People of all ages and backgrounds are making the decision to hit the road and RV full time. While some folks are retirement age and ready to enjoy that hard earned freedom, others are taking their jobs and life on the road at a younger age. So, we thought we would share our 9 Practical Tips to Start Full Time RV Living.
In 2018 The Washington Post reported that nearly 1 million people were estimated to be living full time in their RVs. While there is no way to know for sure how many people are currently living as full time RVers. Campground owners and RV dealers alike report that the number of people traveling in an RV full time is growing exponentially.
As “baby boomers” continue to retire in large numbers, and more jobs are becoming flexible and not tied to one location, this trend is expected to continue. The high cost of housing in many cities has also contributed to the rise in RV travel families.
Full time RVers have a variety of motivations for hitting the road. From seeing the world to finding a low-cost lifestyle that allows for more family time, there are many reasons why the full time RV life makes sense for a diverse group of people. No matter what your situation and motivation, these 9 practical tips to start full time RV living help you transition to becoming a full time RVer!
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 on 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. 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.
Check out our article called Full Time RV Costs to Consider where we cover many of the RV costs you should consider when preparing your full time RV budget and expenses.
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. Check out our article called 10 Best RVs and Campers with a Washer and Dryer if you are looking for an RV or camper with a washer and dryer.
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 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. Check out our article called How Americas Mailbox Works – A Complete Review for a complete understanding of how it works and how much it costs.
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. For a deep dive into understanding RV Insurance check out our article called How Much Does RV Insurance Cost? where we cover all aspects of RV insurance.
Becoming a full time RVer may seem daunting, but it can be done. Remember that it will take time to make this transition so be realistic about your time frame. Once you are on the road, it will all be worth it!
For more Practical Tips to Start Full Time RV Living check out some of our other articles below:
- How Americas Mailbox Works – A Complete Review
- 10 Best Tips for Living in a Camper Full Time
- 10 Best RVs and Campers with a Washer and Dryer
- 20 Amazing Decorating Ideas for Your Travel Trailer or RV
- Cheap Retirement Living in an RV
- Free Overnight RV Parking
Do you have any tips or suggestions to add to our 9 Practical Steps to Full Time RV Living to prepare to become a full-time RVer? Please leave your comments below!