Ready to Live the RV Lifestyle? Tips for Getting Started

A vacation is one thing. But are you ready to take on the road full time?

Long-term, permanent RV living, or “full-timing” as it’s referred to in the community, is an exciting alternative lifestyle choice that can allow you the freedom to explore the world as part of your day-to-day living experience. In some cases, it can also help you save money on your living expenses. Sticks-and-bricks houses are expensive, after all!

Of course, full-time RVing comes with its own expenses and also certain sacrifices; like anything in life, it’s a give and take. But if you do it right — by, for example, joining discount camping clubs like Passport America to save 50% on your campground accommodations — this unique traveling life can give you physical as well as financial liberation. In fact, many full-timers are drawn to the small life in order to pursue minimalistic, debt-free living!

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Living on the Road in an RV

No matter what’s piqued your curiosity about living in an RV full time on the road, it’s not as loading into the rig and setting up camp in a park. Such a major shift requires some preparation.

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But don’t worry — it’s not that difficult or intimidating! Here are our best tips and the essentials for learning how to live traveling the world in a camper full time after living most of your life at a standstill.

Benefits of RV Living

As mentioned before, one of the advantages of RV living — or at least one of the reasons people most frequently site for taking on this lifestyle — is its affordable nature. But before you drop everything in search of the debt-free life on the road, you should know it’s not always that simple.

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RVing does include many costs, and they’re quite variable, so there’s no way to really talk about an “average” cost of RV living. For example, you might spend $75 per night at a posh campground with all the amenities… or absolutely nothing for a great boondocking site on public lands. Your fuel cost will vary depending on the model of rig you purchase, the terrain you’re camping in, and how often and far you drive. And if you’re not careful, all those expenses can easily match the amount you’d pay on your mortgage, utilities, and other regular-house living expenses.

But as long as you plan well, RVing can be a viable way to drastically cut your living expenses. For one thing, you simply can’t buy as many new items when you don’t have very much room to store them in!

You can create a budget either through the many budgeting apps, like Mint, that are available — or the old fashioned way, with a regular old pen-and-paper ledger. (Heck, even a simple spiral notebook will suffice.)

Be sure to include major camping expenses such as campsite fees and fuel, but also food, license and registration, maintenance and repairs, and entertainment. Don’t forget about regular expenses like cell phone bills and the occasional purchase of new clothing, etc.

If you want to enjoy an easy RV living, getting debt-free is the best way to do it — and that includes the cost of the rig itself. If you have an investment to sell, such as a house, it might be easier to attain freedom from debt than it would be otherwise, but no matter how much or what kind of debt you’re in, you can get out if you work diligently toward your goal.

For more on how to shape up your finances to prepare for carefree RV living, check out the following books:

RV Living Tips

Once money’s taken care of, you have other fish to fry, such as figuring out how to set up a travel trailer to live in. Obviously, RVs have much less space than a traditional home, so you may have to get creative when it comes to storage — or simply to get rid of some of your stuff altogether.

Popular items that help campers stay organized when they live their lives in such small spaces include hanging closet organizers and drawer separators. And don’t forget that a house isn’t a home until it’s got personal touches like throw pillows, yummy-smelling candles, and framed family photos — that goes for your motorhome, too!

You also need to prepare for the reality of not having a “home base,” which means it’s a little bit trickier to find reliable services, whether you’re talking about the best pizza in town or a doctor. Every time you pick up and move, your community changes, so you have to be ready to live a lot of your life on the fly! (Psst: You still need a state of residency so you can vote and pay your taxes. Here are the best states to choose and how to get set up in them.)

Guide to RV Living

One more very important issue to address on the RV living checklist: full timing means living in an RV year round, which includes the winter’s cold weather!

Living in a camper in the winter can be a little tricky, since even the best-insulated ones aren’t as sturdy as a house. You’ll also still need to ensure you take the proper precautions to winterize your rig to keep your pipes from freezing, as well as to avoid other cold-weather problems. (Fluids other than water, such as your windshield cleaner and diesel fuel, can also freeze, as can your batteries and other sensitive machinery!)

Don’t want to weather the cold? Well, it’s always sunny somewhere… and your house is on wheels, after all!

The ability to live wherever you want to is part of the reason full-timing is so appealing in the first place — if you don’t want to, you never have to weather another winter again. Just grab your Rand McNally Road Atlas and follow the temperate climes.

Happy (full-time) camping!

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