This family loves RV life with or without the travel aspect. They’ve found a wonderful spot to park their 2006 5th Wheel for the long-term for work purposes. They’ve minimized their life to maximize experiences and pursue their passions, which will lead them to traveling soon. Outdoor activities where their young, energetic daughter (and dog!) can run around and play are a necessity. They also enjoy family outings together to kid friendly places.
I plan on full-timing well into the winter if I am able to. All of this is very valuable information as I will be new at this RV adventure. I’ve been wondering about how to prevent my pipes from freezing. would it be unrealistic just to hook up a hose to the kitchen and bathroom sinks, let the water drip and run the hose back into the freshwater tank?
Love this interview! With 4 kids and dogs in an RV… We live in an RV with only 2 kids, and they don’t take many space (yet) as they are 2,5yo and 7mo. So I’m impressed 🙂 Love the tip about taking it one day at a time. That is what I should do more too. I have the tendency to plan ahead to much. Maybe a tip for other RVing families: come to Europe! Europe is great to explore in an RV, but choose a smaller vehicle because the roads and campsites are small compared to those in the US.
Agreed, my wife and I need very fast internet at all cost, because of online marketing biz. Rv full-time living, doesn’t denote modest living 100% of the time. Also to the OP, a website that receives any substantial amount of volume or traffic, usually requires more bandwidth, along with dedicated server. Hey, great videos…you two would make a great show on a travel channel.
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 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.
In between the pop-up and Gateway, we had a 35’ Cedar Creek fifth wheel. It was really great but the big boys really wanted more space if we were going to keep full timing and I was kinda tired of the small kitchen counter. The one thing we loved about the Cedar Creek was the shorter length opened up more camping options. Many parks have 35’ length restrictions and we fit in a lot of driveways. The Gateway at 41’ no longer fit in my or Brent’s parents driveway and occasionally we couldn’t stay in some parks because it was too big. We don’t regret purchasing the Gateway and would buy it over again if we were full time RVing but now that we aren’t, we are looking for something shorter so we have more options.
I wasn’t sleeping in my nest-bed in the RV. I was sleeping on a new bed in a new house, a house without wheels. I wasn’t going to wake up and walk a few steps to our kitchen. I would walk up a flight of stairs. I wasn’t going to wake the boys up from their bunkroom 20 feet away to get started with their homeschool. I would go to each of their separate bedrooms to wake them up to go to school. I wasn’t going to have a day exploring new places. I was going to drive the same streets to the same places.

Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when it comes to tracking expenses.  Is anyone really interested in this stuff?  I mean it’s basically the same junk just a different quarter…at least that’s what I keep telling myself!  Then I start downloading our bank reports and before I know it I’m so interested in the numbers.  So, weather you love or hate it, here are our full-time RV expenses from July 01 – December 31, 2014.
An RV is a luxury item that depreciates rapidly, so I advise young people to get as cheap and small a unit as possible. A used popup tent trailer is wonderful because it fits in the garage and doesn’t need much storage space. Any kind of light 11’ to 12’ trailer is a great way to start. Going used at first is preferable, but if they are well off, buying new is always much nicer. I recently wrote an article about learning the RVing lifestyle with a small RV: http://roadslesstraveled.us/learn-the-rving-lifestyle-with-a-cheap-small-rv/
Before starting a life of adventure, it may be hard to imagine that you will need or want to have any hobbies. Sightseeing ought to be enough! But it isn’t. After a while, you will want to have pursuits that complement your travels in one way or another or that perhaps are not even related to your travels at all. Our hobbies are photography, writing and mountain biking, and these all cost money.
2017 Update – YES. Public Land is still our #1 camping choice. There are now many more options for finding these kinds of sites including ultimatecampgrounds.com (which has overtaken uscampgrounds IMHO), Benchmark Maps (which are excellent paper maps for public lands), AllStays (which also offers an app) and other resources. If you want to see how I plan our current travels, check out the 3-part series I wrote starting HERE.
Within the last month I moved out of my apartment, purchased a new tow car and a 21′ travel trailer (monthly financing less than what I was paying for rent, and I will own them). I was really excited and didn’t quite think things through about where I was going to boondock. I work for Wal-mart and made arrangements with my store manager, but it is an awkward experience. Now to the point, I can’t be without internet. I use non contract boost mobile and pay $50 a month, this includes “unlimited” call, text and date plus my phone has hot spot capabilities. It allows for 2.5 gig a month of data and then when you reach the limit it slows your speed but you still have access to internet.
The UPS distribution center was small, and they said only the driver would know the exact time. To our utter astonishment, they gave us the UPS driver’s cell phone number. So we called him!! He was very friendly and said he could drive over to where our RV was parked and hand deliver the package in about 10 minutes. We were both totally shocked when he pulled alongside our rig and handed our package to Mark — at no charge. Now how’s that for service?!

Groceries – This figure can vary based on location as the cost of living fluctuates by region and if you are near metropolitan areas or tourist attractions. In addition, taxes can vary. Note: You may choose to put household items like cleaners, shampoo, dish soap, etc. as a separate line item. Since we purchase them with our groceries, we just include them here.
My VA business focuses on providing social media, blogging, and email marketing support for small businesses and my husband is now coming on board to focus on web design and SEO work. Outside of that, we continue to work on monetizing our travel blog and using our blog as a way to encourage other families to travel more and to also live their dreams now!
I feel so fortunate I stumbled on to your blog. I’ve learned a lot already. My husband and I are newbies and when I mean new… we don’t even have our very little 14′ hybrid trailer. It is being built in Tucson as I type. It will be ready in late february. We will pick it up the 1st week in March and will bomb around New Mexico all of that month and most of April before we start heading back to Duluth, MN at the end of May. I want to leave tomorrow as it was -24º last night.
When RVing, we use mainly public coin laundry facilities. It’s nice to get 2-3 weeks of laundry done in under an hour, and many campgrounds/marinas have laundry facilities on site. The cost of a load of laundry can vary widely by location and facilities. We’ve had them cost everything from free in Louisiana State Parks (seriously!) to up to $5-6.  Average is probably around $2.50-3.50 a load.  On a monthly basis, we maybe spend $20 on laundry – its not worth micromanaging.
By 2015, our trailer was 8 years old, and signs of wear were beginning to show. Unfortunately, when it rains, it pours, and we had four major unexpected repairs that totaled $6,782. The repairs included a trailer axle replacement, an RV refrigerator replacement, extensive plumbing repairs including a fresh water tank replacement, and a complete suspension replacement underneath the trailer.
*Diesel is mixed with additives and processed by the fuel companies in three stages (summer goes to -11 degrees, autumn/spring goes to -24 and winterdiesel goes to -32 Celsius), so here you do not have to worry as much about wax forming in the diesel. A tip is to not fill too much at lower altitudes, as gas-stations at higher/colder parts of the country will change over to the next “level” earlier in the season. so fill up when you get there, not before…
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.

Never allow your black tank to freeze unless you want to deal with a disgusting mess. Use a PVC pipe for your sewer hose – it’ll have less chance of freezing than a regular hose. If you plan on leaving the tank hooked up, add a layer of insulation around the sewer pipe. However, it’s a good idea to keep your tank closed until it needs to be dumped.
From May to October, 2014, we did not pay for any overnight camping, and that is the norm for us. However, although we did not pay for camping over the summer season (or in January, 2014), the months of February, March and April, 2014, were unusually expensive for us. Those three months averaged $83/month because we spent time at three different campgrounds visiting friends and chasing wildflowers at a state park (we were a little late for the flowers — rats!).
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!
Our house was sold 3 days after we decided to start full-timing, but the sale fell through 2 weeks later as we were wrapping things up to go. So we rented it (much easier to find tenants than buyers). It has worked out favorably financially, so we keep doing it. It is a burden, but if you hire a property manager you can lessen the burden significantly, you just give up some cash. I’ve written about the Sell vs. Lease decision here.
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.
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!
Our second year of roadschooling was similar to our first year as we continued to explore the United States with the exception of Thing 1’s work. His work was more challenging than the previous year and we began to do some testing. I did not do standardized testing but subject testing so he would learn test taking skills should he need them later down the road. 
My husband and I both work online, so we were able to earn an income while we traveled. We relied on campground Wi-Fi signals and cell data for Internet service. Even with a Wi-Fi booster, getting fast Internet was often a challenge on the road, especially on weekends when many other campers were using the same signal. We would often have to relocate to boost our signal, and there were plenty of times we had to work in a local coffee shop or Walmart.
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!

Love, Love your posts! We have listed our home for sale and are searching for our RV. We are excited with caution. We have children across the USA and found there is no reason to stay put any longer. Because of your posts we have a lot of reading to do. It has taken several weeks to find your blog and thankfully we did. My parents lived in RV’s after retirement until they had to come home for their final journey. So, I remember well their travels. Need more information on the address matters. We were going to have our mail forwarded to us as we will be slow moving from place to place. Thank you for all the information.


In between the pop-up and Gateway, we had a 35’ Cedar Creek fifth wheel. It was really great but the big boys really wanted more space if we were going to keep full timing and I was kinda tired of the small kitchen counter. The one thing we loved about the Cedar Creek was the shorter length opened up more camping options. Many parks have 35’ length restrictions and we fit in a lot of driveways. The Gateway at 41’ no longer fit in my or Brent’s parents driveway and occasionally we couldn’t stay in some parks because it was too big. We don’t regret purchasing the Gateway and would buy it over again if we were full time RVing but now that we aren’t, we are looking for something shorter so we have more options.
It kinda depends. Most places you can be somewhat creative on how you park, but you do want to factor some space for your extra stuff. I would start by booking larger sizes until it get a feel for how you can arrange everything on-site. We’ve been able to park in most 40-foot sites with our little toad squeezed sideways in the front. We’ve even made it into smaller sites as long as access was good and the site provided some overhang. Then again, there are some 40-foot sites that won’t fit us at all because trees are in the way, or roads turns are tight etc.
I hate to say this, but were I starting all over, I’d go with a 2009 – 2014 or so Ford E150 with low miles (probably run around $15000), build out the camper myself, pay someone to put a pop top on it (that’s big money though, $7k more or less) and spend more of my time traveling than working on this old girl. At this point, of course, I am in love with our VW and wouldn’t make the choice outlined in this paragraph. 🙂

$1237 Editing Software – We finally purchased Adobe Photoshop CS6 ($600), I’ve been using an old version for the past several years. We also purchased the newest version of Lightroom ($150). Both of these programs allow us to view, edit, and post our RAW photographs more beautifully and professionally. If you’re not heavy into photo editing or design I DO NOT recommend purchasing Photoshop, it’s a bulky, expensive, and difficult to understand program. Save your money and get a more consumer based photo editing program. I also purchased a great video plug-in for Adobe Premiere Pro video editing software. This new plug-in suite from Red Giant ($480) allows me to make similar enhancements to my video that I can make on my photos.

Nina – We are devoted readers of your blog. We ourselves are just getting ready to hit the road this spring, and as basic as this question may be, we would like to know what type of dishes you recommend. Do you travel with regular flatware or something more light and durable? We are hoping to find something that does not contain BPA. Just wondering if you could recommend a brand and/or source.
Our first major engine maintenance, including generator, was about $2k ($1200 parts including lots of spares, $800 labor – which including training us on doing it ourselves) – subsequent general engine maintenance has been much cheaper, as we’ve been doing oil, filter and zinc changes on our own.  We spent about $7k in our first year on bottom paint, changing out zincs, divers to clean the bottom ($100/mo), replacing thru-hulls, wash/waxes and other necessary maintenance. We’ll continue to track this and share.
Many RVers go into a winter counting on their propane furnace to see them through the season, but it will only take you a few weeks to burn through your propane when it gets really cold, so you might want to consider an alternative form of heat. One of the most popular methods to keep warm without burning up all of your fuel is to use portable electric heaters. These gadgets are compact, and affordable, and many newer models come with RV friendly feature like automatic shutoff if they get knocked over. If you're in a larger RV, you can even pick up a couple of them and heat the RV with relative ease. There is a catch: make sure that when you're plugging in your heater, that you're not overloading your electrical system.
So you may wonder after three years on the road if we have plans to buy land, jump on a boat, or keep driving. We can whole-heartedly say we want to keep driving. We love the RV lifestyle and what it has brought us. So much so that we are diving in even more and focusing on RVing in our work lives, too. We have big plans for the coming year and we are excited about what we are doing next. We want others to share in this journey and know that they can do it, too.
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