Jan Wesner Childs is a journalist and wife of a 26-year Army Special Forces veteran. She has lived, worked and traveled around the world and the U.S. She is currently a freelance writer based in Florida, where she writes about anything and everything, including local schools, the space and tourism industry, and military spouse and family issues. Her blog, “Beyond the Gilded Cage,” details her family’s RV adventure and gives the scoop on transitioning to life after the Army. She can be reached at janwchilds@yahoo.com.
Our fourth year of roadschooling has been a big year for Thing 1. Per his request he wanted a challenging curriculum because wanted to make sure he is “keeping up with school kids”. It has been a struggle for me because, frankly, I see much (not all) of traditional school as a lot of nonsense and wasted time. While we’ve kept up with the core subjects, we’ve allowed plenty of room for freedom to explore, create, and have avoided traditional textbooks and boring assignments. Brent and I have encouraged the boys to think out of box and question the status quo.

There are so many wonderful things about RVing full time with kids and teens but the fact of the matter is full time RV was beyond amazing when they were younger but RV life could no longer provide for their expanding needs and interests. (Disclaimer: The pursuit of the following activities is a struggle because we are fully aware these actives are a privilege that comes with being middle class and certainly not necessary for a fulfilled life but they are fun, rewarding, and teach their own lessons.)
Just as a reminder to anyone considering or who owns any RV with slide out partitions, You should always keep the tracks lubricated and run them in and out at least once a month to spread the lubrication. Proper maintenance goes a long way in worry free use, especially when you are living in it full time. I even live in mine all year round in northern latitudes and lived in Alaska for ten years in an rv with “tip outs”. You can “skirt” even a non winter RV and heat the under side to keep your tanks from freezing. Old flexable/cloth backed, highway advertizing signs do a good job when purchased. painted and fitted to your rig. They have great insulation value too. I would happily explain any winterization process that any one would like to know about. This blog is a great place for information for anyone considering living full time in an rv. There is a lot of good usefull information contained within.
We are thinking of buying a 40 ft. extended stay model by Jayco(40bhs I think the model is). it has a full size refridgerator and range which we thought would be better suited for keeping my two boys fed. But like you said bigger not always better. My wife and I have been camping all our lives. and are in our second RV since we have been Married(10 years). We currently have a 2007 Springdale 27′ with one slide.

That was very nice of you to list your expenses like that. Many of us appreciate it. As you mentioned, this is your lifestyle choice. Personally, I think it is a great one. I don’t get why some other posts are trying to compare it with monthly expenses for owning a home. You and your family are living the life you want. Good for you. You are open and honest. After reviewing your expense sheet, it is my opinion that you and your family are living a frugal lifestyle compared to most of us. I love the simplicity of your life without the baggage of all the stuff. Blessing to you and yours!


At the same time, this non-resident residency impacts the local politics of the cities and towns where the biggest mail forwarding companies do business because of the huge number of absentee voters. These voters may vote like each other — full-time RVers have a lot in common with each other — but they don’t necessarily vote like the other residents of their adopted hometowns.
Aeropress and Coffee Mill – The Aeropress is another well-loved and often used item in our RV kitchen. In fact, Brent takes this with us whenever we travel because good coffee is a must. We’ve owned ours for three years (it too was a Christmas gift) and it’s still going strong. Being whole been coffee people, this hand coffee grinder is our Aeropress’s faithful companion. Where one goes the other goes and it doesn’t matter if we are 100 miles from an electrical outlet. With the Aeropress and coffee mill, all you need is water boiled over a campfire,, to make an amazing cup of coffee. These two together make great gifts for coffee loving RVers.
My husband realized that he doesn’t want to go back to work full-time, unless it is the perfect opportunity. I started focusing again on my writing career and am building a solid freelance business. I also volunteer with our local downtown revitalization association. Our kids are back in regular public school, doing sports and extracurricular activities and, slowly making friends outside the military.

We are all electric with no propane, now what? Hydronic heating (Aqua Hot) can rely upon a diesel burner for furnace instead of propane. As you correctly pointed out diesel additive is necessary to keep the fuel liquid. We have learned that even though we treat our fuel it remains very cold. Cold diesel doesn’t completely burn and the exhaust can be very smokey and very smelly.
I wish everyone who has run into bad times could read your story. There are certainly people who cannot help themselves and need assistance. But there are too many who find themselves in debt who could do what you have done – cut expenses and live frugally. But they don’t and just complain, asking for handouts as they place an order for the new iphone. Good luck with your new house and homestead, although I know you don’t need any. It’s apparent you make your own luck. 🙂
It’s a good tip. We used to have business cards and still exchange them on occasion, but I have to admit we’ve gone mostly online now. I connect with lots of folks through either Facebook or Instagram, and of course there’s also RVillage where you can check in and see where various folks and groups are on a map. Lots of good ways to stay connected.
2. Make a plan for your kids’ education: Living in an RV is a rare learning opportunity. Your kids will be home schooled, the only difference being that their home will be on wheels. Your travel destinations are an important part of your kids’ education, so take advantage of historical, geological, and cultural sites as you travel. Alongside math, reading and writing, there are some great on-the-road learning activities you can do with your kids. See Fulltime Families for some great examples of fun DIY activities.
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.
And a tip. If you are trying to get chrome tape to stick to your fiberglass exterior in cold weather, say, to put up reflectix, try this:wipe where you want the tape to stick with a hot damp rag. It will dry quickly and the tape will stick to the warmer surface. I’ve done this in sub 20 degree weather! Make a square of it around window, then run your next square of tape over top if it when you put up the window covering. It will stick to that easily. Maybe precutting them and sticking them inside my coat helped to keep them warm too.
It’s a good tip. We used to have business cards and still exchange them on occasion, but I have to admit we’ve gone mostly online now. I connect with lots of folks through either Facebook or Instagram, and of course there’s also RVillage where you can check in and see where various folks and groups are on a map. Lots of good ways to stay connected.
Next was digging the trench across my driveway. Although I’m fortunate that there are very few rocks in my primary building site — which also made the septic system guy pretty happy — the driveway did have a layer of gravel over it. I had to dig through that gravel and into the softer dirt beneath it. Later, I had to shovel all that gravel back. Hard work!

Thanks for posting your Rv travel expenses, that’s really a generous thing to do and it really helps those of us in the planning stage to get a better idea of how we can achieve this lifestyle change. I can’t understand why people are being rude about it. No one would ask them what they spend in their lifestyle would they? It’s a bit hopeless that people can’t be happy for others generous and brave enough to share their lives! I know I couldn’t do it, so thanks!


Emergency Fund – The most important part of savings is your emergency fund. Conventional wisdom suggests you should have at least six months of expenses in a savings account. I know a lot of people scoff at the idea of a traditional savings account where you might only earn 1% interest annually. However, if you think about it anything is better than earning 0%, or not having savings and going into credit card debt for emergencies, which will cost you 10% in interest or more.


I am considerating selling my house and getting either an RV or Log Home or an A-Frame or getting a Tiny house which is the big thing now . After doing my research all a tiny house is an RV with wheels. No truck to pull it with though . That would be extra . I thought the cost of a tiny house would be great because they are less expensive but they aren’t . After looking at several of them I’d rather just get an RV . But where would you get mail? How long can you stay at one camp ground? Since your always moving do you pay taxes? Please tell me how do I find these answers . Thank you very much and one more thing . If I did want to go to Paris or somewhere else over seas do I have to leave my RV somewhere else? Thanks again . I look forward to hearing from you .
So I am curious. Why can you talk about the cost of the RV? You mention you aren’t allowed to discuss the cost of the Windy, and you only suggest you are leasing the new one. My concern is that it may be false representation of the life style. I am sure many people would like to do what you do and can. However, not many people under 30 years of age can drive around in a 200K RV doing what you are doing. I tend to think the RV’s are discounted to you or even loaned to you as part of financial agreements with companies you work for. If this is true, this isn’t something the average person can do. Can you please be more transparent if you are in fact trying to promote this life style. (I am not trying to be a hater, i just want to better understand how you are doing this).
We’re Millenials, so we can relate to the desire to have new and shiny stuff we can’t afford. A lot of Millenials these days want instant gratification: we want what our parents have without realizing it took them 30-40 years to get there. Who wouldn’t want a big $200-300k diesel pusher? As a young, first time RVer, with less disposable income than most retirees, buy used! RVs depreciate faster than just about any other purchase. Buying used can save you a huge amount of money. Most people use their RV about 4 weekends out of the year, so “used” models are almost new. You can save $10k-50k buying a year or two used. Plus, used RVs usually have all the bugs worked out. New RVs have more issues than used ones. Don’t be surprised for your brand new RV to spend 3-4 months in the shop the first year, getting all the bugs worked out from the warranty. If you buy an RV that’s a year or two or 10 old, the bugs will already have been fixed under warranty.

They also shed themselves of furniture, artwork, anything that takes up a lot of space (such as hobby materials, holiday decorations, boxes of family photos, libraries, magazines, newspapers or collectibles), pets, unless they are very small, bulky electronics, excess clothing (especially bulky items), duplicate household goods (such as second sets of dishes and silverware), decorator items, heavy cleaning equipment (such as full sized vacuum cleaners), duplicate tools and recreational equipment (such as kayaks, skis and clunky sports equipment).
Your personal diary of events and budget is not uncommon. However me and my husband lived in North Eastern Utah in a new RV park for only $350 month, which included ALL utilities except our propane. We also renovated a used 35 ft fifth wheel becasue we did not want to be in debt. We also stayed on a budget and never had the expense you all did. We to own land but voted to stay in town at an RV park. I can tell you from experience our total expenses were not over $600 and this includes most of your list.

Great article, I’m hoping to travel in an RV full-time eventually. In the mean time, I’m still working to support my family and plan for the future. I sell land throughout the western U.S. (those great winter states you mentioned) if anybody wants to own a few acres to park their RV part or full time. See my website, http://www.landparker.com for more details. Thanks!
Relax. Every second of every minute does not need to be planned out to make the most of your vacation. Instead enjoy laying in bed as a family for 2 hours in the morning. Spend hours swimming together in the pool or at the beach. Don’t worry there will still be time to do some activities. Some of the best moments are on the unscheduled and unplanned time you have together as a family.
We are a family of four and are saving up to travel for 2 yrs or maybe more! I am a cancer survivor and I want to see everything I possibly can due to my new outlook on life. My kids are excited about it (my husbands getting there ;). It was his idea to go camping in 2 wks & go look at Rv’s next week so that’s a good sign lol. I will read your blog through & through …I’m going to need a lot of good tips 🙂 Thank you.
We are just putting our house on the market. timing is not perfect but at least we have made the decision. We are really looking forward to hearing more helpful information. The storage thing is a little difficult we have been married 50 years and we know that we will not be able to do this forever. We also know that we have a life style to come back to. So it has been a challenge. Happy trails

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!
Below is the breakdown of 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, and this time I decided to list in order of most expensive (hey great idea right?).$1,567 Mostly Costco for groceries; also includes Target, TJ Maxx, Nordstrom Wal-Mart, etc for clothing, housewares, and such.
Kelli, have you reviewed the entire section of videos I prepared on my website for winter living? Those will help you. That said, I’m seeing severe challenges with your plan. If you plan to keep water running in your trailer all winter, you’ll need to follow the protocol I have used and detail in my videos. As to “winterizing” – if you mean that in the sense you’re going to drain all the water and replace with non-toxic anti-freeze weekly – thats a plan that will fail quickly as it is a lot of work and the liklihood of failure in the plumbing and water heater is high. If you’re going to be there weekly for a day or two, I’d keep the heat running as if you were there full time and do as I illustrate in my videos in preparation to live for the winter in the trailer.

The window shrink film kit comes with double-sided tape, and all you have to do is outline the door with the tape, remove the backing, press the plastic onto the tape, trim off the excess and then heat it up with a hair dryer to make the plastic taught. It is best to clean the frame of the door with alcohol or film remover first so the tape adheres well.
I am so glad to have found your site. Retirement is probably a decade away for me but I find myself dreaming about traveling around with a little trailer I plan to buy (a Happier Camper or HC1). I have started researching being a full timer. I am single, have two dogs and plan to continue having dogs. (i.e., if I don’t get to do this for 10 years, I will have two dogs then; possibly three). I would not have all the luxuries of an RV with fully equipped showers and stuff, but I guess that would cut down dramatically on some expenses too. Were I to do this today. I’d be driving my 2016 Jeep Renegade, pulling the lightweight HC1, a kayak and my bicycle. And writing about my travels. I am so glad that well-written sites like yours are out there! Any ambitions to go International in your travels? Thank you again.
I grew up in a travel trailer for many years. And now my husband and I are going to do it with our three kids. We looked into it financially and found out, it was a very good option the storage unit, truck, trailer and our land payment would add up to be less than the rent we pay. So when we build, the house will not be such a financial burden, if any. Your post has helped me believe it will end up being the best option even with all the kids.
Another idea to save big time is to spend a few months in Baja California every winter, where food is crazy cheap, boondocking is abundant (you can even find spots with lots of other American / Canadian snowbirds if you’re concerned about safety, but it’s completely safe in our opinion after having been down in Mexico in general for a year), and in general the sun shines all winter long.
You’ll notice that none of these RVers, nor us, shared how much we pay monthly for other items, such as debt (student loans, mortgages if we still have property somewhere, credit cards, etc.), medical supplies, car and RV monthly financing payments, clothing and other personal purchases, memberships/subscriptions (RV memberships as well as Netflix, Spotify, etc.), and business/work expenses.
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.
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!
My wife and I enjoyed your website originally as a passing entertainment phenomenon. Then we decided it made a lot of sense for us. We are in our late 60’s, have a huge old house filled with antiques that the kids either don’t want or cannot handle. So we are following your suggestion. We are selling it all ourselves; dividing the spoils, and buying an Excursion (a light color combination we think) then hitting the road.
Emily, you have done an absolutely fabulous job of compiling tons of useful information and we avidly read your blog and go back over things as we prep to hit the road full-time. We love the way you think, your personality and just everything we read. You have been so kindly open with your budgets etc but there are two things we are just curious about being of similar ages and not able to get pensions or SS at this stage in our lives.

Suddenly, it started getting dark. Being in denial that the Bigs are actually pretty grown up, I was still worried about them frying their eyeballs. Then someone said, “The sunset is all around us!” I stopped worrying about the Bigs taking off their glasses to soon and spun around to take in the most amazing 360 degree sunset. Next someone else shouted, “Look at the corona!” I pulled off my glasses and, overwhelmed by the beauty and the most pure light I’ve ever seen lost my mind. Lost. My. Mind.

This morning as I lay in bed awake but with my eyes closed, I listened to Thing 4 breathing near my cheek and felt the warmth of Brent’s body against my back. The night had been rough with Thing 3 waking up multiple times in tears and Thing 4 needing to be nursed for what seemed like a million times. But now with the soft grey light curling around the blinds, everyone but me was sleeping soundly. It was cozy. I didn’t want to wake up because that meant letting go of the comforting blanket of peace that surrounded us and embracing the everyday chaos of taking care of a toddler, baby, and two teens. Instead, I thought about how whole and safe I feel in our nest of a bed tucked away in the slide out of the RV. Eyes still closed, I reached out to tighten the curtain when my hand abruptly fell through the imagined wall.

She’s a very comfortable fifth wheel with 5 slides and thousands of dollars of upgrades including 600 watts of solar & expanded battery bank. We’ve maintained her well and have the preventative maintenance service records. We’ve never had any major problems and the minor ones the come with buying a new rig have been worked out for you. The back bunk room was modified to have a desk and more storage but it could easily be converted back to a third bunk and even a 4th bunk (trundle). Currently, she sleeps 6. We also modified the front closet where the washer and dryer would go. It is now an office/desk space, perfect for people who want to work on the road.

When RVing, we use mainly public coin laundry facilities. It’s nice to get 2-3 weeks of laundry done in under an hour, and many campgrounds/marinas have laundry facilities on site. The cost of a load of laundry can vary widely by location and facilities. We’ve had them cost everything from free in Louisiana State Parks (seriously!) to up to $5-6.  Average is probably around $2.50-3.50 a load.  On a monthly basis, we maybe spend $20 on laundry – its not worth micromanaging.
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.
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.
​​For us, we sold everything and quit our jobs, so we had zero income at the start of our journey. It was important to track all our expenses carefully so that we could stay on the road for as long as possible while not bringing in any income. We had enough in savings to comfortably go a year or two without making any money. You’ll want to figure out what your limit is so you don’t find yourself hitting the bottom of the bank before you make any changes.
Some years are worse than others, but it averages $1791/year, which includes optional equipment, maintenance (tires, oil changes, batteries, etc.). Also includes roadside service insurance payments, vehicle insurance, registration, specialized and optional RV expenses (club memberships), paint & body work, and the expense of two major breakdowns over the years. This was for a ‘94 36 foot, Class A, diesel, RV.

The Meinhofers and a dozen others who spoke with The Washington Post about this modern nomadic lifestyle said living in 200 to 400 square feet has improved their marriages and made them happier, even if they’re earning less. There’s no official term for this lifestyle, but most refer to themselves as “full-time RVers,” “digital nomads” or “workampers.”
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