The days of suburban living with a white picket fence are becoming limited. Instead, the American Dream has transformed into something a bit more modern and cost-effective. Many people are taking advantage of this new ideology by ditching their old lifestyle to reside in their RV. Therefore, we’ve provided you with the 22 Best Tips for Full Time Living in a Camper, which are:
- Find Your WHY
- Decide If You Will Keep or Sell Your Home
- Determine Your Monthly Budget
- Find a Full Time Rig
- Remote Work, Wi-Fi, or Cell Coverage
- Find Health Insurance for Full Time RVers
- Make a Plan for Your Domicile and Mail Delivery
- Find RV Insurance for Full Timers
- Prep Your Camper for Full-Time Living
- Learn Your Rig Inside and Out
- Make a List of Destinations to See
- Prepare For the Unexpected
- Become a Member of an RV Club
- Only Bring What You Need
- Stop Thinking Like A Vacationer
- Plan Out Your Living and Sleeping Spaces
- Communication With Your Travel Partner
- Take Turns Driving
- Organize Your Kitchen and Cooking Options
- Think About What Your Daily Routine Will Look Like
- Remember to Have Fun
This trend is becoming increasingly popular for two main reasons. One, the cost of living has grown immensely in recent years, and it’s not a secret that many Americans are grappling to make ends meet. Balancing a mortgage, student loans, and other expenses can lead to a very stressful lifestyle.
Secondly, with the rise of the Internet, remote work has become much more common. Rather than traveling to a physical location during the standard 9 to 5 hours, people can now work from home. Many install Wi-Fi in their rig, as well, allowing them to live off-grid. For that reason, boondocking is the latest craze in the RV world.
Between fewer expenses and remote working, it is no wonder that so many people are choosing to live this way. Campers provide all the essentials while cutting down on costs. Plus, they’re relatively easy to maintain with a bit of practice. Read on to discover tour 10 best tips for living in a camper full-time.
1. Find Your WHY
While full time RV living may sound like nothing but fun from the outside, making the decision to leave friends, family, and most of your belongings behind can be challenging. For many people transitioning to the full time lifestyle, the process can be overwhelming.
One suggestion is to take a few minutes and think about why you are considering full time RV life. Is it to see the world? Spend more time with friends and family in other locations? Save money? Write down all of the benefits that you hope to gain by making this change.
Writing down your reasons for full time travel can help you stay focused during the planning and preparation process. If you are traveling with others, include them in this exercise as well. Discussing your motivation will help you when getting ready for your trip. Transitioning to life on the road can be very emotional and stressful. Being able to look back at your “why” will help you during these difficult moments. And remember, if you hit the road full time and decide it is not for you, you can always turn around!
2. Decide If You Will Keep or Sell Your Home
Determining whether you want to maintain a home base or travel full time 12 months out of the year is one of the first decisions you will need to make before becoming a full time RVer.
Much of this decision depends on your age, mortgage payment, and maintenance of your home. Remember, even if you can afford to keep your home, you will also most likely have to pay for someone to mow your yard and keep an eye on things when you are traveling. Those costs and headaches can quickly add up.
Many people who want to keep their home choose to rent it to someone, especially during that critical first year when you may be undecided if this lifestyle change will be permanent. This relieves you of the extra mortgage payments during your travels while giving you the peace of mind of having a home to return to.
If you decide to rent your home, you can either find a tenant for your home yourself or hire a property management company to do it for you. If you choose to rent your home yourself, make sure to take high quality photos and reach out to your friends and family first before advertising your listing. Zillow is an excellent resource for do-it-yourself landlord tools and advice.
Hiring a property management company will save you from this hassle but will also cost you. The fee for finding a tenant is typically equivalent to one month’s rent. Most companies also charge a monthly management fee of around 10% as well.
Selling your home, or canceling your lease if you rent, can be a great way to free up cash to pay for your RV travels. When budgeting, try to keep your campground costs the same or less than your previous mortgage or rent, and you should be in good shape.
If you choose to sell but want to keep some of your belongings that will not fit in your rig, you may need to find storage for your items. Storage units are popping up everywhere these days. Be sure to shop around to find the best price. Another option is to have a friend or family member with storage space, such as a basement, store your items for you. This could save you some money on storage fees.|
You know what they say- you can’t take it with you. Whoever said that must have been talking about RV living. Whether you choose to keep a home base or pack it all in, you will need to minimize your belongings before you hit the road.
Even if you already have an RV loaded with necessities, you may want to start from scratch when it comes to stocking it. For example, you may want to utilize the dishes and cutlery from your home instead of your “camping” set. You may need more room for toiletries and food than you typically need while camping, so clearing everything out and starting fresh can be helpful.
There are many approaches to minimizing. Marie Kondo’s bestselling book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” provides a step-by-step method for downsizing your belongings. You can also hire a professional to help you reduce your belongings and even sell them for cash.
You should also consider letting go of anything you have not used in the past year or plan to use while on the road. Consider the size of your RV closet when thinking about how many clothes to keep. Keep in mind that if you do let go of something you need, later on, you can always try to borrow it from someone (RVers are always willing to lend a hand or needed item to one another) or pick it up on the road. You most likely won’t need what you part with, so let go of your things with confidence.
For family heirlooms and sentimental items, go ahead and ask family members if they want them or find a place to keep what is meaningful to you. This will not be easy, but getting rid of your clutter will free you to take on new opportunities.
4. Determine Your Monthly Budget
A lot of people mistakenly believe that they can easily save money while traveling full time. While it certainly is possible to save money while traveling, you can also quickly go over budget if you are not careful.
The best way to determine how much money you will need to travel full time is to look at your current spending. Take a look at your expenses for the past three months. Categorize your expenses (food, housing, insurance, dining out, gas, etc.) and figure out what your average is each month. You can assume that most of these costs will be the same when you are on the road, other than perhaps gas.
If you are keeping your current home, you will need to factor in that cost. If you are selling your home, then this will free up some money that you can use for campground costs.
Set a budget based on your current spending. Remember that it is unlikely that you will suddenly start spending less on food or entertainment just because you are traveling. In fact, you could easily spend more! Make sure your limits are reasonable and achievable. You don’t want to feel strapped continuously.
If you are buying a rig, try to pay cash for it or have it paid off before you leave if at all possible. If this is not possible, carefully consider how much you can afford to pay monthly for your rig before shopping for one. Remember that you will have campground fees to pay in addition to any monthly payments on your rig.
When it comes to figuring out your costs for gas and campground fees, remember that the more frequently you plan to move from place to place, the more money you will have to budget for gas. Likewise, if you plan to stay in one place for several months at a time, your transportation costs will be much lower.
Campground fees can range from free if you are boondocking to upwards of $100 per night if you are staying at a luxury campground during the high season. Set a budget for yourself based on the type of places you like to stay.
RELATED READING: If you want to save some serious money check out our article called Free Overnight RV Parking. You don’t even need to be full time to save a ton of money and this article will show you how and why.
Even if you plan to boondock most of the time, keep in mind that you will most likely want to stay somewhere with hookups on occasion. Budget for this so that you do not have any surprises.
If you plan to stay at luxury RV resorts, you may quickly find that your cost of living is higher than what you were paying in a “sticks and bricks” home. If this is the way you want to travel, try to find campgrounds that offer discounts for weekly, monthly or seasonal stays. This could save you a lot of money each month. Another option is to join a campground membership club such as Thousand Trails. You can also save money on campsites by joining discount programs such as Good Sam.
5. Find a Full Time Rig
Perhaps one of the most important decisions to make when planning your full time RV life is choosing a rig. If you already camp and have a rig, you may not need to tackle this step. However, now may be a good time to consider if your rig is working for you and if you will need more space for traveling full time.
A lot of folks considering full time RV life think that they need a large rig. While this may be true, it is not always the case. Many people find that they just don’t need as much space or material goods to live as they thought. There are also many benefits to having a small rig. From saving money on gas to fitting in tight campsites and being able to boondock or camp in national parks, going small makes sense for many travelers.
If you do plan to boondock or camp in state and national parks, keep in mind that large fifth-wheels and motorhomes may not be your best choice. Most national parks do not accommodate rigs over 35 feet, and many only fit rigs up to 24 feet. Likewise, many great boondocking spots are not accessible for larger rigs. This is definitely a factor to consider, particularly if you are looking to save money while on the road.
If you would like to go small but are concerned about space limitations, talk to other full time RVers and hear what they have to say. Many people share that they end up getting rid of many items as they cross the country. Others end up selling large rigs and going smaller. Only you know how much space you require, so be sure to consider your wants and needs carefully.
Some folks want an RV with a washer and dryer if they plan to live full time in their RV.
If you are looking to maximize your space, remember that you can utilize your tow vehicle as well if you have a travel trailer. A camper shell can add lots of square footage for storage. Bikes can be safely stored on the exterior of many rigs. Cabinets, drawers, and space under tables can all be maximized to provide you with space for needed items.
One helpful idea is to make a list of everything you need and want to bring. Try to categorize these items (kitchen items, clothing, tools, toiletries, etc.) and think about where you can store each category in your rig. It may be easier to let a few things go than buying a bigger and more costly rig.
6. Find Remote Work and Determine if You Will Need Wi-Fi or Cell Coverage
Making money on the road is perhaps the biggest challenge facing potential full timers. The good news is that there are thousands of ways to make money while traveling!
If you are currently working at a job that you enjoy, consider if there is a way to do your job on the road. While some careers definitely require you to be in one place, the digital age has made it easier than ever to do most jobs from anywhere.
If you have a steady work history and good reviews from your employer, it is worth asking if they would consider letting you work remotely on a trial basis. Many people have had luck with this, especially if you are willing to reduce your hours, benefits, or compensation.
If you plan to take your current job on the road, then you most likely will need to have a solid plan in place for accessing the internet. Do you be online every day? If so, this will have a significant impact on where you will be able to stay as many areas of the country still do not have reliable internet service.
Many remote workers use their phones as hotspots for work. This is a great way to access the internet if you need a secure network. As long as you have a strong signal, you can jump online. You may want to purchase a cell signal booster like the WeBoost to improve your access to cell service. Other internet options to consider are Wi-Fi boosters or even satellite internet. Depending on your needs, there are options out there.
For those looking to embark on a new career while on the road, the sky is the limit! This could be the opportunity you have been waiting for to start your own business. Maybe you make crafts or other items that could be sold at festivals and markets while on the road. Perhaps some distraction free time in nature will help you work out that great business idea you have been dreaming about for years.
Many people stop in one location for several months at a time to work while on the road. These jobs, known as work camping, are numerous and easy to find online. Workamping.com, HappyVagabond.com, or even a job search website like indeed.com are all great places to begin your search. If you have a favorite campground that utilizes work campers, give them a call and see if they will have any openings in the near future.
Most state and national parks, as well as many private campgrounds, need volunteers to serve as campground hosts. In exchange for helping with camper check-ins and keeping the campsites free from trash, you can get a free campsite and even some monetary compensation.
One of the best websites full of articles about finding remote work is More Than A Wheelin. Camille and Bryce have dedicated themselves and their website to help fellow RVers find remote work opportunities. I even recommend this site to my daughter when she was looking for remote work.
7. Find Health Insurance for Full Time RVers
One of the biggest concerns of those seeking to travel full time is health care coverage. If you are covered through your employer or retirement plan, that is awesome! However, for many full time RVers going on the road means walking away from a guaranteed income and benefits. If this is the case for you, you do have options.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there are insurance options for individuals and families in the marketplace. Depending on your income, you may qualify for a subsidy. If you will be changing jobs or working for yourself for the first time, be sure to review your various healthcare options as they may not be as costly as you would expect, especially if you will be reducing your income.
RVerinsurance.com is a great place to begin looking at health plans that may need your needs. You can also contact an independent insurance broker to help you find a program. Brokers have access to a variety of plans and can make a good recommendation to you based on what meets your needs.
Whether you will be changing healthcare coverage or not, it is important to educate yourself on what will be covered if you have to visit a doctor or healthcare professional on the road. Does your network include nationwide options? You may also want to consider a supplemental program such as Teladoc. Teladoc connects you with doctors by phone or internet wherever you are. Some insurance plans offer Teladoc as a benefit. If yours does not, you can purchase Teladoc access for a low monthly cost.
8. Make a Plan for Your Mail Delivery
One thing you cannot escape from on the road is your mail! Most RVers hire a mail service to handle their mail delivery. The best program for RVers is through Escapees. Escapees will give you an address in Texas, Florida, or South Dakota and collect your mail on your behalf. These three states are also great “home bases” for RVers to claim as residences for tax purposes.
Once you set up an account with Escapees, they will collect your mail and forward it to you at your request. They can also scan and send your mail electronically. Escapees will even remove your junk mail so that you don’t pay to ship yourself mail that you don’t even want! Rates for these services range from $95 to $135 per year.
Another Great option is Americas Mailbox.
Or you can check out our YouTube Video below about Americas Mailbox too!
If you don’t want to pay for a mail service, your next best option is to get a post office box and have a friend or family member collect your mail for you. This is obviously cheaper, but you will then be dependent on someone else to help you with your mail.
If you need to receive packages on the road, most private campgrounds will allow you to have mail delivered during your stay. You can also utilize the general delivery service from the US Postal Service. Simply have your mail or packages addressed to you, c/o General Delivery, and then list the city or town and zip code where you are staying. A quick trip to the post office will get your package into your hands.
9. Find RV Insurance for Full Timers
Finding RV insurance can be tricky for full timers. Most insurance companies will not cover your RV or camper if you live in it full time. Living in your camper can also void any warranty that you may have on your travel trailer or RV. Be sure to read your warranty in advance if you plan to buy a new rig. The best RV insurance options for full timers are offered through Geico and Good Sam. These companies will cover your rig for an affordable rate.
Make sure that you disclose that you will be traveling full-time as this is typically a different rate than “part time” coverage. However, it will also offer you more security, such as coverage on your personal belongings. Keep in mind that the Good Sam insurance policy is separate from a Good Sam membership.
10. Prepare Your Camper for Full-Time Living
Although you may be eager to embark on your journey, it’s not as simple as jumping in the driver’s seat and stepping on the gas. There’s a decent amount of work to do before leaving. Remember that the more you prepare, the easier time you will have going forward. You can guarantee that your future self will thank you, as well!
First, backup cameras can be a lifesaver, especially when it comes to bigger rigs. Trying to back into a parking space or making a tight k-turn can prove difficult and dangerous. Car accidents while traveling adds unnecessary stress. Save the hassle by installing backup cameras.
If you’re traveling between campgrounds, then hookups shouldn’t be too much of an issue. However, if you wish to boondock, you need to think about how you’ll empty your black and grey water tanks, maintain electricity, and acquire water. Be sure to think about amenities, such as composting toilets, solar panels, and water storage reservoirs. To learn all about composting toilets check out our article called Why You Should Consider a Composting Toilet for Your RV.
11. Learn Your Rig Inside and Out
As dull as it might sound, reading your RV owner’s manual is a must before camping full-time. Knowing how everything works and proper maintenance protocol saves you in the long run. If you’re living in a converted van or bus, odds are you’re familiar with your unit. However, it’s still a good idea to learn about the undercarriage.
You might think it’s silly to flip through 100 pages of technical jargon, but there is a valid reason to do so. For example, if you ever become stranded, having a background about how the mechanical side of your camper works may prevent a dangerous situation. Being stuck in extreme temperatures, hazardous weather, or unsafe areas can be anxiety-producing. But, with the proper knowledge, you may be able to jury rig your vehicle to safety.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about sketchy mechanics charging you ridiculously high prices. If you prove that you know what you’re talking about, you’re less likely to fall into this trap.
12. Research Destinations and Make a Full-Time Travel Itinerary
With all the upcoming excitement, it can seem pointless to make an itinerary. Many travelers make the mistake of driving aimlessly and later find themselves in a sticky situation. Avoid that stress by making a vague plan that outlines routes, stops, and attractions.
Start by setting your destination and highlighting the main highways or roads to get there. Using GPS is helpful, but it is distracting during stressful situations. It can also become a nuisance if you lose reception. Instead, follow road signs to give you a better idea about where you’re going. Don’t disregard your digital map, however, as it can be a great secondary source.
Even if you want to drive all day and night, you’re going to have to stop eventually. Therefore, having an idea about gas stations, grocery stores, and other services along the way can be a lifesaver. Many state-by-state paper-maps list these amenities, and you can purchase them for less than $20.
13. Prepare For the Unexpected
Life on the road is a tad different from the standard way of living. You never really know what’s going to happen, which is both thrilling and somewhat nerve-wracking. Think outside the box and acknowledge even the wildest possibilities. In doing so, you will always have what you need onboard for any situation.
Bringing along a road kit is one of the smartest additions to your camper. Although you can buy one of these from Wal-Mart or AAA, it is best to make it yourself to customize it to your needs. Regardless, include these necessities:
- Spare tire
- Wheel wrench and jack
- Jumper cables
- Basic tools
- Reflective triangles or flares
- First-aid kit
- Fire extinguisher
Also, be mindful of the weather in different regions of the country. The east coast experiences anything from blizzard conditions to treacherous hurricanes. Contrarily, the west coast is known for earthquakes and heavy smog. Keep an eye out through the midwestern states, as well, due to tornados. These natural forces can be deadly, so take caution and watch the forecast.
14. Become a Member of an RV Club
Another way to save money is by becoming a member of an RV club. These programs provide travelers with discounted rates on campgrounds. Others include additional conveniences and accommodations for those with specific needs.
The most popular community is the Good Sam Community Club, with over a million members. Participants receive a 10% discount on over 1,600 campsites in the United States and Canada. Fees include a trip planning service that estimates fuel costs and gives you the fastest, most efficient route. The system highlights gas stations, RV services, and rest stops along the way. Good Sam also has emergency towing services and insurance policies.
Escapees is another excellent RV club with discounted rates of 15% and 50% on more than 1,000 campgrounds. Members can hook up their rig for low nightly and weekly rates while dry campers can stay for next to nothing.
Passport America, KOA Value Kard Rewards, and Boondockers Welcome are additional options for those living in a camper full-time. To see our favorite RV Clubs and Memberships check out our article The 5 Best RV Campground Memberships or check out our Memberships Page. We highly recommend any and all of these memberships to help save you money and get connected with other full-time RVers too!
15. Only Bring What You Need
Cutting down on your wardrobe, accessories, and possessions isn’t always the easiest. However, stuffing your camper full of unnecessary items is also frustrating and claustrophobic. It may seem impractical at the beginning, but many find that the minimalistic lifestyle is the most rewarding.
Your camper only has so much space, so there is no need to limit yourself further. Take some time to sort out your belongings and only keep what truly matters to you. Get your money back by putting on a tag sale and selling your items or donate them to Goodwill. If these don’t sound like good options, you can always keep your assets in a rented storage unit.
Another tip for campers is only to buy what you need. When you go shopping, only grab the requirements to avoid overloading your RV. Of course, you can never have enough non-perishable food items and water, however, only buy the rest as needed.
16. Stop Thinking Like A Vacationer
Doing a lot of sightseeing can feel like you are on a constant vacation. Although this is the very reason many of us turn to the full time RV lifestyle, it will burn you out quicker than a candle!
Before you head out as a full time RVer, you need to change your mindset NOW. Think more about traveling a bit slower and savoring every experience that comes your way. Not only will you have more time to relax between driving days, but you will likely discover more local attractions and experiences by not rushing all the time. Many full time RVers do way too much, too fast, which can lead to a host of problems not only with your RV motorhome but perhaps your relationship too.
17. Plan Out Your Living and Sleeping Spaces
Don’t just wing this one! As silly as it may sound with such a small living space, it is actually one of the most important planning you’ll do. Here’s why:
- Office: If you and/or your traveling partner will need to work on the road, dedicating a permanent office space in the travel trailer or motorhome will be a life saver and one less stressful thing you’ll encounter. Let’s say you bought an RV with a bunkhouse but don’t need the bunk beds for sleeping reasons. These areas are easily converted into a dedicated office space for the person.
- Midnight Bathroom Runs: If you tend to get up during the night, make sure that the side of the bed you sleep on offers easy access to the bathroom without having to climb over your significant other.
- TV Watcher: If you’re a big TV watcher, then a really comfortable chair/sofa and well placed TV may be high on your list.
- Kitchen Diva: If you love to cook, kitchens with deep, flush countertops will maximize space for food preparation and appliances.
18. Communication With Your Travel Partner
This is a big one, folks! The phrase “Happy wife, happy life” comes to mind but it’s really bigger than that because it goes both ways.
When you go from living in a sticks and bricks home to a motorhome, you are together 24/7 in a confined space. So, if you are unhappy with the other person or arguing, then that space is going to shrink down to nothing in a hurry!
Is there an easy way to solve this problem? Yes. But it takes both people willing to work on communication every day. Keeping things bottled up will only explode into something bigger later.
19. Take Turns Driving
This one may not be an option for everyone, but if it is then we encourage it. Some women are not comfortable driving a large motorhome and that is understandable. Luckily, many RV dealerships offer driving lessons when you buy from them! The more you drive your motorhome, the more confidence you will have with time. Before you know it, you will be thinking to yourself, “why didn’t I do this sooner.”
20. Organize YouR Kitchen and Cooking Options
This one is a MUST HAVE in your RV kitchen. Even if your RV comes with a fully-equipped kitchen, this will be your favorite way to cook when you don’t want to wash a bunch of dishes. Both can do so many different things in no time flat and with very little mess to clean.
Whether you decide to purchase an Instant Pot or a Crock Pot will depend on your cooking style and preference. Both have their perks. But one thing is for sure if you find yourself in a room full of seasoned veteran and newbie full time RVers, chances are the Instant Pot will come up more often in conversation. Why? Because it is the all in one cooking device and many say it is their favorite small RV appliance.
Regardless if you pick the Instant Pot or Crock Pot for your new RV kitchen, they both will equal to having heaps more time to do what you want!
21. Think About What Your Daily Routine Will Look Like
Obviously you don’t want to plan every minute of the day here. If your typical day now at your “sticks and bricks” house consists of a 9 to 5 job, going for a walk after work, making dinner, watching TV and repeat, then thinking about how your typical day full time RVing may be a bit different.
One of the cool things about living in an RV is that you are kind of in your own time zone. Well, that is if you do not have to still keep a 9 to 5 job albeit remotely, some full time RVers may have a more rigid daily routine. Nonetheless, it is important to start thinking about what your daily life will be like before you actually start your full time RV lifestyle so there’s no culture shock or unnecessary stress.
22. Most Importantly, Have Fun!
Keeping an open mind during your travels is one of the top methods for success. Your journey isn’t always going to be perfect, and you’re bound to have some struggles along the way. Reacting to the situation is only going to make it worse. Take a deep breath and remember; there are no time restrictions on the road.
Furthermore, always stay flexible! Just because you have an itinerary, that doesn’t mean you have to abide by each detail. Things like weather, traffic, and construction are expected to throw off your travel plans. Rather than getting frustrated, channel your energy into adaptability. Switching your plans at the last minute is truly no big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Communication is particularly crucial if you’re traveling with a loved one, pet, or friend. Living in small quarters can become annoying very quickly. Keep this in mind by giving each other space and regularly discussing feelings and issues. Create a driving schedule that works for both of you and abide by it as much as possible. Living in a camper full-time is not an issue if you follow these simple tips.
Are you ready to join the bandwagon? With a bit of planning and preparation, this lifestyle is possible for just about anyone. Begin by setting your goals and checking them off as you go!
Don’t let the anxiety of the unknown stop you from living your dream. Although it can be a scary leap, it proves more than worth it. There is never a dull minute on the road, and it will give you experiences that you can’t find anywhere else. Maintain a positive attitude and see where life takes you. Best of luck!
Related Reading for Full Time Living in a Camper
For more awesome tips about living in an RV or Camper full time check out our other articles below:
Do you have any tips for living in a camper or RV full time? Please leave your comments below. You never know but your comment or suggestion might just help a fellow RVer!