I am the author of two RV books, one of which is published by Woodalls and hundreds of RV articles. My husband and I have been fulltiming for ten years. I have to say that this is the best article that I have EVER read on full-timing. We have come to the same conclusions that you have…even after 10 years. Great job! I will be sharing with my group of 5000+ Rvers.
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.
How do we do it? We do 99% of our spend through credit cards (where we actively collect points too**) and I’m old-fashioned so I import all my bank & card data into an Excel spreadsheet. I do this every month, allocate each line to a category (e.g. entertainment, RV parks, insurance, groceries etc.) and then churn out a pretty pivot table to display it in one place. I’ve been tracking our spend this way for over 13 years and before that I used paper, so I literally have detailed spend numbers going back to when I was around 17 years old (crazy, I know).
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!
Great info, We have been agonizing over what size rig to go with for over a year now. We have bounced back and forth between a 40′ Legacy and a 5th wheel but now after reading so many blogs as well as yours, to more than likely go with a Class C Itasca Navion which is 25’8″ and is built on the Sprinter chassis. Your blog really used us over the edge with your hindsight on smaller size. I always thought that a bigger rig would be better but now I am comfortable making that leap with a smaller rig. Thanks for the great info and Go Gators!!! Class of 85′
I first heard about your guys from Heath’s podcast. This was an awesome and inspiring post. We’re a family of three (plus a dog and cat) planning to do the same thing. It is so encouraging to hear from full-timing families that have made it work, while overcoming some of the stigmas and challenges that come with this decision. Thanks again for sharing your story.
As they travel, they often pick up jobs to earn money since they don’t want to tap their modest retirement savings, which they dipped into to buy the RV. Right now, they are working in the Amazon CamperForce program that hires about 700 people for warehouse jobs and pays their campsite fees. It’s hard labor — they often go to bed rubbing each other’s feet — but the money they earn from September to Dec. 23 is enough to allow them to take the winter and spring off. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
We had planned to stay in the RV for an entire year after being stationary but soon realized that wasn’t going to work. Not only were the boys embarrassed, our 41′ RV shrunk exponentially once we quit moving. Having Yellowstone or Lake Superior as the playground in your backyard is much different from the city campground where the RVs are crammed together like books on a bookshelf. So we found a house and a few months later said goodbye to the RV.
Living in an RV has helped bring Alyssa and me closer together in our first couple years of marriage. We’ve seen more of America than either of us could have imagined we would (and still have a lot to see!). Because we are self-employed, we’ve been able to pick up and go when new opportunities come our way. Not to mention, in the past few years of travel we’ve also been able to pay off all $27k of my student debt.
Anyway, we average about $120 a month in eating out, which is mostly restaurants and Starbucks, not any fast food. From people that I’ve talked to, this is extremely low. Many full-time travelers are super into trying local restaurants when they travel, so they obviously spend a lot more on restaurants. But if you’re moving into an RV to downsize, pay off debt, or build wealth, you’re in control of spending as little eating out as you want. If you’re moving into an RV because you want the full experience of all the places you visit, you’ll drop a few hundred on eating out each month. It’s your call.
I could “camp out” in my hangar at the airport. The hangar has two offices with baseboard heaters, as well as a full bathroom. My furniture is already there, so it’s just a matter of reorganizing it to meet my needs for the few months I’d need to live there. Unfortunately, I didn’t think my landlord — the folks who manage the airport — would like those arrangements.
*About the hose that will not drain properly. To be fair, that is what the person was trying to accomplish. By forming this "P-Trap" in the line they could leave their dump valve open all the time without sewer gas entering their RV. You could certainly do this where you need not worry about freezing temperatures. However, if it freezes, it will block the flow and possible rupture the hose.
We are a Navy family of 6 (+3 cats) just starting out in a 34′ trailer. I am so excited to have found some families living a “full timer” lifestyle. We will mostly be tethered since my husband is still in the service, but we are thrilled that it will make traveling and changing duty stations MUCH easier! WalMart parking lots are fantastic for pit stops, it was a relief to know that I could just pop over to the grocery store if we had forgotten anything! Just wanted to say thank you in advance, since I am already brain-storming ways to organize our limited space, and figure out exactly how much we want to take with us! Best wishes on your journey…
Life has been busy, but awesome. Our band, “The Shoot Dangs! ” has been one of the more fun projects I’ve been involved with the last few years. We just recently finished a tour throughout the Southeastern United States, and it was an incredible (and ridiculous) time. I had the pleasure of touring with Kage, Josie, & Johnny Lungs. We actually just had a phone call this week from the founder of Arctic Man (a big 10,000+ person snowmachine/ski festival up in Alaska), and they are having us headline the festival Friday & Saturday, April 11th & 12th. We are STOKED!!!! Here’s a few clips of band videos we put together quickly:
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.
There are a host of insurance decisions to be made when living on the road, among them accidents, thefts and illnesses. Study the many discounts and options before you leave and you should only need to put yourself through the process once. Two coverages are essential: for the replacement value of your RV should it be damaged or stolen and for personal belongings, much like homeowners insurance. There are many insurers and levels of coverage – select wisely for the insurance to suit your intended lifestyle. Medical insurance is also offered specifically for full-timers.
Great information! My husband and I just purchased our first motorhome, a Thor Challenger 37GT that has 3 slide outs. We will be full timers and will be living in the rv in the cold, cold (and hot in the summer) Midwest for the next couple of years until we retire and head out to see the country. My question is, how do we keep the slide areas warm in the winter? Would you skirt the bottom of the rv, then also skirt around the slides? Or is there a way to insulate around the slide when it’s out? Looking forward to comments. Thanks!
All of these expenses hit the bank account with a resounding thwang and can’t be ignored or wished away. You may not know exactly what your hobbies will be when you start full-timing, but put some kind of figure into your budget that allows for replacing your computer and phone as often as you have in the past (if you plan to use them as much) and for buying the various things that will make your favorite pastimes possible.
We are fortunate in that our health insurance is a benefit of my corporate job. We are with Cigna and all three of us have full coverage including dental and vision. Our deductible has become increasingly higher since 2012 and we are now at a Silver plan which gives us a $5000 deductible each. Our prescription plan is less than stellar and we maintain our insurance primarily for our daughter and for unforseen medical circumstances. While on the road though we typically see an Urgent Care physician which costs $35/visit. We currently pay $430/month for health insurance.
We agonized over the cost of full-time RVing for a long time before we jumped in. The truth is costs are flexible and totally manageable and our experience has certainly proved that to be so. There are great options for saving money both on camping, gas, health insurance, taxes, car/RV registration and other areas. You can take your time and boondock, workamp along the way or run around and stay in pricey resorts. All can be great experiences, but the real beauty is that the choice is there.
Currently we are not full-timing it, but we are on the road for up to 6 months straight. For those extended periods, monthly expenses can vary depending on what campground or resort we are staying in. Campground prices vary widely. If you are staying in one area long-term, your best bet is to pay a monthly rate for your campsite. That will give you a deep discount, but in most cases you will be responsible for the monthly electricity (and sometimes water usage) for your campsite. Depending on the area you are staying in, monthly rates could be as low as $300.00 a month plus electricity. In more popular areas, the cost could exceed $600.00.
While there’s no simple answer to that question, there are different answers for different lifestyles and goals. If anything, the range of answers means RV beginners need to start their adventure with a plan. Things like RV size and type, amount of travel vs. parking, and intention to telecommute will all influence a new RVer’s budget. A new RVer needs to determine these things ahead of time.
There are private RV parks everywhere. They are extremely easy to find online, in commercial guide books and by asking at visitors centers. The AllStays App is a very popular resource. Private RV parks range from about $30/night to $60/night or more, tending to even higher prices in popular destinations at peak season in choice sites that offer more amenities (like a view). The parking is generally laid out in rows, and the sites can range from drycamping sites (no hookups) to electric and/or water only to electric/water/sewer with cable TV, telephone and free WiFi. Usually the site includes a picnic table, and sometimes the park has a pool, showers, shuffleboard or horseshoes, sometimes bike and canoe rentals, a small store, or other goodies.
Snowed in- snow is a good insulator no choice when it snows 4′ feet in a night. A pipe vent is good to keep the generator fumes away. Bubble insulation custom cut for each window and door. Velcro in place and then stick to walls and ceiling when not in use. Roll up large pieces and put in corners to store. Works great for the ceiling vent too. Battery operated car blankets are great to keep warm. We also have body warmers, hand warmers, and toe warmers for skiing and for sleeping. Check the door for snow build up often, so you can open the door in the morning after a storm. Leave some snow on the roof if you are driving in icy conditions for traction. Shovel often if snowing during camping. Carbon Monoxide will build up around the bottom of the door. Make sure you have extra batteries and an extra carbon monoxide detector in case of malfunction. If only camping for a few days, freeze is okay. The tanks will thaw when you reach warmer temps. Just keep the liquid levels down in the tanks ie.; grey, black, water. No need to use anti-freeze. If the temps warm up during the day above freezing the tanks will thaw too. If you have access to a dumpster, we use the bags and some dry chemical the toilet. When they fill up we just tie up the bag and dump. It saves room in the black tank. We skip showers for a few days of skiing. We carry 2 sets of chains for the front and back tires, for really dangerous snow and ice travel. Keep the thermostat at a min. temp of 50 degrees. Keep a dehumidifier on the kitchen counter. Put a outside windshield wrap for warmth and to keep the snow off. Four people can usually boondock for several days. Enjoy your winter adventure and don’t forget a couple of shovels.
As a result, Senate Bill 164 was proposed by Republican Senator Craig Tieszen to deny voting rights to residents who did not maintain a home in the state. The bill was tabled in committee, due in large part to the very vocal response from the RVing community, but the issue still rankles certain politicians in South Dakota, so it would not be surprising if it surfaced again in the future.
1. About the internet how exactly does that work? We do not plan on having a “home base” so to speak so we would be on the road 100% of the time living in various places. I have to have decent internet for my work so that we could continue to live the way we want. How hard is it to get internet if say you are living off the grid in the woods somewhere? This is an absolute must for us.
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.
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.
$827 Costco – Because we didn’t find many farmers markets or affordable natural food stores on this portion of our trip, we renewed our Costco membership. For the amount cooking we do, Costco is the best way for us to get reliable organic, natural, and affordable food items. Yes you must purchase in bulk, however we try not to over-purchase, and we rely on Costco for our staples only like tomatoes, beans, hummus, chips, etc. Sometimes we’ll even find local venders in Costco from coffee roasters, to pastry makers, to exotic cheeses made from nearby farms….and that’s why we choose Costco over Sam’s Club.
One of the happiest couples we met when we were sailing in Mexico was a retired couple who had returned to cruising after raising their kids. They had sailed across to the South Pacific and beyond when they were in their twenties and had hilarious stories of what it was like to be a pair of inexperienced free spirits in a little, used, cheap boat on the big ol’ ocean as “kids,” and they were sooooo worldly wise and such seasoned travelers compared to the rest of us retirement aged newbie sailors. I recommend workamper.com and workingcouples.com to find interesting camp hosting and other jobs that are suitable for RVers where a free or inexpensive site is often part of the deal. Have a blast — and please come back and read some more!!
Note that the cheaper you go, the more likely you’ll need to put work into it. You’ll want to get the Bentley Guide to Vanagons which will give you a good amount of the info you need to work on it yourself. It will break down, eventually, and maybe often, depending on how well cared for it was in the past and how well you continue to care for it. Our 78 Bus requires near daily attention, though certainly other people get better rigs and don’t have quite so much work on their hands.
Skirting your RV – If you have an RV without insulated bays, or a trailer, you will need skirting in extreme weather. The majority of RV’s are not made for extreme cold so chances are if you plan to be in consistent freezing temps you should look into investing in this. In some cases if temperatures drop below 0 degrees you will need to run a space heater under your coach (inside your skirting) to keep it warm. I stay away from propane heaters and use an electric commercial heater under our RV.
Boondocking is basically camping at free spots without hook-ups. Several State Forests and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) locations have free dispersed camping. Typically, you can stay in one location for a maximum of 14 days. We have also found a few state parks have free campsites. While this option is free, you do have to find and pay for dump stations.
Just found your site. Wish we had found it sooner. Just sold our home to go fulltime rving. We have signed up with Dakota Post. Started to change addresses with credit cards and banks and they want a residential address. We could give sons in CA but then will have to pay taxes there and we had planned to domicile in SD. I was told this is part of ” The Patriot Act” Do you have any suggestions for us?
And to add some encouragement for you, years ago when my children were young, I homeschooled/unschooled them for the majority of their education. We were fortunate to have moved across the country for work a few times and had the opportunity to do a lot of camping. They are now both rising seniors in college and doing extremely well. They are pursuing their passions instead of checking a box. I know their unconventional formative years are a contributing factor to their life choices.
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.
7. RV’s aren’t air tight. I don’t care if you’re in a $2,000,000 bus or a $5,000 trailer your RV is not sealed like a bricks and sticks home. Cold air leaks in under the slides, permeates through the walls, and seeps through the windows. If you plan to stay in freezing weather for an extended period of time locate those drafty areas and throw a blanket over them. For our Windy it’s amazing how much cold air comes in through the entry door area, so I cover the stairwell with a piece of board and my rug at night.
Using your RV in the winter? Make sure you have a show shovel, window scraper and some kind of ice chipper (i.e. an axe). If you don't have these on hand, guess what? The first time out you will be sure to need them. Also pack a bag of rock salt (sand or kitty litter) to sprinkle on walkways and to put around your tires in the event you get stuck in snow or end up on slippery patches of ice.
RV Parks in San Diego area are slim. we’re staying at a park that runs 1075/mo and with this heatwave we’re paying anywhere between 350-450/mo for electric, some are paying up to 700. We’re retired and on fixed income and have 5 years left on our loan. Our rig is a 2004 and are at a loss as to what to do with everything going up. Stay in it til it paid off ? Then no mortgage, just rent or sell and move to an apartment. We’re 72 & 78 years old and now regretting our lifestyle change that we took in 2004.
5. Make sure you have Wi-Fi access: Investing in an internet service plan that includes hotspots or a robust mobile service will make your life easier, especially if you telecommute for work while on the road. The kids will want access to the internet too, especially during long drives. If you can’t get a strong signal while on the road, consider scoping out Internet cafes at your next pit stop.
Winter RVing is loads of fun, but figuring out how to stay warm in an RV on those chilly winter mornings and long cold dark evenings makes all the difference between having a great time and wishing you were in a house. Going to a southern state is a good start, but it may not always fit with your overall full-time RVing itinerary. You might get caught in an early winter storm, like we did in one year in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. Or you might get whipped by a blizzard on your way south, as has happened to some of our snowbirding friends who wanted to celebrate the holidays at home in Montana before trekking south to Arizona in January.
I just found your blog on Pinterest, and learned some important tips. My retirement fantasy is to RV full-time and follow the warm weather through Canada and the US for a few years. I’ve just bought a 5th wheel that will be staying put in a nearby RV park for three or four years until I can afford a tow vehicle, but I’m very excited to experience RV life. Since I’m in Canada, that won’t be until next Spring, but is something to keep me busy planning for during the winter.
The Meinhofers and a dozen others who spoke with The Washington Post about this modern nomadic lifestyle said living in 200 to 400 square feet has improved their marriages and made them happier, even if they’re earning less. There’s no official term for this lifestyle, but most refer to themselves as “full-time RVers,” “digital nomads” or “workampers.”