Being a full-time RVer is quite a personal journey, and what works for one person may not work for another. The best is to do your research according to your expectations and lifestyle, as much advance as possible, to connect all the dots and be prepared to have a comfortable experience. Here are 30 tips for an enjoyable full-time RV experience, whether you are full-time living or renting an RV, and what strategies to embrace when challenges arrive in your new RV life. Consider this post as a checklist to be aware of during your RV life.
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What to Know Before Starting a Full-Time RV Living
Embarking on a full-time RV living lifestyle can be an exciting and liberating experience, but it also comes with its own set of challenges.
Living in an RV full-time is an exciting adventure, but it comes with its unique challenges and considerations. Here are some insights that people often wish they knew before diving into full-time RV living and some tips to enhance your RV experience, regardless of whether you own an RV or you are renting an RV:
1. Prioritize Personal Safety (Especially, Solo Travelers)
Although personal safety affects all of us, solo travelers need to be aware of potential challenges and safety considerations, mainly because they are traveling alone.
- Always Prioritize Safety: Install security measures in your RV, such as door and window locks. Stay aware of your surroundings, especially when parked in unfamiliar areas. It is good to stay vigilant. Trust your instincts, and if something feels off, don’t hesitate to relocate.
- Campsite Selection: Choose well-lit and populated campsites when possible. Research the safety reputation of campgrounds before arriving.
- Emergency Communication: Ensure you have reliable means of communication, such as a cellphone with good coverage or a satellite phone. Share your location with someone you trust and establish regular check-ins.
- To prevent fires, make sure to regularly inspect your RV’s electrical system, keep flammable materials away from heat sources, and install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors in your RV and test them regularly.
2. Plan Your Route and Destinations
Research and plan your route in advance, taking into account the locations you want to visit, weather conditions, and any special events or attractions. A key recommendation for full-time RV camping is to equip your phone with essential road trip apps. From navigation assistance to locating gas stations in a pinch, many apps exist to ensure a stress-free journey and save you some money. For example, I saved a lot of money last year using GasBuddy, which maps out nearby gas stations and their prices so you can choose the best price.
3. Initiate Financial Planning for RV Living Expenses
Financial planning is always critical in life, and living in an RV may be expensive. Initiate financial planning for RV living expenses, including campground fees, maintenance, insurance, and unexpected costs. Develop a comprehensive budget and set up an emergency fund to ensure financial stability on the road.
- Budget Wisely: Create a realistic budget that includes all your living expenses, such as campground fees, fuel, maintenance, insurance, and entertainment. Monitor your RV spending and adjust your budget as needed.
- Consider all the expenses associated with RV living, including campground fees, fuel, propane, insurance, maintenance, groceries, and entertainment. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of your monthly expenses to ensure that your lifestyle is sustainable.
- Emergency Fund: Unexpected repairs or emergencies can arise while on the road. Having an emergency fund set aside expressly for these situations can provide peace of mind and prevent financial strain.
4. Get an Income That Suits Your Full-Time RV Lifestyle
Many seasoned RVers consist of retired couples enjoying their golden years, traveling between America’s two coasts. However, an increasing number of millennials and other younger individuals are drawn to the allure of the open road. If you don’t have a retirement income to rely on, consider finding employment that aligns with the RV lifestyle. Explore opportunities such as real estate or campground hosting.
In today’s digital age, numerous jobs offer online or remote work options, allowing you to take your career on the road. Keep in mind that investing in a reliable hotspot for portable Wi-Fi is likely a wise choice.
5. Vehicle and RV Maintenance
Acquire basic knowledge of RV maintenance to troubleshoot common issues and perform routine checks. This can save you time and money on repairs.
- Learn Basic Repairs: Familiarize yourself with basic RV maintenance tasks such as checking tire pressure, inspecting seals, and troubleshooting electrical systems. Knowing how to address common issues can save you time and money, especially when professional help may not be readily available.
- Regular Inspections: Stay on top of routine maintenance to keep your RV in good condition. Regularly check tires, brakes, fluid levels, and other essential components. Conduct regular inspections of your RV’s systems and components to catch potential problems early. This includes checking for leaks, inspecting the roof and seals, and ensuring that appliances are functioning properly.
- RV Batteries Maintenance and Life Expectancy: get a routine to keep your RV batteries running correctly. Charging, replacing, and connecting your deep-cycle RV batteries will ensure you have enough energy for a comfortable full-time RV life. Recommended reading: How You Should Choose Your Best Deep-Cycle Battery for Your RV.
- Preventive Maintenance: Regularly maintain your RV to reduce the likelihood of breakdowns. Address any issues promptly to avoid being stranded.
- Emergency Kit: Keep an emergency kit on board with essentials like a first aid kit, tools, spare tire, and basic supplies. Consider joining roadside assistance programs for added security.
6. Choose the Right RV for Full-time Living
Finding the perfect RV for a full-time lifestyle requires careful consideration of your needs, preferences, and budget. The features you will need are totally different from choosing an RV for traveling. Here’s a guide to help you in the process:
- Determine Your Budget: Set a realistic budget that includes the cost of the RV, insurance, maintenance, and potential upgrades. This will help narrow down your options.
- Consider Your Lifestyle: Think about your travel style and preferences. Are you planning to stay in one place for an extended period, or do you prefer frequent moves? Consider the size and amenities you need for your lifestyle.
- Choose the Right Type of RV: There are various types of RVs, including Class A, Class B camper vans, and Class C motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels, pop-up campers, toy haulers, and more. Each has its advantages and limitations. Select the rig that aligns with your needs and preferences.
Recommended reading: Best Full-Time Travel Trailer for a Couple
- Size Matters: Consider the size of the RV based on the number of occupants and the level of comfort you desire. Larger RVs offer more living space but can be challenging to maneuver.
- Layout and Floor Plan: Evaluate the interior layout and floor plan. Ensure it meets your needs in terms of sleeping arrangements, kitchen facilities, bathroom amenities, and features for overall comfort (dishwasher, washer and dryer, entertainment center, etc.).
Recommended reading: 30 Best RVs for Full-Time Living for Singles, Couples and Families
Recommended reading: Best Travel Trailer with Washer and Dryer in 2024
- Storage Space: Assess the storage options. Full-time living requires ample storage for clothes, kitchen supplies, and personal belongings. Look for RVs with sufficient cabinets, closets, and exterior storage compartments.
- Insulation and Climate Control: Consider the insulation and climate control features. Adequate insulation is crucial for comfort in varying weather conditions. Look for heating and cooling systems that are effective and energy-efficient.
- Quality of Build: Examine the overall build quality and materials used. A well-constructed RV is likely to withstand the rigors of full-time living and provide better durability.
Recommended reading: How To Live Full-Time in a Travel Trailer
- Maintenance Accessibility: Consider the ease of maintenance. Look for RVs with accessible systems and components, as this will make it easier to perform routine maintenance and repairs.
- Test Drive and Inspect: Schedule a test drive to get a feel for how the RV handles on the road. Thoroughly inspect both the interior and exterior for any signs of wear, damage, or water leaks.
- Research Reviews and Ratings: Read reviews from other full-time RVers and consider the ratings of different RV models.
- Check Manufacturer Reputation: The RV brand is essential. Research the reputation of the RV manufacturer. A reputable manufacturer is more likely to produce a reliable and well-built RV.
Recommended reading: 12 Best Travel Trailers for Full-Time Living (& Brands To Avoid)
- Consider Used vs. New: Evaluate the pros and cons of buying a new or used RV. Used RVs can be more budget-friendly, while new ones may offer the latest features and warranties.
- RV Lifestyle Shows and Dealerships: Attend RV lifestyle shows and visit dealerships to explore various models and gather information. Talking to experienced RVers and dealers can provide valuable insights.
- Used RV Value and Depreciation: Take into account the possible resale depreciation on a used RV value. A brand or model with good resale value can be an essential factor if your full-time RV lifestyle has a limited timeframe.
- By carefully considering these factors, you can find an RV that aligns with your needs, enhances your full-time RV experience, and becomes your home on the road.
Learn more about Private Party RV Value: What is my RV Worth to Sell?
7. Get Ready to Downsize and Declutter
Embrace a frugal lifestyle by downsizing your belongings. Only keep items that are essential for your new RV life. For items that hold sentimental value but are unnecessary for your new life, it is best to get them stored efficiently to avoid clutter.
Downsizing and minimalism are critical to a successful RV experience: Downsizing is a necessary part of transitioning to RV living, as space is limited compared to a traditional home. Be prepared to declutter and streamline your belongings, keeping only the essentials and items that bring you joy or serve a practical purpose. Embracing a minimalist lifestyle can help you maximize space, reduce clutter, and focus on experiences rather than material possessions.
8. Stay Organized
Develop efficient storage systems within your RV to keep things organized. Utilize bins, baskets, and storage containers to maximize space. Learn how to stay organized with these RV Storage Ideas to Optimize the Space in Your Camper.
9. Research for the Best Campsites and Parking
Research Campgrounds: Before booking a campground, research its amenities, location, and reviews to ensure that it meets your needs and preferences. Some campgrounds cater to specific demographics (such as families or retirees) or offer amenities like Wi-Fi, laundry facilities, and recreational activities.
10. Be Prepared to Boondock in Advance
Boondocking, or camping without hookups, can be a cost-effective and adventurous way to explore the great outdoors. However, it requires careful planning and preparation, including finding suitable boondocking locations, conserving resources (such as water and electricity), and practicing Leave No Trace principles. Learn about boondocking to be prepared.
11. Be Mindful of Campground Etiquette
Respect campground rules and be considerate of your neighbors. Keep noise levels down, follow pet policies, and practice good campground etiquette.
12. Have a Reliable Internet Connection
Invest in reliable mobile hotspots and data plans to ensure consistent internet access, primarily if you work remotely or rely on the internet for communication and entertainment.
- Reliable Internet: In today’s connected world, reliable Internet access is essential for staying in touch with loved ones, working remotely, and accessing essential services. Research cellular coverage maps and consider investing in a cellular booster or satellite internet system for RVs to enhance connectivity while on the road.
- Mobile Hotspots: Invest in reliable mobile hotspots and data plans to ensure consistent internet connectivity. Research carriers with good coverage in the areas you plan to travel.
- Campground Wi-Fi: While many campgrounds offer Wi-Fi, the reliability can vary. Have backup options for internet access, such as your own hotspot, primarily if you depend on the internet for work or communication.
13. Create a Comfortable Workspace
If you work remotely, create a designated and comfortable workspace within your RV. Ensure you have the necessary tools and technology for your job.
14. Embrace the Challenges of a Simple Life
Appreciate the simplicity of RV living. Enjoy the freedom to explore new places, meet diverse people, and experience the beauty of nature. While the dynamic scenery and liberating nature of the open road bring numerous benefits, challenges will inevitably arise. Embracing a lifestyle centered around travel implies that these challenges diminish in significance when compared to the exhilaration and joy of belonging to every corner of the world.
15. Have Backup Plans and Go with The Flows
Plan as much as you can, but always have contingency plans for unexpected situations, such as breakdowns, road closures, or weather changes. Being prepared reduces stress during unforeseen challenges.
In the realm of full-time travel, finding the proper equilibrium between having a plan and allowing for spontaneity is crucial. In peak tourist seasons, sought-after destinations can fill up rapidly.
However, excessive planning can lead to stress and counteract the essence of the RV lifestyle. When required, engage in planning and research, but don’t hesitate to embark on your journey without a set agenda.
16. Tune Into Podcasts
During extended days of road travel, podcasts become invaluable companions. Unlike music, they effectively fill the time and provide enjoyable distractions. It may be an excellent opportunity to set a goal, such as learning a new language.
17. Avoid Social Isolation by Getting Social Routines
Social isolation is one of the most common issues beginner full-time RVers, mainly solo travelers, may suffer. Connect with other RVers through online forums, social media groups, and local meetups. Sharing experiences and tips with the RV community can be invaluable.
- Community Engagement: Combat feelings of loneliness by actively seeking social interactions. Attend RV meetups, join online forums, and participate in local events to connect with fellow travelers.
- Emergency Contacts: Maintain a list of emergency contacts, including local authorities, nearby RVers, and friends or family who can assist in case of an emergency.
- Establish a Routine: While the freedom of RV living allows for spontaneity and adventure, establishing a daily routine can provide structure and stability. This is especially important if you’re working remotely or homeschooling children while traveling.
- Stay Social: Despite the independence of RV living, loneliness can be a challenge for some travelers. Make an effort to connect with other RVers through social media groups, RV clubs, and community events. Participating in group activities and volunteering can also help you forge meaningful connections with fellow travelers and locals.
18. Keep Some Cash With You
Although many individuals prefer using credit or debit cards when traveling, it remains crucial to carry a small amount of cash, particularly for full-time RVers. Having cash and change becomes essential for unforeseen tolls and visits to laundromats, preventing potential highway fines or an unwieldy pile of unwashed clothes.
In instances where card machines are out of service or do not accept your card, having cash becomes indispensable to cover various expenses. The specific amount you carry will depend on your budget and requirements, but having $50 to $100 daily is generally a prudent guideline.
19. Maintain Health and Fitness
Incorporate regular exercise into your routine. Many RVers enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and kayaking to stay active. Find trails in your area using the Wikiloc app and use it with your phone’s GPS. Embrace the vitality of healthy snacks to fuel your adventures and sustain your well-being on the road.
20. Get Suitable Health Care and RV Health Insurance
I highly recommend completing the Medical ID information page on your smartphone. If you cannot speak for yourself, emergency responders will try to obtain information from your phone. They must be aware of all the medications you take, any allergies, reactions to drugs, existing medical conditions, or any other relevant medical history.
Additionally, you can utilize this essential communication tool to clearly indicate the location within your RV where your prescription drugs are stored. This information could potentially allow emergency personnel to retrieve your medications and bring them along with you to the hospital.
For iPhone users, locate this page in Settings > Health > Medical ID. Android users will need to download an app that generates a Medical ID page that is accessible without unlocking the phone; you can find a link to a Medical ID application for Android here. Be proactive. Investing time in this now may someday prove to be a life-saving measure.
Plan all the information needed to access your health care. Research what healthcare facilities and services are along your route. Be aware of the nearest hospitals or clinics, especially if you have specific health needs.
Medication management when full-time RV living: Ensure you have an ample supply of necessary medications and a plan for refills while on the road.
Consider establishing relationships with national chain pharmacies that have multiple locations for easy prescription transfers and refills. Explore mail-order pharmacy services that deliver medications to different addresses, ensuring coordination with your travel plans. Inform healthcare providers about your full-time RV lifestyle to discuss extended prescription supplies and alternative dosage options. This might be challenging for long-term prescriptions involving more than one drug.
If possible, carry a copy of prescriptions with medication details and prescribing doctor information. Maintain a small emergency medication kit for short-term needs. Identify and establish relationships with local pharmacies when staying in one place for an extended period.
Keep medications secure, considering factors like climate and storage conditions. Use medication management apps to track prescriptions and set refill reminders. Plan ahead for extended travel in remote areas by ensuring an ample supply of medications.
Health Insurance: Ensure that your health insurance provides coverage while traveling and that you understand how to access medical care in different locations. Consider purchasing travel health insurance or a telemedicine subscription for remote consultations with healthcare providers.
Choose health insurance plans that provide coverage across state lines and offer access to a broad network of healthcare providers (popularly known as RV health insurance).
Telehealth Zoom Services: Explore telehealth options for remote medical consultations. Many full-time RVers find telehealth services convenient for non-emergency medical needs and to get prescriptions.
21. Be Aware of Legal Considerations
Keep important personal documents, such as identification, insurance papers, and medical records, in a secure and easily accessible location. Understand and comply with local laws and regulations, especially when crossing state or national borders. Familiarize yourself with specific rules related to camping and parking.
22. Get a Domicile State and Mail
Establishing a legal domicile is necessary for various purposes, including taxes, voting, vehicle registration, and healthcare. Research the residency requirements of different states and choose one that aligns with your needs and preferences. Consider consulting with a legal or tax advisor for guidance on establishing and maintaining residency while living on the road.
Residency and Domicile State: Choosing a domicile state is a critical decision for full-time RVers. Living in an RV permanently is possible, provided you have established and consistently maintained a domicile address, meeting the associated tax and legal obligations. States like Texas, Florida, and South Dakota are popular choices due to favorable tax laws and other considerations.
Mail Forwarding Services: Utilize mail forwarding services that cater to RVers. For example, the USPS Extended Mail Forwarding service may be a perfect option. These services provide a physical address for your mail, receive packages on your behalf, and forward mail to your current location.
Many full-time RVers use mail forwarding services in their domicile state to receive and manage their mail. These services can forward mail to your current location or hold it for you until you request delivery.
Consider transitioning to digital mail services that scan and digitize your physical mail, allowing you to manage it online. This can be incredibly convenient for travelers.
23. Get Suitable RV Insurance for Full-Time Living
- Full-Time RV Insurance Coverage: Inform your RV insurance provider that you’re living in your RV full-time. Some insurance policies may have specific requirements or options for full-timers.
- Personal Belongings Coverage: Ensure that your policy covers personal belongings inside the RV. Consider additional coverage for valuables like electronics, jewelry, or other high-ticket items.
24. Think Ahead on School for Kids When Full-Time RV Living
If you have children, explore homeschooling options. There are numerous resources, curricula, and online programs designed for families on the road. Be aware of homeschooling regulations in the states you plan to visit. Some states have specific requirements for homeschooling families.
25. Be Aware of the Weather
- Climate Planning: Be mindful of seasonal weather patterns and how they may impact your travels. Extreme temperatures, severe storms, and natural disasters can pose safety risks and affect your comfort on the road. Plan your route and activities accordingly, and always have a backup plan in case of inclement weather.
- Always be prepared for seasonal changes and use phone applications to receive weather alert notifications from reliable sources such as AccuWeather.
- Insulate during cold weather. Stock up with antifreeze and have a space heater. It’s essential to keep antifreeze readily available at all times since you never know when it might be necessary. Nighttime temperatures can drop significantly, occasionally falling well below freezing. Even if you have space heaters in operation, the piping for your sinks, shower, and toilet may not be as warm as your living space. Although your RV’s furnace efficiently provides heat, it operates on propane, which can deplete rapidly. Additionally, it consumes a significant amount of electricity to distribute the warm air throughout the living space.
- Use shades to block sunlight in hot weather, and carry appropriate clothing for different climates.
Recommended reading for winterization tips: How to Winterize a Camper To Live In & Travel
26. Environmental and Wildlife Awareness
- Wildlife Awareness: Depending on your location, be aware of local wildlife and take appropriate precautions, such as securing food and trash to avoid attracting animals to your campsite.
- Eco-Friendly Practices: As stewards of the environment, RVers should practice responsible camping and minimize their impact on natural resources. This includes properly disposing of waste, conserving water and energy, staying on designated roads and trails, and respecting wildlife and sensitive ecosystems. By practicing Leave No Trace principles and adopting eco-friendly habits, RVers can help preserve the beauty and integrity of the places they visit for future generations to enjoy. The image below summarizes the seven principles to leave no trace for a rewarding full-time RV experience and nature interaction.
27. Get a Trial Period
If you are considering buying an RV for full-time living, you may want to rent it first and have a first-hand experience. There is no need to rent the exact model you are trying to buy. But at least try something. Renting allows you to experience the RV lifestyle in person. It provides insights into the challenges and benefits of living in a smaller, mobile space.
Renting helps you identify potential challenges and adjustments you might need to make, such as storage solutions, organization, and adapting to a smaller living space. It serves as a trial period before making a significant financial and lifestyle commitment. This allows you to assess whether full-time RV living aligns with your expectations and preferences.
28. Don’t Rush and Slow Down
Taking the time to slow down and avoid rushing the decision to live full-time in an RV is crucial, as it allows for thorough consideration, thoughtful planning, and a realistic understanding of the lifestyle, ultimately contributing to a more informed and successful transition. Remember that every person is different, and create YOUR best transition.
29. Embrace the Challenges of Your Dream of Full-Time RV Life
Changing the lifestyle is not easy. Be resilient, stay focused, and always get a plan to follow your dreams. Even if the reality of full-time RV living proves more challenging than anticipated, those who still dream of adapting to this lifestyle can find fulfillment through resilience, learning, and embracing the journey of adjusting to their newfound nomadic home.
30. Expect the Unexpected and Stay Flexible
Be open to changes in your plans. Weather, road conditions, and unexpected events may necessitate adjustments to your itinerary.
Despite careful planning and preparation, unexpected events and challenges are inevitable while traveling. Maintaining a flexible mindset and adapting to changing circumstances can help you navigate roadblocks and setbacks with grace and resilience. Embrace the spontaneity and unpredictability of RV living, knowing that each experience, whether positive or challenging, contributes to your journey and personal growth.
Challenges and Strategies for Full-Time RVing
The following chart shows general recommendations for the most common downsides of a full-time RV camping life for orientation.
|Downsides of Full-Time RV Living
|Limited Living Space
|Embrace Minimalism, Downsize, and Efficiently Organize Belongings.
|Maintenance and Repairs on the Road
|Learn Basic RV Maintenance Skills and Carry Essential Tools. Establish a Maintenance Routine.
|Monitor Weather Forecasts, Plan Routes Accordingly, and Equip RV for Seasonal Changes.
|Health Insurance Coverage
|Ensure Health Insurance Provides Coverage Across State Lines and Explore Telehealth Options.
|Internet Connectivity Challenges
|Invest in Reliable Mobile Hotspots, Explore Campground Wi-Fi, and Have Backup Options for Internet Access.
|Engage with RV Communities, Attend Meetups, and Participate in Local Activities.
|Finding Suitable Campgrounds
|Research Campgrounds in Advance, Join Online Forums for Recommendations, and Utilize Campground Apps.
|Waste Disposal and Environmental Impact
|Practice Responsible Camping, Follow Waste Disposal Guidelines, and Minimize Environmental Impact.
|Domicile and Legal Considerations
|Research Residency Requirements, Consult Legal Advisors, and Stay Informed about Local Laws.
|Remote Work Challenges
|Establish a Comfortable Workspace, Invest in Reliable Internet, and Communicate Expectations with Employers.
I am sure this guide will help you navigate through the challenges of becoming a full-time and understand the rewards that come with life on the road.