Many full-timers follow the weather as they travel, moving to more friendly climes – be they cooler or warmer – through the year. That serves as a fine rough outline but it can be frustrating to arrive in a new area and discover you missed a festival or traditional event by a day or two. Plan ahead and keep travel resources at the ready. But the golden rule of full-time RV travel planning is to stay flexible. Don’t be in a rush to head off down the road.
Wow! What a learning experience we are having when it comes to finances on the road…. We have been on the road 3 months and I have been amazed at how expensive things can be if you are not careful. It is not a matter of denial of experiences but rather choosing wisely to enjoy the same things that keep our expenses manageable. An example would be eating lunch out instead of dinner. Usually 1/2 the price.
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.
So, just depends on the site and the park. Older parks often have smaller sites and tighter access than newer parks. Forest service campgrounds are typically tighter than desert campgrounds. I use rvparkreviews.com to help gauge these things, and combine it with satellite pics (Google Earth) and campsitephoto.com where it’s available. Between the three I can usually make a good guess if we can fit. It’s a process!
The following comparison shows precisely what would be typical for me and my family, which includes mom, dad, three kids (two toddlers and a teenager), and grandma, a family of 6. Your results may vary. The “Home” table reflects averages for the entire US. We then compare it against our own costs, and those of average prices for new and used RVers, except where those costs wouldn’t change based on the rig you have. Links to sources inline.
This is a little bit of a whiny thing to say, but it's real. Holiday weekends tend to just blend into the calendar now and it's easy to forget to plan ahead. We've been lucky so far and already had holidays booked totally by accident, found boondocking, and spent Independence Day parked in a dive buddy's driveway, but we have forgotten holidays and so have our friends. Memorial Day weekend campground reservations may be booked months in advance and we just don't think like that anymore. Maybe now is the time to set reminders.
Diesel can freeze! Make sure you fill with winterized diesel which you can find at most truck stops. If you can’t find winterized diesel you need to purchase an additive that will keep your diesel from freezing (you can find this at auto part stores and truck stops). Before you depart your destination you should plug in the heating element found in your diesel engine (most diesel engines have a heated core that you can plug into a wall to keep them from getting too cold) to warm up your engine at least 4 hours before taking off.
My husband and 3 kids are about to embark on a camper journey of our own rather unexpectedly. The home we’ve rented for 2 years is being sold due to landlord’s health. Our poor decisions of our younger years has left our credit as less than desirable but getting better. Housing costs being what they are, we are left with little choice but to try camping as a lifestyle. We are all equally terrified and thrilled at the prospect and have learned a great deal since deciding to do it. I’m going to learn more about the Allstays app. It will come in very handy in my area. We don’t intend to travel so much as live and save every penny we can, so that someday we can buy a home. If nothing else, this will be a grand adventure…
Spray the bottom of the camper with spray foam. This isn’t something I can recommend from personal experience; it’s just something I know some people do. If I were going to do it, though, I would want to make sure I didn’t do any spraying that would prevent me from accessing certain systems if they needed repair. An alternative is to attach foam board insulation to the bottom of the RV.
I love that wood stove and it sure is the answer to heat. My unit when finished should be around 120’ or if I say to hell with a back shed I can use the entire cube it will be 144’ “haven’t decided yet”. With lots of head room I can put in a queen Murphy bed that will turn into an office when folded up and I can mount it high enough to clear the tops of lots of seating area when being used as a bed. I might need a little step to get into it or maybe a rebounder. I intend to also have a comfort buddy by the time it’s completed if I find a fine lady who wants to live like that and cozy up to my pudgy but extremely cute parts but will probably end up with another Border collie. My last old girl loved getting away on our trips but I would have to kill a bunch of people to get her back and they are all tougher than I am so will have to find a replacement (yes dog lovers, it is not fair to have a Border in a camper but you argue that one out with Maggie and she will chew on you like she did the two big guys who tried to enter our comfy abode on a dark night).
As for our tanks, they stayed plenty warm, having the warmth from the storage bay radiating through the floor on one side, and because our skirting kept them warm enough on the other side. For people who need extra protection against frozen tanks, tank heaters are an option. However, it’s important to make sure that pipes in addition to tanks are protected from freezing.
We live five months a year in our motorhome spending 7 months in our Mexican casa down in San Felipe, Baja. This has been our life style since 2005. Looking over your expenses have you every shopped on eBay for software products? You can save bundles. . . . I buy a ton of our “needs” on eBay with great savings and success just shipping it to where ever we are staying. Also, I am a thrift store junkie. I love nice, expensive (brands) clothes and kitchenware but don’t like paying full price. I find great bargains in Goodwill and Saver stores. It makes it fun to seek out these stores in all the different stops we make. I “cleaned house” this summer back east in their Goodwill stores. Just a thought. . . I enjoy your website very much. . . you’re having a lot of fun in your travels. I also would rather stay at a Harvest Host site versus Walmart!
I sell RV’s, and love it. The people I sell to are excited and eager to get on the road, love my customers. Anyhow, some things I would mention tell your RV sales person about yourself and your plans, most of us in the RV industry have experience and can help with idea’s and help find you the right coach with items or without items you may not even know you will need or that will greatly enhance your time. Also most RV sales people have resources, and it’s not a used car salesman tactic (well not where I work) we want to help and for you to refer us and come back. I full timed for 4yrs, with 3 kids a dog and a cat as a single mom. Let me say we did have our struggles, but I LOVED it. Now I get to help others too. So my suggestion is let your RV sales person help and ask them questions, they generally have a wealth of information.
Yeah I’m really, really disappointed. The old BLM website was a bear of a thing to navigate, but had so much useful info once you figured out where to find it. The new BLM website looks sleek and snazzy, but has literally zero useful info. I keep hoping they will “flesh it out” with some of the old stuff, but I’m starting to think this will never happen. It’s such a bummer.
Food — Studies have found that the average home in the U.S. wastes 25 percent of their food. This is due to spoiled food or uneaten food. When you live in an RV, space for food is limited. It is rare to throw something out because you didn't see it at the back of your small refrigerator. I think you also tend to eat healthier since you are hiking in the outdoors more. Assuming an average $440 per month for two people, you save about $75 a month.
We have a family HSA Bronze plan that we purchase through the Healthcare Marketplace, with a ridiculously high $13,800 deductible (but includes some preventative stuff and provider co-pays) with an included network that is fairly nationwide. For 2018 we’re sticking with our ‘on exchange’ Florida based EPO plan with BlueCross BlueShield that give us national access to their BlueSelect network. We don’t claim any subsidies, but being on exchange keeps the option open to claim them at the end of the year if we qualify (our income varies).
Small electric space heaters are an excellent way to conserve propane burn and provide added warmth to the areas occupied during the day and evening. Be careful to purchase only brand-name, heavy duty space heaters with undamaged electrical cords. Adding a small space heater to the lavatory will help keep the black tank from freezing and is a nice addition for people coming out of the shower.
Our not quite 35′ motorhome has been the perfect size for getting into places bigger RVs won’t fit. Our frig is on a full-wall slide but it has never been a problem in the year and a half we’ve lived in this rig. But, we are now preparing to leave the road so our 2010 Winneago 34Y will be for sale this fall. It will be a great opportunity for someone looking for a big little motorhome. If interested, watch our blog for details to come soon.
Great blog! lots of ideas for “newbies” — we have been fulltimers for almost one-year now and are in agreement with many of the items on your list (size and taking your time especially!) We have also been fortunate to meet helpful people on our travels and certainly fellow bloggers encourage and guide us! Keep up the great posts and we hope to get to meet you in person soon!! Martha
I’ve been daydreaming about purchasing a 25′ Airstream trailer and hitting the road full time, and have enjoyed many of the posts on your site. Of all the posts across the blog, this is the one I’ve come to the most times as it’s rare to find such detailed and thorough listing of expenses, which is incredibly useful for a total newbie! Our lifestyles and spending habits seem similar, so I find myself returning to this page frequently while planning my would-be road finances.
The choice between a motorhome and a 5th wheel is very personal. Both have advantages and disadvantages. For example a motorhome is easier to set-up and take-down (very easy for either partner to do alone), but a 5th wheel is cheaper on maintenance (only one engine to take care of). I’ve written a bit more about the pros/cons in other comments (above). Good luck and best of travels to you!
I really enjoy reading your website and watching your YouTube videos, I find your vidoes and website extremely helpful. My only child is now 19 and on the road to self-sufficiency via college. As a soon-to-be empty nester, I plan to keep a small townhouse for my young adult child to live in but I am going to travel part-time in a RV. I have the ability to work mobile in my employment and I am only 42 years young.
i had the same idea, and i am willing to invest and become partner in such an adventure, but would be nicer to have 15 to 20 spots, we could go over costs , find a place not farther than 35 to 40 min from a city center with ammenities, resturaunts, shopping & movie theatre, i live in s. florida and theres alot of land for sale out west, and not too far from everything, i had an idea to do a shipping container homesite, doing the same thing, same idea,,, its hard to find like minded people wanting to co-exist but the living expenses would be so low, commpared to a house and great for retirees that do not have alot of savings,, we could be a community helping each other out, i am all for that idea. would have to get plans and find out from the building departments what we can do or cant do..
After many years of Singapore math I realized I couldn’t keep up with Thing 1 so began the search for a new math curriculum that required less parental involvement. We tried the Art of Problem Solving which would be amazing for the right kind of kid. It was a horrible fit for us. After a few more weeks of research, I narrowed math down to Math-U-See, Teaching Textbooks, and Life of Fred. Thing 1 looked them over and chose which one he wanted to study. He chose Life of Fred and after two years I can’t say enough good things about it. (The Kahn Academy was used as a supplemental resource for extra practice when needed and not as a stand-alone program.)
When we first started on the road we rushed like crazed animals on stampede to see as much and as far an area as we could possibly see within the timeframe given. It took several months before we realized none of this was necessary. In fact taking more time to enjoy our surroundings not only saved us money, but we’ve met more people, seen more local gems, created a sense of community and felt more in-tune with the journey. Our 2-month trip through New Mexico earlier this year was a great example of how this attitude has really made sense for us. We are progressing more and more into “sitters” (RVers that spend several weeks in one spot) rather than “movers”. It may not be for everyone, but I sure recommend giving it a try.
We scrapped our plans as our car was towed off to be repaired in El Paso and we had to move to a bigger city to find a rental. It turns out that Minis have an issue that can cause them to catch on fire at any time. Not trusting it after that, we switched it out for the Xterra. It was a pain at the time, but now it's a story to tell around the campfire.