Reluctantly, we arranged his course of study to meet traditional future college entrance requirements and enrolled him in a virtual school for a few classes. It was tough transition. First, it was our first experience with the Common Core math standards. As you know, I question any sort of blanket “standards” and the status quo. However, after a year I think the new standards are beneficial in helping kids gain a true understanding of math instead of relying on memorizing formulas. The virtual school math has also been very challenging because, although he has a teacher he “can” go to with questions, he has been responsible for learning the concepts himself and he has had to be accountable to someone other than me. A good thing! For the most part, it has been a valuable experience as he has learned the hard way to manage his time and seek out resources on his own to help him understand concepts. (Unfortunately, his algebra teacher were less than helpful.)
Full disclosure: When I went full timing in ‘04, I had the proceeds from the sale of my house & belongings, so I bought my RV outright, but also had over $100K in the bank plus a retirement fund to fall back on. I volunteered for a free space or earned money for fun, not because I had to. I also am healthy and had NO health insurance for nearly 8 years. Paid cash when necessary. I know how to be cautious. I eventually signed up at the VA as I’m a veteran.
  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.  
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.

We have received many Post Office General Delivery packages shipped by both UPS and FedEx without being charged a penny by the Postal Service. However, we have received just as many packages where we were charged a fee of as much as $12, depending on the size of the package, when we went to the post office window to pick it up. There is no way of knowing what the fee will be ahead of time, as it is out of the hands of the company that shipped the package and is entirely up to the local Post Office that delivers it to you via General Delivery.


For this road trip we knew we would have to adjust our lifestyle a lot! We saved our money for years to take this trip across the US and we knew we’d have to be more frugal on the road (mainly because we wouldn’t be making much money during our travels).There are a few things we wont compromise on: We are passionate about supporting small local companies who are involved with the community. A restaurant that serves local farm fresh food or buying beer from a small local brewery, etc. Of course this lifestyle costs a little extra money, but for us it’s totally worth it. So here was our plan to live more frugally on the road: Eat out less, purchase less expensive beverages, shop less often, and camp off the cord as much as possible.Below is the breakdown of our expenses from our 2011 Trip across the Western Half of the USA. We’ve rounded the numbers to make it easier to calculate, but this gives us a general idea of what it cost to live on the Road in an RV.
Magnetic Car Phone Mount Holder – I’m always surprised when someone gets in my car or truck and says something about my cell phone holder. Maybe it’s because after living for four years on the road and still not knowing our new city very well, the first thing I do put the address of where I’m going into my phone. What do people do when they have to use the navigation apps on their phones and don’t have a holder? Hold it in their hands? Lay it on the center console?  When it comes to safety, I’m super uptight conscientious and this little contraption is wonderful. We put a magnet inside our phone cases and the phone effortlessly sticks to the mount that is in our truck’s cd player. We also have one that mounts in the air vent in our other car. Love these things. They are convenient and make using a navigational app safer.
There were also build sheets, diagrams for each fuse box and information on roadside assistance. We referenced all the information many times throughout our first year of RV living. When a fuse goes out at 1a.m., you’ll want to know which fuse box to check. Our first RV had four fuse/breaker boxes and two of them were outside. When it’s pouring rain outside, it’s not fun to run around wondering which breaker box to check.
For those concerned about dental and medical care on the road, another option is to zip across America’s southern border to get good dental/medical care in Mexico. We have gotten a lot of excellent dental care in Mexico, both in our lives as RVers and our lives as boaters living in Mexico. We have detailed information about dental care in Mexico at this link:
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.
Invest in a heated mattress pad, it will be your friend during cold nights. We purchased a dual climate heated pad (not a heated blanket) because one of us is always colder than the other, it works like a champ. Best part is the preheat function warms the bed quickly then continues with your original setting. We chose a heated mattress pad because heat rises right? The heat is nice on our backs, then as the warmth rises its captured between the sheets and creates a nice oven effect. Love it! Although we’ve heard a heated blanket can mess up your core temps we still use one on the lowest setting when it’s sub-freezing outside. Unfortunately the new mattress in our Fleetwood Excursion is memory foam so it doesn’t work with a heated mattress pad….we’re so missing our pre-heat button this year!
Also having spent lots more time in very windy areas (where we often have to pullin the slides to protect the toppers) I’d recommend buying an RV where everything is functionally usable with the slides in. That’ll help when you’re overnighting somewhere, or just want to stop for lunch say too. Ours is totally functionally usable (which is great!), but it’s total luck coz we didn’t actually think about this when we bought the rig.
Invest in a heated mattress pad, it will be your friend during cold nights. We purchased a dual climate heated pad (not a heated blanket) because one of us is always colder than the other, it works like a champ. Best part is the preheat function warms the bed quickly then continues with your original setting. We chose a heated mattress pad because heat rises right? The heat is nice on our backs, then as the warmth rises its captured between the sheets and creates a nice oven effect. Love it! Although we’ve heard a heated blanket can mess up your core temps we still use one on the lowest setting when it’s sub-freezing outside. Unfortunately the new mattress in our Fleetwood Excursion is memory foam so it doesn’t work with a heated mattress pad….we’re so missing our pre-heat button this year!

There are several RV websites out there that allow you to pay an annual fee to camp at members’ locations. For example, we use Boondockers Welcome which costs us $25 a year. We are able to stay with Boondockers Welcome hosts throughout the country for no additional charge. Another website out there is called Harvest Hosts. We’ve haven’t tried this one yet, but it looks awesome!
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!
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
We find most RV resorts typically only require that you put a small deposit down. We are still able to lock in great prices, keep on budget, and we usually can guarantee a prime site as well. In addition, we are also on several emailing lists for different RV Resorts. You would not believe the offers we get throughout the year, particularly on Black Friday, to book for the following year. As a result, we save hundreds staying at luxurious RV resorts.
Well, Caroline, I’m certainly no financial advisor, so take that into account. Would your house sell for $23,000? With that, you could probably get a decent, used Class C RV, or possibly a decent used trailer + used truck to pull it. However, it would be tight quite honestly and if I were actually going to recommend something to you specifically, given that you’re on a fixed income, I would just make sure you do your due diligence. Used trailers especially, can require a lot of maintenance. Used RVs can too, but something about trailers, it just seems like they’re either not built as well, or maybe their frames aren’t as solid, so things are constantly breaking. On a fixed income, it may become daunting to be able to save some of your money every month for a “just in case” fund say, if your fridge needed repaired or your water lines froze or something even more major happened.
My husband and I are thinking of doing this he’s a disabled veteran I know he can stay in most RV parks free or reduced fee. He is worried about medications we need on the road I told him we can do Meds by mail . I’m figuring it out slowly but I think we’ll be on the road by next year.. Should we be afraid of this due to health issues? He tests his own inr at home he is on warfarin. He had a brain tumor in 2009 but I my needs an MRI once every 2 years. He does have leukemia but was told to check blood work next year no treatment needed at this point or maybe never? So with all of that said should we or shouldn’t we?
3) They are willing to think small and used for their first RV. This is so they can keep a large reserve of cash for unexpected expenses… RVs can (and do) break more often than a house or a car… because it’s a house moving down the road like a car! Most houses just sit in one place. A RV is subjected to the same potholes as a car, but with 5 times the weight.

  To prevent freezing in the drain pipes, after each dump we added a cup of non-toxic antifreeze into the black and grey tanks. If you do wish to keep your sewer hose connected, be sure it is placed and supported at a steep angle so all residue runs down. In the summer if we have sewer hookups, we leave our grey valve open, but during winter, we only open it at drain time.
I heat my home with a very large woodstove and it takes up so much of my time in the winter hours. I have to collect firewood 12 months of the year just to stay stocked up and I live near St. Louis where it is mostly warm. If you could send me more info. about your cute little wood stove I “wood” really appreciate it. I need something smaller for my greenhouse.
I am 62, single, healthy and fairly strong in mind and body. I love to travel, have family and friends all over the US. I left my job in NJ to live in Fl. I bought a small home for $23,000 and living on SS. Now my expense are increasing, I pay lot rent and my SS is not going very far and can not afford to travel anymore. Thus is mostly due to miscalculations on my part and a retirement fund that was not nearly what it should have been. Anyway I am now considering giving up this life and going RV. I really miss my family and friends and they can not travel to me nearly often enough. Based on selling my house for at least what I paid for it and a monthly income of about $1600 what do you suggest. Any input will be greatly appreciated. I am giving it till the new year before I make a final decision.
We rarely buy new clothes and other personal items (where would we even put them?) and we limit our spending on nearly everything. We wish we could find free parking more often, but it’s not usually a huge priority. We travel often because that’s the main reason we chose to full-time RV. We love seeing as many new places as possible as often as possible.
To make sure our hose drained quickly, we built a downhill track for it out of cheap vinyl guttering and cinder blocks.  (We did have one of those accordion folding type of sewer hose supports, but it was constantly falling over and we wanted something sturdier.)  Additionally, our sewer hose runs under the bottom of our RV and is fully enclosed with skirting, so frozen sewage hasn’t been a problem for us.

We’ve been RVing for three years and have tried quite a few options for coverage on the road. We’ve actually used something different every year because until this year, we have not been happy with our options. We recently changed healthcare providers and switched to a health-sharing ministry.Our previous health care solution was through the RVers Insurance Exchange and we also tried the Affordable Care Act one year. We currently pay $250/month for both of us on our health-sharing plan, which is significantly less than we used to pay through traditional providers.
Since we started full-timing, we have upgraded both of our DSLR cameras twice and upgraded both of our pocket cameras twice. As for biking, we started out with cyclo-cross bikes but sold those when we found we were almost always camped near very rugged dirt roads. We replaced them with mountain bikes in March, 2014. Bike maintenance isn’t a huge cost, but it’s there. We also upgraded our bike rack a few years ago. And back in 2008 we splurged on a fabulous Hobie inflatable kayak that we loved for several years but eventually sold because we needed more room in the basement.
The full-time RV lifestyle is absolutely fantastic, and we’ve been loving our nomadic life since 2007. Many people who are new to the idea of RVing full-time wonder how full-timers get their mail or file their taxes or what kind of insurance they buy. What the heck do they use as a home address (known in legalese as a “domicile”) and where do they register to vote? And how do they save money on RV park and campground costs?
When we first started talking about RVing full-time, we had no idea how much it cost to live full-time in an RV. Was it going to cost more than living in a house? Was it going to cost less? How much would we spend on gas a month? I had no idea, and I wasn’t about to uproot my life if we couldn’t afford it. If you’re wondering how much it costs to full-time RV, well, then you’re in the right place.
1. Try it out first. This is probably the most important tip for anyone considering RVing full time. You may have spent several weekends out already in your RV, and you may even have had a few weeklong trips. These have put you in the mindset that you would like to RV full time. However, you need to have several of these behind you before you’re ready to give up your home in lieu of the open road. Ask yourself how you’ll feel not having a place to return to, no place to unpack and no place to call a “home base”. At first thought, it may not seem like that big of a deal, but it’s not a mistake you want to make without plenty of forethought and practice.
This category includes all the tools and supplies we use to keep the rig in good shape. Mark loves to try new products and has a growing collection of tools in his toolbox. Before we left, he made the mistake of selling almost all of his tools. If you are handy and can work on your rig, don’t make that mistake too! He tried to “make do” with the bare minimum of tools for the first year, which is why this category didn’t used to exist for us, but now he regularly buys little goodies that make his maintenance tasks easier.
Thank you so much. All this information is very helpful and I do have a few friends who have traveled and lived on the road for more info. Good luck to you and your family. One of my friends traveled across the nation for over a year staying long terms in National Parks with 6, yes I said 6 kids and home schooled them. Interesting life to say the least.
You two are amazing! My fiancé and I just saw your “house hunters” episode today and wanted to check out your blog! We are seriously amazed at how you are making this amazing experience work. We are both “tied down” with jobs and such, we looked at each other and said “how refreshing!” Now, we haven’t made any serious life-altering decisions or taken any steps yet but there is no doubt both of our wheels are still turning! Just wanted to share a thank you for a reminder of the beauty in our world, you are super inspiring, and good luck in your travels!!
I traded couches for hammocks and couldn’t be happier.  There’s a reason why pictures of hammocks are associated with vacation and relaxation.  I dare you to try lying in a hammock and not feel absolutely in heaven while you are there.  We have an ENO Hammock which you can hang from trees so wherever we are we can lie back and watch the sky.  The benefits of getting horizontal on your adrenal health is incredible.  If we ever move back into a house, I’m hanging a hammock inside.  

Amy, we do shoot videos and photos along the way for pay that we don’t show on our blog; that is Jason’s chosen profession. As for me (nikki) I knew I would not be a makeup artist on the road. It’s impossible to do exactly what I did from the road. I was always on location for production/advertising work that would require me to be in a central location. So now, I market myself as on camera talent, writer and edit photos.

I can access the maps on the BLM Navigator and zoom in without any problem. I do not see any way to remove layers as you describe. There are 7 different map “views” such as street or topography, but nothing underlying that can be altered. So I am not sure if the shaded areas (several different shades of green and a flesh tone) are BLM land, or something else. Is there a particular browser required? I am using Firefox and Chrome.
2011 – We bought a 31-foot camper with our tax return, moved with our three children into the camper, and began our off-grid, small homestead on family land with cash. Nearly one year after he was laid off, my husband was hired by another woodworking company. The new pay rate did not meet our previous living expenses, thus our new lifestyle was still the best route for us.
When you live full-time in an RV, you don’t just go to the RV resorts and the big towns, but find yourself in random locations around the country you probably never would have visited on a family trip. I like this as an individual, but also think it has been great to expose our kids to so many different ways that people live around our own country.

Tank heater pads aren’t of much use if the rest of the tank isn’t insulated. As was pointed out, RV skirts are a really good idea and I know of the old trick of putting light bulbs in compartments and under the skirted RV to keep spaces at temperatures above freezing. This works effectively in RV sites with electrical hookups, i.e. relatively limitless electricity at 30 Amps (3600 watts).
Finally, we need to seal all those other places where cold air can enter our rig. Any compartments that open into the inside of the rig need to have good weather seals. Under the rig, there are many openings where water and gas lines enter the living area. These openings need to be sealed and some of that aerosol self-expanding foam is great for this. Alternately, foam rubber can be forced into gaps to help reduce air leaks. Finally, the entry door needs to be checked to make sure that it seals properly. Adding some inexpensive foam tape or weather-strip will really help seal those air leaks.
- Seal the areas around plumbing and electrical openings to the outside. If possible, use caulk for small gaps and expanding-foam insulation for larger areas. Use caution because foams can expand and damage certain areas. Low-expansion foams, typically used around doors and windows, are available. Remember that fiberglass insulation does not stop air movement, so simply stuffing fiberglass into openings will be effective only if the air leaks are sealed.

We are both foodies and people watchers and in our first month we were doing lunch and dinner in nice restaurants and a Starbucks to use he wifi almost every day. We went over our food budget by $2500.00!! the first two months…. Now we have found that we can go to “coffee shops”. Have a lite snack without liquor or expensive beverages and then go home and share a great bottle of wine over a wonderful campfire dinner. Third month is under budget! So I would have to say food and drink was our biggest expense surprise.
For the past year, we felt the wind shifting but we were in denial. We tried to continue on course against the wind hoping that things would return to what they were. However, in the quiet of night, I knew the change I was hoping for wasn’t going to happen. In those silent moments of raw honesty with myself what I wanted, as ridiculous as it sounds, was for the older boys to quit getting older. I wanted them to stay my babies forever and shelter them from life’s hardships. Living in the RV seemed to slow down time and kept them close. Kept them safe.

Propane: While camping in November and early December when temperatures fluctuated and our RV furnaces didn't run consistently, a propane fill every seven to 10 days was good enough. But, during our first January, it didn't work very well. With two furnaces cycling continuously, our propane supply was depleted in four days. We finally rented a large propane tank with a specialized regulator (installed by the propane company) with a fresh supply of propane delivered every three weeks. This was not the most economical route, but it was hassle free.

We’ve camped in Mammoth and Park City over the winter months. I haven’t needed chains yet but am seriously considering getting them. Have you actually ever put the chains on your rig? I have a Class A DP, 39′ and tried to find low profile chains for both the front and rear. I am not retired so I don’t necessarily have the flexibility of waiting out the storm.
We try our hardest with this aspect of our budget. We like to eat fresh, healthy, and regional so we try to visit farmers markets and local farms/ranches/dairies when possible. We also buy bulk items at CostCo, Fresh Market, etc. in order to keep staples on hand and get the most for our money. However, with a 3-year old we go through a lot of milk (at $4.85/gallon or so), snack foods, apples, and nuts. Have you seen the price of pistachios lately? One things we do splurge on is typically meats (we like good, grass fed beef), beer, and ice cream. Even life on the road doesn’t have to be sparse.
Legally you must carry chains to drive many mountain passes during snow storms (especially in California). If you don’t have chains on board and you get busted it’s a hefty fine. We’ve spent winters all over the states, and fortunately we’ve never had to put our chains on. Of course we watch the weather religiously before we plan to drive anywhere. If you’re flexible like we are and you know a storm is coming you have 2 options: 1. Bust out of there ASAP before the snow or 2. welcome the snow with open arms and extend your campground reservation a couple more days.
For the most part, CPS can’t take your kids JUST because you are living in an RV, there has to be another reason. Living in a van means you probably didn’t have running water or a toilet and that could raise some red flags. I only ran into one family who lived in an RV who had issues with CPS but that was because they were running from an open case that happened while they were still in a house. The accusations were pretty serious and the mother had some very obvious mental illness and she was dry nursing her 5-year-old.
2011 – We bought a 31-foot camper with our tax return, moved with our three children into the camper, and began our off-grid, small homestead on family land with cash. Nearly one year after he was laid off, my husband was hired by another woodworking company. The new pay rate did not meet our previous living expenses, thus our new lifestyle was still the best route for us.
While living by yourself in a camper allows more space and freedom, it sure is nice having another warm body around, ha. But seriously, it does keep you a lot warmer at night if you’ve got your lady or your man by your side, so if they are up for having an experience they’ll remember the rest of their lives, have them move on board with you for a bit. And believe me, you really get to know someone when you share a 10 ft. long living space with them!
Life – This is an area than many people leave out to cut costs. However, if you are relatively healthy, it is pretty inexpensive and can significantly help your family in the event something happens. Any adult who contributes to income should have enough life insurance to help cover the loss of that as well particularly if you have any outstanding debts, like the mortgage, credit cards and car loans. In addition, all family members (including children) should have enough life insurance to cover expenses like funeral and burial costs that can overwhelm a grieving family.
Some of my neighbors go all out with the skirting by building complete frames out of 1x1s and attaching the foam board with plastic pop rivets. Others only make a frame to attach the bottom of foam.  Personally, I find the board when taped together with aluminum duct tape is sufficient.  Because the insulation will have gaps at the bottom due to the uneveness of the ground, I use expanding foam from a can to complete the seal.  The foam also helps to stabilize the board against the wind and snow.
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.
A better option is to get a good and efficient heater. The factory installed propane furnaces that come with most RVs is very inefficient. The blower uses a lot of electricity. What’s worse, the heater goes through a lot of propane, because much of the hot air is exhausted outside the RV (just go outside on a cold day and put your hands by the RV furnace vent — they’ll be warm in a jiffy!).

Jay, you have made some very big assumptions here and they are wrong. As for our expenses, they are very accurate and contrary to popular blogging beliefs we don’t all get everything for free. Our meals, fuel, insurance and all of our day to day expenses that everyone else has, are not free. We pay for everything, including our RV. We have actually gotten very little for free over the years and when we do get something in exchange for review, you’ll see it noted. Expenses vary greatly per person. Even within these comments you’ll see others spending way less and way more. We blog, because we like sharing our experiences and helping others. If you don’t find that we are doing that for you, then you are correct, time to move along.
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 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!
We are opening a Facebook group called RV to Freedom: Learning to Live in an RV where anyone can come and ask questions to learn about living in an RV. We truly hope to help people get over their fears, cut through the clutter of opinions and information on the internet, and learn how to live on the road. We hope you'll join us and share your experiences, too. The full-time RV community is welcoming and open and we want to encourage everyone to join, participate, and form connections. It makes us better prepared and better people. We hope to see you there and on the road!
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