RV living is an adventure in itself! As you can image going from living in a house with multiple bedrooms, a basement, probably more than one bathroom into living in a space that is a few hundred square feet has its challenges.
We have been living, working and traveling full time in an RV since May 2014 with 4 kids. Here is a ton of information on what we have learned about full time RV living and what we wish we knew before we started!
Featured Membership: Harvest Hosts
We love our Harvest Hosts membership! You get unlimited access to farms, breweries, wineries, and attractions across North America. With a membership you can stay overnight at these businesses and in return you are just asked to support the business by doing a tour, buying a bottle of wine, etc. Click here to learn more.
Featured Product: Berkey Water Filter
We have been using our Berkey Water Filter to get safe, fresh water for the last 8 years as we travel all around North America. We highly recommend getting one of these while living and traveling in an RV! Click here to learn more!
Plus a recap we did when we were 3 years in to RV living full time and what our take was on this lifestyle. Before we get into it we will answer a few high level questions:
Can you live full time in an RV?
Absolutely! Plus you can do it long term too! We did it for 8 years with our 4 kids. The community of people living full time in an RV is growing like crazy. People are looking for the freedom and love the idea of traveling the country. Read on to see if full time camping life is for you!
What RV is best for full time living?
The answer really varies depending on how you want to travel in your RV. If you plan to stay put for long stretches go as big as you can. If you want to travel a lot and visit National and State Parks something smaller makes more sense.
We cover more of this in our post.
How much does it cost to live in an RV full time?
This will vary depending on how you want to travel. If your goal is to get out and see and do a lot it is going to cost more versus if your goal is to stay in one place and save money. For us we have spend between $5,000 – $10,000 a month.
We know others that do it for less than that. Below we break it down in more detail and reference a few blog posts we have on this exact topic.
Time to jump in! Here you go 6+ years of information we have gathered on full time RVing. Hopefully it will help you prepare for full time rv living!
Hitting the road
Knowing your Why
I can’t stress how important this is. When we hit the road we quickly found out it is not all rainbows and sunshine and if we didn’t know our reason for choosing this lifestyle, it makes the hard times even harder.
Our why was to spend more time together as a family with less distractions from things and activities.
Here is our story about how we became a Full Time RVing Family.
This isn’t vacation
There is a difference between being on vacation and traveling full time. Your home is always with you, which means so are all the worries and chores that come with it . . . Plus when you go to a new location you don’t have a vacation budget to blow on doing all the fun and cool things. You have to get creative and find as many free things to do as you can!
Don’t get me wrong we still have an amazing time and do get to see a lot of really cool places. But living on the road didn’t just take away all the normal and hard things that go along with life!
If you are liking what you are reading so far be sure to check out my book: Full-Time RVing With Kids – An Insiders Guide To Life On The Road! I wrote the book to help others who want to get on the road with kids. Many reviewers have told me it is just like sitting around a campfire talking about our experience getting on the road and staying on the road.
How will you travel
There is such a variety of ways that families do full time RVing. You have your slow travelers who stay in one place for weeks or months, your boondockers who try to rarely ever pay for camping, your Thousand Trails group who only stays at Thousand Trails parks, the list goes on (more on all these different styles below).
I don’t think you have to have this figured out right out of the gate. But having a general idea of how often you want to move and the type of campgrounds you want to stay at is helpful. Be flexible to allow this to evolve or change as you travel, don’t feel stuck traveling ONE way only.
Be ready to plan
There is a whole lot of trip planning that goes into this style of living. It isn’t like having a house that you know you can go back to every night. Instead you have to be sure you have a campsite booked or somewhere in mind to stay for the night – each and every night!
This takes work and planning. Yes, it gets easier as you have been doing it for a while, but it is always there.
Also know that there are campgrounds like in National Parks that book up 6-12 months in advance. Yes, you read that right. If you have a dream to stay IN Yellowstone National Park (which we do highly recommend) then you are going to have to plan ahead and get your spot booked way in advance or take a chance on on a first come first serve spot or a cancellation.
In the Summer when kids are out of school there are a lot of people traveling which means places book up and they book up early (like again 6-12 months). So keep that in mind when looking at summer travel.
We have found that during the week can tend to be more open, but weekends are very difficult for getting last minute campgrounds. You can usually find one but they will probably be a lot more expensive or not exactly what you are looking for.
This came as a surprise to me (being from Wisconsin I just assumed most places down south were warm all winter! Not the case.) If you are looking for warm swimming weather with shorts and tank tops all year your options are pretty limited.
To get that type of weather, you usually have to be south of Orlando, in Arizona or Mexico . . . Not saying you can’t stay further north, but just know that the weather is going to be cooler the further north you get.
This being the case, Florida and Arizona are PACKED in winter with RVers. Both families and retirees. This means that planning ahead is usually a necessity. If you want to get the exact places you are looking for.
If the Florida Keys are high on your list (which we also recommend) know that you will want to book those State Park campgrounds 11 months out. Yes, there are private RV parks you can book closer to the date, but they are 3 times the price. There are some Trail Collections (an add on to a Thousand Trails membership) parks down there so that may be another option, but just know some pre-planning will be involved.
Now all that being said, we aren’t planners and rarely ever have more than a few months ahead planned out. What we have done is figured out HOW we need to be RV trip planners to make it work. And at times we have had to opt for not the exact site or campground that we wanted.
With a Thousand Trails membership we are able to book sites online up to 90 days out (memberships vary with this number) and then we can cancel them. So if we aren’t 100% sure what we are doing we may book a set of dates and then go and change them or cancel them if we change our plans.
We also keep an eye on the booking system at places and sometimes check daily to see if anything opens up. This has worked to get us into National Parks last minute when people have canceled a reservation.
You have to be comfortable with uncertainty and also comfortable with the fact you may end up boondocking somewhere for a few days if nothing is available. It is up to you to decide how that feels to you.
We highly recommend setting realistic expectations. If you think living in a small space with your family 24/7 isn’t going to be hard at times, you aren’t preparing yourself. This lifestyle has its challenges. If you accept that and anticipate it you will be more prepared when they happen.
Here is a post we wrote on the evolving emotions of full time RV travel.
Here is a great post about safe RVing.
Buying an RV
This is such a fun part on this journey, but also stressful! This isn’t just your place to go on the weekends, it is where you are going to be living. That adds a little more pressure to picking the right RV camper.
There is everything from camper vans to gigantic 5th wheels! It can be hard to pick.
Another option is to do an RV rental first. To help you decide what you like. We have a post here on tips for renting an RV and one here on tips for planning an RV trip.
We put a lot of thought into our purchases (We have had 5 RV’s since getting on the road in 2014) and for the most part were happy with what we chose each time. Really think through where everything is going to go that you want/need to bring with you. Do you have a lot of camping gear, Kayaks, Paddle-boards, indoor toys, kitchen products?
Where will everyone sleep – will that work? What about the dogs bed – is there a spot on the floor for it? Is there a place for all the clothes to go? Is there a desk area or place for the computer?
Thinking about the things that we knew we were going to want and need room for was helpful in narrowing down our decision.
The big question is always what size RV you should get.
We wrote a post to help you figure that out: Everything You Need To Know To Pick An Awesome Family RV.
We have also gotten our last 2 rigs from Camping World and we were really happy with the whole trade-in and purchase process!
Here is a list of the RV’s we have had since hitting the road full time.
Our first RV:
Our 2nd RV:
Our 3rd RV:
Our 4th RV:
Our 5th RV – Keystone Montana 5th Wheel:
We chose to start BIG and got a 39 foot motorhome with 4 slides, then went small and are now back up to a 36 footer.
Our post on downsizing: Why We Decided To Downsize Our RV
Here is a video of us shopping for our last RV:
An RV loan can either be the same as a car loan or you can go the route of getting a longer term loan more like a mortgage in the 15 – 20 year range, but (and that is a big BUT) know that there are limitations with these loans.
For example to get a longer term loan your RV may need to be less than 8 years old. Or if you are going to get a longer term loan you may need to put down 20% vs the normal 10% or less.
There are a variety of factors that come into play and as we learned if you are a new entrepreneur and you don’t own a house things may get even more interesting.
Our recommendation is to talk to a bank or loan company first and get an idea of what they do for RV’s. In the end if you buy from a dealer it may make sense to go through their finance department, but it is always good to do your homework before that so you know what the normal going rate is.
If you can, add solar to your rig ASAP! It will give you the opportunity to go out and boondock (camp without hookups). We have been to so many amazing places boondocking.
We had our current solar setup installed by Future Solutions in Indiana and they did an amazing job!
With our Keystone Montana High Country 335BH it came pre-wired for solar which saved a lot of time and money on the whole process of getting solar installed.
We currently have:
- Precision Circuits Battery Guard
- Magnum MS2000 Inverter
- Victron MPPT Solar Controller
- Magnum Remote
- 2 x 300 watt panels
- 4 Battle Born GC2 Lithium Batteries
We plan on expanding on this system since our usage demands more panels and batteries…full-time living!
Making it your own
Moving into an RV (which is now your tiny house on wheels) you still want to make it your own! We had so much fun doing this with every rig we have had. With our first rig we took out closets and sinks and added bunks and shelves. We also ripped out all of the old fashioned looking decor and made curtains to hang.
Plus we painted the whole RV. Nothing really different here. Craig just primed the walls and we painted them with normal paint. Nothing special.
We were very happy with everything we did and really enjoyed living in it that way, but when it came time to sell we had to repaint everything back to a neutral color. I guess we didn’t have to, but the majority of people shopping for an RV are going to be looking for a more factory style. Just something to keep in mind.
1st RV remodel: RV Remodel: How to fit 6 people and 2 large dogs in a Class A RV
2nd RV – we did a few customization but not many as we ended up not keeping this one for long since it has some mechanical issues and ended up not being the right fit for us. It was a 23 foot class C and we didn’t tow a car. But we found we like having a car and the ease of leaving our “home” at a campground when we went out exploring.
With our 3rd RV (21 foot travel trailer) and a much smaller one – we have found that there is more of a NEED to customize it so that we have the things in place that we need. Most RV’s off the factory floor are made for weekend trips where you may have a bag or suitcase with you. When it is something you are going to be living in you are going to want to make updates to make it livable!
Some of the things we did to it:
- Changed our shower into a closet for clothes (We used campground showers).
- Added an Inverter and got a solar panel suitcase.
- Put in a spice rack for our spices and oils (this was more helpful than I can say!).
- Found a better location for the TV.
- Setup storage areas and an art station for the kids.
Blog post on what we did with it: Awesome Travel Trailer Remodel Ideas [Video Included!]
4th RV: We made mostly cosmetic changes to make it what we wanted it to be. We did it all in 2 weeks for under $2000.
You can check that out here: 2 Week Complete RV Remodel For Under $2000 [Video Included]
5th RV: For this one we also did mostly cosmetic changes to make it more of a tiny home.
You can check out that one here: Fun And Simple RV Remodel Ideas For Your 5th Wheel
Check out RV Inspiration for RV decorating and redesign ideas.
Have some fun here and come up with a name for your house on wheels. We still haven’t done this and just call ours The Rig, but I know other people have come up with some really cool and unique names! We would love to hear yours so shoot us a message!
Towing a car or buying a Vehicle to tow it with
Pretty late in the game we learned that there are only certain vehicles that can be towed 4 down behind a motorhome. Wait you can’t tow a minivan?! Crap! I think there are a few older models you can, but it is a pretty small list.
Here is a great list to determine what vehicles can be dinghy towed – 4 down.
If you are buying a truck to tow your 5th wheel or trailer just remember this is also the vehicle you will be driving around to attractions, the grocery store, parking structures, etc. Nothing like driving a dually in a busy city, but hey, sometimes that’s just what you got to do.
Also be aware of weight and how much your trailer/5th wheel will weight with EVERYTHING in it. Here is a post we wrote for Winnebago that talks more about this: Picking A Family Friendly Vehicle To Tow A Travel Trailer
Living in an RV
Over the years we have learned that the less things we have the more space we have and that is a good thing. Plus almost everything we have gotten rid of we haven’t wanted back and don’t miss.
Same thing goes for outside toys – things like a big grill, a ton of lawn chairs, yard decorations, things like that. Believe me setting them up and taking them down starts to get really old really fast.
That being said we are really happy when it is cold and our friends have a clam tent and we do borrow my parents grill for grilling now and then :).
Here are a few tips on how we keep our life simplified: simplified. And check out these tips on tiny living!
It is all about minimizing. Unfortunately, a lot of big kitchen appliances probably aren’t going to work. Instead we focused on things we were going to use day in and day out. If we didn’t use it in a month it was gone.
Here are our recommended Kitchen Accessories.
I can’t believe how many clothes I use to have in our old house. I had 2 closets full! Now I have one bin full and a few hangers and that is it.
It really is kind of crazy, but what I have learned is that I really only wear a small number of clothes. Granted if I had to go into work every day or dress nice, I would probably need more, but that is one of the many benefits of this lifestyle. I can wear yoga pants or work out clothes every day!
For the kids I have found that having a bin full of campground play clothes works great. I don’t care if this stuff gets messy or ruined. Then I have a collection of 2 to 3 outfits that are nice clothes that they only wear when we are going out to eat, to a museum, exploring, etc.
It truly is amazing how little clothes you really do need to have. I should add our kids and us will wear the same clothes for a couple days in a row. Why not?! Less laundry and way easier to maintain!
There just isn’t much . . . until you get outside! Then your space is HUGE!
But inside no matter how big your rig is, it isn’t a house. The space is tight. Especially if you have a bigger family.
You will adapt, but be prepared for some growing pains. Plus if you go down to one bathroom it can be a challenge. But luckily most campgrounds have a bathroom you can use.
We have also found that when we need space, we just go outside or get in the car and go to a park, museum, etc. It is amazing how quickly you get use to the space and realize you really don’t need that much.
Craig always laughs at me, but going to a new grocery store every few weeks has its challenges! This means I can’t always buy the same brand or don’t know where the exact food I want is – since it is a new store with a new layout.
But all that aside, it really is like shopping for groceries when you live in a house minus having the basement or garage space to stock pile when there is a great sale. Other than that, it is all about getting use to the space you have and then learning how much you can and can’t buy.
RV fridges are small, but one thing RV’s do well is maximize the space. Same thing with an RV fridge. You can usually fit more than you think.
I know other people have gone the route of installing a residential fridge in their rig. So there are options.
I can’t tell you how many people have said to me “What do you eat?!” The funny thing is we pretty much eat the same things we ate when we lived in a house. We have a fridge, oven, and stove top, plus appliances like a toaster, donut maker, Instant Pot etc.
The difference is you probably won’t have a huge kitchen to spread out in. I will say I also bake a lot less in the RV. Just not as much room for all that.
The fridge will probably be smaller (unless you get a residential fridge – which people do) and overall storage for food is usually less, so your shopping style may change – no more stock piling those canned goods!
Oh the Internet . . . I think it is a good thing that we left our house right after we got rid of cable and moved to internet TV watching. Also before our kids started wanting to stream from their iPads. Reason being we don’t know what we are missing not having reliable internet all the time to handle all that bandwidth!
If you need internet to run your business, DON’T rely on campground wifi. SERIOUSLY. It rarely works and when it does you normally have to be at the club house or a designated area for it to really work.
Instead we recommend getting your own hotspot. If you always need a connection and don’t want to stress about having to drive to a location (hello Starbucks), then you may want to get a Verizon and an AT&T plan. Plus a booster. . .
I will say we have made it work (running multiple online businesses) with just a Verizon hotspot, but there have been campgrounds and locations where it was a total nightmare and a booster or AT&T would have worked.
Here is a post from the amazing Technomadia team (not saying you need all of this – we don’t have it all – but interesting to see what is possible!).
Our Mobile Internet Setup – 15 Years Of Staying Online
When we decided to RV full time, we knew we would be bringing our dogs with us. That was part of the reason we went with RVing since they could come with us. It has its challenges, but what you will find is most RV parks are filled with people with pets.
If you have what is termed an aggressive breed, you may run into more issues. With labs for the most part, we haven’t had any problems. Just always be sure to double check if dogs are allowed.
Also note there are times when an RV park may charge an extra fee for having a pet. Also be sure whatever pet food you get for your dog can be purchased anywhere or that you can get it shipped to you. We use Pedigree – not the best quality – but is available in Walmarts all over the US.
If your dog barks, you need to take care of that. You can’t leave a barking dog back at a campsite when you are gone for the day. We used a citronella bark collar and it worked great.
We did leave our dogs in our RV and have a few things in place to help with that:
1 – a wireless video camera so we can check in on them (if we have internet)
2 – we always leave a window open and if it is hot, the a/c on
3 – we have a note on our door with our phone number on it
4 – if it is REALLY hot outside, we will check in at the front desk and let them know we have a pet with us and to call if the power goes out. Which is also why we leave a window open. We never leave without a window open.
You can check out our post about it here RVing with dogs.
Our Favorite Dog Friendly Places
We have had to put both of our dogs down while being on the road. They both were getting old when it happened and not doing well, so we had to make the hard decision to put them down. Both times we found a vet and made sure to find a place we could get them cremated so we didn’t have to leave them behind. For us it was the best solution in the situation.
It was horrible and sad, but it was all possible. We had no idea if cremation would be an option. Had it not been where we were we would have gone somewhere where it was.
Cost of Full Time RVing
There are so many different ways to live this lifestyle. Some do it for saving money, other do it because they want to get out and travel and saving money isn’t why they choose the RV life. For is it was never about saving money.
We have heard you can do the full time RV lifestyle for $2,000 – $3,000 a month. We fall more into the $7,000 – $8,000 range but if we really try we could probably do about $4,000 – $5,000 a month.
Please note we move a lot. If we choose to stay put in places for longer things would cost less. Instead we normally move every 4 days or so. If your goal is to save money by living full time in an RV it can be possible. Below we hit the costs of full time rving that we have seen.
I think we thought living in an RV was going to be a lot cheaper than living in a house . . . It can be. In our case we have an RV payment – on our first RV it was $532 then for the next few it was around $300. Plus if we stay at campgrounds that can be a $600 – $800 a month so right there we are getting close to what our mortgage was (minus property taxes).
If you don’t have an RV payment and if you stay at only free membership campgrounds or free boondocking land and don’t move very often (gas adds up) you can definitely do it for cheaper.
In our case we have found our bills around $1200 for RV, Car, Insurance, Cell Phones, Internet etc. Then everything else – campgrounds, groceries, spending money, etc. we end up between $4500 an $7000 a month.
What we have found is there is a BIG variation in the full time family RV community on how much money people spend. Like a REALLY big variation. There are some that do it for thousands a month and others that are over the $7000 range. It all depends on what style of full time RV life you are looking for.
Here are detailed write-ups on how we afford full time travel. Plus a couple months of detailed budgeting for our family. Our goal when we started was $4000 a month but we were closer to $7000 – now as the kids have gotten older it is closer to $8000 or sometimes more.
How We Afford Full Time Family Travel
Full Time Family Travel Budget For A Family Of 6 Plus 2 Dogs – September 2016
Full Time Family Travel Budget For A Family Of 6 Plus 2 Dogs – October 2016
Video with us talking about how we afford full time family travel:
Campground prices range from $0 a night to $200 a night. It all depends what you are looking for. If you purchase a membership like Thousand Trails – you pay a flat one time fee to buy the membership.
In our case we bought a used one for $3000 then we pay $545 a year. We bought our used membership here: Campground Membership Outlet.
Once that yearly fee is paid we can stay for “free” at these campgrounds around the US. We have mixed feelings about them. Some are really nice, others are not so great. They are normally pretty far from attractions and a lot of the time our Verizon hotspot does not get coverage . . .
However they are great for meeting other full time traveling families!
We love staying at state and national parks which can range from $25 – $60 a night and normally don’t have full hook ups, but instead just electric and maybe water.
Then there are private RV parks. There are times we really like these concrete centric RV parks with full hook ups and a nice clean setup – and cable – the kids love cable :).
Then there is BLM land and boondocking opportunities where you can stay for free but have no hook ups. You find most of the BLM land on the west coast – not as much on the east coast. Here is a post we did on how to camp for free or close to it in the US.
Here is a post we have on our top 15 favorite RV campsites in North America.
There are a decent amount of RV memberships sites out there. We belong to:
Fulltime Families – all about families traveling fulltime in their RV. Lots of great resources and rallies! Click here to join Fulltime Families!
Thousand Trails – as mentioned above. Great for inexpensive camping (once you buy the membership) and for meeting other full time traveling families.
Passport America – great discounts on campgrounds (usually for one to two nights, but sometimes more).
Good Sam – We don’t really use this one, but when you RV full time you have Good Sam . . . you can be the judge of that one.
Harvest Host – Great opportunity for staying for free at wineries and breweries!
Boondockers Welcome – An awesome way to find unique stays on people’s property around the US!
Reciprocal Museum Membership – a great one for deals on science museums, natural history museums, children’s museums and more!
I know there are more out there but that is what we do for now.
Have an RVer in your life? Check out these Best Gifts for RV Owners – 43 Gifts They Will Love
If you work for a company you probably have health insurance through them, so you are good to go. If you don’t you may need to get insurance elsewhere. We have gone the route of the Marketplace/healthcare.gov – https://www.healthcare.gov and it has worked great for us.
We also purchased a Teledoc plan, which I would HIGHLY recommend.
Emergency room is covered all over the country. Outside of emergency room we are only covered in Wisconsin which means we would have to go back if something came up that meant we needed ongoing care. Or pay out of pocket. Not ideal, but is what it is.
We have also heard of people doing short term insurance.
Here is a great post about Healthcare Options.
We insure our RV through State Farm – same place we have our cars. And then we also have a policy that covers our stuff for up to $30K.
Here is a post from Good Same about RV Insurance.
How to find campgrounds
This all depends on what kind of campgrounds you are looking for. If you want free-sites check out our post on How To Camp For FREE in the US.
Recreation.gov is great for finding government campgrounds and Reserve America has a lot of state and national campgrounds. Good Sam also has a directory.
And if you want the full on video tour of a campground – how cool is that?! CampgroudViews.com is great for that.
The last option is good old google search for: Best campsites in Wisconsin . . .
Also note that there are a lot of campgrounds that are starting to charge what we call a “kid tax”. Basically any people over 2, you are paying an extra fee per night. This can be $2 to $5 a person! That can make a big difference when you have kids.
Fulltime Families is working on a service where they reach out to campgrounds and ask that they waive the kids tax if you are a full time family member. It is coming soon so stay tuned!
Taking The Right Route
Let us know if you figure this out :). Seriously this isn’t always an easy answer. If you have a big rig you want to be sure you are following the right route and not hitting any low bridges or going over any bridges you shouldn’t be (yes we have been there). Then you want to have a truckers map book. Or a RV/Truckers GPS system.
Finding Diesel gas stations
This isn’t always easy, but normally if you go to a truck stop like a Flying J you are good. We have also heard that AllStays is a good app for finding large gas stations if you have a big rig.
There is a BIG full time traveling RV community, both people with and without kids. If you are looking to socialize go to a campground and walk around and talk to people. Seriously it is that easy. RVers and campers tend to be very social.
Then if you are looking for it you can continue conversations with people that may lead to you planning on traveling together for a while. This has happened multiple times to us.
Here is a guest post we have on How To Make Friends On The Road.
If you don’t want to try so hard the other option is to join a club where you can connect with people online or through Facebook groups.
The one we recommend is Fulltime Families. It is a great resource for people traveling with kids. Their Facebook group has over 10,000 members and is a great way to drop a message asking if any other families are going to be at a campground or in an area you are heading to.
We also recommend checking out The Republic of Nomads.
We have also heard good things about Escapees RV Club and Escapers.
Feeling lonely on the road? Head to a rally! You will instantly not feel lonely, but you may feel overwhelmed.
I have heard people say attending their first rally was like drinking from a fire hose. So many people and so much chaos, but so much fun!
We again recommend the Full Time Families Rally or an Escapers Rally. Plus Full Time Families will run some random get togethers throughout the year which would work too.
More Posts We Have On RV Living:
10 things we learned from 365 days of living and traveling in an RV
RV Living With Kids – What We’ve Learned After 2 Years
11 Things We Have Learned After 3 Years Of Full Time RV Living
There are so many great memberships out there that have saved us hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year.
If you have kids and like science centers, children’s museums, aquariums, and zoos you will want to get a reciprocal museum membership. This pass has saved us SO much money!
You can learn all about it here: Reciprocal Museum Membership
This is a great membership to have to get really good discounts on sites for a night or 2 – sometimes a week at locations that are usually in really good places. We don’t use this every month but whenever we do we are glad we have it. Check that out here: Passport America.
Full Time Families
Like I mentioned above this is a great group to be part of. You can join their free Facebook group for free, but once you become a member, you get member benefits along with access to their members only Facebook group. This group is filled with mostly people who are on the road or have been – not dreamers – so you know you are going to get great feedback and information.
We have mixed feelings about the Thousand Trails parks. It seems like there is always something about them – either internet doesn’t work there, they aren’t full hookups or they are out in the middle of nowhere . . . but other then that they have an easy system to use for making online reservations and it is usually a good place to meet other kids/families.
If you are interested in a membership we recommend starting off with a zone membership and the buying a used membership if you like the zone membership.
National Park Pass
Another MUST have pass if you are hitting the road. The National Park Pass is $80 for the year and gets you in to all the National Parks (done per car – includes your towed car IF it is connected to your rig when you pull in). In total it gets you into 2,000 federal recreation sites including National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and more!
Purchase yours here: https://www.nps.gov/planyourvisit/passes.htm
If you have ever looked into homeschooling, then you are well aware that there are a LOT of different styles out there. Everything from regular school – online – called eschooling to Radical Unschooling.
I really think the decision for this has to come from the family as a whole. Will there be one spouse who is responsible for the schooling? Do you want to be at the table for hours a day doing school?
Do you plan on putting your kids back in school? These are all great questions to ask yourself before choosing what direction you want to go with schooling.
It also doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind down the road. Traveling full time and homeschooling is NOT homeschooling when you live in one location. The amount of effort and the inconsistency of traveling leads to a much more unstructured life. This isn’t a bad thing, BUT it is different so keep that in mind too.
Check out our post on Unschooling Resources.
Each state has its own set of rules on how they manage homeschooling. Some states like Texas say you don’t have to do anything if you homeschool your kids. Then states like Wisconsin (where we are from) say you have to report each year that you are homeschooling and commit to teaching X amount of hours a year.
Then other states have much stricter rules that say you have to do yearly testing or have a teacher come to your home to evaluate your child. Be sure to research what your home state says and if you plan on becoming residence of another state when you are traveling be sure to understand those rules too.
When talking to families on the road there are a lot of variety of homeschoolers. You have your Roadschoolers, Worldschoolers, Unschoolers and your traditional homeschoolers (text book and curriculum followers).
In our case we choose to go the route of Unschooling. We actually chose this route before we knew we were going to travel full time. Lucky for us the two go hand in hand really well and we are very happy with the choice.
We also know a lot of families who start with a stricter curriculum based approach and then move to Unschooling. It just really makes sense when you are on the road.
We are by no means experts when it comes to Unschooling so we alway point people to the experts (who have grown adult unschooled kids). Also note that they experts are in the Radical Unschooling realm – which takes the unschooling concept and brings it into your every day life – not just the schooling aspect.
Here is our post on Unschooling Resources.
Here is a list of our favorite RV blogs that we come back to time and time again:
OR else we google it :).
Full Time RVer Blogs
Here is a list of our favorite blogs of other families or couples who are (or have) traveled full time in an RV:
Looking for inspiration through You Tube? Here are some great channels from full time RVers!
Our Podcast 🙂 – we come and go with it but will be adding more episodes soon!
Check out this post by Boondockers Welcome: Top 5 Podcasters For RVers
Instagrams To Follow
Facebook Groups To Join
RV Books To Buy
My book 🙂 Full-Time RVing With Kids – An Insiders Guide To Life On The Road
Follow Your Detour by Lindsay Mckenzie
Working From The Road
There are a lot of jobs and options out there that works remotely now.
If you are good with staying in one location at one campground work camping may be for you. It isn’t for us. We tried it and only had to work a couple of hours a day for a free stay at a campground for a month.
The problem was we then had to go home and continue with our regular jobs. This made for a long day!
But for some people I know it is a great fit. Check out this site to learn more: Live Camp Work.
We have never done this, but have heard from multiple people who have done and continue to go back each year to do it again. Basically you get a job working for Amazon during the busy holiday season. My understanding is it is a labor intensive job and you work a lot of hours.
May be a great way to get yourself on the road or to make some extra money to subsidize your income throughout the year.
Starting A Virtual Business
This is what we did. I started a virtual business where we do social media and Pinterest for small businesses.
I highly recommend this approach since it gives us a lot of flexibility. We can work from anywhere that has internet and any time of the day. This means we can go out exploring all day on a Wednesday and then come back and work at night when the kids are sleeping. Or get up early work for a few hours and then go exploring.
You can read more about how I started my business here.
9 to 5 Remote Job
We also know a lot of people who have been able to either take their 9 to 5 desk job on the road with them or who have found remote 9 to 5 businesses to work for. This is definitely an option and means you still have insurance and all the other benefits of a full time job.
As one family we know put it: They are basically on vacation every weekend. Meaning one person works 9 to 5 and the week is treated like a normal non-traveling week (except you live in an RV at a campground) then when the weekend comes they go out exploring as a family or move to a new location.
We had this setup and decided to leave it to pursue a Virtual Business. We didn’t like that my husband had to sit at the table working all day 5 days a week while I took the kids out exploring. To each his own! Whatever you think is going to work better for your family.
There are also quite a few families we know who have gone the route of starting a direct sales business to fund their travels. These usually take a while to build up, but if you are able to do it and enjoy the work it is definitely an option.
Yes, this is an option and one a lot of people think about until they realize how much work goes into it. Seriously it is a lot of work for little return in the beginning. But if this is a route you want to go it is totally possible.
Great Resource For Remote Work
For tips on how to find remote work check out: www.morethanawheelin.com
Hardest Thing About Full Time RVing
The hardest thing about full time RVing that has never changed after being on the road for 6 years is leaving friends and family behind. It hurts every time we have to say bye. You can read more about this here: The Hardest Thing About Life On The Road
What We Love About Full Time RVing
This is definitely one of the biggest things. That we literally have to freedom to come and go as we please. If there is somewhere we want to go we schedule it and we go.
There is such a great community of people out there who are traveling full time and it is great to connect with so many like minded people!
It is such a great feeling to have less things. Having less things means there is less to worry about and less to take care of. It really is a liberating feeling!
There is nothing like loading the family up in the RV and taking off on our own adventure. We all get to know each other so much better, spend 24/7 together and get to explore this amazing country as a family!
Here is a detailed post we wrote about it: 7 Things We Love About Full Time RVing
What We Hate About Full Time RVing
Leaving Family And Friends
This is always hard and something we don’t like about this lifestyle.
Not Having Your Own Yard/Room
This is a good thing – since you don’t have to maintain them or clean them. But a bad thing since the kids can’t really dig a whole in the campground “yard” but in our backyard we would have been OK with that . . .
You can read our whole post here: 7 Things We Hate About Full-Time Family Travel
Also know that we struggle big time with our decision. As our kids are getting older (now 13, 10, 10 and 8) and being on the road for over 6 years we start to question if our kids are missing out on “normal” life. Should they be in activities?
Should we be in one place so they can feel what that community is like?? Sometimes the answer feels so clear that what we are doing is right and other times we just aren’t sure. In summary this lifestyle does not make parenting any easier. You still have the same questions and the challenges that come up with raising kids. So be prepared for that!
There you have it! The things we wished we would have known before we hit the road over 6 years ago! If you have any other questions let us know!
What Happens When You Want To Get Off The Road?
After 8 years of full time RV travel with our 4 kids we knew it was time for our family to get off the road. It wasn’t an easy decision in some ways. In other ways it was easy since we knew it was time. When you know you know.
Here is a post we wrote about it: Getting Off The Road After 8 Years Of Full Time Travel
Recap at 3 Years Into Full Time RVing with 4 kids and 2 dogs
It sure has been one crazy adventure, but it has also been unbelievable how much we have learned about each other, our family and how we want to live our life. We want freedom. Freedom to sleep in, freedom to travel, freedom to set our own schedule. Full time RVing gives us that.
What we weren’t prepared for is that with freedom comes a lot of choices when you live on the road. When you get up every day and basically can do what you want with the day it can be intimidating and confusing. We don’t live a structured life and have consciously chosen to do that and love it in a lot of ways. Yet also get overwhelmed by it at times.
What route is right for our family? Well there is this way and that way or this way or that. What would be good for me, for Craig, for our kids?? So many choices as a full timer!
In some ways this year has been our biggest year of growth. I think a lot of that had to do with making the decision to become full time entrepreneurs and no longer being 9-to-5ers. Again a very empowering feeling, yet also brings a whole different perspective to things.
After spending 2 years on the road and traveling with a variety of different people and seeing different ways that people travel, we more understand what this lifestyle is and can be. Plus our kids are getting older and are transitioning to a new phase in their lives.
To be honest looking back at when we first hit the road to travel full time I would have totally thought 3 years in we would know everything about how to travel in an RV and have all the answers figured out. In a lot of ways I am more confused now than I was back then. However there are a few things we are pretty clear on and are excited about.
Ok after all that confusing rambling I will see if I can pull this post together in bullet points that make more sense :).
Things we are clear on as full time rvers:
We Are Very Clear That Unschooling Is Right For Our Kids
The freedom it gives them is amazing. Plus we have seen them “learn” without having set learning times. They have picked up reading without any formal teaching. The kids understand the concept of math without doing any math worksheets.
They also know US geography better than I ever did when I was in school.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still times when we get nervous about going such an unconventional route with our kids, but then we circle right back around to feeling good about it.
Learn more about Unschooling here:
We Like Living Simplified
Living in an RV with less things clears up so much space in our heads and so much time in our day to have less to manage and worry about. We consistently purge the little we do have to keep it minimal because it feels right. And living in a tiny house is a great way to keep yourself living simply.
It also feels right for the kids. They are happy to donate a toy they know they haven’t played with in a while. Yes, they still want to buy and get new things and we get it for them, but they also see they don’t need a whole bunch of things.
It really is a freeing feeling and is addictive and you want to learn how to live with less and less! I love that the RV lifestyle and living in a small rig without much storage space has really helped us to make this a priority and continues to push us to evaluate everything we do have and purchase.
Learn more about:
How We Keep Our Life Simplified
We Like Being Weird
I got asked the other day about being judged about our choices and if that would bother me. I could confidently and clearly say that I didn’t care if someone else judges me for my choices.
The choices we are making are conscious choices that are not dictated by a work schedule or school schedule. They are not dictated by trying to fit in or keep up with the Joneses. They are all choices we are choosing to make.
Are they the right choices for every family out there? No, and that is ok. To each his own. Do your own thing and be proud of that.
We don’t live our life the way other people or society think we should. We live our life the way we want to.
This above all is something we are very proud of and sure about. With the freedom lifestyle we have created we don’t have to be in situations where we have to be as concerned about what we look like or that we are all squeaky clean each day. One of the many benefits if you live and travel full time in your RV.
We have met families who have commented about how much time goes into making sure their kids finger nails are clean and their clothes are spotless before they send them to school. Not something we have to worry about. At a campground people expect people to have a little dirt under their nails and on their clothes.
Being Entrepreneurs Is Empowering
I didn’t grow up thinking I would be an entrepreneur and it wasn’t a goal of mine until it was. Now that we have gone down this path it is empowering to see that we can make our own money. That we can set our own schedule, that we can sleep in on a Monday and work on a Sunday or really whenever we want to. The freedom is stressful, but also exciting!
Part of living as entrepreneurs means we have to be OK with a level of fear and stress around making sure we are bringing money in. There are no paid vacations or sick days. It has definitely been an adjustment and something we continue to learn how to live with, but it is also really cool and makes us proud that we are living our own life and setting our own schedule.
We Like Sharing Our Story To Encourage Others To Live Their Dream
Almost everyone that decides to travel full time thinks about starting a travel blog at some point. I mean it is perfect. We are out seeing all of these places so of course we should blog about it and share it with people!
What I didn’t anticipate was the community we would build and the amazing supporters and followers we would have on this journey. It is so cool to have a group of people who are there to follow our journey, encourage us, and provide their insight.
Having a community and hearing from them gives us a desire to want to give them more. Inspire them more to live their dreams, show them what we have been through and what we are going through, and overall providing an example of a different lifestyle that you can live with kids.
Check out our Podcast on Full Time RV Travel with kids: Crazy Family Adventure Podcast
Where To Stay
After being on a 3 year road trip we have learned that we like campgrounds sometimes – a nice pool and a nice cement pad can be a good break for a few days. But we also really like the National Park and State Park campgrounds that have a more relaxed vibe.
We have been getting more into boondocking on free land and would definitely like to continue to do that.
What we do know is we are not people who want to jump from campground to campground, but instead want variety in where we stay. This also includes wanting to mix in hotel stays and house stays if we can.
Comfort zones are made for pushing and ours keeps getting larger and larger. My sister had mentioned this when we first started and it has continued to hold true. Once you push your comfort zone a little it keeps stretching and stretching. I am amazed every day how far ours has stretched.
It is another aspect of this life that is so freeing. Knowing we have the ability to do more than we every thought was possible is inspiring and is fuel for continuing to push it. We have left what some would say is the “real world” behind and created our own version of what we want our real world to look like.
There Is Always Something More
This is a challenge. Part of the reason we have been able to do so many amazing things is because we are always pushing and looking. But part of the challenge of this is it is hard to take a step back and enjoy what we have accomplished to date.
I would say this year is all about being more present, slowing down and appreciating everything we have accomplished and done to date – easier said than done!
We Are Still Scared
I would think that after 3 years of full time living on the road all of our fears about this lifestyle would be gone. Nope . . . they are still there. Things like safety in an RV park, weather (I HATE storms in the RV), going somewhere new and not knowing what to expect, should we have a home base?
We almost didn’t go to Canada this year because we were so worried about the unknown.
We are planning to head to Mexico in January and we still get this feeling of fear in the pit of our stomach. But what we have learned is we can do so much even if we are scared. We just can’t let the fear stand in our way.
I don’t think the fear will ever go away but our ability to manage it has gotten so much better.
Marriage Is Hard And Takes Work
This transition to full time entrepreneurs has pushed Craig and I to dive deeper into our relationship and how we work together. We will be the first to tell you we do not work the same. I like to go at 110 miles an hour and dive into everything and push through it. Craig likes to take a slower approach where he analyzes things and doesn’t like to have too many things going on at one time.
Yes that is a formula for arguments and disaster. Not to mention we live in 23 feet of space . . .
Ashley from Mama Says Namaste has some great personality profiles that really helped Craig and I learn more about each other. Plus we did the free Love Languages test and it was all eye opening to how we can work together as a couple, parents, and business partners.
We haven’t found all the answers. But every argument or fight we get into, we come out of having grown closer and improved our relationship because of it. It is still a work in process and I think it will always be that way.
But it is worth it to both of us to keep working. And to keep our relationship as epic and amazing as we know it can be!
We Still Don’t Really Know What We Are Doing
Our oldest turned 10 this year. 10 – that is double digits! We have a 10 year old yet we still don’t feel like we know what we are doing as parents. Do you ever?!
Him reaching this age has really made me stop and think how crazy fast life is. And how we can’t spend all this time trying to do it perfect and right but instead have to sit back and just enjoy it at times too. As we go along this journey, we’re constantly figuring things out, but the more we learn, the more we see how much we really don’t know.
Which brings me back to what this year will be about. Being present in the current moment, taking time to smell the roses, and truly enjoying this amazing life we have! I am excited to see what year 4 of RV life will bring!
Interested to see how we started got started with full time rv living – check out our you tube video:
Questions To Ask Yourself BEFORE Full Time RVing
I know it can look like all rainbow and sunshine on the good ole Social Media platforms. But I am here to tell you it is not! We have put together a list of 14 questions to ask yourself before making the decision to go full time with your family:
14 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making the Decision To Travel Full Time With Your Family
Rent An RV To Try It Out
Our friends at Zula Life did just this! They rented an RV from RVShare for a weekend to try out RV travel before making the decision to go full time. If you aren’t sure or have never RVed before you may want to do this.
Or like in our case just put your husband on a plane to Miami, Florida to pick up a 39 foot Motorhome and drive it back to Wisconsin . . . without any real RV experience . . .
Learn more about renting an RV here:
18 Tips On How To Rent An RV [Discount Included]
Want even more content on Full Time RV Living?! We have you covered:
10 Unexpected Things About Living In A RV Full-time
10 things we learned from 365 days of living and traveling in an RV
7 Things We Love About Full Time RVing
7 Things We Hate About Full-Time Family Travel
How To Make A Successful Income While Full Time RVing
10 Helpful Tips For Making Friends While Living Fulltime In An RV
Keystone Montana – 7 Owners Share What They Love About It
29 RV Kitchen Accessories For The Best RV Kitchen
Top 15 Best Things To Do With Kids In Austin
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29 thoughts on “RV Living: The Ultimate Guide After 8+ Years On The Road”
We are getting our travel trailer in January and I’m looking forward to getting on the road and out of our comfort zones.
Awesome! You’ll find those comfort zones getting pushed very quickly when you start your journey. Best of luck!
Loved the article but it took forever to load and scroll scroll scroll and read because of sooo many ads 😊 Thanks!
Thanks for the feedback. We updated some settings on the ads.
Hi! We are a family of five. We started traveling in our RV in 2014 and have grown the travel to about eight months out of the year but still have not let go of our house. We hope to get it on the market in April and take the leap! So scared, excited, unsure etc. Thanks for your inspiration and I’ll look to your blog whenever I get the jitters!
It’s definitely a tough leap to sell the house, but it’s worth it. Best of luck!
It is great to read an article from someone like minded. We are on the same page with you all the way!
WOW! I mean seriously WOW! What a wonderful experience and I’ve been dreaming about travelling with my family like this one day. Well done on the photos, they are great captures.
Thanks so much for the shout-out! This is a great summary not only of your “what” (RVing the states) but your “why” – why it’s really important to you and what it means for your family. You are an inspiration to many to go out there and take life by the horns and have some fun! We’ve so enjoyed getting to know ya’ll. 🙂
Thank you Ashley!
I just found your blog and full-time RV-ing/roadschooling is a dream of mine and my husbands. I love your site because you have a “big” family and so do we. I love seeing someone in our same situation making it happen. We hope to make the dream a reality in the near future!
Thanks Charlynn! Hope to see you on the road 🙂
Thank you for sharing your experiences! We are preparing to retire early and set off on an RV lifestyle adventure in about 18 months. Seeing others making it work is invaluable.
And to add some encouragement for you, years ago when my children were young, I homeschooled/unschooled them for the majority of their education. We were fortunate to have moved across the country for work a few times and had the opportunity to do a lot of camping. They are now both rising seniors in college and doing extremely well. They are pursuing their passions instead of checking a box. I know their unconventional formative years are a contributing factor to their life choices.
Keep enjoying the gift of time. Maybe we’ll see you around a campfire one day.
That’s great to hear Tracey. It’s great to hear of kids who have had the same schooling method are thriving! Best of luck to you all.
Thank you for sharing your full-time mobile lifestyle story. You have a darling family!
Since 2010 it’s also been my choice to live a mobile lifestyle — in a boat and a renovated Airstream — because I love the freedom and serendipity.
My son and his wife (who are in their mid-30s) have also been living mobile. We’ve all experienced the same steep learning curve. What we found unbelievable was that we couldn’t find an RV on the market that checked off all the boxes for full-timers. The manual even said, “Not suitable for full-time living.” (Really?!?)
Since we love to create things, this past year we took our combined experiences and produced a full-time “Living Vehicle” that’s made for full-timers. It’s spacious, well-equipped for the real world, and is truly off-grid capable with large dual paned windows, built-in solar panels, and 4-season-friendly designs and extra foam insulation.
We’ve included central vacuum system, large storage spaces, built an expandable outdoor porch, and created a Tech Bay so our phones and handheld devices are charged and easily stored out-of-sight.
Our Living Vehicle comes with a free 1/3/5 year bumper-to-bumper service plan that includes regular check-ups, Good Same Club emergency road service, and nationwide campground membership.
Check it out at https://www.LivingVehicle.com
Super cool product, best of luck with it.
We sold the house, have the RV and are preparing to take the leap of faith with our 4 almost teenage kids and dog. We are excited and scared! Can u give some ideas of jobs that my husband could pursue so we can stay mobile? Sometimes we get mental blocks when we r thinking about something we haven’t done before.
Depending on your entrepreneurial spirit, you can always start a business of your own. We do have a course that helps narrow down the search for what is right for you. You can check that out here – http://www.crazyfamilyadventure.com/how-to-start-your-virtual-business-so-you-can-travel-full-time/.
Hope that will help you! Good luck!
This article was very insightful. We just bought an RV this summer . We have 5 kids and besides a week camping trip here and there we weren’t planning on any extended stays. Now my wife is trying to relocate her job. We wondered if it was possible with all of our kids to make RV living work for a while. I feel better about it now. We moved from an ocean state to a desert state 6 years ago and neither of us have been happy living here. We try and get away as often as possible. Living near water is the key. Thank you for the insight!
Glad it helped David!
i only wished the RV’ing lifestyle would have been a thought when my children were young. I think it is awesome how your family has handled all of the changes.
I am almost 50 and my husband is 53. We are hoping to be on the road by June of this year. My question is this: Do you know the easiest way to handle doctor visits and medication needs (such as insulin and seizure medication) when we don’t plan to return to our hometown on any schedule?Trying to eliminate having a zipcode is where i stand.
Secondly, do you believe 2 people could afford to live on a disability check income for all the necessities? I truley believe that some of our health issues may love the adventure and appreciate what i can only see as a healthier, happier lifestyle.
There are plenty of people who get prescriptions filled while on the road. We usually take care of doctor visits when we go back to our home town. Our insurance still works there. We also have a teledoc service which is a doctor we do a videoconference with and they are able to diagnose and prescribe based on that call. It helps with small things and saves a trip to hospital/urgent care.
Regarding budgets – families (big and small) live this lifestyle on all different budgets. I think you could make do on disability.
My family has technically been RV compatible for 50 plus years. All of our surviving family members currently own one, but all for different purposes.
My parents chose to travel full time after retirement, but without a long term plan their traveling stopped when their money ran out. Because they continually “ upgraded” their coach in the first few years they died nearly penniless, still owning on their last class A which was tragically falling apart from 10 years of constant habitation.
My brother also lives full time in his motor home, but he owns the land where he lives, and still is living in his first coach. He realizes it won’t last forever, but it will last much longer not being stressed by road travel.
My sister recently purchased a travel trailer strictly for vacationing. She owns land and a home, so her use will be limited to only a few weeks a year.
My use of a travel trailer will also be limited to about six months of living while we build a new home. I spent three years in my first travel trailer saving to buy my first house over 35 years ago. If I learned one thing about this life it is that no lifestyle is without cost. What seems cheap today may end up costing you in the future.
All good points! This has not been a cheap way of living for us and we are aware of that.
Hello from Wisconsin guys!! My wife and I are in our late 20s both have very good jobs , college graduates, nice cars, and a very nice house. We’ve put the majority of our time/energy into achieving where we are now and what we have today. We have a four year old daughter and a almost nine month old son, we’re increasingly worried great jobs and all the extras we have aren’t what it’s all cracked up to be hahaha! We love Wisconsin but are always planning the next trip and trying to figure out how to spend more time with the kids and less at work. My wife recently became a consultant for a company allowing her to work from home and is growing her team which has us thinking about traveling for a few years until our sons ready for school. But the fear of leaving everything we’ve accomplished is overwhelming. We need a good push to make the leap lol any words of wisdom?
YOLO. Sounds funny, but it’s true. For us, it was asking ourselves the question – in 10 years will we regret not taking the opportunity to travel or if we do travel, will we regret the decision to leave everything? We opted to travel 🙂
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