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How to prepare for Full-Time RVing

Updated on February 23, 2015

Living the full-time RV life has become, in the past year, a dream for my husband and me. There are thousands of people, of all ages, living this lifestyle and telling their stories online. My head has been spinning for the past few weeks as I jump from one website, one forum, and one video to the next. Since this is a completely new way of functioning in society, there are countless details to consider and prepare (or do your best to prepare) before embarking on this new journey. It is exciting and overwhelming! There are a few strategies that have kept my husband and me sane through this process and provided motivation along the way:

Set a timeline with short and long term goals.

This is probably the most important and initial step. Sit down with the person or people who are taking part in this lifetime adventure. Write down the ultimate, big goal. In our case, my husband and I plan on living full time in our RV by the end of three years (primarily due to our financial situation). Next, brainstorm all the tasks that must be completed to obtain this goal. These tasks can range from what to do about your current living space (if you own) to how to accommodate the children's education to figuring out medical insurance on the road. The tasks can be many and will most definitely vary from another family or group. The tasks may be added to or modified throughout the preparation process too. The key is to make sure everyone has input and there is a mutual understanding with the goals.

Make lists.

I currently have six separate word documents in my "RV Travels" folder on the computer. The lists continue to grow. They allow me to organize the crazy amounts of material that I come across mostly on the internet. I have also checked out books from the library or purchased cheap e-books. My lists include: Items to Purchase for the RV; Estimated Start-Up Costs; Items to Consider before Purchasing an RV; Explorations on our Travels; Money Making Opportunities on the Road; and General Questions/Concerns. Here are some neat ways to make lists!

Share the news.

Telling family, friends, and even strangers almost solidifies the goal, making it that much more obtainable because it is being stated aloud. The reactions you get will, most likely, be a mixture of excitement, surprise, and "Are you insane?"

My husband and I share articles, photos, and videos online of trips we are currently taking with our tiny (temporary) travel trailer and discuss steps we are taking to make our full-timing dream into a reality. There are a number of full-timer forums online where you can ask questions and voice your concerns to new and veteran full-timers. Plus, an event we would like to attend is an RV Rally. This is basically a convention for perspective or current full-time RVers. The conventions last about a week and include a multitude of seminars related to starting your life on the road. This would be a great opportunity to ask questions and get answers from experienced travelers!

Take a long hard look at your finances.

This is what we are currently working on. There are some that may not have this issue and have enough money available to put on that seat belt and drive off. Ideally, we would like to be debt free when we start this lifestyle; however, it is possible to begin this full-timing adventure with pending expenses, provided a sufficient amount of income is still coming your way.

For this process, we have sat down to figure out what expenses we currently have and will incur once we purchase our rig/tow vehicle. It is essential (no matter how difficult) that the financial plan is followed through completely. Making weekly/monthly goals obtainable and realistic for your traveling family is the key; otherwise, all of that planning will go to waste! Plan to have an emergency fund that covers at least three to six months worth of your projected expenses. Not only are you setting up a current monthly fund, but you are also setting up a tentative monthly/yearly fund for the road.

Expenses to consider on your travels can include (but are certainly not limited to) campground fees, insurance (health and RV/auto), RV/towing vehicle monthly payments, gas/diesel, groceries, laundry, phone service, and entertainment. If you own a residence, are you planning on selling or renting the property? If renting is the choice, have extra money saved up. Home repairs/emergencies are an expense.

Research possible ways to generate income on the road.

How are you going to get by with this new lifestyle? There are a gazillion options I have read about online. In fact, the majority of the sites I have visited (by searching "how to make money as a full-time RVer") say not to focus on the job but on your destination, first. After all, that is the whole point of full-time RVing, and if you are stuck with a job you don't particularly like, at least you can enjoy the sites!

One option is something called "Workamping." This is a temporary position working anywhere from state parks to privately-owned land. Positions range from RV Park Manager to tour guide to maintenance worker. Positions can last as few as a season to a year with 20-40 hours a week of service. The pay can include a free RV site with hookups and may/may not include an additional hourly pay. The pay is not exuberant by any means.

Other full-timers may opt to volunteer at parks. This means that they won't receive pay, but there is a possibility of getting a free RV site in exchange for a set number of work hours per week. Some full-timers have traveling jobs (medical, entertainment, technology-related, or business professions). Their work assignments may determine their next destination.

One more option is to take matters into your own hands and create your income yourself. This can be accomplished through personal websites (blogging, computer graphic design), selling a physical product (self-made crafts, commercial product), or selling services (RV maintenance, pet sitting).

The job market is your oyster. One important note about income on the road: have a plethora of ways to obtain income, at all times.

Keep a journal.

Keep some type of written or visual (photos/video) journal. This doesn't necessarily have to start later, once you get on the road. Instead, begin recording your thoughts and actions during these stages of preparation. It is a good way to reflect and vent. Also, recording your thoughts and actions can help develop any questions or concerns that may need to be addressed.

Decide what RV is right for you.

Fifth Wheels; Class A, B, or C; travel trailers; new; used; rent; or own. What rig is right for you? Familiarize yourself with the types of recreational vehicles out there. Search online and at your local RV dealership. Often times, your town or a neighboring city will have an RV Expo showcasing the latest rigs and great deals. The rig you and your traveling family choose has to accommodate your needs and living arrangements.

Determine a home base.

Establishing a 'home base' is simply this: As a US citizen, it is required by law that you establish a state of residency. If there is no physical address to tie you down to a state, the government uses other forms of information to connect you to a state. Many full-timers choose to register in states that have no state income taxes, low property tax, vehicle registration fees, and low insurance costs. Others may stay a resident of their current state out of convenience. It can be more of a hassle going through new state registration paperwork or researching state laws/regulations.

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These items are just the tip of the iceberg when preparing for a lifestyle of freedom and adventure. Some items can be broken down into more detail. The details, however, will vary from person to person depending on their interests and accommodations! Part of the fun is finding the path that is just right for you and your traveling family. The most beneficial thing you can do is educate yourself on all the possibilities, just as we have and continue to do!


Learn More

One of the best ways to learn about full-time RVing is to check out people who do it. You can check out Henley's Happy Trails website for more RV tips and info.


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    • NatNat34 profile imageAUTHOR

      Natalie Flores-Henley 

      3 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      Thank you Stephanie Henkel for your comments!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      3 years ago from USA

      Excellent article on preparing for full time RVing! We went through these preliminaries when we were planning to hit the road full time, and I think you've touched on the most important points. I do remember the endless lists (and I still have some of them on my computer!) Of course, some things evolve once you are actually on the road, but that's one of the great things about this life. Happy trails!


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