In our case there are months we pay almost ZERO here (e.g. when we are sitting still in one place and either volunteering or boondocking) and there are months we chose to splurge. Either way we are able to completely manage how much we want to spend and can ramp it down (or up) as needed to match our income. Honestly if we’d fully understood the power of this flexibility we probably wouldn’t have fretted quite so much over costs before we got on the road. This is a BIG DEAL!
Our fourth year of roadschooling has been a big year for Thing 1. Per his request he wanted a challenging curriculum because wanted to make sure he is “keeping up with school kids”. It has been a struggle for me because, frankly, I see much (not all) of traditional school as a lot of nonsense and wasted time. While we’ve kept up with the core subjects, we’ve allowed plenty of room for freedom to explore, create, and have avoided traditional textbooks and boring assignments. Brent and I have encouraged the boys to think out of box and question the status quo.
This is great! I don’t know if I could live in an RV that long, but I am strongly considering using one for a few months at a time once I retire from the military. It’s good to hear you are recommending the smaller RV, too. I don’t want a big one, but I’m a bit worried I would go crazy if it’s too small. I’m glad to hear that smaller turned out to be better for you.
Your personal diary of events and budget is not uncommon. However me and my husband lived in North Eastern Utah in a new RV park for only $350 month, which included ALL utilities except our propane. We also renovated a used 35 ft fifth wheel becasue we did not want to be in debt. We also stayed on a budget and never had the expense you all did. We to own land but voted to stay in town at an RV park. I can tell you from experience our total expenses were not over $600 and this includes most of your list.
There really is a lot of variation out there and the variation certainly does match income, as you would expect. Folks on a limited income typically travel more frugally (smaller rigs, more workamping/boondocking, less eating out etc.) and make it work for less, whereas folks on a more abundant income go ahead and spend more. I do think there’s a pretty distinct bottom number (It’s really hard to get below $1500/mo as a couple IMO), but I don’t think there’s necessarily any upper limit. There’s certainly no one answer and no one “right” way…
Once we retire, my wife and I are planning on spending winters (at least) heading south from Chicago in an RV for maybe 3 months at a time. I’m an over-researcher according to her, but also an accountant. 🙂 I’d love to play with your budgeting worksheet. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link on your website. Is there a specific page where I can find it?
On the other hand, if you are outfitting the RV of your dreams for a life of full-time RV travel or of winter snowbirding RV adventures, then you might consider installing a vent-free propane fireplace that is built into an elegant mantel. These heaters give off the same incredible heat as the more industrial looking vent-free propane heaters, but they have the cozy and inviting appearance of a fireplace and produce a beautiful (and mesmerizing) flame. What a great addition to an RV!!

another outstanding post–and very timely for me-have finally reached a decision re hitting the road after following your blog and so many others–a great source of inspiration and information. have been doing lots of research on the forums and just signed up for the Escapees Boot Camp as a walk-in. will finalize my thinking re rig size and other items soon and this input is great!! hope to hit the road by the end of the year as the “downsizing” is already completed and most is in storage–need to “just do it”!! thanks again for all the info–really enjoy your posts–you guys have been a big inspiration
I did not intend to insult but after reading my e-mail It did sound a little rough. I love to see that people are “successfully” doing something that I dream of doing in the near future and I want to ensure I got as many tools and tricks of the trade when I make that leap. I have checked off the debt free box which everyone recommends but it is the other stuff that still has me nervous about this adventure. Trust me, from what I have read about I wouldn’t be amazed if you and a few others see us at your events so that we can keep on learning from the folks that have been there and done it. I look forward to watching your blog for updates and new tricks as we get prepared to change our life for the better. I hope!
Our oldest turned 10 this year. 10 – that is double digits! We have a 10 year old yet we still don’t feel like we know what we are doing as parents. . . do you ever?! Him reaching this age has really made me stop and think how crazy fast life is and how we can’t spend all this time trying to do it perfect and right but instead have to sit back and just enjoy it at times too. As we go along this journey, we’re constantly figuring things out, but the more we learn, the more we see how much we really don’t know.
This kinda makes obvious senses, but when we first started out we really didn’t pay too much attention to weather. In our first year we ended up travelling through the Mid-West in very hot and buggy conditions, not ideal for a natural-born bug magnet (such as myself) in a metal home. Since then we’ve paid closer attention and the beauty of being mobile is that you can do exactly that. I launched my flip-flop barometer early this year and we managed (mostly) to stay right on it. We’re wintering in the SW this year and will be back to cool and gorgeous coast & mountains by next summer. Most definitely the flip-flop way to go!
South Dakota, Texas and Florida are all home to major mail forwarding services that will help you become a legal resident, help you register and insure your vehicles and help you become a registered voter. Your postal mail will be sent to your address at the mail forwarding service. They will then sent it to you, wherever you are. You will have to show up in person in your new home state to get your driver’s license. The terms for renewing a driver’s license vary from state to state.
Some years are worse than others, but it averages $1791/year, which includes optional equipment, maintenance (tires, oil changes, batteries, etc.). Also includes roadside service insurance payments, vehicle insurance, registration, specialized and optional RV expenses (club memberships), paint & body work, and the expense of two major breakdowns over the years. This was for a ‘94 36 foot, Class A, diesel, RV.
There are many options when it comes to RV types, starting with choosing motorized or towable.  Motorized come in three types: Type A, Type B, Type C, depending upon the size and layout that fits your style. If you already own a suitable tow vehicle (pickup truck or SUV) consider a travel trailer, fifth wheel, folding camping trailer or truck camper. For those who don’t want to tow or move their RV frequently, there are park models. Prices can vary greatly, which makes it a good idea to analyze the various options to see what is best for your budget. To learn the difference between RV types, go here.
We quickly learned that we didn’t like that he had to be at the table working all day while the kids and I were out exploring all of these amazing places! Plus, having to go back to Wisconsin was expensive and limiting how far we could travel. California is quite a drive from Wisconsin, especially if you want to go back and forth. The cost of him flying back alone would add up, not to mention I just did not want him leaving us for a week.
This item covers all supermarket purchases, including groceries, household cleansers, toiletries, laundry detergent, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and anything else that can be found at Walmart, Safeway, Albertsons, Target and other places. Our rig is fully outfitted, but occasionally we get a small kitchen appliance or pick up a DVD. Those things get lumped into this number.
Thanks for the reply. Can’t wait to get out there and start living. Great advice.  i will definitely be contacting the folks you left links to. Question: do you two caravan with other folks sometimes or always on your own? I thought it would be a lot of fun to to caravan along with some of the great people out there, does that happen or do people just move on and say so long.
Remember, look for areas most likely to lose heat, windows, doors, seals, and reinforce them with additional insulation. Consider investing in some portable electric heaters to keep warm without burning through all of your fuel, and make sure you wrap any and all water pipes in insulation and then electrical heat tape. If you don't have any other option than to ride out the winter, you can keep warm and safe, and Carolina Coach & Marine, serving Asheville, NC, and Spartanburg, SC, is ready to help you do it. Visit our dealership, or set an appointment with our service department, and let our staff help you prepare for the coldest months.
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.
Like the big roof insulation R-factor that doesn’t account for the hatch vents, the well advertised high R-factor in the walls doesn’t account for the windows, which is where much of the heat in a rig escapes, especially at night. Closing the blinds makes a difference. When we’re in a remote area with no one around, we prefer to keep the blinds open so the first light of morning fills the rig. But we can’t do this in the wintertime unless we want to wake up to a rig that is 5 degrees cooler than it could be.
The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
I came into life unexpectedly during my parent’s plans to fulltime in their 40’s. They elected to proceed with their aspirations with the condition of how I would adapt. In 1978, everything was sold and we left Missouri to “go west young man”. Over the next 10 years, we vastly traveled while Dad built banks. Every weekend was an adventure scoping out the gems the area(s) had to offer. Mom enrolled me in school at each location providing me social skills I would’ve not learned if home schooled. Almost in high school, they decided to retire and stabilize my education. Wow! What a culture shock! My most impressional years were spent in a 40′ fifth wheel, and then it all stopped.
Even after bidding goodbye to your physical address you will still need to establish a permanent legal address for such dreary souvenirs of your former homebound life as driver’s licenses, vehicle inspections, voting registration and bank accounts. There are 50 different sets of rules and regulations and your home state may not be the most accommodating to a nomadic lifestyle. Among the options to consider are taxes, insurance rates, and efficiency of mail forwarding. Three of the most popular domicile states for full-time RVers are South Dakota, Texas and Florida.
My family consists of myself, my husband, and two toddlers. We are hitting the road next summer for a few months of slow cross country travel. My question is, do you have any campground memberships, and if so, which one do you think would be best for my young family? We prefer to be in more of a campground setting than an RV resort, and we would also like full hookups and bathroom facilities if possible but we would be willing to forgo the bathrooms to save on price. We want to spend a lot of time reconnecting with the outdoors and visiting some national parks. Your budget and all of the wonderful work you do has really helped me begin to plan our trip and I can’t thank you enough.
These days, it’s not at all unusual to see young singletons, couples, and families on the road, whether it’s for a summer getaway or a full-time lifestyle made possible by the ever-expanding capacity of remote work. (That’s right: Some people actually make their living while they travel. Don’t be jealous — read more about how you can do it, too, here!)
During the 30 days leading up to leaving, there was a day when I stood in the kitchen bawling and asking my husband if we were making the right decision. I physically did not feel like I’d be able to walk out of this dream house we had built and leave it all behind. He said, “Do we want to look back 10 years from now and say we wish we would’ve? Or do we want to close this chapter in our life and start a new one? And guess what? If we don’t like it, we can always come back, buy a house, and go back to our old life.” That actually gave me the strength to make this big change and move on.
For now I’ve parked up at my favourite ski hill nestled in the Kootenays. They let me park in the parking lot which is great for easy access to the lifts on powder days! The only downfall is hearing the snowplows and groomers all night. With the winter absence of wildlife I pretend the chugging of the front end loader plowing the lots at night is the birds singing. This makes there 5am appearance bearable. With the guiding season starting up soon Harvey will remain parked as we work through the season, rest assured ill keep him stocked up and ready to go when adventure calls!
We use Verizon for voice and some data, DirecTV with the dome on the roof of the RV and DirecWay for most of our internet connections. Since we use DirecWay we have to carry the dish everywhere and spend time setting it up, of course we can place it anywhere within reach of the RV, which is beneficial. It is however big and it takes up a lot of room. We haven’t gotten rid of it, because we like having it at home and it has been very reliable! We are debating changing to another service, but we have not made up our minds what the replacement would be.

Turns out I was right about not harming the RV, but I wasn’t right when it comes to freezing in general. That first night when the temperature dropped we left our outside water source plugged in. While it didn’t completely freeze I did notice icicles hanging from our basement water area the next morning. I’m glad I noticed them because it kicked me into high gear on making sure we didn’t fully freeze.
I was surprised at the cost of insurance but then saw it is a Travel Trailer. Motorhomes are rather more expensive. As far as lot costs, we would/could not justify that as retirees. We pay $500.00/mo which includes water and electric in Denton TX., and traveling will require a fair amount of research as so many parks are above what many of us travelers can afford.
  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.  
Chip took Penni to a used RV lot just to “check it out” in 2015, but they ended up buying a 395-square foot camper they call “Daisy.” They say they love this lifestyle now and have no plans to return to a typical home. Penni is selling her condo in Montpelier because they don’t think they’ll need it anymore. They track how many states they have been to on a map on the side of their RV. The current tally is 25.
Even knowing we began to freeze toward the end, I am still a big believer in skirting your RV to protect it from the cold. I feel this way because I’m certain if we had skirting that was better sealed around the entire RV we could have kept a lot of the cold air out. But, since we were using the full sheets of insulation we had a few cracks for the cold air to sneak in.
Lastly with regards to safety, I think attending some rallies, talking with other RVers and going on the forums might help. Also, when you first start boondocking I might recommend joining a group or camping in places where there are other RVers. There are many boondocking groups out there (again, Escapees comes to mind) and going for the first time with others may help allay your worries. The boondocking community is quite close-knit and you’ll quickly make friends. We’ve never felt unsafe on public land, but then again I’ve been hiking/exploring since I was a teenager. Sometimes it just takes time.
Thank you for your videos! We’re finding them very helpful. We are in the early stages of trying to finding the right RV for our family. Can a “cold weather package or winter package” be added after an RV is already built and what would that include? I’ve noticed some RV’s that have a sticker that says winter package on it and we’re wondering what that means.
With the 2 dogs we knew hotel hopping wouldn’t work, so what is the best way to travel with pets? An RV! We started looking for an RV that we could take on short trips once we downsized. We found a 29 foot Class C which we bought to give it a go. We took our first long trip to Florida in January, and we were hooked. We called my sister and said let’s forget the duplex and travel full-time in our RV!
[…] Our life in that storage, or so we thought. But after a certain number of years you start to question that whole premise and whether your “life” is really worth the ever-increasing storage $$ you throw at it? 6 years on and we feel this more strongly than ever. In fact I’ve talked about it many times on the blog before and it’s one of the key regrets I featured in #8 on my popular post “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Fulltime RVing“. […]
In the dead of summer, the sun rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest. During the day it is high in the sky, almost directly overhead. In mid-winter, the sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest, traversing a very low arc in the sky. At its highest, the sun is only halfway up the sky. These low angles are advantageous for keeping an RV warm in winter, however, as the sun shines directly in the windows into the center of the coach.
The majority of our income comes from my web design business, Donna. We don’t have health insurance…it’s still cheaper to pay the fine than the ridiculous premiums for those of us who want to travel frequently between states. More on that in one of our latest articles, which though it is about living in a van, the insurance part applies to RVing or any other method of full-time travel.
3. Commit to healthy eating: Switching to the RV lifestyle is a great chance to rethink your family's eating habits. Our advice? Store fruits and vegetables in green bags to maintain freshness, and consider canning or freezing as much as you can store for year-round freshness. Keep in mind that it may be hard to find healthy food in some parts of the country, so stock up when possible. The last thing you want is to have fast food as your only option.
For electrical power I also will be going with the solar panels (only a few more) but will use a bank of 6 volt batteries and a 3000 Watt inverter, which gives many hours of power and used only when necessary you have a few days of power. I also have a gas Kubota generator for emergencies and a small rechargeable battery booster unit for emergencies. Have used it and it works great.

Thank you for the blog! My wife and I also adopted our 10 year old son over a year ago now. We are very set on downsizing and moving full time into a 5th wheel. We are looking at staying annualy in an RV park here in St Petersburg Florida. My question is are there parks that accommodate families? We are in our mid 30’s and almost every quality RV park we search for says they are 55+ community. Do these places still offer spots for people like us?
Jan Wesner Childs is a journalist and wife of a 26-year Army Special Forces veteran. She has lived, worked and traveled around the world and the U.S. She is currently a freelance writer based in Florida, where she writes about anything and everything, including local schools, the space and tourism industry, and military spouse and family issues. Her blog, “Beyond the Gilded Cage,” details her family’s RV adventure and gives the scoop on transitioning to life after the Army. She can be reached at janwchilds@yahoo.com.

What’s amazing (and a big relief!) is that our “Upgrade” and “Maintenance” costs didn’t bring any unwanted or nasty surprises during the years we have been on the road, and they have remained much the same as they were in the first year, although there were plenty of years without any upgrades or big maintenance projects. As mentioned above, we barely ate out in the beginning and we splurged this past summer. We had mostly new clothes when we started and have replaced almost all of them, and we now see the importance of having the right tools and supplies for little “RV Owner” projects.

This change in the rhythm of life ultimately affects how you spend your money. You begin to realize that this is not a vacation, so you can’t spend money as if it were. You begin to slow down and appreciate the truly priceless pleasures, like a quiet morning reading a book, or an afternoon hike that has no other purpose than to smell the fresh air.


I’d agree. Campground internet is as unreliable as any I’ve experienced, but hotspot options from most major wireless carriers make for fast and reliable internet on the road. Depending on the carrier, it’s generally around $100-$180 per month (for the better networks) and we’ve found it to be very reliable. And, don’t forget about coffee shops and cafes, which offer a good excuse to immerse yourself in the local scene while snagging some complimentary internet.
3. How big does your rig need to be? Another major facet of the full time RV life is the size of your RV. You need to be truthful with yourself in considering how much room you want and need for the lifestyle you’re going to be undertaking. If you have little in the way of belongings and you don’t look to acquire very much in your travels, a smaller rig or pull behind might be right for you. It’s also a good choice if you know you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the more remote campsites where maneuverability will be an issue. On the other hand, if you are going to be making use of bigger sites, spending more time in one spot and don’t want to give up a great deal of your belongings, bigger will be better.
I am sure we will have many questions that come up. I too am going to be taking my business on the road. I am 34 and my wife is 30. Wish we would of done this 10 years ago haha. Luckily we have the ability to work anywhere so currently we camp a few times a month. But we wanna do more and figure I can potentially grow my company on the road too. So why not go full time? 🙂

I followed all my own directions as notated in this original post below EXCEPT for skirting. I don’t have a skirt for our Windy, and there was no snow on the ground so I couldn’t make an impromptu skirt. So today we’re a little more wise and humbly we offer a few new points on preparing your RV for Winter:1. Skirting – Anytime the temperatures will be sub 30 for more than a half day adding a skirt is the BEST way to keep your RV from freezing. If we would have skirted our Motorhome this wouldn’t have been an issue. That’s what I get for being lazy!

Instead, buy a 5-gallon water container and carry all your drinking and cooking water in by hand. Set up your RV sink to drain directly into a 5 gallon bucket, then you can just dump your dishwater at any gas/RV dump station. Get a gym membership or take showers at a friend’s house. Get a small 5-gallon porta-potty with a hand-pump flush system. Fill the flush reservoir with RV antifreeze. Believe me, you will definitely want a bathroom when it is cold outside, not to mention, you can’t just “go” anywhere when you’re in a city or neighborhood… or else you risk making a bad reputation for yourself and start pissing people off.
I could live in my RV, either in my hangar — there’s plenty of room — or on my property where it was already parked and hooked up. The trouble with that was that my RV, the “mobile mansion” is not designed for cold weather living. To make matters worse, I had parked it 66 feet from my onsite water source and I knew the hose running in a makeshift conduit under my driveway was very likely to freeze.
$1,399 Eating Out – As per the last reports we try to enjoy our experience in new towns through food, drink, and good ol’ conversation. The easiest place for a weary traveler to pull up a chair in a new town…..the Bar, and this tradition has been the same since the beginning of time. On average we eat out 2 times per week, typically at a local eatery that’s come highly recommended by the locals. Here and there we’ve had a few meals comped for being travel writers, we’ve had few of our online friends buy us a warm meal or a brew, and we’ve been treated to a few home cooked meals at homes along the way, and for this we are extremely grateful. Nothing better than sitting down and breaking bread with a few fellow RVers who’ve been following our journey….and then they pick up the tab 🙂 You Guys ROCK!
Those items vary greatly from person to person, so we simply wanted to show how your lifestyle, family size, and other factors impact your RV related expenses each month. We felt this would give you the greatest understanding of how much it costs to full-time RV…aside from what debt you have, how much you put into savings each month, or how you choose to spend your extra money.
Again, we're not stuck to a vacation timeline. We are not on vacation, this is our life. So instead of pulling in for a week and cramming our days full of sightseeing, we balance our days with work and play. We choose what we would like to see, but don't feel compelled to "get our money's worth." We may stay a few days or a few weeks depending on what we want to explore in the area. During this time, we're carrying on a normal life similar to a resident by shopping at local stores, eating at local restaurants, and participating in daily life. I cannot say we are true citizens by any stretch, but it does give us a better sense of place than a vacation usually does.
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