Posted on May 15, 2018
Ok, even though it sounds like this post is for people who have never lived in an RV, I spiced in some humor so even people that live in an RV full time can enjoy this. Living in an RV provides so much freedom, it’s a way to downsize and be minimal, but it’s also a pain in the keister, so read on.
1. The space inside is actually bigger than you might thing. Many RV’s these days have slide out rooms that extend from the RV to provide more space. Models like the Airstream still don’t have slide out rooms, but make a very efficient use of space. The Tiny Shiny Home is a family of 6 that lives in their Airstream full time!
2. Don’t expect luxurious showers, or long baths in an RV. For one the water pressure is lower than a residential shower, and two: unless you have a enormous 35-40’ long RV, your bathtub will be the size of a walnut. The hot water heaters are typically around 5-6 gallons too, so you are limited on hot water before it has to recycle.
3. It’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it…and it’s usually the husband. That is dumping the black tank. The black tank is a disgusting holding tank under your RV that holds all your human waste. Yup, it just sits there, until you pull a release valve that sends a flood of week old turds flowing freely. Okay, not completely free. You connect a flexible pipe to the RV that connects to a hole in the ground. Gross, but not as gross as it could be.
4. RV’s are the perfect setup for off grid living. Since RV’s are fully self-contained, meaning your fresh water and waste water are held in tanks under the RV. You can go anywhere and live for a period of time without being hooked up to power. A solar setup or generator is required for this, to keep your batteries charged, and upgrading your holding tanks to a larger capacity help as well. Some RV dwellers even chose to go with a composting toilet, so that they can stay out in the boonies longer, and not have to deal with the wretched RV black tank.
5. There is way more storage inside an RV that you might think. With our last RV we pretty much had the perfect amount of storage for all our things. Our new RV is only slightly bigger and we actually have MORE room than we need, and keep in mind we live in this full time! So, if you are just going for a weekend getaway you are going to have LOADS of space.
6. Cooking in an RV has a learning curve. The stovetop and oven are powered by propane, but the stovetop seems to have two settings. Low heat, and high heat. The oven is similar in that the heat is not consistent throughout the oven. Oh, and forget using the oven inside your RV during the summer. The ambient heat from the oven is enough to warm the entire RV. (well almost)
7. Every RV is different, but most are pretty poorly insulated. Especially around the windows, which is why a lot of full time RV dwellers chase the weather. They go where it’s nice and cool so they don’t have to use the air conditioner. We have spent a summer in our RV in Texas, and it was pretty tough. On 95-100 degree days the coolest the RV gets inside is 85. Things that help though are covering the windows with reflex window coverings, you know that shinny sliver bubble wrap stuff? Not using your oven, keeping your doors closed, and walking around naked help too. Most RV air conditioners just can’t keep things cool enough. Although or newer RV is better insulated and has two Air conditioners, but the verdict is still out on how cool it will keep us on a 100 degree day.
8. Ok, lets here another positive thing about living in an RV. I’ve talked about this in other blog posts. It’s less space to clean. No more slaving through the weekend to clean your home. RV’s are a very small amount of space and clean up fast. With Kristy and I working together we can pick up the entire RV in about 10 minutes (unless the kids had a little too much fun). And we can do a pretty thorough clean in about 30 minutes. Less time cleaning, means more time doing things you truly enjoy. But if you enjoy cleaning, maybe the RV life is not for you.
9. Stuff breaks all the time….especially on older RV’s. The bright side though, is that some things are pretty easy to fix, like tightening pipe fittings that are leaking, or adding caulk over a leaky drain. But those harder to fix problems just require a call to your mobile RV repair handy man. Yup, those exist. Most are former RV techs that ventured out on their own. The drive around from RV park to RV park fixing peoples broken shit. But maybe this is your jam! If you are handy (unlike myself) you are REALLY going to enjoy RV life. Have fun fixing things.
10. I’ve once heard towable RV’s described as rolling earthquakes. So don’t try to ride in the back of an RV being towed. It can’t be fun. And maybe that is why things break so often. Just saying.
11. Everything is made of plastic and fake wood. Maybe you have seen pictures on Instagram of RV’s that look like a luxurious tiny home. In most cases those are gutted renovations, that may employ some nicer real wood, but in most cases, since RV’s need to remain light weight for towing purposes, everything is light weight and cheap. Look closer at the solid surface counter top and in some cases you will learn it’s just cheap ply wood covered to look like a nice counter. Those hard wood cabinets? Actually just particle board covered in paper with wood like printing on it. That nice tile backsplash! Looks amazing right? It’s a sticker! Yup, a really nice sticker.
12. America’s addiction to television is out of control. This is evident in that RV’s are equipped with large screen televisions, satellite dishes, and most RV parks provide free cable! We didn’t get sucked into the television trap when we bought an RV though, so you can breathe a sigh of relief. Sure, we watch NetFlix, but the spot that would hold our large screen television has been turned into a book shelf. I once saw a guy that I can only assume was on vacation spend half a day moving his portable satellite dish around to get a signal. He even had his wife crawling up on the roof in search of a better spot.
I do kid a lot here, but RV life is REALLY awesome. There were a lot of adjustments at first, but now it’s our new normal. We enjoy the freedom and flexibility having a home on wheels provides. If you want to know more, read your last blog post about some of the things we learned after living in an RV for three years.
Posted on May 8, 2018
If you are stumbling across this blog for the first time, you should know we are a family of five, and live in a 35’ fifth wheel RV. Our children are ages 6 and under, and we started the journey with just two kids. They were ages three and one when we first started. I remember family telling us before we dove into this crazy journey, “it will ruin your marriage,” and all sorts of other fear tactics to steer us clear of the full time RV life.
It should be stated also, that the whole thing was Kristy’s idea. I was hesitant at first. I wanted to be able to have “space” if need be, and the idea of close quarters kind of scared me, but now I see it as the best thing we have ever done.
Our journey into full time RV life began shortly after we drove to Tennessee to do our Debt Free Scream on the Dave Ramsey Show. Becoming debt free was the catalyst to jumping into this crazy journey. After paying off our debt, we sold everything we owned, including my 6 year old Subaru Outback, my carbon fiber road bike, and pretty much everything we owned. We used the money we made from that to purchase our 2006 Four Winds trailer, and a 2001 Ford F-250 7.3L diesel truck to tow it with.
You don’t need so much space: smaller spaces are less stressful and easier to clean
The smaller space was probably what I feared most, aside from learning how to tow a trailer, but I’ve learned that large amounts of space are not necessary, and I now prefer smaller spaces. It’s nice on occasion to visit family and be able to spread out in their home, but overall large spaces overwhelm now. Having a small space is easier to clean. It takes us about 10 minutes to pick up the entire RV, and about 30 minutes to do a more thorough clean. Smaller spaces are easier to manage, and honestly feel quite cozy.
You spend more time outdoors when you live in a tiny home
One of our main goals in transitioning to the full-time RV life was to spend more time outdoors, and indeed we do. Living in a small space is great, but there is something magical about it I think. It forces you outdoors when you don’t have a reason to be inside. If we aren’t making dinner, or working on our computers, we usually find ourselves outside (we do occasionally work outdoors though). Our children are almost always outside, which is absolutely wonderful.
Plus, our home is on wheels! So we can literally have our entire life with us wherever we go, and having weekend adventures is so much easier. I still recall one weekend within the first year of living in the RV full time. We had planned on actually camping at one of my trail races, and then it dawned on us, we can just take our entire home. So we did. Outdoor adventures are so much easier, when you don’t have to pack
Downsizing and purging is addicting
When we first started this journey I had a really hard time with getting rid of things. Such as my road bike, and my really nice food dehydrator (which I hadn’t used in a year). Now, things are different. I’m always thinking of things we can purge and get rid of. Often times it’s kids toys. We have found that the life cycle of a kid toy is about one week before they move on and forget about it. Our kids never miss a toy we give away or donate. We now do a purge about twice a year, where we go through our things and get rid of any excess. Living tiny definitely helps you keep your possessions to a minimum and only buy things you really need.
The tight quarters create closeness
No matter what we are doing, we are close. If the kids are playing or watching a movie, we are an arm’s reach away. If Kristy and I are doing work things, we are right next to each other, working on our passions. It creates more opportunities for conversation and interactions as well. We can easily talk to one another while getting ready to leave for the day, as we are in the same room, vs. being on the other side of a house.
Being mobile creates spontaneity
Last summer we thought we were going to stay in Texas. We didn’t think the budget could handle traveling to Colorado and staying in expensive RV parks, but once the Texas heat kicked in, and our tin can of a home heated up, we began dreaming of heading to the mountains. We started researching RV parks in New Mexico, that were closer to Austin, and had an affordable rate. We found an RV park with low monthly rates in the town of Red River. The average high temp was 70 degrees.
So we called and made a reservation for 6 weeks, but during our last week Texas was getting hit by a hurricane and even Austin was experiencing massive rains and high wind, so we extended our stay for another week. Being mobile just gives you so much freedom, and we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Experiences over possessions
Experiences bring much more joy than a new gadget or fancy car. When we spend less money on things, we have more financial freedom to travel and experience things as a family. Our own family mission is: “to glorify God and share his love through hospitality and generosity, by valuing people and experiences over possessions; while living a life of freedom which allows us to enjoy the outdoors, respect the environment and lead a healthy active lifestyle.”
And let me tell you, this journey has lead us to meet and show hospitality to lots of people. I value those experiences over any new device I have purchased, and living minimal like this allows us to spend more time outdoors and live the healthy active lifestyle we desire.
Not everything goes as planned and you have to learn to accept that
Break downs will happen when traveling, especially when you are doing it full-time. It’s not a matter of if you will break down, it’s a matter of WHEN. So far we have had one major break down with the truck, and several tire related issues that didn’t set us back more than an hour or three. The first time we ever had a major issue I was just furious and angry. But since then we have learned to just roll with the punches. I talk about our most recent break down in this post. It also helps that we have excellent roadside assistance through Good Sam.
I’m not going to say that everybody should give tiny living a try, because it might not be for everybody. But if you are considering it, chances are this IS for you, and any doubts you have in your head will quickly go away once you jump into it. I know I had my doubts when we first started, but our first week on the road traveling all those fears went away, my stress levels decreased, and life took on a whole new meaning.
Posted on May 2, 2018
Have you ever had a vacation where literally NOTHING went right? As in, you never even made it to your destination? That is exactly what happened to us this past week. For months we had been planning on going to Big Bend National Park. We weren’t even three hours outside Austin when smoke began billowing out of our engine compartment. Our vacation came crumbling to pieces before it had even started.
We sat there on the side of the road, frustrated, but quickly sprang into action and called roadside assistance for help. In this moment of being completely helpless on the side of the road we realized that we had a choice. We could be pissed off and angry, or we could CHOSE to be happy and make the most out of a crappy situation, which is exactly what we did. We watched movies inside the RV, and played in the wildflowers on the side of the highway. We remained optimistic that the next day we could get back on the road and only lose one day of our trip. Rather than just being angry, we made the conscious choice to just be present in the moment and enjoy it, because after all, everybody was safe and the truck wasn’t on fire (we later learned there was a fuel leak, and thank God we have a diesel truck).
In the past when we had roadside issues, we didn’t handle it so gracefully (but we also didn’t have good roadside assistance)! Kristy probably handled it better than I did, but I was visibly angry and frustrated. Even though I couldn’t change the situation, I let my emotions get the best of me, but this time it was different. I decided to stay positive.
After we got towed into the closest RV park, just a few miles down the road, we had to wait until the next morning for the truck to be towed to a shop. We thought there might be a good chance we could get back on the road quickly because we had self-diagnosed a fuel line leak. But our hopes were shattered…..and three days later we got the truck back….YUP! THREE DAYS!
Needless to say, nobody was happy about that. We were sad that our trip to Big Bend was shot. Neither Kristy or I wanted to risk going into the desert with a repair done by a small town mechanic. Yet the whole time we remained upbeat and didn’t let the situation dictate our emotions. We stayed present in the moment, and enjoyed it for what it was.
Had we broken down in a larger city, we likely would have been on the road in the same day. But, being in a small town we had to wait for parts. It was something we could not change though. The fuel line could have broken the week before, or the week after the trip, but it was providential to happen right at the start of vacation.
I’ve learned in the past couple years, not just through full time RV life, how important it is to be present in the moment. It’s super easy to check out when you have a computer in your pocket. It’s easy to be angry that things didn’t go as planned (things rarely do). The one thing you always have control over though is how you react. I like the Tony Robbins quote, “life is not happening TO you, it’s happening FOR you.” Meaning, that even if things are not going well, even tragic things, are all happening for a reason.
During or stay in the tiny town of Junction, TX, we decided to make a new family vacation plan. We booked a reservation at Garner State Park that was just an hour away from where we broke down. Since we had lost three full days we wanted to stay close and maximize our time together as a family (that wasn’t spent driving). It ended up being an excellent decision.
We thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our vacation, we hardly even thought about not being at Big Bend, and as far as our kids knew, we were at Big Bend. Had we gone down the path of negativity we likely would not have enjoyed the rest of our time away. I was able to enjoy checking out of work related things, everybody got to enjoy lots of outside time: we hiked, we swam in the Frio River, and the kids enjoyed LOTS of time climbing on the tree just behind the RV.
Despite being content with the situation, I feel I will definitely be getting the truck looked at by an excellent diesel mechanic to ensure our next road trip is break-down-free.
Posted on April 10, 2018
Wow, 2018 is FLYING by at lightning speed. It seriously seems like Christmas of 2017 was just yesterday! Spring has now arrived, and we are no longer running the heater in our RV on a daily basis, although the past two days have been an exception. Summer is fast approaching as well, and we are pondering what our next big adventure might be. We don’t know for certain yet, but there are a few possibilities, including moving to a new RV park as our permanent home base, as well as traveling the US as part of work for Bearded Brothers.
The one thing we know for certain is that Midtown RV Park is closing down at the end of the year. Although they have not even given residents official notice, management is letting new tenants in on the information, and the rumors have spread all around the park. I did confirm by looking at the City CAD property search, that an investment group has purchased the property.
We are currently looking at moving into La Hacienda RV Resort in Lakeway. It will be a huge adjustment for us, as all our close friends live in Austin proper. We also won’t be minutes from downtown anymore, and we won’t be biking distance to awesome coffee shops either.
The up sides to this RV park are pretty substantial though. It’s a large community, it’s safe, they have a huge laundry facility on-site, propane on-site, daily trash pick-up, a pool, workout facility, playground for the kids, and a nature trail around a small lake. I’m sure it will be a place we enjoy living, the only downsides I see are being further away from Austin proper, but being in Lakeway we will likely find new hangouts, and go-to restaurants for those days we just don’t want to cook.
As for traveling during the Summer, it’s looking like that is not going to happen. At least not anything long term. We will more than likely get away for at least a couple of weeks. There are family commitments already on the schedule, and it’s looking like my business (Bearded Brothers) is going to need my undivided attention this entire year. But…with some of the potential growth we will experience through the business we might end up traveling a bit more throughout the year to visit trade shows and open new store accounts. It’s not a certainty yet, but there is a good likelihood it will happen.
Our kids are growing up fast too. Abby is now 5, and turns 6 in September. Josh is turning 4 in May, and Nathan will be 2 in September. Before you know it, homeschooling / roadschooling will be in full force! It’s been amazing watching our kids just learn on their own though. The things they pick up never cease to amaze. Abby is already learning to read, all be it at a slow pace, but pretty much self-initiated. All three of them are little sponges and just soak up any information they receive. The amount these guys can remember is astounding.
Even though we can sometimes fear change, even now, we look forward to the new adventures this year will bring. There are many unknowns, especially in regards to where exactly we will live, and the amount of travel we will be doing, but we look forward to taking them on, one adventure at a time.
Adventure Note: We do know for sure that in just a couple weeks we will be heading to Big Bend National Park for a family vacation. We have only traveled once since last October, so we are really looking forward to being on the road again. We have no agenda set, we just know the dates we will be traveling and look forward to exploring Big Bend, it will be the first visit for everybody in the family.
We have also been doing a lot of spring cleaning in preparation for our trip. We try to do this a couple times a year. So far, I have cleaned the roof and patched a couple problems spots. We have purged both the inside and outside of the RV of things that are not being used. I’m pretty sure our rig is at least 100 lbs lighter. We’re ready for an adventure!
Posted on March 28, 2018
Living in an RV full time is right on par with your normal tiny home living lifestyle. It requires downsizing your life and being as minimal as possible in many areas of your life. Read on to find out what our favorite minimalist devices are that we use in the RV on a regular basis.
(note: each headline is our amazon affiliate link to purchase the product)
Move over glass French Press. Living in a tiny space means things get knocked around a lot. After breaking three glass French presses we finally discovered they make stainless steel models.
We are also HUGE fans of cold brew coffee, and we use our 24oz mason jars to brew our coffee. We have broken our fair share of these jars as well though!
We have always been advocates for filtering tap water, even when we lived in an apartment. But when living in an RV it’s even more important. While moving around you never know what the water source will be like. Our 10 Stage Filter sits on the counter next to our bathroom sink (it used to be in the kitchen, bur the fixture in our new RV does not work with the filter).
We opted for the 10 stage filter for two reasons. One, we already owned it, and two, the Berkey filters are just too bulky and take up a lot of room.
This is the smallest most functional printer we could find. Sure, you could find one smaller if you want to manually feed paper one sheet at a time. We feel this printer is the perfect size that also has function. It sits on the vanity in the front bedroom area with plenty of room to use it as a desk.
Dirt accumulates like wild fire inside the RV, especially with 3 kids romping around. Our Stick vacuum as well as our WISP broom are essential floor cleaning tools. We often times even use the vacuum on our bed after our children have mischievously eaten food in it without asking. The nice thing about these tools is the fit easily into the small RV closets.
Simple and cheap. This little hooks are great for many things: hanging the welcome sign outside our RV, hanging measuring spoons inside our cabinet, putting up Christmas decorations during the holiday season, hanging hats, bags, etc. The list goes on. They help get things up off the floor and out of the way. Kristy also used them for organizing jewelry on the inside of her closet door. We use the command strips to hang the WISPsystem Broom inside a closet door.
This small LED disc lights are great for the inside of our cabinets that don’t get much ambient light from the RV. They are cheap, easily to install, and take rechargeable AAA batteries. I even discovered some on Amazon with remote on-off switches!
We have found that our air conditioner/furnace thermostat is very inaccurate. So, this helps us accurately set our indoor temperature. The humidity gauge is also nice as well because it helps us know how proactive we need to be about controlling the humidity levels.
This are just a few of our favorite things. I’m sure there are probably a dozen other awesome gadgets we don’t even know about, but these are the ones we feel make our life more simple and enjoyable in our tiny home on wheels.
What are some of your favorite tiny living gadgets. Let us know in the comments.
Posted on March 13, 2018
If you have recently started shopping for a new RV you have probably seen the dealer point out a fancy looking outlet on the outside of the RV that is labeled “solar ready.” They say little more than, “here is a port you can plug a solar panel into.” Which leaves you instantly thinking and pondering the off grid adventures you can have with a single solar panel. Well it isn’t quite that easy.
The reality of the matter is, that little plug is completely worthless. Well, not completely, but you will more than likely never use it, even if you get a solar setup on your RV. It’s nothing more than a sales gimmick. There are a couple companies out there that make a solar panel that can plug into that port and you can even purchase an after-market plug that you can wire up yourself to the solar panel brand of your choice…but it’s really not even needed.
If you go with the ground deploy method, like we did in our simple RV solar setup, you will need nothing more than a set of alligator clips to attach to the batteries… And that is something I almost forgot: The dealer won’t tell you that you need to upgrade your RV battery to fully take advantage of having a solar setup. A true off-grid experience requires you have two 6-volt deep cycle batteries (at minimum, some systems use 4 or more). The standard marine battery the RV comes with won’t even get you through one night of camping without shore power.
So don’t believe the hype. The solar ready RV’s are not truly solar ready. It’s just a sales tactic. A true solar setup is going to require a lot more than just plugging in an overpriced panel to that factory installed port. Oh, and that is another thing. The ports don’t even attach to the battery. You are left having to wire up the battery yourself in order for the solar panels to even charge the battery.
So, keep that in mind when RV shopping. Simply put, there are two types of solar setups you can go with: One is the easiest, the ground deploy method, and the second is panels installed on your roof. Both involve running wire from the solar panel to a set of deep cycle batteries, which replace the standard 12 volt marine battery your RV comes with.
The method you chose to go with is going to depend on your needs. But both systems will also allow you to install an inverter to power your electrical outlets inside the RV, but you will almost never be able to power things like air conditioners. They just require too much power for a few batteries and an inverter to run constantly.
If you want a simple solar setup, check out my blog post where I talk about ours.
You can also check out this Facebook group, and start reading up on the posts there, but be sure to read and search posts first before asking questions. More than likely your question has been asked before.
Even though most RV’s are not truly solar ready, simple solar setups are easy to install. Ours cost us about $500 and can easily get us through several nights without shore power, just as long as we have sunshine for most of those days.
Posted on March 5, 2018
When a lot of people hear about somebody traveling and living in their RV full time, they often think, “wow you most have a lot of money!” Especially when they see young people doing it, which is becoming more and more common.
Well, I’m here to tell you I have yet to run into anybody our age our younger that is, “retired.” Every single person we know personally, or through the internet works from the road. They all have different jobs: some work remotely for a corporation, others run online businesses, and some even jump around from place to place finding work in each town.
We are different than a lot of full time RV families though. Since we own and run a packaged food company, Bearded Brothers, we have to spend a lot of our time in our home-base, Austin, TX. We end up travelling mostly in the summer months, when TX is hot and unbearable.
I would say we spend about 75-80% of your time parked here in Austin. While on one hand we have this huge desire to travel more, we have all the benefits of having a strong community of friends and family close by at all times.
When we do travel though, we LOVE it. There is less stress about being in the office at a certain time. The pressure of having to be certain places and please certain people is lifted. Life slows down a bit. When we are on the road we get a lot more quality time together, more time outdoors doing things we love, experiencing new things, and resting.
This doesn’t mean that the whole trip is a vacation. I’m still putting in normal work hours running the business. Work doesn’t stop just because we are on the road. We usually do plan “vacation weeks” during our extended times away from Austin. They are treated just like any other vacation. It’s known to my work team that I’m on vacation, and only reachable for emergencies, aside from the occasions we are so remote we don’t have cell reception…those are truly remarkable vacations!
So, if you have ever thought, I would like to RV full time, but there is no way I could do that: just know that YOU CAN. Most towns have RV parks somewhere nearby, some even have them right in town. You could always ease into your journey by living in the RV full time – stationary. Which is pretty much what we do aside from a few months of travel a year (on a good year). Having your home on wheels will give you the freedom to travel more and take impromptu weekend trips just for the heck of it. For your two weeks of vacation a year, you can just hook up your home and go wherever you want. Packing is much easier this way! 🙂
This option is great for somebody that might be chained to the desk and can’t work remote, and if this lifestyle truly fits you, you can always look for work that allows a more remote lifestyle. Or even start your own business that gives you the freedom you desire.
Bottom line is, you don’t have to be rich to live the full time RV life, and it doesn’t mean you have to be on the road constantly either. The life is what you make it. For us it was more about minimizing our consumption, and valuing experiences over possessions. The why might look different for you, but all you have to do is make the leap.
If going full time is something you are interested, you might want to check out the following articles and books on this blog.
Posted on February 17, 2018
One of the questions we get asked most by other families is, “where do your kids sleep?” Well, as most kids do, they sleep in their room! Yup, that’s right, they have their own room. A lot of RV floor plans have what is called a bunkhouse. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a room in the back of the RV with bunk beds.
Our first RV did not have a slide out in the room so it was just two beds on each side of the room. However, we removed one of the beds to create more floor space for the kids to play, and when our newest son was little, it is where we put his Pack N Play. Removing the bunk bed was pretty easy, and putting up faux wood paneling over the external storage compartment was also a cinch.
Now that Nathan is a little bit older, he sleeps on the top bunk in a PeaPod Tent. (Amazon Affiliate Link) All of our kids slept in one of these when they were younger. This method of sleeping our children actually started with our oldest, Abigail, when we still lived in an apartment. She would always get out of her bed at night, even after receiving discipline numerous times. Ever since then, all the kids have had a season of tent sleeping in the bed.
Our new RV has a slide out in the bunk room with four sleeping positions, but one of them we converted to extra storage, which you can see in the pic below. Below the storage bins is a hideaway bed that slides out. Josh, our middle child, sometimes sleeps here, but mostly (due to being rowdy and keeping the other kids awake) he will sleep in the living room on the couch.
Abby sleeps in the left top bunk that has ladder access, and Nathan sleeps in the other top bunk inside his Pea Pod Tent with a side rail protecting him from falling out. These portable side rails can be purchased on Amazon (Affiliate Link).
The kids are pretty well adapted to things going on around them too. We were a bit worried about how they would handle it when we first started living in the RV full time, but they adapted quickly and the sounds of us doing our nightly cleaning never bothered them. Because of the close quarters in our old RV, we spent a lot of our time outside once nightly clean-up was done. However, in the new RV we have more space in our bedroom area, so we do our wind-down time with some privacy and a closed door (not that paper thin RV doors do much for blocking sound).
The sleeping arrangements were only somewhat of a concern when we first started this journey, but now that we have been doing this for a few years we realize it’s not a big deal at all. Kids are very adaptable, as are we!
Posted on February 7, 2018
Becoming a full time RV dweller is easier than you might think, and it doesn’t require you traveling the countryside. There are a good number of full time RV dwellers that have a semi-permanent home base. That is the case with us. We live in Austin, TX about 75% of the year. We only hook up and travel during the Summer, aside from short week long and weekend trips throughout the year.
Your first thought might be, wow I could never afford that. Truthfully, if you aren’t traveling full time it’s WAY cheaper than living in an apartment or home. Especially if you live in an expensive market like Austin. Even being full time on the road is often cheaper than living in a stick and bricks home.
Our all-in monthly “rent” expense is never more than $950. And that covers our RV site, utilities, and RV payment. Try finding a one bedroom apartment for that price! During the winter and spring months we are only spending around $850. I will go more into expenses later in the post.
The biggest barrier to going full time in an RV is YOURSELF! You just have to decide to do it. Once you decide you are going to make the leap, your first step is to start downsizing. Craigslist is going to be your best friend here. We got rid of almost all our worldly possessions just through Craigslist and Facebook. And the best part is, we made enough money to pay cash for our first RV and truck.
We purchased a used Ford F-250 for about $8,000 and our RV was $7,000. Looking back on it I was pretty blown away we came up with that kind of money, but we sold our paid off Subaru Outback for $9,000 and our road bikes for about $2,750. So that was a good chunk of the change we needed to buy our home on wheels and the truck to tow it with. I have to be honest, selling the bikes was rough one me, but it was a sacrifice we were willing to make to live the full time RV life.
Once we sold all our stuff, bought our RV and truck all that as left was moving in, and donating whatever we didn’t sell to Goodwill. We did move a small amount of stuff into storage at my office, things like keepsakes and family heirlooms. Then we hit the road! To get started we stayed two weeks in an RV park near Bee Caves, which was closer to my office, but further from town. After those two weeks were up we found a more permanent spot before hitting the road for three months. And upon returning we found the RV Park we are still currently living in.
We have loved the opportunities living in an RV have provided. We have spent two entire summers in the mountains, had mini family vacations just because we could. We love living minimally and having very little possession, and it’s great having a home that can be cleaned from top to bottom in an about an hour tops.
Choosing an RV or Motorhome
RV’s also known as travel trailers or fifth wheels, are towable vehicles that require a truck with a tow capacity rating that fits with whatever rig you purchased. The advantage of an towable RV is lower cost, and if your engine on the vehicle has issues your home doesn’t have to go into the shop. Repairs on the RV are also easily done on-site in most cases, and you can usually find a mobile repair person to come to your home on wheels. The main downside to a travel trailer is the learning curve involved with towing, and backing up a long vehicle.
A motorhome will likely be easier to learn to drive, but downsides are higher cost, and engine repairs mean leaving your home in the shop for an extended period of time. You also have to take your home to the shop for oil changes and simple repairs, unless you are handy (which I am not). Plus sides are you can tow your drivable vehicle behind you, and are often roomier than travel trailers. But, another downside for people with kids is floor layouts are usually for empty nesters. I have yet to see a layout with a bunk room for kids that wasn’t right next to the main bedroom.
Traveling vs Full Time RV Spots
If you are wanting to “ease into the full time RV life” then finding an RV park in your current home town and staying there full time is going to be your best option. Usually you can rent a spot in parks for $500-$800 per month. This allows you to experience the joys of minimalist living while still being in your hometown. This might be a great option for somebody with a full-time desk job that hasn’t made the leap into location independent work.
When traveling full time you are best staying in spots for at least a week at a time because there is usually a price break involved. Even better, book a full month and pay half the normal nightly rate. Not all RV parks have a monthly option, but most of them usually reserve a few spots for long term stays.
We prefer staying in one spot for longer periods of time so we can experience the culture. We have recently purchased a solar setup that allows us to camp off grid. We haven’t used it a lot yet, but in the near future we will be spending a lot of time in public lands, which a lot of the times are completely free.
Another secret of the full time RVer is Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shop and WalMart Parking lots. Most Cabela’s have actual designated spots for RV’s, the other two are hit or miss on whether or not they allow overnight stays for RV’s. It’s always best to call ahead and be sure. The Cabela’s lots usually have dump stations as well, so you can empty your black and gray tank. Most charge you $5 to do this.
So, aside from the extra gas money, you can actually make your monthly “rent” expense very similar or cheaper than what it would cost to live in an apartment or home.
I won’t pretend to know everything about this, but I do know the basics. A good starting point is Good Sam, and they have insurance brokers that help full-time RVers find insurance. Most traditional insurance companies won’t understand the needs of a full time RV dweller.
We have two policies. One covers repairs on the RV such as the fridge going out, leaks, plumbing issues, etc. The other policy covers us if we get into an accident, and also provides a few nights of hotel stay in the event we can’t stay in the RV.
In addition to the insurance I recommend purchasing a Good Sam Roadside Assistance program. This has saved our neck already. We had locked our keys in the truck while it was running and within an hour we had somebody come out and unlock the door. It’s also great for changing tires and other roadside issues.
Our RV and truck policy are bundled and run us about $130 per month. The policy that covers things going run with the RV itself runs about $130 per quarter, and the roadside assistance runs $150 per year.
What to Expect. Setting Up and Packing Up
I grew up going camping an in RV with my family, so none of this was really that new to me. It had been YEARS since I had camped in an RV, and I was so young I was never really that involved in the set up and pack up process. But having some knowledge certainly helped.
There are YouTube videos galore on these topics! Not sure about how to connect your black tank hose and drain it? Confused about how to hook up your RV and connect the sway controller? Want to know what things you need to secure inside your RV? YouTube it!!! YouTube and blog articles were how we refreshed on all these topics, especially how to back in an RV.
My best advice though would be have patience. Take it slow, especially during your first few trips. Also, if you are purchasing the RV from a dealer they will take you through all the steps of what you need to do when setting up and taking down to travel. If you happen to be buying the rig used from an individual, ask them to give you a walk through and let them know you are new to RV life.
The Financial Details
Below is a basic breakdown of our monthly expenses on the road, vs when staying parked.
Basic Budget Items (monthly basis)
RV Lot – $500
RV Payment – $300
RV & Truck Insurance – $130
RV Only Insurance (repairs) – $43
Roadside Assistance – $13
Repairs (budget for these) – $150
Monthly Expenses When Traveling
RV Parks – $1,000 (this cost can be much lower if you boondock in public lands or stay in sites monthly)
Gas – $300 (about 1,000 miles at 9 miles per gallon…so this number will vary)
RV Payment – $300
RV & Truck Insurance – $130
RV Only Insurance (repairs) – $43
Roadside Assistance – $13
Repairs (budget for these) – $50
The rest of our monthly budget really doesn’t change. Since our home is on wheels we go grocery shopping just like we typically would, so we don’t eat out a whole lot. This is one reason why living on the road can be so affordable.
While traveling full time in an RV requires you a flexible job, merely living in an RV full time does not. We are kind of in the middle of the two. Owning my own company allows me to take extended periods of time off to travel, but most of the time we are parked in Austin at an RV park. I would say one of the things we love most about living in the RV full time is we spend a lot more time outdoors! Living in a tiny space is great, but it does force you outside, which is perfect for our family.
Posted on January 31, 2018
This past October our family traveled to Virginia so I could run an Ultra Marathon. We knew it was going to require us to be without shore power in our RV for at least 3 nights (we ended up 4 nights without shore power), so I decided to research solar power. Because the last time we boondocked for several nights we used a generator and even on a fully charged factory installed battery we couldn’t make it through one night without COMPLETELY draining the battery, which I now know is a huge no-no.
I won’t bore you with all of the details about all the solar setups that are possible and cut straight to the chase and let you know about the simplest setup anybody can possibly have. (Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase, affiliate link to Amazon)
The first thing you need has nothing to do with solar panels. It’s a battery bank. The battery your RV came with isn’t going to cut it. You need to upgrade to two 6volt deep cycle batteries. Commonly known as golf cart batteries.
You need two of them run in series because your RV runs on a 12 volt system when on battery, and two 6volt batteries make 12 volts. It’s simple math. (click here for information about wiring two 6 volt batteries in series)
You will want to look at the amp hours on the battery too. Mine are rated at 210 amp hours. Which means I essentially have 105 usable “amp hours” because you don’t want to let your batteries fall below 50% capacity. (More detail about this below)
So simply put: let’s say your RV lights draw 5 amps and you ran those for 10 hours straight you will have used 50 amp hours of your 105 amp hours (this is assuming nothing else is drawing off the battery) So this is where a solar panel comes in. The solar panel keeps the battery charged so you always have usable amps.
Solar panels don’t “power” your RV. They simply keep the battery charged. We use a Renogy 100 Watts 12 Volts Monocrystalline Foldable Solar Suitcase. We decided on the “ground deploy” method because we wanted simplicity and did not want to deal with installing panels on the roof or running wiring through the RV.
This 100watt panel connects to our battery setup with alligator clamps and the line from the panel has a 10amp fuse installed in it. We also purchased a model that came with a charge controller which is another essential component of a solar setup. Without a charge controller the panel can’t regulate and put “juice” into the batteries.
So, out little system now looks like this: solar panel & charge controller, battery bank (and wiring the that runs from the charge controller to the batteries)
The higher the wattage panel you get the more amp hours it can pump back into the batteries. Our little 100watt panel puts in about 5 amps per hour in full direct sun. So, if we used 20 amps of power during the night running lights and fans, it would take 4 hours to fully charge the battery.
So far, this simple setup has been great for us. So much so we temporarily disconnect from shore here in Austin (we went back onto shore power because the cost of propane offset any energy savings).
So that’s it, a super simple way to go solar.
- Purchase at least two 6 volt deep cycle batteries and wire then in series (this replaces your existing 12 volt marine battery), connecting them to your RV. If you want more usable amp hours go ahead and wire up four 6 volt deep cycles in series. Just make sure they are all the same make/model and amp hour rating
- Purchase a briefcase style solar panel WITH charge controller.
- Connect the charge controller via alligator clamps to the battery, or your RV’s solar ready port if compatible (note, most of the solar ready ports are useless without a special plug that the manufacturer doesn’t even know much about)
- Go off grid!
Important things to note when going solar.
- This simple system will not power air conditioning, AC outlets or microwaves.
- The more batteries you have the more usable amp hours are available and the longer you can go without having to charge them. This is helpful for cloudy days.
- When on solar you are running on DC only. You will need propane to keep your fridge running.
- Consider wiring 12 volt ports into the RV. This is easiest done by connecting existing wiring such as lights and your water pump (anything that runs on DC power)
- Use small 12 volt adapter inverters for charging laptops, batteries, and televisions (I will say though we don’t have a TV in our rig so have never attempted to power one). You can hard wire them to the battery or use the 12 volt outlets you installed. Going directly off the battery is always best.
- Never let your battery capacity fall below 50%…or 12volts. This can be measure with a voltmeter, or usage meters that connect to the battery.