We have been living in an RV full time for 8 years (yep, eight), and really have become experts at what it takes to make living in an RV full time an enjoyable and fulfilling way to raise a family.
My friends at Let’s Travel Family have some very practical tips for living in an RV full time but my entire purpose in life is not to teach you how to be practical because tbh, practical is boring for me. I’m an idealist who believes that life is a blank canvas and that there is more to life than what your bank account balance reads.
My purpose is broaden your awareness, change your perception, and maybe give you that paradigm shift that your soul is calling for.
First, here are 11 unconventional and idealistic tips for living in an RV full time…
1. We Are Living In An RV Full Time Because It Makes Us Happy
My motto: If it makes sense to you, that’s all that matters.
My idealism is what allowed me to Defy the Norm back in 2015 and say, “Hey babe, can we live in our RV for 5 months?”
I totally tried to convince him that it was the “practical” thing to do. At the time, we had been renting a huge house on the beach for 2 years. I’d spend my mornings surfing with my oldest daughter then my days homeschooling the kids while playing in the sand, watching dolphins swim by.
When the landlord wanted to sell the house I said, “We’d save so much money if we just spent the rest of spring and summer living full time in the RV and then we can find a new rental and settle down.”
By the end of that August, as we were driving home from a 6-week road trip from San Diego to North Cascades National Park, my wonderful enneagram 2 husband looked at me and said, “You are too happy. I can’t ask you to move back into a house.”
So we kept living my dream.
But it wasn’t easy.
2. We Didn’t Have A Way To Make Money On The Road
We had a brick and mortar in Coronado, California when we decided to launch into full time RV living in 2015. We’d camp in different campgrounds around San Diego, which wasn’t cheap but was way less than a house at the time.
We’d sit still for a few months to save up and then we’d travel.
Those first few years we alternated between long road trips all over the US and even up to Alaska with flying to Europe, New Zealand, Bali, Hawaii, Costa Rica.
In 2016, we traveled through Europe for 6 months living in a tent for 6 weeks and then in a 22′ RV the rest of the time. We covered 15 countries and about 10,000 miles. It was epic.
We did a lot more after that you can read about here.
We zeroed out our bank account almost every month. But I wasn’t worried. I believed in my ability to generate more when needed and to be honest, all that mattered to me was not letting a single day of getting to enjoy my kids slip through my fingers.
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3. Motherhood Was My Mission
I love being a mom. I love playing with my kids. I love that we are good friends. I made a point to raise kids who were enjoyable to hang out with while also giving them the freedom to be themselves and opportunities to discover who that true self was.
I wanted to raise good people who made a difference in the world but who also liked me and wanted me in their life long after they turned 18.
So far so good.
4. The Socialization Stigma
“But what about friends? How will your children develop social skills?” (Insert extreme eye roll).
This is a hard truth that people don’t want to hear but have you talked to most people, especially younger people, today? Do they have social skills?
My kids, 3 of which are now adults, constantly complain to me that people their age have no social skills. They can’t hold a conversation, they don’t make eye contact, and if they do talk, it’s robotic. “This is where I work, go to school, eat out for dinner.”
There is no exchange of ideas, personal thoughts, or sense of individuality outside of trying to prove their self worth through external validation.
If you are worried that your kids will miss out on becoming robots by not going to school, then living in an RV full time is not a good idea.
But if you think it would be awesome if your kids had the time and space to be creative, explore ideas, discover what they are capable of in hard situations, and maybe start their own business when they are in high school, then living in an RV full time (& traveling- you can’t just sit still in an RV park for this to happen) might make all the difference in your and their happiness, and in turn, their health (because health is just a byproduct of happiness).
Side note: I ran a business in one of the most affluent cites in America. Kids had all the opportunities & all the stuff. Most would go on to prestigious colleges only to go out into the real world and have a rude awakening about what life is often like. I saw many students (not all) suffer from anxiety and depression.
I never really cared that our travel was frugal. Many times we had to sleep on airport floors, skipped showers, we rarely ate out and often we just lived off of eggs and rice when we traveled abroad, but we were happy and had so much fun every day.
If I had let my fear of my kids not having a high school sweetheart, go to prom, or play competitive sports (which was actually one of the reasons I wanted to move into an RV so I didn’t have to waste my weekends on the sidelines), then my kids would not be as grounded and confident as they are now.
Can you create this without RV living full-time? Absolutely.
Is it even a guarantee that they will develop this type of grit and self awareness if they do live in an RV full time? Not necessarily.
But I do think the odds are more in your favor through this lifestyle.
My motto: Be who you want your kids to be.
5. Kids Are Easy, Relationships Not So Much
The whole worrying about my kids socialization part was easy. I had been homeschooling them before we decided to become full time RVers so it was easy to transition to road schooling.
But within a few years of travel, we shifted completely to unschooling and am now a firm believer in raising young entrepreneurs.
But my husband, that was a totally different story.
He was raised to play it safe, never take risks, and to believe that whatever he did have, he should be grateful for and never ask for more.
That blank canvas of possibility that I was seeing in the world looked more like a black canvas with a red heart in the center.
The black was “We Can’t” – We can’t live in an RV forever! We can’t fly to Europe and live out of backpacks! We can’t drive from the Mexico border to Alaska.
But that red heart was love. My husband loved me so much that he just kept saying “sure” (which is now a banned word in our family btw).
While this shows how compassionate he is, the truth of the matter is that he is so conflict avoidant that it was easier to endure the physical discomfort and persist, then to have to say no to be or worse, spend time apart while I traveled.
The point of this for you and your partner is to know your enneagram. If we had had the understanding of ourselves back then like we do now, it would’ve been a game changer.
We did argue often but I’m certain that if we hadn’t chosen to live in an RV full time and travel as much as we did, our relationship wouldn’t have lasted. There is no way my soul would’ve ever been happy.
But, we would’ve saved ourselves so much bickering and Victor would’ve got to enjoy even more all of our adventures if there had been someone with our knowledge and experience at the time saying, “Hey, let’s look deeper at your programming, your trauma, and your wounds, so that you can experience the world through healed eyes.”
And the thing is, Victor loves that we live our lifestyle. He says it over and over again. “Just because it was hard, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t repeat it.”
6. Face Your Fears
When people ask me, “How do you live in an RV full time?” they are asking from a place of fear.
Victor and I have been life coaches for a long time. Whether someone wants to lose weight, get fit, heal their trauma, the only thing ever standing in the way is fear.
When we were poor and traveling, it was our fear keeping us poor. When I’d argue with Victor about our travels, it was fear keeping me angry.
Fear is everything but most of the time, it’s an illogical fear conjured up by the subconscious mind based on self limiting beliefs that were instilled in childhood.
But when you actively shift the fear from the unconscious to the conscious brain, then the thoughts lose their power and then you can choose freedom and fun.
I don’t expect everyone to want to spend every day of their life hiking, rock climbing, skiing, surfing, and mountain biking, but wouldn’t it be nice to have the inner freedom, to not be plagued by self-doubt and unworthiness, to choose more things that bring you joy and calmness each day?
7. Intentionally Choose Your Sh*t Sandwich
Life is hard no matter where you live so why not see new places while struggling?
Brene Brown talks about this in her book, Rising Strong.
Living in an RV full time definitely has it’s challenges, which is probably why you are searching this keyword to begin with. You want to know what exactly is in that sh*t sandwich so let’s get those out of the way before telling you why I go to bed every night with so much gratitude for getting to live all of my dreams and also waking up every morning with excitement because I know it’s going to be the BEST DAY EVER AGAIN!
Some of the crappy parts of RV living for us have been:
- My husband hates change
- Not being able to find a wifi signal when it’s time to work
- My kids generally have way fewer friends
- There’s always a lot to juggle and think about
9. Is Living In An RV Full Time The Good Life?
We started living in full time in our RV, back before it was “a thing.”
I knew no one who lived this type of lifestyle, however, I had watched the movie documentary Surfwise in 2012 and instantly knew when I watched it that one day I would try living like the Paskowitz Family.
I remember idolizing the fact that they woke up to the sunrise, did some exercises, ate great food, went surfing, played on the beach, and regardless of how Hollywood dramatized it in the documentary, they had an overall sense of connection and feeling loved.
That to me was happiness. That was the “good life” I wanted to live.
So I did.
Your brain is 5x more likely to remember the hardships in life but I don’t really remember that many. When I think back over the last 8 years fo living in an RV all I really feel is a warmth radiating from my heart chakra.
We talked and laughed and shared so much because we were time rich.
We lived with options. We could jump out of bed and paddle out at sunrise or we could lie in bed and read until ten before lacing up our tennis shoes to go for a hike.
It always made sense to me. It’s like the fisherman story, where the investment banker is so busy chasing success so that one day he could sleep late, fish a little, play with his kids, take siestas with his wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos. Shit, we do that almost every day.
10. We Panicked In 2020
This is getting long and there is no way I can cover all my advice of full time RV living here so I’m going to sum it up with this.
In 2020, we got scared. I let fear sneak it’s way in.
I didn’t want to deal with mandates or restrictions and so, we rented a house from a family member in Montana thinking we could just transition to homesteaders.
After 2 months I looked at Victor and said, “If I stay here, the system wins.”
So we traveled in the RVs again. We kept the house as a back up until last April when I looked at Victor again and said, “I hate having to run back to Montana to check on our stuff (it really weighs you down). I just want to be nomadic again. Please.”
His red heart in the middle of a now gray canvas said, “Yes” (not “sure”…banned word remember!)
Currently, we are in an Airbnb for a month in a small Wyoming town called Lander.
We love rock climbing here and didn’t want to be in the RV in the snow and tbh again, we can afford it now.
I love that we can afford both.
My motto: Both is good.
11. Believe In Magic & Lead With Your Heart
I don’t believe in scarcity. I don’t believe in lack. I believe we are here on earth to experience its magic. To live without fear. To chase wanderlust.
If your heart tells you to live in an RV full-time, trust it.
You can always change your mind, lots of people do.
If you believe your heart but can’t get yourself to make the jump, that’s one of the many things Victor and I coach people on.
If you find my tone rude or offensive, then you too might be a byproduct of the education system. It’s pumping out robots faster than Elon
But like David Icke says, “Just open your heart and you will be free.”
Living in an RV Full Time FAQs
55 Practical (& A Little Blunt) Tips from 8 Years of Living in an RV Full Time:
- How do you handle small spaces? By spending a lot of time outdoors & trying to outrun the rain.
- How did you handle 7 people and 1 bathroom? We’d start getting ready for bed an hour beforehand (not kidding)
- How do you handle privacy in small spaces? Get creative.
- How do you organize all your stuff? We’d just get rid of more.
- How little did you keep? At first, everyone just had just one box (22″ by 15″ by 10″) of clothes that fit under the couch.
- Did you keep some stuff in storage? Yes.
- How do you fit all your surfboards, climbing gear, bikes, skis, etc? We always had either an extra vehicle or extra RV and we’d store stuff in them and put the RV/car in storage so that we can switch gear depending on the season.
- How could you travel so fast? Often we’d do an activity— say, hiking, then drive for a few hours, then stop in a rest area to make dinner, then drive, then stop again to brush teeth, then the kids would go to sleep and I’d drive until midnight and I’d stop at a truck stop or rest area and sleep until 6 am and then drive again.
- Are you insane? Possibly.
- How are you adapting to slow travel now? I like it but it’s only because I feel like I’ve checked off a good portion of my bucket list.
- Why do you prefer fast travel? Because one of my core values is newness.
- Why should someone choose slow travel? Saves money and may fit their personality type better.
- You’ve referred to your husband. If he doesn’t like travel, why do you keep doing it? He loves travel. It’s just hard for him. He had a lot of programming to overcome but loves our lifestyle now.
- Any tips for helping one spouse learn to travel when the other doesn’t? Yep… listen to this.
- How do you not get on each other’s nerves? Through requests. By learning how to over-communicate your needs in a kind, yet clear way you avoid a lot of conflicts.
- How do you choose where to travel to? Through our love of sports. Initially, we searched The Outbound for epic adventures or we would search, “Best _____ (mtb, surf, hiking) destinations.”
- What’s your favorite apps to plan your travels? I keep an Apple note with my next 12 years of planning on it. Every night before bed I look at it and fine tune it based on new desires. This is how through obsession, I’ve manifested all my travel goals.
- Any other apps? I pretty much only use Recreation.gov, Campendium, Allstays app, Google Maps, and Gas Buddy
- Favorite destination? The Rockies. We tend to just stay on a continuous loop through Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho now.
- Recommended destinations? Check off the best national parks sooner rather than later. Access restrictions are making them harder and harder to visit.
- Which National Park do you recommend first? Glacier National Park. Plan on at least 2 weeks here though to really get to enjoy all the surrounding area including Whitefish, Flathead Lake, and Seeley Lake.
- Which National Park do you NOT recommend? Yellowstone. I don’t like crowds so Yellowstone feels like Disneyland to me.
- Anywhere else you recommend not visiting? China and Disneyland.
- Do you have a home base? We used to be out of San Diego before 2020. We tried Montana but there wasn’t enough sun. We considered Spearfish, SD, but not enough big ski resorts close by. We tend to visit Lander, WY twice a year and stay for a month at a time.
- Where do you winter? We love to ski so we find creative ways to either drive the RV to resorts or we stay in Airbnbs. We do spend a little time in St George & Lander in the winter too.
- How do you get your mail in RV? Choosesd.com (btw, we rarely have mail so this wasn’t even a concern for me)
- Where do you have residency? South Dakota
- How do you get internet? We carry 3 wifi hotspots for the 3 main carriers- AT&T, Verizon, T-mobile. Overall, Verizon is the most consistent in the US, and T-Mobile everywhere else in the world.
- How much does it cost you to live in an RV? We could’ve gotten by on $3500/month. Our RVs were paid off so we only had food expenses. We could always boondock & not drive if we had to. That only left a few small expenses like cell phones & auto insurance. We made more than this so we ended up getting to choose how to spend an extra $3000 every month.
- So you budget for $6500? We used to. We lived very comfortably and did a lot of epic things on that size of budget.
- What do you budget for now? One million dollars 🤣
- Do you stay at RV parks? Only if we are staying somewhere for an entire month. Otherwise, we tend to stay at state parks and forest service campgrounds. Occasionally we stay at national parks or boondock.
- What is the typical monthly rate at an RV park? There is such a huge range here. In San Diego it was $1550 plus extra vehicle parking costs. In Lander, Wy it is $550 plus electricity. I see $700-900 in a lot of states. Pro Tip: Finding monthly RV spots is getting harder and harder with inflation and recession. So many people have been squeezed out of the housing market and pushed into RV living that RV parks are in really high demand.
- Do you boondock often? Not really. We did those first two summers to save money but I like having hookups now. I manage enough in my life, I don’t want to manage water and 💩.
- Are maintenance costs high in an RV? Compared to a house, no, but things do break. All of our slide motors have broken at one time (we are really good at replacing them now lol) and we’ve blow way more flat tires than I can count. Other than that, we haven’t had much maintenance costs but we may have lower standards and I think older RVs were just made better.
- What did you like most about living in a Class C? It made it easy to fast travel and it was easy to drive.
- What did you dislike about it? We didn’t have another tow vehicle so we were limited in where we could go and what adventures (trailheads) we could access.
- What do you like about living in a 5th wheel? It’s huge. Seriously, it feels like a 2 bedroom condo. We can fit 2 deep freezers in it and still sleep 7 comfortably.
- What do you not like about it? It’s massive to lug around, however, I’ve done it. I’ve towed it all over the US and even one time accidentally towed it across a steep, narrow, windy, 30-mile DIRT road north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. (I should start using Truckers Path)
- What type of gas mileage do you get with your RV? The class C gets 10mpg. When I’m towing the big boy, Appa, I get about 9mph.
- What is the most important thing in choosing an RV? Making sure everyone sleeps comfortably.
- If you believe in dreaming big, why don’t you have a fancy new Instagram-worthy RV? I’m tempted often but it’s more important for me to be on the move and chasing adventures so I like that I don’t have to worry so much if I want to take our older RVs on bumpy dirt roads. (We actually still have the class C and another travel trailer and bounce between them through out the year depending on the adventure).
- How do you make money on the road? Online coaching for all of the following: injury rehab, strength, fitness, health coaching, mindset, mindfulness, trauma healing, and life empowerment.
- What about from blogging? Yes, but it is a business I do with my kids for their future so I don’t count it in the income we live on.
- What is the WHY behind living in an RV full time? For me, to be able to live each day fully present in my self, to laugh and make great memories with my family, and to feel connected to the divine through nature and flow state.
- What do you recommend for RV insurance? Roamly
- And for health insurance? Exercise daily, eat well sourced food, live a low stress life, be mindful of your thoughts, communicate your expectations, and meditate.
- Are camping member shops worth it? We only have Thousand Trails and don’t use it but are stuck with it for one more year. Most of their campgrounds are just trailer parks and the nicer ones are hard to book.
- How do you manage to keep enough food in your RV for 7 people? You should look under my bed and in my under storage…I might be part squirrel.
- What’s your go-to recipe when living in an RV? Chili. We eat a lot of homemade chili with grass fed beef and sweet potatoes (it’s our secret to staying ripped).
- Do you like those all in one RV washer/dryer combos? Yes, because I hate going to laundromats (too many crack heads) but I love clean clothes. The only thing is that you can’t fit much in it and if you do, your clothes come out very wrinkly.
- How do you homeschool? Unschooling now but I used to road school
- What’s the difference? When we road school, I actually used textbooks or workbooks. With unschooling, it is self-directed education meaning the kids find something they are interested in and I encourage them to obsess over learning all the can about it.
- How did you teach your children to have such great social skills? I’d have them communicate to adults through our travels. I stopped answering for them. I limited their screen time. And I didn’t let them have IG or TT until they were running their own business (which for the older 3 was about 16 and the younger 2 still don’t get social media).
- How did/do you keep the kids entertained? Reading, writing, art, and music. We do adventure a lot but it’s not the majority of our day. The kids always wake up and read and write for 1-2 hours. During long drives, they love listening to music. They draw and paint. Currently, on this trip, we are lugging around a full drum set and a sewing machine since we are bouncing between our class C and Airbnbs.
- What do the kids think about RV living? Danny, my oldest, didn’t love it because he enjoys his routine. Now that Gabi and Isabelle are adults, they have their own RV and follow us for the most part but they also like to stay put a little longer than me so that they can build friendships and community. Jiraiya and Tati are good with our fast adventure travel style.
- What is something we have in our RV that we couldn’t live without? My sports gear (Honestly, if it weren’t for outdoor adventure I wouldn’t choose to live full time in an RV). And my Berkey Water Filter. I always travel with it. Each RV has one and if I go car camping, it comes with me.
- Any other RV gadgets that are really helpful? Yes, outdoor rugs, storage bins, keyless door entry, and these 40 more RV essentials.
- Best sports gear? La Sportiva Bushidos. Everyone in our family owns them. We use them for everything- hiking, running, mountain biking, and approach shoes for climbing. I wish I was a #LaSportivaSponsor
- Have you found anywhere you might want to settle down someday? Maybe St George, but I doubt it.
- How long do you plan on living in an RV and being nomadic? If I’ve learned anything from the past 8 years it’s to set an intention but learn to be flexible so I don’t really know. My intention is to do it until Tatiana is 18 and my older kids settle somewhere (and then I’d follow them to wherever that is). But I can also see just expanding my fleet of RVs and continuing to alternate between RV and Airbnb travel indefinitely.
- Any final advice? I think people worry too much or worry about the wrong things. Where your attention goes your energy flows so take charge of your mind before you miss out on life.
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