Harvest Hosts: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE AFTER 8+ YEARS ON THE ROAD
May 27, 2023
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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!