It began the way most just-so-crazy-it-might-work ideas do. Jennifer and Deas Nealy were dog owners and frequent travelers who kept running into the same problem. Every time they went out of town—which was often—they would either have to board their Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd, and corgi or tailor their vacation so that they were only staying at dog-friendly hotels. So they had a thought: What if they bought an RV, lived in it with their dogs full-time, and went on vacation forever?
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!
Months away from family and friends can be scary, no doubt. Though we too worried about missing close ones, Brittany and I actually found that we spend more time with friends on the road. We rarely enter a state without connecting with a college friend, former colleague or relative, and more often than not, end up parking our Winnebago View in their driveway (saving on campground fees, too!).
Nothing could be further from the truth! We too were concerned how our dog Ella and cat Mr. P would handle life on the road. But we quickly learned, they might actually enjoy it more than us! Longer driving days certainly took a little getting used to, but in short time Mr. P loved his spot on the dashboard basking in the sun while Ella reveled in our 20-minute play sessions during travel day stops.
Public campgrounds run the gamut from rustic campgrounds on-site at the national parks to state park campgrounds to national forest service and BLM campgrounds to Corps of Engineers campgrounds to regional park campgrounds and fairgrounds. Somewhere along the line there is a crossover to municipal and city RV parks. These campgrounds and RV parks often offer fewer amenities than private RV parks: there may (or may not) be water spigots or vault toilets (non-flushing), or there may be electric and water hookups and hot showers. Usually there are no sewer hookups but there is often an RV dump station in the campground.
Great read and well done! Being a 60 + newbie my wife and I had some angst about our new full-time journey but after reading your real-life experience we both will be resting a lot easier tonight in our 5th Wheel. Most all you Top 10 were planned out and made ready. We are prisoners to our storage costs but feel ok with that due to our 3, maybe 4, year plan. We will be down sizing at a minimum with cost but feel the short run and future needs make it ok. Again, great job, thanks for sharing, I got you booked marked. Do you have. Facebook page? Lionel
I am currently looking for suitable stories to feature in the series and we’re keen to contact people who may be interested in taking part. I came across your website and thought I would contact you as I’m trying to find Expat British/Irish families attempting to live self-sufficiently in wilderness locations overseas and I was wondering if you’re aware of any British expats that could be interested?
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.
Monthly Stays – Marinas tend to charge by the foot for monthly stays, ranging from $10 – 30 per foot (we’re 47′ long, so anywhere from $500-1400, plus electric and liveaboard surcharges). Like RV Parks, these are the cheapest marina rates and we’re looking forward to a slow pace of travel spending time in marinas in cool downtowns with lots to do in walking range.
It can be a challenge to figure out what to bring for full time RV living. “Is one pair of sandals enough or do I need a second pair for campground showers?” We ended up having way too much stuff. After a month of RV living we decided to sell the bicycles because we never used them. A few months later, we performed a spring cleaning by re-evaluating everything in the RV. Many articles of clothing ended up in the donation pile because neither of us had touched them since we moved in.
Our highest grocery month was September. We had a problem with our inverter while traveling and lost everything in the freezer. Conversely our lowest grocery month was when we were at Fort Belvoir near Washington DC. We were right down the road from a fabulous farmer’s market and saved a ton of money shopping there almost exclusively. Our highest dining out month was December when we spent 2 weeks in a hotel in Las Vegas, NV and a week in a hotel in Rockville, MD.
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.
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.
You videos are so enjoyable to watch and informative. The series on the composting toilet has convinced us to put one in our 1965 Airstream Tradewind that is in the process of having body work done before we put her back together for longer future trips. For now, we will head South in our 19 foot Airstream Globetrotter with our three border collies.
We have setup our lifestyle as a lifestyle of freedom. No set schedules or times that we really need to be anywhere and our reservations can always be changed. This is amazing yet causes problems. Since our time is ALL ours. We could all stay in our pajamas all day if we wanted to every day. Of course we can’t do that because we do have to work and the kids won’t sit still that long.
On the other hand, it’s a VERY individual thing. After 7 years on the road I can honestly tell you there’s a very good reason why no-one ever gives you an exact number. That’s because many of the big fulltime RV expenses are totally flexible! What kind of rig you buy, where you decide to camp, how much you drive, whether you decide workamp, whether you eat out (or in) etc. -> ALL these are flexible costs that can vastly alter your spend numbers. There are ranges (and I’ll go through them below), but there is quite simply no one single number for everyone.
If all you need is a little connectivity on your phone I’d suggest looking at one of the ATT-based Straight Talk plans at Walmart. If your phone accepts it you can buy a SIM at Walmart and then you just pay flat $45 per month for “unlimited” talk/text/data. I put the unlimited in quotations because the fine print says that you get unlimited talk/text but only 5GB of full-speed data (after that you’re throttled pretty heavily). That might be enough for you though? The nice thing about Walmart is that it’s non-contract plan so you can try it for a month and if it doesn’t work out you can just ditch it and do something else. ATT doesn’t get you as wide coverage as Verizon, but it’s pretty darn good. We have it on our phones right now.
My husband and I are planning to transition to full-time RV living in the next 2.5-4.5 years once our oldest kids graduate high school (youngest will come with us and homeschool). We are concerned our biggest expense will be self funded health insurance. In your financial reports you say you haven’t purchased health insurance. What about now that Obamacare penalizes you on your taxes? Have you still chosen not to purchase health insurance and take the penalty or have you found a more affordable option? We have some medical expenses so likely couldn’t go completely uninsured. Hubby is considering a remote work job with benefits for this reason but really we’d like to travel for 1 full year without huge work commitments then do something like seasonal park ranger half the year and travel the rest of the year. Any advice or insight in this area would be awesome! Thanks for sharing your financial information. It is very helpful!
I was enlightened by the Tiny House movement. After researching into buying a tiny house and furnishing it, the cost was more than my regular sized 2 bedroom home. I then started looking at used RV’s, mainly 5th wheel Trailers and travel trailers. I found a decent used 5th Wheel with good bones, and bought it when my house sold. Prior to that, I spent 9 months selling off everything I owned and thought I needed. Everyone thought I was nuts. The kids where grown, the husband passed away, and it was just me and the cat. The banker suggested, I replace AC unit with a Heat and Air unit, battery, fridge…anything that was too old. My investment was $3900 for a 1996 Dutchman Aristocrat 27 ft. Back then they made them solid with good wood not chip board. Heat and Air Unit $850, Fridge (electric only) $150. I did quite a bit of water line insulation, because these units were not meant to live in cold weather.
This is an important budget item. In our third year of fulltiming, we had huge repair expenses including the clutch and air conditioning going out in our tow car (2 year old Forester that just had engine replaced by Subaru because of oil consumption issues). We seem to go through tires quickly on the Subaru too even though we are religious about rotations and alignments. Our RV steps cost over $600 to get repaired (three different places over 2 states). We also had to have a $300 repair on the propane heater. Our Tiffen motorhome is 15 years old, has undergone major refurbishment and in great shape but you have to expect repairs, just like in an older home. Better than having a “house” payment to us. Our motto has become “Expect the unexpected”. If you are lucky and don’t have any problems, enjoy the “bonus” at the end of the year.
Those are the top things that have been a challenge for us to overcome as RV'ers. RV travel falls somewhere between having the comforts of home and camping – and your mileage may vary depending on your budget. The sky is the limit when it comes to RV's – you can buy something that's affordable that may require a few sacrifices, or there are ones that will make you feel like a rock star.
- Rodents may be attracted to the dark and warm areas created by adding skirting to an RV, so use some rodent control measures. Your best option is to seal any hole larger than ¼ inch. Fill holes with expanding foam and place a thin piece of aluminum cut from a pop can over the holes. You also can use traps and poison baits if the sealing material leaves some gaps.
I paid cash on a used F250 and will do the same with the trailer, as well as making some changes upfront that you and Mark recently discovered made vast improvements in driving your rig. While my plan is to boondock more often than not (friends are already beckoning me to their driveways across the country!), there is the matter of being a tech nomad. However, I’ve been living in the country with a Virgin USB stick (and a looped slice of aluminum soda can attached w electrical tape as an additional antenna) about ten miles from the nearest tower for the last few years, so more of the same there. The main budget changes I’ll notice are the absence of an electric bill and addition of laundromats.
In a five year period, a brand new rig (that is, a motorhome/car combo or truck/trailer combo) will typically lose 30% to 50% of its value, and by the end of a decade it will be down to 25% to 40% of its original MSRP. The only way to know what the full-time RVing lifestyle really costs is to know both what you paid for your RV at the beginning and what you sold it for at the end. The difference, divided but the number of months you lived in it, is the true cost of ownership.
As for winterizing. I’m not sure I completely understand the question. If you’re asking if you can RV in the snow/winter it’s certainly possible. Most RV’s don’t really have the proper insulation so you’ve got to prepare for the weather by using skirting, covering windows, using heat-tape on your pipes etc. I prefer to RV where the weather is mild, but if you’re dead-set on winter stuff I’d recommend asking questions on the RV forums. In general, the forums are a great place to learn about new things and “meet” other RVers. I have a post about forums here:
Joyce Ann Seid (84) and Steven Seid (77) bought their first RV in 2001 to travel on weekends to see the grandkids and visit casinos and parks. By 2010, they moved into the RV full-time. “We rented our house and wound up getting a bigger RV and then we wound up living in it because we liked it so much,” Steven said. “If we don’t like our neighbors, we just pack up and leave.”
Our fifth wheel is a 2005, which means it needs repairs quite frequently (we have a new issue come up about every 6 weeks or so). We try to do repair projects ourselves (thanks to YouTube) to avoid the outrageous costs of paying an RV mechanic. We also cook in the RV often and typically turn on the heat during the cooler evenings, which uses up our propane. It costs about $20 to refill our propane tank each month.
$792 Pet Expenses – This includes the 2 kitty’s specialty food, All-Natural Lavender litter, toys, bi-monthly supply of sardines in spring water, treats, and their medical bills. Of course the main cost over the past 5 months is we found out Singa has feline Herpes. When we returned from Spain his eye was irritated and mostly closed shut. We took him to the vet and they ran tests and thought he may have been in a fight (there was a few scabs on his head too) and his eye was scratched. Tests, drugs, antibiotics, etc and we’re lookin at $150. 1 week later he’s not doing any better, so we go in for a follow-up visit, the vet has no idea so I suggest we see an eye specialist (another $100). 2 days later we’re at a cat Ophthalmologists who diagnoses Singa with feline herpes. The doctor tells us it’s extremely common in cats, and the majority of cats carry this virus. He compares it to the herpes virus that causes cold sores in humans, and suggests Singa is showing signs due to us leaving town for 10 days and him not receiving the same amount of love and attention he’s used to. We’re sent home with a host of additional meds and what-nots and a giant bill ($250). A follow up visit 30 days later takes the eye doc 10 minutes to tell us Singa’s lookin good cost me another $120. The Doc told me to come back in 3 months and I told him to buzz off that Singa wouldn’t be back in unless he started showing symptoms again. Healthcare is such a racket, it’s like they’re printing money in that office. Forget that! We are thankful we understand what is bothering Singa, and we now know what the symptoms are in case he has another flare up. As I write this Singa is curled up in my lap after a long day of playing outside and eating smelly sardines….it’s safe to say he’s a pretty darn happy cat!
You are going to need a set of solar panels. Forget a generator. I don’t know why almost every RV I ever come across is running a generator. I’m here to tell you that a gas-powered generator is almost completely unnecessary. A good set of solar panels placed properly on your roof (you want at least 60 watts, I’d like to have more one day) will give you enough power every day (even cloudy days) to charge your cellphones, power your lights all night, power the propane furnace for increments when the wood stove isn’t running, and watch movies.
You are inspiring. My husband and I just made the decision to leave our busy life in Florida, purchase and renovate an RV, homeschool our 3 boys (ages 8,6, and 4) and start traveling. I am still struggling with all the logistics of it all, and how my husband can stay busy with his website business and still have time to spend with the boys and I exploring all the places we travel to. But I’m excited for the adventure. We hope to be in our RV and traveling in 6 months from now.