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.
Wednesday morning arrived, I left around dawn and drove on (mostly) dry roads out of Steamboat and towards I-70. Along the way, I passed high mountain peaks, narrow valleys, small hamlets like Oak Creek where recent snows had not been cleared off the roads (good idea to slow down!) and then… I-70 and Beaver Creek, Vail, and Copper – three world-class ski resorts all in succession!
Totally depends on HOW you travel. I have male buddies who travel in vans that live this lifestyle for around $12,000 per year (look up ToSimplify, CheapRVLiving and Van-Tramp in my blog links), and I have friends who use much, much more. I would say you can do it on anything from $1,000/mo to $5,000/mo depending on how far you travel, where you stay, how frugal you are etc.
For cash needs, you can get “cash over” on a debit card at the supermarket without any fees rather than worrying about finding a branch of your bank in some obscure town or paying extra to get money from an ATM machine. Buy a pack of gum for a buck and get $100 over. If you need to deposit a check, get the mailing address of your bank branch and mail them a short explanatory note, a deposit slip and the check, endorsed “For deposit only.”
2017 Udpate – TOTALLY. Since that original “crazy” year on the road we’ve enjoyed a much more relaxed pace of travel (you can see all our travel maps HERE -> we average just over ~5,000 miles/year) and it’s made everything SO much better. For us this is a lifestyle, not a vacation and taking the time to enjoy each spot has made it a deeper, richer (and more enjoyable) experience for both of us.
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.
Thanks for the info. I’ve finally convinced my wife to go live in an RV full time. We’ve rented an RV twice this year and so far so good. We almost bought a new RV 2 months ago but since we’re still working, we decided not to do it this year. We own our house and still paying $1200 a monthly mortgage. I’m leaning on selling the house when I retire in 7 years and buy an 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.
You can do wonderful things in a small RV. I grew up in a small trailer home. My parents and 4 kids lived in a 8X30 mobile home. My father built bunk beds in the ‘living room’ that folded up against the wall….we had just one sofa for all of us to sit on. Everyone else sat on kitchen chairs. Most meals we ate out side on a picnic table…or in rain we had some snack trays. Toys were kept under my parent’s bed or in the back of my parent’s car.
We traveled for years for my husbands work. My son spent his first six years traveling with us in an rv. Recently when we found out we are having another baby we decided to not do that anymore. He found another job and we stay home. Let me tell you it is a hard adjustment. We miss traveling more than anything. Life is so much more simple that way. You have less stuff. You don’t have the up keep of a Home and yard. You don’t run around busy every night to a bunch of obligations. Oh how we miss it. So much more time outside. Freedom. Seeing new places. This conventional life is much harder. We miss our rv. We have not sold it yet. The thing is we want our son to go to school and make long term friendships. He made a lot of friends on the road. But it’s different. Most of them he will never see again. Home schooling was fine I didn’t mind. We thought being home was what we wanted. Now all we want to do is go back on the road. Hahahaha. We miss it so much. Plus he made way more money. Not sure we can survive staying in one place like this. Doing for the kids! We saw so many amazing places. Coast to coast.
We cook with an electric plate, which works well for us, as our diet is simple because we’re both diabetic. We only use propane to run the fridge when we’re traveling, and have disconnected the propane hoses from the stove and furnace – we never use either – and we stuffed the vents with loads of rags years ago. We’ve never had a problem with rodents or bugs in any season.
Diesel can freeze! Make sure you fill with winterized diesel which you can find at most truck stops. If you can’t find winterized diesel you need to purchase an additive that will keep your diesel from freezing (you can find this at auto part stores and truck stops). Before you depart your destination you should plug in the heating element found in your diesel engine (most diesel engines have a heated core that you can plug into a wall to keep them from getting too cold) to warm up your engine at least 4 hours before taking off.
One of the beautiful things about aging is you carry along the wisdom of years of experience (that, and your wine gets better of course). By many standards you could easily call me but a pup in the great dog-park of life, but as our multi-year journey in RVing progresses I have managed to glean a few gems of sageness which I can happily pass along. In that spirit, here are 10 things I wish I’d known before we went full-timing:
You don’t have to have a “home” to have an address. There are multiple companies that offer mailbox services. Which means you get an address for a mailbox that is located in one of the cities that the business is located in. The company then scans your envelopes and sends them to you via email (you can let them know if you want them to keep it to mail it to you or throw it away), mails your mail to you once a month – wherever you are, or some even open the mail and scan it and send it to you. It is all for a monthly cost but it is very reasonable. The only thing is you have to have domicile in the state they offered in. The main one’s for Full Time traveling families are Florida and Texas – since the homeschooling laws are best there. However we had heard that Texas wasn’t good for state health insurance since they didn’t offer a nation wide plan – not sure if that matters to you. Here is a link from a full time RVing couple about how to handle mail and a few other things: http://www.technomadia.com/2012/07/chapter-9-nomadic-logistics-domicile-mail-taxes-banking-and-voting/ Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any more questions.
16. Make sure to have plenty of on-the-road activities available while traveling. Considering the fact that internet access may be intermittent, you will want to make sure you have some of your favorite DVD’s, cd’s and books at arms reach. Portable DVD players are a necessity with children in the RV and you will probably benefit greatly from an e-reader of some sort. If you have a laptop or tablet, these can easily be downloaded and there is a plethora of places to find free reading material.
Hi there, Just stumbled onto your site while looking for info on the best small motorhomes. My husband and I are in our 60’s and want to get our first motorhome. We have hesitated before because I was afraid of taking on the task of driving something big at our age. Then a friend showed me their little Winnebago and said it drove and parked beautifully, and we are thinking that could be a good compromise to a big RV. We will spend extended times at our children’s homes, and travel around California mainly, and perhaps to a few surrounding states. Do you have any advice on purchasing a smaller unit, perhaps other brands, or what we should look for?
In this particular case on boondocking I am wondering if you read down to the part where it says Other Resources/Internet Sites and went to the links. Freecampsites.net is a great website and used it in my year one planning. Please read in detail as to how many days that you can stay at the particular campsite, cost of campground since most aren’t free that I’ve opened up, and if RV length mentioned make sure that you can camp there. Usually there is good information on how to get to the campsite in question as well.
Now, about emergencies; who ya gonna call? (No! not Ghost Busters) Is there on-site help for mechanical and electrical problems and how do you contact them? What days and hours are they available? Is 911 service available (if you are fulltiming, you most likely are using only a cellphone – cellphones may NOT work with the 911 service since they do not give you LOCATION)? Where are the closest Doctors, Dentists, Veterinarians, Pharmacies and Hospitals?
Our next step was to partially winterize by draining the tank, adding RV antifreeze, turning on the pump and opening all cold water taps (we didn't want antifreeze in the water heater). When the antifreeze appeared, we turned off the pump and switched to water from the city water outlet. The pump and surrounding water lines were then protected.
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.
RVs aren’t cheap. Well, new ones aren’t at least. We bought our 1994 Coachmen Leprechaun in 2014 and sold him 48 states and 22K miles later. After buying an renovating “Franklin” for 12K and selling him for almost 10K, we really only spend $2,000 for our home. This is the definition of a steal and probably the main reason why I highly recommend buying used.
So, you’ve got to weigh your priorities on what is more important to you. Is the space/layout key to your happiness on the road? Then, absolutely go for the bigger rig and make it work! Is camping in remote areas & boondocking your top priority? Then, you’ve got to look smaller. The answer is highly individual. No wrong answer at all…just the best answer for YOU!
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.
If they are new to RVing and unsure if the lifestyle fits, they should go cheap but functional. I have Airstreamed all my life, but our first trailer was a 24’ Nomad that cost $3000. We learned a LOT in that trailer. Lots of what to do, and even more of what NOT to do. We had repairs and enhancements to do. We sold it 1 year later, but that was due to my parents giving us their Airstream.
Hello again! Enjoyed reading your helpful post and the comment about not having health insurance. That is one of the big items that the hubby and I are debating about right now as we prepare for full-timing next August! We are both pre-Medicare age by several years, and have no ongoing insurance provided by our current employers upon retirement. We are debating about having a “catastrophic” policy and dealing with general health care needs on a cash basis. Out of curiosity, how do you prepare yourselves for the potential of a catastrophic need – such as a big medical issue, or an accident? (heaven forbid either of these happen to either of you!) thanks for your insight!
While you can certainly live for free out of your van, especially if you get a Northwest pass (I think that’s what Washington’s is called…or maybe you won’t need one if you’re working for DNR) then there’s ample free camping up in the Evergreen State, but you’ll still have costs. Gasoline, a solar setup if you want to have power, and propane if you want to have heat and a stove, which I would think you might in Washington…
Hi Karen: Since so many people have an interest in full timing, I thought it would be a good idea to give them further details. I always tell people that if they can afford it, just close up the house and give full timing a try. If it doesn't work out, they will still have everything waiting for them back home. Most find that RVing is so great that the thought of going back to the house, the expenses, the work, etc is a drag. But others are happy they didn't just jump in with both feet. It's a big decision, that's for sure!
I remember reading this a few years back when purchasing our first second hand motorhome and finding it most helpful. I was wondering if you still felt the same so thanks for your updates! Based on our experience at this pointI would make a minor qualification to #4 regarding heavy items on the slide out. And this probably varies between makes, models, and slide mechanics. I would avoid a design with heavy items on a “ramp” slide, but don’t feel it really makes any difference on slides that stay level and travel in and out on strong rollers. The ramp slide has to go uphill when retracting and that causes a lot of strain on the motor and rails, the others though slide easily even with a heavy load. Our large passenger side slide has the entire galley, a 20 cu ft fridge and a pantry filed with a lot of bottles and cans. Large rollers and a tile floor allow it to move easily and without strain.
I heat my home with a very large woodstove and it takes up so much of my time in the winter hours. I have to collect firewood 12 months of the year just to stay stocked up and I live near St. Louis where it is mostly warm. If you could send me more info. about your cute little wood stove I “wood” really appreciate it. I need something smaller for my greenhouse.
Boy, do I know just what you are talking about, been there done that! We did just what you two are doing in Alaska. We bought property, cleared an area for driveway and cabin, then built the shell of the cabin – all while living in a 21 ft RV over a 2 yr period. But life threw us a curve, and we became full time caretakers of my in-laws….in Oregon. When we started over again, we knew what floor plan to look for. The 2nd RV was 36 ft with a 12 ft slide-out and a separate bedroom with a folding door, big difference. As we bought it 2nd hand, it needed a little work. Yes, the cushions and mattress upgrade is a must for full-time living. And again….life threw a curve. I am in Nevada now with the 2nd RV and have not given up on the dream completely. Still looking for the right piece of land to accomplish the goal. I so enjoy watching your videos and reading your posts about your progress. Brings back good memories of better times, thank you.
Well Howdy! I am so glad to hear you will be joining us! You’re gonna love it (if you don’t, blame Jason)! The house sounds awesome (too bad it doesn’t have wheels) but nothing beats the freedom and ability to change neighbors and scenery whenever you feel like it! Thanks so much for taking the time to say hello and let us know when you hit the road!
When we started out we spent around $4,500 on initial start-up $$. That covered tow modifications, new sewer hose, extra water hoses, surge protector and power cords (30 to 50A cable, plus a 30A extension cable), Lynx leveling blocks, wheel covers, camping chairs and tables, outdoor grill and mat. We also spent smaller $ on various cheap plastic storage bins (for sorting our stuff in the downstairs bins). We didn’t initially buy a TPMS system, but that’s something I’d recommend for folks today and does add around another ~$500 to the total. All these start-up costs were easily covered by selling furniture and various “stuff” from our house.
Great blog! lots of ideas for “newbies” — we have been fulltimers for almost one-year now and are in agreement with many of the items on your list (size and taking your time especially!) We have also been fortunate to meet helpful people on our travels and certainly fellow bloggers encourage and guide us! Keep up the great posts and we hope to get to meet you in person soon!! Martha
Part of being a parent is giving our kids the wings and space they need to become who they are. We were willing to take that risk if it meant our kids could have this amazing opportunity to see the world and that we were able to do that with them before they left the nest and were on their own. Our hope is through the bond we are building as a family all of them will always find each other and us no matter where life takes them and we will find ourselves together more often then not.
It is best to choose a bag that has a lower temperature rating than you expect to actually encounter. For example, if you predict the weather will be 35 degrees Fahrenheit, select a bag that will tolerate down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, that way if you become too warm, you can simply vent the bag to promote more air circulation, or even shed a few layers of clothes.
Costs will vary greatly from RVer to RVer. For example, whether or not you choose to finance a brand new RV or pay cash for an older one will greatly impact your monthly expenses. Likewise, an RV that is 10 or more years old may require more monthly maintenance costs. Also, you can find free parking all over the country or choose to enjoy amenities at RV resorts.
I’ve spent a year so far living and traveling in a self-converted cargo van. I’ve been through four major purges of stuff. Just yesterday I combined the contents of two partially empty containers. Now I have a container to divest myself of. The thing is, I don’t feel like a radical minimalist. It’s just that I’m finding out I don’t need a lot of stuff I thought I would, and holding onto it just got in the way. The less I have, the more I can see and evaluate what’s left. If I can’t tell you exactly what’s in a box or cupboard, if I’ve forgotten some things I have, then they’re probably not necessary. If I don’t know I have it, it’s the same as if I didn’t have it. It’s rarely a case of, “Oh! I’ve been looking for that.” More often it’s, “Why was that once important to take with me?” So I like your advice to start out with nothing and then add only what you need. I know it’s not practical to always be acquiring things piece by piece, but it’s a good way to keep from being overburdened.
Hydration Pack – If your favorite RVers are outdoor enthusiasts gifts like backpack hydration packs will be appreciated. In our experience, hydration packs are a must for hiking with kids. Our boys have Dakine hydration packs similiar to this one. Brent and I both have Camelbaks with insulated drink tubes (similiar to this one) that along with hiking in all temperatures, we wear when snowboarding.
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Right now, I am a Junior in college studying civil engineering, at the University of Alabama. Not trying to name drop or anything, just insight as to who I am. This summer I’m working in the state of Washington with the department of Natural Resources. Long story short, towards the end of the summer I’m considering selling my car and using the money saved from my job to purchase a van to drive back to school.
My husband traveled through a pipe fitters Union. We did this with our son until recently. He is almost 7. That’s the hardest part for us. Our son was lonely. He made a lot of friends and got really good at making friends quickly. We did too. But then we would leave for a new place and he will prob. Never see them again. It was so fun to live that way. We miss it more than anything in the world. Wish we could leave right now. Haha. Really. We are adjusting to this conventional life. It’s not as simple or fun. Our son got lonely. So now we are staying home. Hubby got a new job and our son goes to school. He is also getting a brother. Haha. So that is the main challenge. So we look forward to retirement. We are selling it all and going on the road.
Neil, some of us who hope to full time RV aren’t rich. My motorhome (really high school boys basketball buddy but does have a MH) friend likes to camp at a spot that is $47 per night with full hook ups. He has no solar, but likes to provide AC during the summer for his dog. Meanwhile I could camp nearby that same campground at a dry camping spot for $14/night with potable water access, dump station, and even includes two showers per day so the gray tank wouldn’t be filling up so fast. Yes, I plan on having solar power. That is a difference of $1,000/month right there if both of us were full timers already. How much is the MiFi as we currently pay less than $160 for DirecTV and the cell phone plan? Our food budget is considerably less than yours as well, but we do currently stock up on food when it is on sell (20+ – 33% off) to fill up the deep freezer (one thing that I will miss if we full time RV) and pantry. So as Nina says there is a lot of flexibility in how people want to spend their money. There is no such thing as one correct way to RV. There are very many different styles so everyone can choose which one fits their own personal style. Personally I intend to live off less than half the income for the first two years and then splurge in year three in Alaska provided that we full time RV. I don’t want to touch the wife’s 403B plan until legally required to do so. This way I have compound interest working for me rather against me. We are using Cash Is King method for finances and have zero credit cards currently (we use the debit card). One other point at our bank we have zero fees on the checking and saving accounts. I use gasbuddy.com for gas prices and have a spreadsheet to help me determine whether or not it pays to go to the far gas stations for the cheaper prices.
Having more than a Hobbit-sized refrigerator: If Hobbits had fridges, I'm sure it would be similar to the one we have in our RV. It's more like a dorm fridge with a small freezer on the top. Oh, and RV refrigerators don't operate like the one you buy down at Sears. Oh, no. These babies work by what's known as gas absorption, which entails heating ammonia that magically cools the fridge. I won't go into the gory details, mostly because I'm not too versed in the wizardry behind it. Just know that it is usually too cold (your veggies are going to freeze) or too warm (your veggies are going to rot) and you may have to fiddle with the buttons to keep things right.
Sandra, you are not the first to think we spend too much or too little. Everyones lifestyles are different and we don’t live on a shoe string budget, nor do we post our expenses for any reason other than to help others get an idea of what it costs us, with our lifestyle to live on the road. We buy local, fresh and organic food as much as possible. We like good all natural food that doesn’t come in a box or can and that isn’t something we plan on changing if we don’t have to. We work from the road (not retired or independently wealthy) and our websites are not just your average wordpress sites and we do a lot to keep them secure, backed up and so on and so forth. Our phones are a huge part of our business and we have to have smart phones with internet and such. Sure, if we didn’t work and didn’t have to have solid internet, this would be a lot less. Just not an option for us right now.
We have been using ours since Mark installed it in 2008, both during the winter and the summer, and we love it. We have a whole blog post explaining how this kind of heater works, what the technologies are behind the different styles of vent-free propane heaters on the market, what kind of heat each type of heater produces, and how to install one here:
I traded couches for hammocks and couldn’t be happier. There’s a reason why pictures of hammocks are associated with vacation and relaxation. I dare you to try lying in a hammock and not feel absolutely in heaven while you are there. We have an ENO Hammock which you can hang from trees so wherever we are we can lie back and watch the sky. The benefits of getting horizontal on your adrenal health is incredible. If we ever move back into a house, I’m hanging a hammock inside.
Lisa, I don’t think that is an option, but there is really only one way to find out. It all depends on how well insulated your RV is. Also, to run your water pump all night you would need to have ample batteries or be plugged into shore power. However, If you use skirting or create a barrier around your RV and run a heater like we talk about above, you shouldn’t have problems with your pipes freezing.
27. The RV lifestyle reinforces not living a “comfortable life.” Things are always breaking, life is hectic, and you always have a GPS running cause you never know where you are. It helps you grow as a person, like when the slides on your RV won’t let you reach all of your underwear or the tow car nearly crushes you to death, all in a 24-hour period.