After five years of relying on free wifi signals for internet access and using pay phones for phone calls, we got a Verizon MiFi jetpack in 2012, and we now use it for all our communications, including phone calls. This figure includes both our Verizon account with 10 GB of data per month and our $2.99/month Skype account that lets us make unlimited phone calls to the US and Canada no matter where we are in the world (this was very helpful while we were on our sailboat in Mexico). We’ve gotten used to using the laptop as a phone on Skype. It’s a little weird because the person you are talking to ends up on speaker phone, which they may or may not appreciate, and some calls get dropped, but it works well enough.
I plan on retiring Nov 2016 and want to RV for a couple of years before settling down in one place. I’ve been researching the fulltime RVing and my head is spinning with all the info out there. I just want you to know that your site is actually the first one to give direct answers to all the questions I have like taxes, health ins. Car/RV registrations. I’ll be stopping by quite frequently…..
Do these words stir a fire deep within you, awakening a spirit of wanderlust and travel? Maybe you were a gypsy, vagabond or hobo in a past life, but you think you could never afford to live the life of freedom you long for? It could be you are a survivalist, or just want to drop out of society but don’t know how. Perhaps you are just sick of the rat race and want to simplify your life. Or possibly the bad economy of the last few years have left you with no choice but move into a car, van or RV?
Most RVs simply weren't designed to be used in the winter. They were built for family outings and weekend getaways during the warm months and were intended to be stored away when the weather got too chilly for outdoor picnics. Fulltimers are faced with living in their traveling home, whether it is well designed for cold weather or not. Luckily, there are lots of things that you can do to make your RV more comfortable during the colder months.
National and State Parks – These are often “no frills,” but found in amazing natural locations. We’ve stayed at some rather rustic ones with power, water, and maybe one old bathhouse, as well as some with full hook ups, large sites, and recreation areas with tons of activities. The cost for these will also vary, but are typically much lower than the resort campgrounds. Some can be very difficult to get a reservation because they are in such high demand. For example, Florida State Parks allow you to reserve up to 11 months in advance and many book as soon as that window opens. They can range from $15 to $48 per night.
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 am currently 57 and my husband is 62, we are planning to work 5 more years then sell the house along with most of our belongings and hit the road in our 30 foot Windjammer travel trailer. I am excited, but terrified and a little overwhelmed by insurance, mail, making reservations, internet, weather, how to pack, etc. Over 40 years of accumulating things (stuff) – I’m not even sure what to put into storage. We want to be debt free and explore our beautiful country and do alot of fishing. Your information and everyone else’s feedback has been so helpful.
My first rv, an older 28′ class A motorhome, was a gift from family member, and we used it part-time, mostly in Arizona, since we lived at Lake Tahoe, with long, snowy winters. My second rv, a 32′ diesel, with double panes windows, but no slide-outs, no basement, and no levelors. A great rv, but our 33 ft, 2014 motorhome with 2 slide outs, automatic levelors, ample basement storage, and nice size refrigerator is great for us as we are still part-timers. I do miss the diesel (so much quieter), the double-paned windows, and our small truck which we towed, carrying our bicycles. I preferred the view from the first 2 motor homes as the built-in dinette with large window was across from soda bed, which also had a large window. We now have no view on passenger side except for small kitchen window. My second rv also had a better arrangement for queen bed, which faced forward, enabling view out front dashboard window, with two regular size windows on sides of bed. If you like to camp in gorgeous nature, as we do, views are important. When we did extended stays, we alternated camping in “nature areas” with minimum or no hookups for a week or more, then moving to private campgrounds with laundromats, and some food services for a few days. We especially enjoy the national and state parks. I enjoy the motorhome over a 5th wheel or trailer as we do not have to get out in the rain when we arrive at a campground, and, as we did one night, when we didn’t feel safe, just started the engine and left. I would enjoy trying full-time Rv living, and realize there will be days that will range from glorious to trying.
The other huge and unexpected expense was for internet access. We have been very disappointed at how difficult good service is to find in campgrounds. We use the lodges as much as possible but still need a hot spot with smart phone / ipad etc…. We are now up to $300 on this item just to have backup hot spot. We are thinking about a second service such as Millicome (sp) so that will add another $100 month. Our wifi ranger has made a huge difference but it is still only as good as the router it picks up. Our Wilson has helped with the phone connection. Once again here was another big expense we hadn’t expected.
We should have done whatever it took to buy the truck and trailer first, even if it meant financing them both, so that we could practice getting adjusted to our new life. As it happened, we rolled up to our first campsite after driving all day (another huge mistake), and didn’t know how to do anything – hook up the electric and water, turn on the cookstove burners, run the heat. It was cold, dark, and we didn’t know where anything was. It wasn’t the ideal way to start our full-time RVing adventure.
Ok, I am sure that you are going to say “just forget it” but here is my situation. I am 66 in good physical condition. I am in a situation that I am not happy with. I live rent free in a house with most all my expenses paid. But…..the conditions I am living in are not what I want. I have to mow and maintain a lawn with shrubs and trees, maintain anything that goes wrong with the house, keep the house clean, etc, etc. I’m sick of it. I take extended road trips occasionally but then I have to return to the drudgery of S&B.
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!!
We also use uscampgrounds.info. Great resource. Full-timing is certainly not for everyone. It requires some risk taking, overcoming fears of the unknown, saying good-bye to family and friends, and doing some things that may not seem wise. In the beginning, Paul admits, that one of his biggest full-timing faults is, he has difficulty “rolling-with-the-punches.” I find that the most challenging thing is not looking back so much. I love to reminisce and this leads me to get a bit melancholy. We have enjoyed worshipping with many different denomination and at nondenominational churches. We have made so many new friends that we stopped counting. This is one of the biggest advantages to our lifestyle. Thanks, Nina, for the great blog and giving Paul and I a few minutes of reflecting on our past year.
It’s been over three years and I still love living in an RV with my five kids. I realize living in an RV and traveling with kids is not on most people’s bucket list and for good reason. It’s challenging and requires a great deal of perspective. Most days I do have to stop and remind myself why this is a conscious choice made with intention. There are many reasons I love this lifestyle, but here are seven of the reasons I wake up excited to be living in an RV and traveling the world with my kids.
When I travel on a 6-8 week roadtrip with two people, my expenses average about $100/day. That includes food, fuel, and lodging. I drive a lot (20,000 miles/ yr), so my expenses are high. When I stay at an RV park in FL for the winter, my expenses are lower because I have little to any fuel expenses. Lots of RVers spend less than I do because they drive fewer miles and often do free camping on Federal land. Also, some don’t include food expenses because those expenses would be the same if they didn’t do RV travel.
Ditch anything you can live without while you’re on your trip to keep the weight of the vehicle down. The heavier your load is, the more your gas mileage will suffer. Aside from leaving some of your favorite things at home, you can also consider emptying the majority of your freshwater supply and then filling up when you get to your campsite to further lighten your RV weight. This is a simple way to maintain or increase your gas mileage as you’re cruisin’ on down the road.
Stainless Steel Wine Glasses – When we hit the road in our RV, we brought along our wine glasses. It didn’t take long until they all broke and we were drinking wine out of mugs. We put these stainless steel glasses on our wish list but ended up just drinking from mugs because we are classy like that. These are the only things on the list that we don’t own but wish we did. (Ahem) We think these would make a great gift for RVers even part-time ones. 😉
I really think it has helped us learn who our kids are as individuals and people. It also allows us to be here for them when they have a question or problem they need help figuring out. We give them as much space as we can, and as they get older they are venturing out more and more on their own at the campground, museums, etc. But it has been great to be such an important and big part in their lives and to continue to spend so much time with them.
Fulltime RVers by the nature of our lifestyle are conservationists. We live inside little metal boxes on wheels so we have to be conscious of what goes in and what goes out of our little metal box. Water, in the winter, most likely comes from your fresh water holding tank as discussed in Part Three's post. And then it goes into your waste water tank(s) and has to be dumped, as discussed in Part Two. Because you will be required to both fill and empty, you will want to use the least amount of water that you can.
Typically there is one main bay that holds your black/grey/fresh tanks, your sewer connections, water pump, water filter, etc. This is the MOST important bay to keep warm. I purchased a tiny 200 watt (1.8 x 4.3 x 6.1 inches) ceramic heater and leave it running in the bay during freezing temperatures. It pulls about 5 amps and keeps all my pipes warm (exterior temp 20 degrees, inside bay 50 degrees). Some people recommend hanging a work light in the bay: I tried this and the bulb melted the plastic bay, and my water still froze so I don’t recommend this option.
For my kids, having friends that dont change with the scenery and being involved in extracurricular activities is something that I consider essential to their development. Is it possible to live and travel in an RV full time and still give your kids the social experiences and social stability they’d have if they were living full time in one community?
Usually there are picnic tables and campfire rings at each site. Often the sites at national park, national forest and Corps of Engineers campgrounds are too small for a larger RV. However, some state park campgrounds have absolutely gorgeous big sites that are in a natural setting with a jaw dropping view. Generally these campgrounds cost anywhere from $8/night to $35/night, depending on the amenities offered, the beauty and popularity of the surrounding area and the the season you are visiting.
Note: Although many or even most cold weather RVers use electric heaters, some people say it’s not safe to do so, and there are horror stories surrounding their use. I am comfortable with our setup and willing to accept any associated risk, but please do your own research and get to know your camper or motorhome’s electrical systems before making the decision to use one.
One of the biggest mistakes that we made was how many tools we packed in the RV and truck! We are so tired of hauling around a bunch of stuff that we don’t ever use. We therefore recommend you stick to the basic tools (screwdrivers, drill, pliers, hammer etc). There’s no reason to haul around specialty tools for that rare occasion or instance that you’ll need it. You can always buy or rent it!
Very informative site, thank you for all the work putting it together. My wife and I have a small rv and are intending traveling from Fl. to the Jackson Hole/Yellowstone area and would like to know how much hard cash we should carry. We are not trying to skimp, we don’t need to(thank God) and besides we want to enjoy ourselves, but feel we should have some cash with us but not too much.
3. Keep the fresh water and pipes from freezing: In my humble opinion your tips and tricks are spot on. I do have an observation and suggestion to make. Your efforts are targeting the “sewer bay” on the driver side of the RV. When we froze in Louisiana, it was the passenger side that was vulnerable. Our fresh water tank has an overflow vent on the passenger side. When the water in the tank freezes, like a pond the top of the water freezes first. In our case that prevented us from putting water into the tank and we ended up with a small crack in the tank. Fortunately, it was on the edge and was easily fixed. I think the freezing occurred because our efforts were on the “sewer bay” side and not the other. I think the answer here is another small space heater on the passenger side of the RV.
For internet most RVers sign up for a cellphone data plan with either Verizon or ATT and use a MiFi to distribute it to all their devices. You’ll likely have to adjust your data usage quite a bit since cellphone plans are much more limited than what you’re used to at home. Also, you’ll want to consider buying a booster to help boost the signal in more marginal spots. My best advice is actually to buy this book written by fellow RVers and techno-mads who’ve dedicated 226 pages to this exact question:
Volunteering & Workamping: We also haven taken fun volunteer positions from time to time – such as interpretive hosting at a lighthouse in Oregon. We get to do something incredibly fun and give our time for under 20 hours a week, and get a full hook-up site in a gorgeous location. With our full time work commitments however, we rarely have time for the extra hours however. Many campgrounds will accept ‘workampers’ for a few hours a week in exchange for a site – check Workamper News for more information.
It’s official, we froze! Well, to be more clear our freshwater tank froze. After surviving months in the Colorado Rockies without freezing, imagine our surprise when we froze solid in AZ! Well, I honestly can’t believe it. After careful consideration, and a talk with the service technicians at Monaco here’s what I’ve learned about our Vesta, and this applies to most any RV that’s not completely sealed.
The Solar question is a great one. We haven’t had nearly the problems w/ getting adequate solar coverage w/ the fixed roof-panels as we’ve had w/ the fixed satellite dish. For our satellite we have to have direct line-of-sight and a few trees (or even branches!) will easily throw it off. For the solar, although it’s best (of course) to have full sun, we’ll often be fine as long as we can get an adequate amount of sun for at least a few hours. We dry-camped in pretty heavy forest both in NM & CO where we got part-sun and it was enough to recharge us daily. I’ve been very happy w/ the set-up.
Health insurance costs are totally individual, and the coverage for everyone is evolving. We do not have health insurance. Other younger full-time RVers have posted some terrific articles about health insurance and the impact on one’s choice of domicile state. Check out the excellent posts by Wheeling It and Interstellar Orchard. They both reference insurance agent Kyle Henson of RVer Health Insurance who is quickly becoming the go-to agent for all RVers’ health insurance needs.
In the late fall Harvey and I explored all of my favourite parts of the Rockies. Initially I was nervous about what I would do to park it, after a couple nights of ‘creative camping’ searching for a parking spot became routine. Advice for anyone looking to camp out of your vehicle, pay for it. Initially it seems like a great way to save money but the stress of parking somewhere where you might get a knock on the door doesn’t allow for a good nights sleep. During the fall season most campgrounds have reduced rates or are free provided you can get into them. The National parks are notorious for parking. If you’re planning on spending time in them make sure you prebook campsites! British Columbia has a great service (I believe Alberta does too) with Recreation sites. These are always my preferred campsites, as they are free and in beautiful locations tucked away in Crown land across the province. The only difficulty with Rec sites is that they are often down logging roads which makes them inaccessible during the winter. Another great way to find spots to park is talking with the locals! Ive often been directed to overnight parking lots or even allowed to stay on their property, the world is a amazingly friendly place if you open yourself up to it!
Unless you're staying in an RV that's purpose built for extreme cold, your RV is probably lacking in insulation. Because of the way travel trailers and motorhomes are constructed, there are some perennial weak spots that RVers have to shore up to best insulate their homes. First, your windows are going to be more liability than asset in the winter. Glass lets heat escape easily, so you'll want to insulate your windows. Many RVers use styrofoam cut out into window sized blocks to shore up these weak spots, others go with plywood, as it's sturdier, but even a set of thermal curtains will help bolster your RVs insulation. Another problem spot for many full timers is the underside of the RV. Because of your ground clearance, the cold wind can whip right under your RV and steal precious heat, and cool the underside storage compartments to make it harder to heat your RV. Since you'll be in the same spot all season, it's a smart idea to build a skirt around the bottom of your RV to keep the wind out. Finally, RVs can get drafty after a few years when the seals start to break down, so find the problem spots where the cold is sneaking in and plug the holes!
The question of buying a new or used RV is a big one, and there are several things to think about. First, it’s important to remember that the term “RV” stands for “recreational vehicle.” Most RVs are not designed or built for full-time living. This means that these vehicles can quickly show their age, especially with heavy use. Buying a used rig might mean buying a few extra headaches, which can include everything from a leaky roof, plumbing problems, sagging mattresses and cushions, or stubbornly slow slideouts.
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.
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.
It may seem obvious that the less things that get dirty, the less has to be cleaned. However, how you apply that knowledge can make a lot of difference. We use paper plates (not foam) and paper cups almost exclusively. When possible we cook in the microwave in Glad or Ziplock containers so that leftovers store in the same container in which they cooked. We do use regular silverware but I’ve often thought that chop sticks would work just as well for most things (I haven’t cleared that one with Ella – GRIN.)
Penni hung a “less is more” sign in the RV and has become an expert at cooking on a stove top that’s about a third the size of a typical range. She used to run a small business in Vermont making drapes, blinds and other home decor and still does some work for clients in the RV. She sets up a folding card table for her sewing machine and sends Chip outside to clean the vehicle so she can have more space.
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:
Yes, we'd say having our car catch on fire in west Texas definitely ranks as a low point. We had stopped at a pull off area in between the small town of Alpine and the smaller town of Marfa looking at wildflowers when Brandon noticed the car smoking. Brandon ran back and found a fire in the engine compartment. We pulled our small fire extinguisher out of the trunk and knocked the flames down. Brandon was able to pull everything out of the car while Kerensa called for help. The signal is very spotty out there and we were able to maintain signal just long enough to get our location to the operator. When she asked for a call back number in case we were disconnected, the line died and the signal never recovered. Thankfully, the sheriff and fire department were already on their way and they were able to put out the fire and take us back to the campground.