could possibly see within the timeframe given. It took several months before we realized none of this was necessary. In fact taking more time to enjoy our surroundings not only saved us money, but we’ve met more people, seen more local gems, created a sense of community and felt more in-tune with the journey. Our 2-month trip through New Mexico earlier this year was a great example of how this attitude has really made sense for us. We are progressing more and more into “sitters” (RVers that spend several weeks in one spot) rather than “movers”. It may not be for everyone, but I sure recommend giving it a try.
I can go on for hours, but ultimately I can’t wrap my head around the fact I am going to pay rent for another year and get nothing in return in the long run. It seems like a waste of money. What are your thoughts? Is it possible to find a van in that state? Any aspect of van dwelling that you think might not mix well with the college environment? Am I a crazy 21 year old with far off ambitions?
Yes, we'd say having our car catch on fire in west Texas definitely ranks as a low point. We had stopped at a pull off area in between the small town of Alpine and the smaller town of Marfa looking at wildflowers when Brandon noticed the car smoking. Brandon ran back and found a fire in the engine compartment. We pulled our small fire extinguisher out of the trunk and knocked the flames down. Brandon was able to pull everything out of the car while Kerensa called for help. The signal is very spotty out there and we were able to maintain signal just long enough to get our location to the operator. When she asked for a call back number in case we were disconnected, the line died and the signal never recovered. Thankfully, the sheriff and fire department were already on their way and they were able to put out the fire and take us back to the campground.