Oliver Travel Trailers

RV Life: Guide to Full-Time Living on the Road

The Beginner’s Guide to Full-Time RV Living
February 22, 2020

Get Started Living in Your RV Full-Time

Living in your travel trailer during a road trip or short-term vacation can be an enjoyable experience when everything is done correctly and your plans fall into place. It may even convince you you are cut out for full-time RV living. Contrary to popular opinion, full-time RV living is not as easy as it may seem – especially to those with limited experience or knowledge of everything included in this hefty package. This beginner’s guide will at least help you get started on the right foot by outlining everything you need to know to be successful.

Multiple Test Runs is Essential for Full-Time RV Living Success

Take Multiple Test Runs of Various Lengths
Take Multiple Test Runs of Various Lengths

Before you dive into the beautiful world of full-time RV living, you should schedule a series of trial runs. This differs from the lifestyle type, where you can go from 0 to 60 overnight. For instance, if your only experience with RV living is the weekend road trip you took with your family across state lines, that is not enough. You should “test the waters” by planning a series of test runs.

As you embark on your trial runs, consider extending your stays gradually. This will provide a more realistic experience of full-time RV living. Start with shorter stays of 3-5 days, then gradually increase to 3-5 weeks, and eventually 3-5 months. This gradual progression will help you adjust and prepare for the transition from your typical home life to a life on the road.

Space Matters: Finding the Perfect Fit for RV Living

Analyze the Size of Your RV vs. Space Requirements
Analyze the Size of Your RV vs. Space Requirements

Another important part of preparing you for full-time RV living is to analyze the size of your RV. Size matters when it comes to packing up and taking your life on the road. For instance, you may have rented a more compact RV from Point A to Point B during your last vacation. However, it would help if you remembered that your space requirements will drastically change with full-time RV living.

It is highly recommended that you test different rig sizes when scheduling your trial runs and short-term vacations. This will make you comfortable with the various options available to you and help you accurately determine which option is the most practical fit for your specific needs. See a few travel trailers for sale.

Test Drive Your Future: How to Simulate RV Life Before Making the Leap

Once you identify your specific RV needs for this full-time life change, it is time to go shopping! Remember that this is not the same as shopping for any other vehicle. You are not buying a new car or minivan – you are essentially buying a home. Therefore, you should approach this shopping experience like any real estate transaction. Test Drive Your Future: How to Simulate RV Life Before Making the Leap

  • Shop with a few different RV dealerships/agencies to find the best deals.
  • Visit and explore the RVs in person. Online listings and photos will only tell you some of what you need about your future home.
  • Simulate RV life within each option that you seriously consider. For instance, lay on the bed to test its space limitations and comfort duration. Pretend to use the kitchen as if you were cooking a meal. Use the bathroom, sit in the tub, stand in the shower, etc.

One part of the RV shopping experience that is similar to vehicle shopping is the test drive. In addition to sitting in the driver’s seat, you need to be able to take the RV out on the road for a test drive to ensure it is a solid match.

Get Hands-On with Your RV’s Maintenance and Repairs

Work Under the Hood & Become Comfortable with the Mechanics
Work Under the Hood & Become Comfortable with the Mechanics

When renting an RV for a short-term vacation, you do not have to worry much about the maintenance side of the equation. Depending on the conditions of your contract, the rental company can bear the bulk of this weighty burden on your behalf. When you live in an RV full-time, that entire burden is placed on your shoulders. 

Does this mean that you should be an expert mechanic (or at least have one living with you) to be successful? No! It would help if you spent quality time with the RV – getting to know your future “home on wheels” much more than you currently do. For instance, focus on the fuse box, electrical system, and other critical elements under the hood.

One of the key aspects of RV maintenance is the ability to identify issues early. From poorly sealed windows and roof leaks to wiring issues and engine tune-ups, it’s crucial to spot the telltale signs and warning signals before they escalate into RV life-threatening disasters. This preventative approach to maintenance can save you from costly repairs and ensure the longevity of your RV. 

Simplify and Streamline: How to Declutter and Organize Your RV Inventory Like a Pro

You may not realize it, but the old saying that “you can’t take it with you” also applies to full-time RV living. As you walk through your home, you must accept the grim reality that you cannot take everything with you. It would help to change your perspective regarding your expanding collection of “closet clutter” and general belongings. In fact, instead of viewing them as your “personal belongings,” refer to them as part of your inventory. This will help you remove (or at least reduce) your emotional and mental attachments, allowing you to view it more as a business owner than a homeowner.  

Determine the high-priority essential items that will require a space within your RV. 

More importantly, prepare to “cut the fat” and sever ties with the nonessential items. Perhaps you can donate those items to charity or give them away to family & friends. You could even sell them in a yard sale or online auction. It would help if you also considered investing in a self-storage option to store the items you cannot get rid of entirely but cannot fit in your RV. 

A cornerstone of successful full-time RV living is simplicity. You must simplify your belongings to be ready for this significant lifestyle change.

Dollars and Sense: Mastering the Art of Budgeting

First-time RV travelers and other novices of full-time RV living may need to fully understand the vital role played by their budget. A common misconception is that you will spend a lot less money on the road than when you lived in a home that could not hit the highway. This type of trap will lead you to burn a large hole in your bank account and perhaps kill your dream of full-time RV living. 

Create a strict budget before you hit the road. More importantly, calculate the various streams of income that you will still be able to generate behind the wheel. 

For instance, you should consider your:

  • Current balance of checking & savings accounts
  • Income from interest-bearing financial accounts
  • Income from remote work that you can do on the road
  • Residual income (perhaps from commissioned sales)
  • Retirement/disability/Social Security income (if applicable)

You must also focus on the short-term and long-term expenses you must pay at different stages of your life on the road.

It is easy to think about the standard vehicle-related expenses, such as oil changes, engine tune-ups, and gasoline fill-ups. However, the broad scope of full-time RV living includes several additional expenses.

For instance, you must consider the:

  • Campground expenses (if you plan to stay in RV parks and campsites each night)
  • RV ownership expenses (i.e., monthly payments, insurance premiums)
  • Maintenance, repairs, and other unexpected/unscheduled expenses
  • Groceries, clothing, and other basic living expenses
  • Comforts and recreation (i.e., dining out, entertainment, shopping, etc.)

Family Matters: Meeting the Needs of Every Member for RV Living Success

Consider the Needs of Your Whole Family
Consider the Needs of Your Whole Family

You must carefully consider your family’s short-term and long-term needs before you commit to living in an RV full-time. Once again, it is easy to think, “My family loved the RV lifestyle during our last vacation!” However, spending a weekend, week, or even a couple of summer months in an RV does not automatically mean your family can handle full-time RV living. 

Take the time to consider the needs of each family member. For instance, you should think about such areas as:

  • Healthcare (i.e., in-network vs out-of-network medical costs, etc.)
  • Education (i.e., homeschooling children, online college courses, etc.)
  • Social life and personal development

It would help if you also considered the needs of your canine and/or feline family members. This will play a significant role in your campground selections because not all campsites are pet-friendly. In addition, there are additional expenses associated with having pets on the road. Fortunately, there are veterinary providers with branches and locations throughout the country. 

However, you will still have to consider factors such as the temperature of your RV, microchips, vaccinations, waste disposal, and the various stops you will need to make just to cater to their needs. Therefore, an even bigger question to ask yourself is, “Will my pet(s) need to find a new home?” You may be able to answer that question with a resounding “NO!” Nonetheless, it is still a question that you must ask and honestly answer.

Off the Grid and Thriving: How to Prepare for Life Off the Beaten Path

Prepare for Life “Off the Grid”
Prepare for Life “Off the Grid”

The popularity and prevalence of the Internet make it nearly impossible to imagine living life “off the grid.” Fortunately, even when living in an RV full-time, you can remain connected to the outside world. However, you may need to get creative and make a few wise investments to prevent extended downtime before you hit the road. 

For instance, you may need to use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot on the road. Therefore, you may need to reexamine your existing data plan to see if any upgrades are required. Perhaps you could also benefit from buying a cell signal booster or investing in a satellite option to keep you connected – especially if remote work will play a major role in your monthly income streams. Consider the wide variety of coffee shops, rest stops, libraries, and other public Wi-Fi hotspots you will encounter on the road. 

A good tip is to get used to living detached from the Internet and “the grid” now. Regardless of the signal boosters and hotspots you may have, you will inevitably encounter dead zones along the way where you will have no other choice but to live offline for a while.

Explore and Connect: The Value of Research and Networking in the RV Community

Continue to Research and Network with Other RV Owners
Continue to Research and Network with Other RV Owners

Once you have committed and started to “live the life” of a full-time RV resident, your research and learning opportunities do not have to end. It would help if you continued to research RV life thoroughly because there will always be new aspects of this adventure for you to explore. 

The community of RV owners will continue to grow year after year, especially with the increasing numbers of home-based businesses, telecommuting workers, and retirees who want to enjoy life on the road. This means there will always be people who can teach you new tricks & tips or even ask you some questions to learn the rules of the road themselves. Now research and bookmark various online resources, forums, groups, and even social media pages that can help you. The old saying goes, “Many hands will make the load light” when managing a full-time RV lifestyle. 

In addition to receiving a lot of help to benefit your family, think about the vast number of families you can help!

Living the RV Dream: Setting and Maintaining Realistic Expectations

It is easy to look at the overall burden associated with full-time RV living and say, “You know what? Never mind!” Realistically, the same could be said about any major life decision – such as buying a car, buying a home, moving to a different state/country, or even having a baby. The key is to take the necessary steps to prepare yourself and your family for the expected (and the unexpected) and maintain realistic expectations along the way.

Most full-time RV residents will tell you that the benefits can far outweigh the overall burden.

You need to be honest with yourself and understand that it is not a decision that should ever be taken lightly or impulsively.

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