We already knew we enjoyed Vermont having traveled up to the southern part of the state a few times when living in the area. But we were still surprised by how much we enjoyed Burlington once we got up there. We only had a few weeks, but could have easily spent the whole summer there. It really seems to come alive and Vermonters make the most out of the season. Brandon was able to dive Lake Champlain multiple times and explore a wreck only a handful of people had seen before. And seriously, we're out of maple syrup, so we may need to go back this year.
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.
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
Using a combination of all three, we were able to keep our rent down to around $250 – $300 when we were last in the US. This was typically spent primarily on state parks (10 – 15 nights / month), another 15 – 20 days / month boondocking, and the final costs coming in when we wanted to stay at an RV park for a day, twice a month, for the convenience of something…nicer showers, a day at the pool, washing machines, etc.
The beauty of an RV Extended Warranty is that it picks up where a regular insurance policy leaves off. Our entire trailer is covered for all failures other than regular wear and tear. This includes having the frame crack or slides fail to come in and out or the suspension give up the ghost (it did) or having the air conditioner or refrigerator die (which it did too).
I was really disappointed with this book. As a few others have stated, it's very poorly written, with many many repeated sentences and concepts. The Chapter 2 "111 tips to get you started in our New RV Lifestyle" are inane, in no discernible order and include such gems as: 77: HOT RUNNING WATER-Most RV's have a boiler to heat up water. 78: SHOWER-Larger RV's have a shower with hot running water. Or 81: COLD FOOD-The larger your RV, the better your kitchen facilities will be. A fridge is top of the list on most kitchenettes, some even have freezer compartments. I literally read the entire book in about 30 minutes between clients at work. Most of the time with an open-mouthed, "DUH" expression on my face. *sigh*
A suggestions to lower your costs. 1. Passport America 50% camping and/or America the Beautiful Pass. We average about $8-$10 a night camping at these parks, while camping in some of the most beautiful locations. As well as hitting many free camping locations. State parks can be obscenely cheap and nice. 2. Plenty of farmers markets on the east coast, you just have to look for them as many of them are in small towns outside the cities you have traveled to. 3. I forget the name right now, maybe one of the other Rvers can chime in, but there is an alternative to Verizon that uses Verizon infrastructure that gives you unlimited phone and internet. We don’t full time right now so it’s not a concern. 4. Stay longer which lowers your fuel and camping fees. 5. REWARD POINTS, pay with everything with a rewards credit card.
There is a reason for my post beyond saying thanks. In your numbers for insurance it is pretty high compared to what I am planning on. I am hoping my auto insurance will be staying the same as what it is now. I also know what my class A costs. Any ideas what the increase (if any) there might be once I go full time and sell my stix and brix home? My countdown has begun. 79 weeks 🙂 I started purging my stuff on CL and eBay. It’s rather liberating (and I cannot lie, a bit scary). Hope to hear back and also love following you adventures in Alaska.
For us, living mobility has been substantially less expensive than when we lived in fixed homes with rent/mortgage, upkeep, utilities, travel, etc. But of course, we were on opposite coasts when we met – Chris living in a penthouse apartment in San Francisco, and Cherie in a beachside home in Florida. For us to live in an area of the country that would keep us happy long enough to stay put, we’d be paying a pretty penny in cost of living – plus we’d still be traveling anyway because we have serious wanderlust. A mobile lifestyle suits us quite well instead!
Welcome to the blog! We know lots of fulltime families out there on the road, home-schooling and seeing the country. If you haven’t connected already I highly recommend Ditching Surburbia, and Fulltime Families. Both resources are focused on fulltime RV families on the road, and have LOTS of info for you. Ditching Surburbia, in particular has traveled fulltime with their teenage son & daughter for years. I met them a few years ago…lovely family!
You could use LED’s from amazon or ebay, but I have used 12 volt led STRIPS that I wire right into my 12v light sockets. I sometimes uses a 50 watt 12 volt windshield heater to keeps my hands from freezing. I have used black tar on my roof and COMPLETELY stopped the leaking,don’t know why folks are having more leaking problems after that..probably doing it wrong. If you have to snake a 120 volt cord outside your RV to run a window a/c or heater..cut the cord as short as possible. It draws less. Buy brand new breakers, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to be in the middle of a meal and have flip the breaker every 5 seconds because it’s 120 degrees outside and I just want a cool 98 inside the RV. It sounds trashy, but I bought a roll of that textured windshield sun-blocker and cut it to fit my windows,thereby blocking a crap-ton of sunlight and heat from entering my poor RV. I use bricks and the outriggers to further stabilize the trailer,because outriggers alone will NOT make all RVs stable. ALWAYS CHECK YOUR ANODE AND HEATING ELEMENT HOLY CRAP! it sucks when you jump in the shower and out comes liquid ice. yeah we all have propane…but propane is for cooking…and maybe the furnace once in a while. If you have to live in an RV, don’t be afraid to REMOVE furniture from it! I removed a pullout couch, kitchen table and the useless cabinets inside my bedroom(don’t know what they were thinking with that curved wall and I was always hitting my head on the cabinets). I removed the stock microwave and put a toaster oven in there. Let me tell you, you can cook damn near anything in that oven. Microwaves suck…especially when you have limited amps available, but you can stick that oven on 180 and cook a damn pizza all the way in about 10 minutes. ALWAYS defrost your fridge and freezer once a month! I actually have a small dorm fridge tucked into a corner that has come in quite handy.
If you’ve got the girl, what sounds like a relatively compatible possible future career path, and are willing to live minimally, this could certainly all work out for you. Getting a vanagon in Alabama or somewhere in the south would be likely cheaper, but your options will be much more vast in Washington and Oregon. Just watch for rust, the ocean isn’t kind to these old girls.
8. Making money on the road is certainly not impossible. There are many parks and campgrounds at which you can work, but these aren’t your only options. Research the area where you are going for opportunities that fit your skill set. Once you have something in mind, prepare a resume and a nice reference list to have on hand that accentuates those skills and make stops throughout the area inquiring as to seasonal or temporary openings.
The kids, as kids most often do, adapted quickly. The hardest months for the teens were when they started school but we were still living in an RV. The best part about our home on wheels were the wheels and when the wheels weren’t rolling it was an entirely different experience. They didn’t want to invite friends over or be dropped off at the campground. While Brent and I were more than happy to share why we lived in an RV, what mattered to the teens was what other people thought.
And some RVs–for example Airstreams–do go up in value (or at least hold their own) if you play your cards right. For example, our Airstream was selling for around $7000 in 1976, when it was brand new. If we had it in the pristine condition we could should we give her 3 months time, selling it for $30,000 wouldn’t be out of the question, which is about inline with what $7k in 1976 would be equivalent to today.
I wish everyone who has run into bad times could read your story. There are certainly people who cannot help themselves and need assistance. But there are too many who find themselves in debt who could do what you have done – cut expenses and live frugally. But they don’t and just complain, asking for handouts as they place an order for the new iphone. Good luck with your new house and homestead, although I know you don’t need any. It’s apparent you make your own luck. 🙂
I loved your article!!! We own a 74 Winnebago Brave and live in it during the summer. We were always wondering if it would even be possible living in it during the cold Canadian Winters. I guess it is!!! I especially love the part about your GF. I feel sometimes it is hard living in an RV fulltime too because of society’s view about how women should look. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell my employers where I was living or I wouldn’t get hired. Thank you for your article. 🙂
Just found your site. What a relief it is to find other like minded souls. My wife and I are currently in the scared as sh$* phase as we are putting the house up for sale next month. We did our budget and are more conservative (have higher monthly allowances) than you are showing so it is comforting seeing it can be done for that. Love the idea of living life as we choose and will be following your site and really digging into your tips and suggestions over the next few months. Keep up the great postings! They are very inspirational!
Connectivity is a big topic for full time travel, and we’ve managed to keep ours down. We used cheap pre-paid cell phone plans and use older phones. We are on cheap 15GB/month Total Wireless from Walmart for our phones and were able to get our hands on a AT&T Mobley this past summer (now unavailable) that keeps our internet cost down. Total we spend less than $100/month on this category.
Just wanted to give you a tip on window treatments. I read that you guys have used curtains, bubble wrap, etc. We have just started on our cold weather excursion (currently in northwestern Montana) and wanted to share what we did for sealing our windows. 3M makes clear window treatments that come in multiple sizes. Normally, they are for use in a residential home, but we found them to work equally well in our 5er. Using double sided tape around the frames of the windows, they make a tight, clear seal and both keeps the air leaks from coming in and forms an air pocket between the glass and plastic film that acts as an insulator. SInce air is a poor conductor of heat, it makes a huge difference in keeping our RV warmer in the winter while still allowing full light to enter. We’ll be putting a winter post up on our blog shortly. Granted, we are from Florida, so I’m not sure who’s going to take our advice, but we both did grow up in Colorado and Pennsylvania, respectively! Hope this helps!
Thanks for the information. It’s funny but I was just contacted by a friend I haven’t heard from in 4 years and they recently sold everything off about three years ago and are enjoying the RV lifestyle. They just spent the summer in Alaska and currently my friend is playing Santa Claus here in Las Vegas. We are getting together tomorrow and I am sure we will have a big discussion on how things have been going so far. He has already recommended I grow my beard in for next year and play Santa. Of course I will have to die the beard as I am not quite white yet. LOL. I will keep on searching your site and thanks again for the update…
Thanks to my OCD, I’ve been checking Craigslist multiple times day and came across the Crossroads Zinger 29DB. We really like the back bedroom and how the bunks lie horizontally in the front cutting down on the length and weight of the trailer. While we don’t LOVE this RV, it’s affordable and would be comfortable for our family without adding debt. Since it’s used I wouldn’t have emotional hang ups about painting brand new cabinets and walls. It would be so much fun to do another RV makeover!
Annual maintenance costs will vary depending on the type of RV, age, mileage, driving conditions, and other variables. If you are towing a trailer, the maintenance costs for the RV could be less, but you need to maintain the tow vehicle, too. A used motorhome might require more maintenance expense than a new motorhome would, simply due to age. And the more mileage you put on the tow vehicle and/or RV, the more frequently the routine maintenance expenses add up. You also need to consider things on the RV or tow vehicle that wear out over time, like tires, brakes, windshield wipers, and the additional expenses for emissions testing, inspections, license plate renewal fees, and taxes.
At the same time, this non-resident residency impacts the local politics of the cities and towns where the biggest mail forwarding companies do business because of the huge number of absentee voters. These voters may vote like each other — full-time RVers have a lot in common with each other — but they don’t necessarily vote like the other residents of their adopted hometowns.
We went into Little Havanna in Miami and the kids were dancing right along with an older Cuban man at a restaurant that was playing Cuban music. They didn’t know that he was a different nationality and came from a different country. They heard music and saw dancing and jumped right in. We are hoping our travels will continue to inspire their behavior in this way and that as they grow older they don’t learn to fear things that are different, but instead look at the world and people as equals no matter what their background is or what they look like.
Even when things get tough on the road and I am wishing for the stability of a 9 to 5 job, a house, school for the kids, when I stop to imagine what that life would be like I know I would be bored in a few months and start to get itchy feet again. We have seen what this life is like and it is addicting! Then again there are still things we don’t like about being on the road. You can read about them here: 7 Things We Hate About Full Time Family Travel
For the same length I do feel a Class A is more maneuverable than a 5th wheel, but it also depends a bit on the particular model. If you’re serious about boondocking look at clearance & back overhang on your rig. Both can make a huge difference as to how far you can go into the boonies. I think 25-30 is a good size for 5th wheels (decent compromise between living space & maneuverability).
The question of buying a new or used RV is a big one, and there are several things to think about. First, it’s important to remember that the term “RV” stands for “recreational vehicle.” Most RVs are not designed or built for full-time living. This means that these vehicles can quickly show their age, especially with heavy use. Buying a used rig might mean buying a few extra headaches, which can include everything from a leaky roof, plumbing problems, sagging mattresses and cushions, or stubbornly slow slideouts.
Worst case scenario: our RV’s transmission went out a month before we were supposed to head out on our trip. That took $2000 out of our emergency fund before we even started, but it gave us peace of mind that the transmission would be good for the trip. So, we kind of got lucky. Moral of the story: have an emergency fund that can cover your worst case scenario.
4/ wet suits and beach/surf gear – for some reason we had it in our heads we’d use these a lot. Instead they took up a bunch of space and we rarely (a few times per year?) used them. We decided it makes more sense to rent these as needed. We feel the same about kayaks and paddle-boards. You may end up differently, but my advice is leave these at home when you start out until you have some experience with where you travel and what you like to do. You can always rent and if you really miss them you can brings them along on the next trip.
Departure – Before you depart the campground in cold weather turn on the engine block heater for a minimum of 4 hours and run the generator for 30 minutes with a low-medium load. This routes the fuel to the generator but not all the fuel is burned. The fuel that is not burned follows a return line back to the fuel tank, effectively warming up the fuel and giving the engine warm fuel for a better start. Make sure your engine and transmission have time to warm up before jumping directly onto the highway.
It’s been just over a year since we moved out of the RV. Even though we knew our decision to stop full time RVing was the right one, moving out of the RV was easier said than done. With the help of some friends, it only took a few hours to get all our stuff out of the RV. The emotional “moving out” has taken much longer. For Brent and I, it’s been a surprisingly difficult painful new “road”.
We have been talking about full time RVing for almost 2 years. However, we are in our 60s but we don't care. The only thing I wonder is will it cost more than living in a 2400 sq. ft. home in Arkansas? We were thinking of selling it (or renting it out). Truth is we would not be able to afford more than our present expenses. If we move, say, 52x per year, would it cost more to live in a good sized motorhome?
Our RV is older (late 80’s), but has a ‘winter’ package for Canada which included dual pane windows (which also cuts out a lot of exterior noise year-round), insulated tank bay and a furnace duct that runs into the tank bay. Unfortunately, with this package the fresh water tank was placed inside the main cabin, which cuts down the storage space, but ensures there is little chance of freezing.
We’ve always talked about it but about a month ago my husband and I started seriously planning a year-long road trip through central America with our two little ones (2yo and 10 months) We aren’t planning to leave for about another 18 months but over the last week, I’ve started to get increasingly nervous about the practicalities of day-to-day life on the road. I think the universe is trying to tell me something because I just listened to Bryanna’s interview on the Zero to Travel Podcast and then saw this post in a Facebook group! It is possible. Back to the map!! 🙂
This is an excellent post, Nina. People ask us all the time what it costs to RV full time, and we’ve come up with just about the same answer as you —we figure $3500 for a comfortable and varied lifestyle that includes a mix of state and federal parks, some boon docking, occasional expensive RV resorts, and camp hosting. We travel a lot of miles every year driving from the Pacific Northwest to Florida and back, which I realize isn’t typical.
Hi Nina, appreciate ur list of 10 things . . . We have gone on the road for a straight 3 months then again for 4 months. We have several memberships and we love camping with the conveniences of home so the memberships we have are absolutely wonderful money savers galor. Our main issue has been rushing to get from one state to another so ur comment to slow down and get aquatinted and feel more at home sounds excellent. I was wondering if you have any idea the cost of the 20GB/ monthly cost. We have Verizon and the 5GB is not ever enough for us. My husband both have IPads so we need more GBs and the 20GB with Millenicom is something I too would like to check into after my contract is over. Totally agree with your list.
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.