We are new to your blog and new to the world of RVing. We are in the process of selling the house and plan to become fulltimers within the next 3-6 months. Our big issue right now is with size. We like our creature comforts, but we also want to use state and national parks and forests as much as possible. In your comments you suggested that the next time you might stay in the 36-38 foot range. We are thinking 40. I recently read something that indicated that anything over 35 would rule out 85% of state and national parks. If that is true, how much worse does that number get if you are in a 40 footer vs something in the 36-38 range? And, if the percent available is pretty much the same between 36 and 40, why not go 40?


We've had this motorhome for almost two years but never had the propane system checked to see if everything worked correctly since we were in California for much of the time. Plus, we don't know how expensive it is to get this system checked. (The small propane tank is still half full.) Can electric heaters be used for inside heating as long as they're the kind that shuts off if tipped (and never left on when we leave for a few hours)?
So, you’ve got to weigh your priorities on what is more important to you. Is the space/layout key to your happiness on the road? Then, absolutely go for the bigger rig and make it work! Is camping in remote areas & boondocking your top priority? Then, you’ve got to look smaller. The answer is highly individual. No wrong answer at all…just the best answer for YOU!
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.
One of the beautiful things about aging is you carry along the wisdom of years of experience (that, and your wine gets better of course). By many standards you could easily call me but a pup in the great dog-park of life, but as our multi-year journey in RVing progresses I have managed to glean a few gems of sageness which I can happily pass along. In that spirit, here are 10 things I wish I’d known before we went full-timing:
Then you move down the road of life to state parks. Now you walk out your little RV door and see nothing but trees and space, maybe a glint of your neighbor through it all, and certainly if they were to yell you’d hear it, but space is not only abundant, it’s beautiful. You’re now paying $20 per night. Rent has dropped to $600 / month. Utilities are still included (except for propane, we spend around $30 / month), though you won’t necessarily have a sewage connection, so you’ll need to drive over to the dump station every few days and let the pipes fly. Depending on your situation, this may happen two or five times a week. But it’s hundreds of dollars in savings in exchange for an hour or so worth of effort.
Anyway, what a great life you are living, I love it but want to be more stealth than you are so I can park anywhere. I just spent a few months off and on in Canmore Alberta and you could tell who the guys in the campers were and I met a few who had stealth down to a science. They were totally off the grid and didn’t leave their unit physically where they slept and the vehicles just looked like PMVs with a couple of quirky things on them like low stacks and vents. The cube will look just like a work truck with exterior tool box doors except for the furnace exhaust but many work trucks are heated so I will have an edge.
This number will depend on whether or not they are hitting the road with a job. We’d recommend six months of RV living costs if you don’t have a job, and three months if you do. A lot of things can go wrong during those few months on the road, and you want to be prepared for it. This sounds obvious, but worth pointing out—don’t spend more than you have!

Now, when that fear wells up again, gratefully embrace it and say, “Thank you for the warning, but this is a safe risk. Look at my budget. Here is my savings account for emergencies. This is how I will make more money. Everything will be alright,” You may have to do this many times, but eventually your fear will turn to hope as it embraces your new life. Then, come, and join us as we travel the road of carefree destiny.
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.
Yes on the dual sided heated mattress pad. Your friend in the winter! This winter I slept on an 8″ memory foam mattress, topped with the heated mattress pad, then a 3″ memory foam on top of that. I turned on the mattress pad about an hour before I go to bed (if it isnt already on!). I cranked it up to High and turned it down to 3 or 4 when I got in bed. It will warm up the top pad. When you get in bed the top MF is soft and as you sink into it you get the warmth rising. This winter I was in a really, really cold cinderblock house in the Midwest. Last winter I did this in my Teardrop trailer with a 4″ regular foam mattress, the heated mattress pad and the 3″ of MF.
We have just become full-time RVers after 44 years of camping in a tent up to a diesel pusher.We now live in a Landmark 365 42′ fifth wheel, tow vehicle is a F350 4×4 dually, and I drive a CRV Honda. My husband is a transpo driver for a RV dealer during the winter so he is comfortable hauling the beast. Yes, I take my CRV and follow, I don’t mind the drive be it 100 or 1000 mi.
Below is the breakdown of our costs, if you want more details read the posts from 2012 and 2011 as we pretty much spend the same way each year. As usual I’ve rounded the numbers to keep it simple.$2,137 Groceries, housewares and booze – Costco still being the largest ($1,088) also includes Whole Foods, Target, Trader Joes, TJ Maxx (we get some of our specialty foods here) Wal-Mart (for RV supplies), local natural grocery stores, and Cash at Farmer’s Markets.
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?
Two adults, four children, and a dog all living in a 2006 class C motorhome!! Now, that’s downsizing! This adventure seeking family stays busy by traveling every week to 2 weeks. As you can imagine, they keep busy running a business on the road, enjoying kid-friendly tours and attractions, and lots of outdoor activity. They try to cut costs by utilizing their RV park memberships and boondocking a few days a month. However, that’s a lot of mouths to feed!

I’ve got to give props to my girlfriend Kage, who has been living along with me on the road (and her husky Tobias). Being a man, the camper life isn’t too difficult, but for a woman, it’s an entirely different challenge. According to Kage, it is definitely more difficult to live in a camper full-time as a woman (where society expects you to still look good, as well as having to take care of feminine things), but she really does make it work somehow.


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.
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Learning to live in a camper is its own full-time job in the beginning, and it can take months to get into the flow of this lifestyle. You have to learn how to efficiently organize a very small space. You have to learn how to cook (and store food) in an incredibly small kitchen. You have to learn how to manage your fuel and water resources so you don’t run out of either when you’re camped in the middle of nowhere.
Last year I purchased the 2013 Newmar Bay Star, a 30 ft. It’s designed specifically for fulltiming, with huge basements that extend the entire coach and the desk/buffet option. I’m coming up from a 24 ft Dynamax that allowed me to stay anywhere. The Newmar is very tall so I’m worried that overhead space will be an issue in park camping. I’m a tree gal so height should also be considered if you love forests.
Thanks for discussing the cost of living in an RV. I love the breakdown of the typical budget for an RV owner. It is smart to factor in the cost of repairs and maintenance. You made a good example when you mentioned replacing the pump that makes your shower run. You couldn’t live too long without that! My husband and I have been considering buying my uncle’s old RV, so repairs are something we would need to think about!
For toys/kids stuff we are building a special area for his clothing. Baby things are hard to hang up so I’d rather have drawers. Toys will have one area in the camper. That way it’s all contained in one spot, we can have minimal things, and there is always a place for the toys to go back to. I also plan on having a special area with learning things. Paper, markers, stickers, any activities that we will do together. We can think of this as our “school drawer.”
When I decided to live in an RV,  I did a lot of research.  I looked at YouTube videos and read a multitude of blogs and RV Living websites (Click here to view my favorites).  Then I visited a couple  RV dealers to see what’s available and pick the sales persons’ brains, knowing they’d be eager to make a sale and would spend a ton of time educating me. It was free training!
a tip for those that may come upon a bear or timber wolf or large cat; carry a boat horn with you. you can get them at any boating outlet or cabellas or dicks. it’s pressurized and is very very loud. i put a lanyard on it and carry it around my neck. if a creature that can do me harm is within sight, I give it a blast or two and they hi-tail it out of there. it would be helpful in finding me as well if i were injured or lost.
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.
Vehicle fuel – If you have a towable, you will need to estimate fuel for “moving days.” This can vary greatly depending on how often and how far you move. Our first year we came up with a rough itinerary with total mileage and an average cost of fuel per mile. In addition, for both tow and towed vehicles, you will need to budget for fuel in the local area.
As a budget figure, if you are a future full-timer, and you are excited by the $0 figure here, and you plan to boondock a lot but haven’t don’t it much yet, include a “slush” camping fee figure of $350 per month in your budget until you find out if you really like it. Some folks plan to “free camp” all the time but find it isn’t practical for their lifestyle once they hit the road.
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.
Adding only that we also have 2 very beloved and very spoiled chihuahuas as well as a caged rabbit (free run abouts one hour a day in the camper). They are wonderful to have, they love the walks and the air and it is not much more to have pets with you. I have taken out the carpet and we are now redoing the floor to a wood vinyl as well as adding curtains and updating the camper with new wallpaper, etc. We have also added a top area for the cage that the rabbit can be in but out of the way. We had to update some things but this camper was really worth it-keeping anything that can attract more dust and fur out is helping a lot with the pets.
Andrew, that was an interesting blog entry, because it gives a snapshot of what’s important to your family, you seem to have a good balance between enjoying your life and maintaining your expenses. But the part that really grabbed me about this post was that it reminded me of George Orwell’s “Road to Wigan’s Pier” in that you outlined your expenses. If you get a chance, please have a look at that book (it’s available for free on the internet) and read the part where he reports on the expenditures of different coal miners in the early 1900s Northern England. We’ve all become wealthier, but even after all that time, nothing has really changed, we still make choices to in our lifestyles and our spending choices may be one of the purest epressions of who we are and choose to be.
2017 Update – TOTALLY still agree with this. Although we’ve gotten used to our “beastly” size I still wish we were a tad smaller and we (still) dream about downsizing. 95% of our camping is on public land and if we were smaller and more nimble we’d have many more options open to us, especially for boondocking. 35-feet would be nice, 30-feet would be even sweeter, but hey we make do. Maybe one day….
Seems like you have came to the same conclusions as we have for winter AK living! Only one disagreement: solar. Nice, love it, but we actually found our honda eu1000 generator to be more cost effective for the initial purchase and more reliable. I think that is why so many rvers go that route. I really want to try a wind turbine although! We both know how much wind we get.
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.

We are avid birders and love the solitude of nature. We imagine we will be staying and volunteering in wildlife refuges, state parks and boondocking for the most part. We are looking at the Northwoods Arctic Fox 32-5M (34’11’).( We love our daily yoga practice and need a floor plan that fits 2 yoga mats) We are heading to the Northwoods dealer in Oregon in the beginning of april to see about trading our truck in for a diesel long bed and buying the fifth wheel. Northwoods just came out with a new fifth wheel floor plan that rocks(35-5z) but it is 38’11”. In regards to bigger is not better do you have any guidance here to help our decision making process? I know this is a very personal decision. ANY input will be helpful. It is just the two of us and our binoculars, camera, bird books, and laptop computers for the most part. This is such a huge decision and we will be living with it for a long time.
When we went to stay with my Parents we thought we were going to get blown away from the water pressure coming out of the shower and sink! I could have stayed in the shower for an hour and then went and washed dishes for another hour. This is one of those things that you don’t realize you are going to miss. Water in general can be an issue, especially drinking water which is why we use a Berkey water purifier which is awesome!
Obviously, electric blankets on your bed make for more comfortable sleeping conditions during the cold winter nights. I discovered another great use for electric blankets by accident. I draped one over the sofa and left it on a low setting. Even when I wasn't on the sofa, I left the blanket on. The temperature radiates into the air, adding wonderful warm heat to the RV. My sofa was built in to an extending unit on the RV, so it was a very drafty area to sit on cold winter nights. The heating blanket worked wonders for keeping me warm.

Now… we aren’t full time RV living like most people – we are completely stationary and have no intentions of touring around the United States in our RV! That said, if that’s what you ARE interested, here are some quality blogs, YouTube channels and Facebook groups of folks that are doing such thing… hopefully they’ll be a great additional source of inspiration to you!

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