January 2017 marks three years on the road for us. It feels like it was only yesterday that we started this journey, yet we can hardly remember our lives before. We've had many ups and few downs living an in RV, but we're quite content with our lives. Part of this may come from the transformation we've experienced since we've been traveling full-time.
The most popular inexpensive campground membership is offered by Passport America. They charge an annual fee of $44 ($79 for 2 years, $399 for lifetime) and offer a 50% savings off the nightly rate at any of the 1,900 member RV parks. Another similar membership program is Happy Camper which costs $40 per year and also offers 50% off at their 1,200 member RV parks.
I just discovered your site and it’s awesome! In 5 years I plan on doing what you are doing…..and in the few minutes I’ve spent on your site so far, I’ve discovered I can learn a lot from you. I also like that you focus on staying in/on public lands, etc, versus the “RV PARK”. That is one thing I’ve been hesitating about – finding those more natural places to be, versus in the RV Park…. I don’t want to be in the RV park type thing — at least not the ones that would feel like I’m in just another suburban neighborhood.
Kaelee This is a very big questioned that you just asked because each person's situation varies so much. At the very least I suggest reading everything you can about living and/or traveling in an RV (especially my own articles here, of course lol). Find some RV forums, read, and ask questions. Visit RV dealerships and look at many, many RVs to see which type would work best to suit your needs, finances and goals. Talk to lots of RV mechanics to learn about the inner workings of RVs. Take a professional driving course. If, after doing all of this, you still want to give it a go, have at it! Most importantly, do not try to "fly blind" on this one. Knowledge is power. Good luck and happy trails.
We should have done whatever it took to buy the truck and trailer first, even if it meant financing them both, so that we could practice getting adjusted to our new life. As it happened, we rolled up to our first campsite after driving all day (another huge mistake), and didn’t know how to do anything – hook up the electric and water, turn on the cookstove burners, run the heat. It was cold, dark, and we didn’t know where anything was. It wasn’t the ideal way to start our full-time RVing adventure.
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.
To prevent freezing in the drain pipes, after each dump we added a cup of non-toxic antifreeze into the black and grey tanks. If you do wish to keep your sewer hose connected, be sure it is placed and supported at a steep angle so all residue runs down. In the summer if we have sewer hookups, we leave our grey valve open, but during winter, we only open it at drain time.
Many full-timers follow the weather as they travel, moving to more friendly climes – be they cooler or warmer – through the year. That serves as a fine rough outline but it can be frustrating to arrive in a new area and discover you missed a festival or traditional event by a day or two. Plan ahead and keep travel resources at the ready. But the golden rule of full-time RV travel planning is to stay flexible. Don’t be in a rush to head off down the road.
Thank you for giving me some ideas. I am interested in going on long trips, and or living in an rv. Of course different lifestyles change the amounts of money. But, do you think a single person, in a realistically priced trailer, with a decent size truck, and doesn’t require a lot of entertainment and food, do you think I could make it? I am but a modest lady wanting to travel some. I appreciate your advice. Thank you.
I feel so fortunate I stumbled on to your blog. I’ve learned a lot already. My husband and I are newbies and when I mean new… we don’t even have our very little 14′ hybrid trailer. It is being built in Tucson as I type. It will be ready in late february. We will pick it up the 1st week in March and will bomb around New Mexico all of that month and most of April before we start heading back to Duluth, MN at the end of May. I want to leave tomorrow as it was -24º last night.
There are other flexible costs which are smaller than these two, but can also be managed to match your individual needs. This includes things such as groceries, entertainment, electronics, gifts and clothing. In our case we spend about the same on groceries as we did before we hit the road (we love our food), somewhat less on entertainment and electronics, and way, way less on clothing (we don’t need much of a wardrobe on the road!).
Variable expenses are the ones that fluctuate from month to money and in RVLife you actually have a LOT of control over these expenses. As you’ll see in our Lodging/Camping expenses category, we have been able to significantly decrease this expense over the years by getting better at free boondocking and utilizing RV Clubs like Boondockers Welcome, Harvest Hosts, and Thousand Trails. However, if you decide to park in an RV Resort in downtown San Diego for example, it could cost you upwards of $1000 per month.
I’m no hunter or fisher woman, but I’ve seen this discussed on RV threads quite a bit. License fees vary dramatically between states, so some can be very reasonable value depending on where you go. Also most states offer short-term fishing licenses that are not too expensive (most are less than a regular round of golf or a nice dinner out). Many fulltimers who love to fish either do the short-term licenses or stay for larger chunks of time in states where it is not overly expensive. I recommend searching the forum threads on iRV2 and RV.net for more info on this.
- You should remove snow from slide-outs regularly to reduce water damage. As snow accumulates on top of the slide-out, the heat from inside the RV can melt the bottom layer of snow, creating an ice dam. You also can add insulation by using rigid insulation sealed to the camper body. However, angle any insulation you place on the top of the slide-out to allow water to drain away from the RV.
When it comes down to it, this is the reason I chose to live the way I do. Living on the road naturally leads to an active life style. You are always doing something, going somewhere, or meeting somebody. When you’re not working in the winter, it’s especially nice to get out and recreate in the day or meet up with friends in the evening. This keeps you out of the camper and keeps your environment fresh. I feel I appreciate my home much more when I’ve been active all day or all night.
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.
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Thing 1 isn’t just good at playing the piano. We recognized he really has a gift as a classical pianist and needed a teacher and real piano if he was going to continue to grow. He could only learn so much online with a keyboard. (Keyboards, even weighted ones, don’t have the same dynamics as grand pianos.) To not recognize and nurture this gift would cause us and him real future regret. This is a special period in life where he has the time to sit and play for hours without adult worries.
This is most helpful and informative! Can’t wait to see what you have in store for the next more specific $$ post. I noticed you didn’t really mention anything about if your still paying for the rv…making a monthly note. Obviously that would be in the fixed column of the budget. Was a rv payment figured into your mean average of $2500 to $3000 a month budget?
There are a lot of families living this same life right now, and they are all making it work in so many creative ways. If you want to hit the road full time, but don’t have a job that will let you work remotely, see what other people are doing to afford this lifestyle. Check out the #FulltimeFamilies hashtag on Instagram to find other families traveling, as the name implies, full-time.
Having a wood stove allows you to heat and cook without propane, oil, or electricity, which means you truly have an off-grid setup. A wood stove will keep you warm, the wood heat will dry the air out in the RV, which will help get rid of condensation from breathing and cooking. There are not many wood stoves out there that will work in an RV. I personally chose a Kimberly wood stove, because it only weighs 56 lbs and it’s extremely efficient. There are a few other companies out there (such as Marine wood stoves, which are a little cheaper, but you get what you pay for).
Now that we've gotten the rig pretty airtight, we've got a new problem to deal with. Moisture from cooking, washing and just our breathing raises the humidity inside the RV. As it gets colder, this moisture condenses out on cooler inside surfaces like window frames and doors. This can lead to mold and mildew, water stains or even worse. The best way to prevent condensation is to avoid introducing excessive moisture into the air. A good practice is to always use the range hood vent when cooking and the bathroom vent when showering. This will draw most of that moisture out of the rig. It may be necessary to keep a roof vent open slightly to provide some ventilation and keep condensation in check. Insulating exposed surfaces that tend to collect moisture will also help. A small dehumidifier or some of those little tubs of desiccant crystals may be necessary, depending on the RV and how many are living in it.
O really DO appreciate how you have listed your expenses, especially the “before” posts that listed everything, because we are just in the PLANNING stages of a full time, 3+ month, RV trip. We haven’t even bought an RV or trailer yet; still going through the pro’s and con’s of which way would be best for us. Since budget is a huge concern, we needed to know all the nitty-gritty “small stuff” that still adds up. I’m sorry you have had to deal with the culture of “rude” from people hiding behind a keyboard. I’m sure some questions may have been relevant, but some judgements could be held. You’re just human beings, after all. Not a major company required to do meticulous research with charts, graphs, scientific evidence and everthing else these people seem to require. It’s obviously anectdotal. Thanks again! I truly appreciate it!
• 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!
It is totally possible! But also know it isn’t the magic solution to make everything better. You will still have to make conscious decisions each day to get in shape and live life the way you want to. We try to be very up front with the fact that this isn’t an easy lifestyle. It is amazing and life changing but it isn’t easy. If you have a desire to travel and to get out and be more active you can definitely achieve that with this lifestyle. It is safe – especially if you stay at campgrounds/RV parks. It is scary at times – because we are going against the norm – but also rewarding for the same reason. It is just like a life in a house in a lot of ways – you will still have to work, cook your food, do your laundry, parent your kids, etc. If you want to do it we say go for it! Just be aware it takes work and isn’t all rainbows and sunshine! If you have any other questions let us know.
I found living in our Airstream (31′) in winter, in places in Ontario, Vancouver B C, Whitehorse Yukon, back in 1972 to 77; very comfortable. Airstreams have windows with double glazing, so that was a big help. Furnace worked fine. Hot water heater worked fine. Used more propane which was expected. When we were plugged in to AC power we had water (had a heat line) and sewer hook ups. I closed the bottom in with snow. We managed the humidity issues, and everything was fine. Traveled up the Alaska highway with snow and glare ice, the trailer towed perfectly with our rear wheel drive Chevy Suburban.
Hey there Mama and Jill, what an inspiring story! Because of a downtown in my hubster’s work, last year we nearly lost our house. We were able to keep paying the bills through God’s grace and our hard work, and paring our expenses to the bone. It is possible to live on much less, if you don’t look around at what other people have and/or do. Your story is inspiring and I’ll look forward to following your blog!
Greetings. Nice post and food for thought. on size, you post that 35′ would be perfect for the two of you. What if you were traveling alone. Would 35′ be just right or more toward 30′? Just curious as I am considering 3-5 month living periods from my home as a single. Ironically some have shared that a small Class C or A would be great, like 24-26′ but as I looked at them there was little storage. The trailers of the same size had more storage. I just am not sure about the amount of storage needed yet. They all seem to have the basics but…
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. 😉
Just an additional idea for your windows, cut some of the refectx bubble insulation to your window sizes. Then plastic bubble side will adhere to the window without any tape and give you additional insulation under your curtains. I did this in my small vintage camper this past winter and it helped a lot.(although I was not in Alaska it was cold in the lower 48 too!)
Kudos to you! When we moved to AZ, we started setting up our homestead. Looking back, I wish we would have bought the property with the older single wide mobile home instead of setting a new double wide. Our home is our only debt now, and had we bought the single wide, we would be totally debt free now. It is amazing how many people think they HAVE to have debt, they have to have what they want NOW! With the economy as unstable as it is, debt free is the only way to live. I encourage all of us to to make that a life goal. You’ll be glad you did!
2017 Update – YES. The more time we spend on the road the less we find we need. We end up donating half our clothes to charity almost every year and our outdoor stuff has been cut down to a select set of “glamping” basics. Plus we FINALLY got rid of our big storage unit (whoo hooo!). Paying $$$ for storage all those years was one of our biggest regrets and something we (in retrospect) would not recommend if you can avoid it. It took 7 years for us to tackle ours, but we finally got it done! You can read about my take on storage HERE and how we got rid of ours HERE, HERE and HERE.
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.
So, I figured I’d throw some pointers for those that have decided or are considering a life full-time on the road, because that is essentially the point of this whole blog thing. My biggest piece of advice, if you are thinking about living full-time and think you can commit to it, GO FOR IT!!!! You (probably, lol) won’t regret it! When I first began searching the Internet, I couldn’t find hardly anything on advice or tips for living in a camper in the winter full-time. And when I did find an article, the people living in the camper had a permanent space to park with electricity, enabling them to plug their RV in to an outlet every night to keep their electric space heaters running, which I don’t have the option of doing.
I’ve mentioned before that living and traveling in an RV full-time can either be very expensive or very affordable. It all depends on your lifestyle, goals, and self-discipline. When we first hit the road, our expenses skyrocketed. We were traveling almost daily, staying in higher-priced RV campgrounds, and eating out at restaurants almost every night because we didn’t feel comfortable cooking in such a tiny kitchen.
You are inspiring. My husband and I just made the decision to leave our busy life in Florida, purchase and renovate an RV, homeschool our 3 boys (ages 8,6, and 4) and start traveling. I am still struggling with all the logistics of it all, and how my husband can stay busy with his website business and still have time to spend with the boys and I exploring all the places we travel to. But I’m excited for the adventure. We hope to be in our RV and traveling in 6 months from now.
Besides, since I’d been living in the mobile mansion full-time since the beginning of June, it had become my home, my space. Bought to house two people, a mid-sized dog, and a parrot, it was amazingly comfortable for one person and a tiny dog. After dealing with seemingly countless delays, I’d finally moved it to the piece of land I’d been dreaming about for over a year. I was in my home, on my home. I was loath to give that up, even for a few months.
I really did enjoy this article. I haven’t camped in Alaska but I have camped in some very cold weather in a tent camper, so I do have a couple of hints. I warm my camper up on very very cold nights with three oil lamps. I use ultra pure lamp oil because it does not smell at all. I have a couple very small oil lamps that I use when we go to bed. I turn them down very low and can turn them up if I have to get up in the night. This saves battery power. If you can place bubble wrap over your windows it lets in light and keeps out the cold.
You may wish to put insulation around the waste hose to give the fluid more time to drain before the freezing temps cause a problem. I have seen people add heat tape to the drain hose also. I do NOT recommend that. Heat tape works fine on water lines that have water in them. Full lines are less likely to over heat. An empty sewer line may melt or scorch from the heat of a tape. There MAY be tapes made for this purpose, however I’ve never seen them.
Anyway, what a great life you are living, I love it but want to be more stealth than you are so I can park anywhere. I just spent a few months off and on in Canmore Alberta and you could tell who the guys in the campers were and I met a few who had stealth down to a science. They were totally off the grid and didn’t leave their unit physically where they slept and the vehicles just looked like PMVs with a couple of quirky things on them like low stacks and vents. The cube will look just like a work truck with exterior tool box doors except for the furnace exhaust but many work trucks are heated so I will have an edge.
4. Skirting as you pointed out is an absolute must: I love the snow piled up, cost effective and highly efficient. What if there’s no snow? Home Depot or Lowes or ? sell the reflective bubble insulation in 15″ widths up to 5′ widths. The narrow widths can be used to skirt the sides and they can be held in place by the basement doors. You may need to make cuts to go over hardware but are very effective.
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.
So you’re still asking, “What’s it gonna cost to live in my RV?” Using research from a few friendly seasoned RVers, the average cost per year of living in your RV full-time is about $10,000 for two people. While this sounds like a crazy amount of money, keep in mind that this also factors in utilities and food, which you would already be paying if you were living in a permanently fixed home. According to careertrends.com, the average cost of living in the midwest is $39,649 annually for a married couple with no children. If you look around, there are a ton of ways you can drive down the cost you’re racking up on the go, which is the great thing about RV living!
Don, I liked your post. I like the idea of modifying an existing system to make it better. Another trick I discovered while boondocking for the past 6 months, I extended my furnace and generator exhaust to blow on my drain and tank outlets. These outlets are the first to freeze since they poke down from under the insulation. Just be sure your unit is sealed, and use a CO2 detector, as you should.
“My team is very much self-managed for the most part,” he explains. After experiencing a few lessons in human resources, Bearded Brothers can now pinpoint the right employees to facilitate Caleb and Kristy’s unconventional lifestyle. “We want people who are more self-motivated,” says Kristy. “We want to continue to travel knowing that we have a team that likes to be left alone and self-sufficient.”
Living in a camper, RV, trailer whatever you want to call it is a wild ride filled with amazing travels! We have also realized that living this life has made us appreciate a lot of things that we took for granted when we lived in a house. RV living is definitely a different kind of living. Being on the road means there are really good times and also times of frustration and struggles where you miss the comforts of a house.
The key to maintaining a comfortable full-time RVing lifestyle is how they plan to earn money on the road. If they have an online business, then they are in luck, as it is very easy to run an online business from your RV. I easily run our website while traveling for several months in our RV. In some cases, I am sitting by a pool with my laptop and an adult beverage, writing articles and answering Rving questions and uploading them Everything-About-RVing.com.
For internet most RVers sign up for a cellphone data plan with either Verizon or ATT and use a MiFi to distribute it to all their devices. You’ll likely have to adjust your data usage quite a bit since cellphone plans are much more limited than what you’re used to at home. Also, you’ll want to consider buying a booster to help boost the signal in more marginal spots. My best advice is actually to buy this book written by fellow RVers and techno-mads who’ve dedicated 226 pages to this exact question:
I only had one fire truck called on me. I was shopping in the grocery store and the intercom came on with a man saying, “License plate Y-RENT, your vehicle is on fire.” I finished shopping, checked out, and walked outside to see about 70 people pointing at my RV and a fire truck with firefighters pulling up. I told the firefighters that I just had a wood stove going inside the camper and everything was fine (I thought the chimney would make it pretty obvious, but I guess some of the bystanders didn’t know any better).
HI Timmy! Great blog! Loved it! My husband and I are 63 years old. We have done it all! Lived in a tiny travel trailer (10 x 7 foot inside measurements) 13 feet long (including the hitch and the bumper). It was the ’70’s and we had two children, and one on the way. We had already owned a 4 bdrm., two bath home when we were 20, and the only way my husband could get me to move from the security of being near my family in Tucson, Az., and live this way was to move to the Santa Cruz Mountains. He agreed!! The trailer was a choice we made to live the lifestyle we chose to live! What a joy it was! We lived in an old resort spot in the Redwood forest in Northern California, with others our age living the same way in small rvs, trailers and school buses, I think everyone there was a musician. 🙂 Our next step was buying a HUGE 35 ft. travel trailer with a ‘tip out’. It truly did seem huge to us. Even had a home birth (our 3rd child) in that little travel trailer. My sister and niece came and lived with us for awhile also. We fit! My husband customized the back bedroom with tiny little ‘dwarf’ sized bunkbeds for our babies. They even had tiny little headboard bookcases for their cherished books. The baby slept in a Moses basket until she was able to move into her tiny little portable bed. It was the most precious time of our lives. We lived outdoors so much, showered at the ‘club’ showers, even used the toilets there when we were in the tiny trailer. (we also had to buy ice for our ice box every 3 days…no fridge!) 🙂 Would I do it all again? Yes…in a HEARTBEAT!! We have taken early retirement for the rest of our lives (after our tiny trailer days)…raising our 6 children..running our own business for 30 plus years, getting our kids through college, weddings for 4 daughters, and guess what? We are now living in a 29 foot travel trailer (with a 14 ft. slide out). We have our raised bed gardens growing strong, our hydroponics doing beautifully! Our lives are simple…but so joyful again!! Not much money…no debt…but joy!! We have moved to the Mountains again as well. I just wanted to tell you that I’m SO proud of the two of you…living your heart!! No regrets! …no regrets!! Enjoy your life to the max! Being our age, it was a little hard for our kids to grasp the fact that this is what we WANT to do….but they are coming around! 🙂 So happy for you!! Love your story! That’s what life should be all about…being happy…and creating the story we want to share with others! So happy that we have lived the ‘crazy’ simple life we CHOSE to live, and still choose to live!! So happy you are as well!!
Seeing everything our country has to offer is one of the biggest benefits of living and traveling in an RV. However, you don’t have to see the entire country in the first six months. Constant travel – traveling to a new place every day or two – will get expensive quickly. It will also exhaust you to the point where you’re ready to throw away your keys and give it all up.
Bus/RV: We have a full-timers policy on our bus that is kinda like a combined home-owners and auto policy ($1018/yr), and annual tag fees for our personalized speciality plates ($110/yr). As of 2013, we are registered and insured out of Florida – and we have limited full coverage options for a restored vintage bus conversion (our policy is through National General – and our agent is Epic-Insurance – Gina is awesome, give her a call!)
It was Tuesday evening November 18 where I found myself doing something I rarely do. I was packing to leave my “home on the road” for a few days and drive to Summit County, about 2 hours south here in Colorado. I had to find my travel bag and remember the “stuff” I needed when leaving home. My goal? Three days on snow – skiing VERY early in the season, and for two of them facing “PSIA Examiners” (ski instructor examiners) who would either pass or fail me in an important certification I have been working towards.
Well, it’s been close to 2 years now living in my little motorhome. I’m on the road nearly every night in a new place, doing my best to live comfortably, healthy, and happily. There are moments that are very trying, like coming home from a winter trip to find the couch and bed soaked with water and frozen solid. And yes, it’s very difficult to dry out a waterlogged bed and couch inside a 95 square foot motorhome in the Alaskan winter, but it’s possible.
Why we recommend the Heartland Sundance fifth wheel: When it comes to looking for something truly lightweight but spacious, few fifth wheels can offer a dry weight of a mere 8307 pounds and be 30 feet long (view the Sundance 269TS). This itself makes it a perfect camper for couples looking for fifth wheels for full time living as it can only have 2 people. Of course, if you’re interested in the larger ones, floorplans such as the Sundance 3700RLB and the Sundance 3710MB are available as well!
Although some people cover their windows with Reflectix, I have to have light in winter, so last year we covered our windows with a combination of bubble wrap and shrink plastic, and this year I made storm windows out of plexiglass and removable Velcro covers for the screens from clear vinyl. I wrote a separate blog post about my experiences with various cold weather window protection methods; you can read it here.
When you live full-time in an RV, you don’t just go to the RV resorts and the big towns, but find yourself in random locations around the country you probably never would have visited on a family trip. I like this as an individual, but also think it has been great to expose our kids to so many different ways that people live around our own country.
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.
Portable Solar Panel – We loved having a full solar system but that’s quite an investment and if you aren’t going to be doing a lot of boondocking then a portable solar panel is a better option. Portable solar panels allow you to keep your devices charged and a battery topped off for short stints off the grid. Of course, check with your RVer first before investing in such a gift.
The Meinhofers have met a lot of families with kids on the road, but they haven’t encountered many other Latinos. They think there’s a perception in some communities of color that doing this means you are destitute. They are trying to inspire others to join them with their YouTube channel, Exploring the Local Life, which has become so popular it is making them money.