The Lessons, Benefits & Mistakes of Full Time RV Living
As a full time RVer the only regret I have is not sharing my RV experiences sooner with the rest of you. Because there are so many things you need to be aware of. Nothing you need to be an expert at, but trust me when I say your going to learn some new skills. In fact learning as you go is the norm and what makes “RV life” so enjoyable! If you were to wait until you learned everything about Full Time RV living you’d never leave your driveway.
Whether you’re part-time, full-time or a weekend warrior RVer you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to learn lessons the hard way. At some point you are going to pull the wrong handle and drain your blackwater tank all over the ground at the campsite you just paid for. Which will have you racing out of there in embarrasment before anyone realizes what just happened. Don’t worry your not the first, and won’t be the last. Everyone was new to full time RV living at some point, and everyone has made this mistake!
The first year of full time RVing is the most enjoyable, frustrating, challenging and by far the most memorable year your ever going to have.
Because you’re learning and experiencing everything new. You don’t have a routine set in place, a checklist of reminders or a network of RV traveling friends. You don’t have the first clue on how to drive your new rig. Check into a campground, or whether to leave your black water tank opened or closed at a campground. You’re unaware that its normal to drink wine out of plastic cups because washing dishes is a f***ing nightmare!
First Year Moments of Full Time RV Living
That first year of full time RVing your going to have so many “ahh haa” moments, WTF moments, ARE YOUR KIDDING ME moments and OH MY GOD moments!
You’re going to laugh, cry, smile, yell and cringe. Throw things! Break things! Your first year of full time RVing is going to push your boundaries, comfort levels and test you on a daily basis. And your going to LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!
Don’t forget to check out these 34 RV Mistakes and the lessons I learned from my first year of Full Time RV Travel
How To Start Full Time RV Living
A good friend of mine just celebrated his 1st year of Full Time RV Living. He is a family of 5 traveling full time in a 41 foot Class A RV. Unedited and untouched this is the email he sent me to share with all of you.
A glimpse into what your first year of full time RV living is going to look like………
In the beginning people will tell you that your crazy, batshit padded room crazy. It will never work, you don’t understand what your doing. You know what? They’re right. It is crazy, it doesn’t go as expected, you sure as hell don’t know what your getting into! Full time RV living is an enjoyment you have to shape, mold and get back up when it knocks you down.
The Full Time RVer Curse
Than the “RV travel bug” will bite you one day. You’ll realize how stress free RV life is, & how obtainable full time RV living can really be. How traveling with a family is easier and more memorable than the 18 years prior.
How RV Life Will Make You Happier & Healthier
It’s crazy that full time RV living will change how you eat. By making you eat healthier. More veggies, less grease and a whole lot less eating out. Full time RV living will help you loose weight because being in the outdoors is infectious. You’ll choose to go on a hike or a walk over TV. A couple of times a day!
Soon you’ll discover the value of the night time sky full of twinkling stars and a campfire. A much better family bonding moment than sitting on the couch for your nightly shows. You’ll begin to talk with each other and not at each other.
Trip Planning Tips for Full Time RVers
The family memories you create while full time RV living will be cherished like no other family memories you’ve ever had. Your kids will remind you when Nanna & Grampa tried warning you that this was a stupid idea as your driving route 66. Dang if they were not right! Because nothing ever goes as planned when your full time RVing. We didn’t plan on seeing route 66, but here we are finding out it takes a month to drive route 66.
You could drive route 66 in 2 weeks, but if you want to see all the attractions, sites and sounds of route 66. This road trip will take over a month.
Sites and Sounds of RV Life
Dang if my parents weren’t right when they said it would never work! It didn’t work when we tried to visit the Everglades for a weekend and wanted to stay forever because of how much fun we were having. It didn’t work when we called Disney World during Christmas to book a week stay. We ended up booking for 3 weeks to get the discount, and loved every second of it.
It didn’t work at all when we stumbled upon a place called Devils Den. Attempting to only stay for 3 days we ending up calling it home for over a month! While learning to scuba dive. We were supposed to drive through Alabama, but instead we ended up spending two days walking the decks of battleships.
Who Knew New Orleans Was Home to the WWII Museum
I hate admitting that my parents were right about Full Time RV Living not working out, but they were right as parents always are. I mean we only planned on staying in New Orleans for a couple of days, but ended up staying for almost 3 weeks. The kid had a report to do on WWII, and guess what? New Orleans is home to the WWII Museum. A 70 page slide show and powerpoint presentation earned him an “A” on his WWII report while full time RV living! That sure wasn’t expected, and now I have to go tell my parents once again that my New Orleans stop didn’t go as planned.
Learning to Drive a Class A RV
All those people said you have no idea what you’re doing, and full time RV living is for retired folk! I hate to say it but they were right. I had no idea how to drive a 41 ft Class A RV with everything we owned inside, but I learned. Because that is what you do when your a full time RVer. Before this year of full time living with the family I had no idea how expensive my wife’s cameras were, or how useless half the stuff we packed really was. But I learned to say yes dear very quickly, and embraced a more minimalist lifestyle.
More RV Lessons
I had no idea how to do maintenance on anything really. Before becoming a full time RVer I just called a guy, but like everything else over this last year I learned. I asked questions. Relied on my RV neighbor’s. Did the research. Bought the right tools. Joined RV Facebook groups. Signed up for RV Travel blog newsletters like this. I reached out to others at the campground, internet forums or even called actual RV manufacturing companies.
Full Time RV Living Will Make You a “How To…”Expert
I learned how to rewire my RV slideout from a YouTube video. Learned how to change the hub assembly on my friends travel trailer from this blog. The biggest lesson I learned this year is that there is no stupid question. The answers are out there. All you have to do is ask, and speaking from experience the less you ask the more you’ll regret later.
Life on the Road
I had no idea how to scuba dive before turning the key for the 1st time on our 41 foot Class A RV a year ago, but I learned at a place called Devils Den. Which I had never heard of before setting off on a year of full time RV living. Now I can’t recommend that place enough. I thought I had seen a lot of the country before this year long family road trip. I was wrong, and learned I have yet to even scratch the surface.
Cost of Full Time RV Living
My friends, family, co-workers and neighbors said it would cost too much to live full time in an RV for a year. They were right, but I learned how to bring the costs down. Because I asked questions to other full time RVers In person or on the internet. Which lead to me learning that boondocking is actually an RVer term. Along with dry camping. Both by the way are free, and usually more fun than spending the night at a costly campground.
Specific Cost of Full Time RVing
Which by the way campgrounds are the biggest expense when it comes to full time RV living.
The cost of RV Life can be broke down into 5 categories
- Campgrounds (Lodging) – Campgrounds, RV Parks or even private RV Hookups will generally cost you around $50-$65/night. Unless you explore options like Harvest Host. Where you can stay for free at local hosts. Like Golf Courses, Wineries, Breweries and much more.
- Gas/Fuel – Every RV will be different, but the average fuel cost is $50 for every 200 miles. Some rigs will be less and some rigs will be more. The lower the RPMs the better fuel economy your RV will get.
- Entertainment – This is one of those sliding scale budget items. That can include anything from tire pumps to beer. For our year on the road our RV entertainment costs averaged out to be $150 a week for a family of five.
- Maintenance – The newer your rig is the less maintenance you will have to account for, but every rig requires “RV Maintenance“. From oil changes to cutting boards your always buying something. Especially your first year because your figuring everything out as you go. Our RV maintenance cost for a year tracked at $125/week.
- Food – Buying for a family of five is never cheap, but once we implementing reheatable family meals our food cost dropped drastically. In the beginning we were spending $75 a day. The last 6 months of full time RV living we were spending less than $20 a day. Buying bulk meats, or even a variety of meats was a game changer. Every Sunday we would cook 3-5 different meals that were easily reheatable throughout the week.
After mastering the art of boondocking your only expense is gas and maintenance. Which is less than most people pay for car insurance in a month, but boondocking still has some unique expenses.
The most notable “boondocking expense” is fuel. Which for us was $5 a day to run our Champion Generator. The only other expense we had were travel days. This is what are family nicknamed Sundays. Where we would travel back to a campground to empty our black and gray water tanks. Refill our water & fuel tanks. Before spending the rest of the day cooking our new food supply for another week of boondocking.
Monthly Cost of Full Time RV Living
Our first couple of months of Full Time RVing cost us almost $5,000 each month!! Ridiculous I know, but the more we learned the less we spent each month. Campgrounds and fuel were our biggest budget killers. Racing from destination to destination there were days we were spending $500 a day on fuel. Then eating out twice a day as a family of five. Was an easy $200 more dollars a day. Plus nightly campground fees!!! Our first couple of months were expensive lessons.
After slowing down, cooking our own meals, taking advantage of weekly and monthly campground rates or even boondocking our monthly cost of full time RVing averaged below $2000 for the last 5 months.
- Month 1 – $4,837
- Month 2 – $5,200
- Month 3 – $3,800
- Month 4 – $3,700
- Month 5 – $3,900
- Month 6 – $3,100
- Month 7 – $2,400
- Month 8 – $2,200
- Month 9 – $1,900
- Month 10 – $1,200
- Month 11- $1,800
- Month 12 – $1,100
How To Make Money While Full Time RVing
Eventually you’ll come across a thing called work camping. Where you’ll get a free campsite with full RV hookups for simply checking people in/out and emptying trash cans. Or in our case the amusement park we worked at provided full RV hookups for seasonal staff. Never had so much fun in my life and got paid to do it. An unforgettable job I found at www.myadventurejobs.com
***AOWANDERS ADDED EXPERT INFO/TIPS MAKING MONEY AS A FULL TIME RVer***
If you are a full time RVer seasonal jobs are the way to go to make money while living out of your RV. Most of the iconic vacation destinations or resort towns across America have more jobs than they do employees.
For example, Grand Lake, Colorado has a population of 291, but it is literally the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. 10 million vehicles drive by, thru and around that town every summer! I worked two restaurants at the exact same time on 4th of July because they didn’t have enough staff. By the end of the summer I was working at 5 different restaurants each day, and walked out of there with over $30,000 in cash. While living in my RV which was parked in a co workers driveway.
I’ve been paying for a life of travel since 1998 by way of resort towns all across the country. From Alaska to the Virgin Islands. I’ve lived, worked and enjoyed them all. If you want to make big bucks while living in your RV full time check out a resort town next summer, and try to land a server or bartending gig. No experience necessary. The only requirement is you have a pulse.
These resort towns price out the locals with absurd costs of living requirements, but the campgrounds are usually never more than $500 a month. The high cost of living also creates the opportunity to find someone willing to rent out their backyard to you as well. Or driveway. Or whatever for only couple hundred bucks a month.
If you want to make good money while living in your RV full time restaurants and resort towns are the way to go. $200-$400 per shift depending on the location, time of year, menu and restaurant system.
I’ve worked at restaurants were co-workers would pay other co-workers up to $100 to take their breakfast shift that only makes $200-$300 per shift. Because the night shift would pay over a $1,000 per shift. I left that season with a brand new truck, travel trailer and $40,000 cash. For 5 months of work.
Sorry didn’t mean to interupt. Back to the recap of my friends first year of full time RV living……
Persistence is The Key to Success
It has been a remarkable and unforgettable year of cheap RV living full time.
I learned so much this last year about travel, budgets, family, mechanics, packing, planning, photography, hiking, camping, climbing, road tripping and so much more.
Stop Dreaming About Full Time RVing
And ya know……… after a year what I learned about those people who said it couldn’t be done? They just never did it. They never wanted to try it. If they didn’t then why oh why should I?
For those afraid to go on the road as a full time RVer because people are talking about how crazy it is. How expensive it is. How you just can’t do it, or don’t know what your doing.
Its Ok to Fail and Make Travel Mistakes
Those people are right. If you don’t put any effort in to learning or adapting your going to hate RV life. Full time RVing is a crazy eventful one of a kind experience that never stops delivering the fun. You can’t do it until you try and find out you can. It is expensive until you learn how to make it not be.
Full Time RV Living Advice
The best advice your going to ever recieve about full time RV living is to take it in stride. Try it for a week. Then go for two weeks. Then push it to a month. You’ll figure it out as you go. There is no wrong way to Full Time RV. You’re going to make mistakes. We all do. I’ve been full time RVing for over a decade and look what happened on my last RV road trip. I intentionally ignore my plans because when the plans go to shit is when the adventure begins.
Read this popular article of mine: How To Create RV Adventures Of Your Own.
However you choose to live or travel in your RV is fine! There is no right or wrong way to travel. You’ll learn what works best for you, and what doesn’t. You’ll figure out what you can live with out and what you can’t. Along with what campgrounds you can stay at, and which ones you will avoid like the black plague! And you know what….. it will all be an unforgettable stress free adventure. That I hope you share in the comments below!
Happy Travels Everyone!
Thank you for all the insightful information. I am at the beginning of my adventure, looking for an RV for full time living. I will be keeping your site on my favorite list as reference and hopefully be able to contact you if I have questions.
Absolutely Alma, and I’d be happy to help you along your journey of buying an RV for full time living. You don’t know what you don’t know so feel free to email me anytime at [email protected] with any questions you may have.
Couple of tips I see a lot of first time camper owners make are based solely on that concept, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”
1-Make sure you buy an RV that you can grow into and not out of. For example a pop up camper or other tow behind camper that you can’t stand up in.
2-Don’t buy from a dealer, but go spend an afternoon looking at all the different layouts. Really look at the counters, cupboards, seating, storage, walkways, steps and more than anything else look at the empty wall space. Empty wall space isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can you add missing things like cupboards, storage, TVs or even counter space if you had to.
3-Test everything before you agree to any price or purchase ESPECIALLY IF IT IS USED!
4-If your going to live in an RV full time your going to need storage for things other RV owners will not. For example, tools, fasteners, adhesives, laundry system, combination of disposable and reusable kitchenware, full wardrobe and other longterm comforts that people who only pack for a weekend don’t put on the radar.
5-Boondocking is the key to success, and to be a successful boondocker you need a rig that is compatible with boondocking. That doesn’t just mean size. Boondocking can be anywhere a large movie theater parking lot or deep in the backcountry of Utah. How long can your rig sustain itself? How can you lenghten that time frame? What camper accessories do you need to buy? Two of my favorite extended boondocking camper accessories can be found at the end of this blog post https://aowanders.com/how-to-find-cheap-longterm-rv-lot-for-rent/
6- The biggest RV mistake new RVers make is thinking bigger is better. The best thing you could do to set yourself up for success is buy the smallest RV you can afford that you can grow into. Something around 21-26 total feet in length. Anything smaller you eventually grow to hate, and anything bigger comes with a long list of restrictions for what you can do and where you can do them.
Hope that helps and let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
It’s good to know that gas and maintenance tend to be a lot cheaper than RV/camper insurance when going full-time in living in a motorhome. My friend is considering RV insurance estimates in order to properly find the best RV insurance coverage for his camper. Once he gets settled, he would start traveling around in order to see the world and be able to do some soul-searching.
Thank you for providing this transparent article on how much it costs to live full time in an RV and the alternatives to cheap rv living.
Your very welcome, and thank you for visiting my RV travel blog. I use progressive for my RV insurance and tell them I am based on an island in Alaska to ensure I get the cheapest RV insurance possible for my rig.