So you are thinking about selling it all, downsizing, and indulging your travel dreams through full-time RVing? We have been in your shoes and know how exciting – and overwhelming – it can be to embark on the RV adventure of a lifetime. From figuring out insurance, mail, and residency to starting to plan your travel itineraries, we have put together the ultimate checklist to help you get your ducks in a row – from one set of full-time RVers to the next!
An Intro To Full-Time RV Life
When we first started talking about the idea of full-time RV living, it was influenced in the same way I am sure many others are – watching videos on YouTube.
As we sat on our couch in our North Carolina apartment, we couldn’t help but dream of a life of adventure on the open road.
A life where we were in control and could fill our days with experiences. No more waiting around for our limited vacation days – instead year-round exploration. The ability to follow the weather, spend more quality time with family and friends, and learn more about ourselves and the world around us in the process.
For us, full-time RV life has been an amazing experience that we wouldn’t trade for anything. While our transition to nomad living came with some hiccups, we have figured out a way to live this lifestyle that feels invigorating, fulfilling, and most importantly – sustainable long term.
Unfortunately, we have also met couples or families who dream of full-time RVing, but let fear or stress hold them back. Or who try it out only to feel drained and ultimately throw in the towel before getting to experience what they set out to explore.
Fear not friends! If you are either thinking about giving full-time RVing a try or have gotten started but are feeling a bit intimidated by all that you have not figured out – your friends are here with a full-time RV checklist to help you put those jitters at ease!
The Ultimate Full-Time RV Checklist
The one-stop resource for all the things you to do and consider to help make your full-time RVing dreams a reality.
In general, the main areas to consider include:
- Picking a suitable RV for comfortable travel
- Funding your full-time RV lifestyle
- Residency, mail, and insurance
- Preparing for Maintenance and repairs
- Safety & Comfort
The Decision To Go Full-Time RVing
Becoming a full-time RVer is a big step, and the first thing you need to consider is the decision itself. It’s crucial to make an informed choice before hitting the road. Full-time RV living isn’t just a vacation; it’s a way of life.
Making the decision to full-time RV for us was a big leap. As overachievers on a very typical path, it was not something anyone ever expected from us or that we expected from ourselves.
The good news is that nothing is permanent. While it might feel like a big risk and is certainly a huge change, if your circumstances change or you end up wanting something different for your life – you can always undo it.
What we can guarantee is that you will be proud of yourself for trying something new and following your dreams, and will be glad you don’t have to spend your days wondering “what if.”
Selecting the Right RV
Selecting the perfect RV is a critical first step in your full-time RV journey. There are various types of RVs to choose from, ranging from smaller travel trailers to vans and large motorhomes.
Each type of RV has its pros and cons and after countless hours of research and way too many RV tours, we will be the first to tell you – there is no perfect setup.
Trust us, we have tried to find it.
The right choice depends on your specific needs, family size, and travel preferences. Take your time to explore and find the RV that suits your vision of full-time RV living.
We started as part-time RVers with a 17ft fiberglass Casita. Some people full time in them, but we knew that would NEVER work for us. A fifth wheel with a more home-like environment and separate spaces while both working remotely was much more realistic for this to be a longer-term living solution.
And as we enter year 3 of RVing, we can confidently confirm this was a great call for us.
Take the time to explore your options as you figure out what RV might be best for you. Things to weigh heavily include how much space you need, your budget, your desired luxuries, and how you want your travel days to look.
If you are not very familiar with RVing, consider renting a few different models or types of RVs through a service like RV Share to get a feel for what you like and don’t like.
Some of the most popular types of RVs include:
Class A Motorhome: Class A motorhomes are the largest and most luxurious RVs. They resemble a bus or coach and are built on a specially designed motorhome chassis. They can offer a comfortable driving experience, spacious interiors, multiple slide-outs to increase living space when parked, and a wide range of amenities, including full kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas. Class A motorhomes often have high-end features and are suitable for long-term travel or full-time living.
Class B (Campervan): Class B motorhomes, also known as campervans, are more compact and built on a van chassis. They are easier to maneuver and can often fit into regular parking spaces. Class B motorhomes typically include a small kitchenette, a sleeping area, and a compact bathroom. They are suitable for individuals or couples seeking a compact and versatile RV for road trips or shorter getaways, although many people also live in vans full-time! #vanlife
Class C Motorhome: Class C motorhomes are built on a cutaway chassis and often have a distinctive over-cab sleeping area, often referred to as a “cab-over.” They offer a good balance between space and maneuverability. Class C motorhomes feature a variety of floor plans, including sleeping areas, kitchens, bathrooms, and living spaces. They are suitable for small families or groups looking for comfort and convenience on their RV adventures.
Super C Motorhome: A Super C is a type of motorhome or RV that is built on a heavy-duty truck chassis. It combines the features of a Class C motorhome with the power and towing capacity of a larger truck. Super C motorhomes are known for their robust construction, spacious interiors, and excellent towing capabilities.
Travel Trailers: A travel trailer is a towable RV that comes in various sizes and configurations. They are hitched to a towing vehicle and offer flexibility as they can be unhitched, allowing you to use the towing vehicle separately. Travel trailers range from compact teardrop trailers with minimal amenities to larger models with multiple bedrooms, full kitchens, and spacious living areas. They are popular among RVers who prefer a lighter-weight option and the freedom to use their personal vehicle separately from their accommodations.
Fifth-Wheel Trailers: Fifth-wheel trailers are similar to travel trailers but are designed to be towed by a pickup truck with a specialized hitch called a fifth-wheel hitch that lives in the bed of the truck. They have a raised front section that extends over the bed of the truck, providing additional living space. Fifth-wheel trailers often have multiple levels, slide-outs, and spacious interiors. They offer a comfortable and stable towing experience and are suitable for long-term travel or full-time living.
Toy Haulers: Toy haulers are a type of RV that combines living quarters with a “garage” space to carry recreational vehicles or “toys” such as motorcycles, ATVs, or bicycles. Many digital nomad RVers also turn this garage space into a home office, workout room, or second bedroom. You can find toy haulers as travel trailers, fifth-wheel trailers, and even an occasional class A. Toy haulers often have a rear ramp door that allows for easy loading and unloading of vehicles and can convert the garage area into additional living or sleeping space when not carrying toys, with the ramp becoming a patio in some models.
Our best advice when it comes to choosing the right RV for you is to think about a few things:
- How do you plan to travel? Do you want to be able to easily use the bathroom in your RV on travel days or make snacks while moving? Look at the layout of RVs while the slides are in.
- Consider a used RV first. RVs are man-made and almost always will have some kinks to be worked out. Let someone else do that for you and let them eat that depreciation.
- Think about if you could see yourself in the RV long term. Could you see yourself inside for days on end during a period of bad weather? Would you be longing for more space or a getaway to an Airbnb? And a really important factor… how much storage space does it have?
In our experience, there will always be sacrifices. Larger RVs are more challenging to navigate and can be more limiting in the spots you can go to, but smaller RVs can be less sustainable to live in comfortably long-term.
If you are looking for a project, you might also be considering building out a van or renovating an old camper. While in some cases this can save you money and help you end up with an RV completely personalized for your needs, be careful not to underestimate the time, money, and effort involved.
Would you prefer to spend your time working on a project or out traveling and exploring? Food for thought!
Living as a full-time RVer requires proper financial planning. There is a common misconception that RV life is inherently much cheaper than a traditional life in a home or apartment…but that is not always the case.
Costs can vary dramatically depending on how and where you RV, what types of activities you do while traveling, maintenance costs for your specific RV, and how frequently and how far you travel. Those fuel prices can really be…yikes!
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to save money while on the road, such as utilizing free camping on BLM land, memberships like Passport America or Thousand Trails, or options like Harvest Hosts. It all depends on how you plan to travel and what your vision for RV life looks like.
A well-thought-out financial strategy will ensure you can maintain your fulfilling travel lifestyle.
Let’s do a bit of math:
- Before signing on for full-time RV life, do this thought experiment: How many miles do you plan to travel with your RV in a given year? Add that to how many miles you might expect to drive around while sightseeing once you have parked your RV. (You can play around with a planning tool like RV Trip Wizard to plan routes and get an idea of the mileage). Use this to figure out your estimated fuel costs for the year (Estimated miles driven / Miles to the gallon X fuel price per gallon).
- If you plan to stay at typical campgrounds, use an estimated average cost of $50/night to estimate campground costs. State parks will be a bit less, while RV resorts can be in the range of $70-$100+/night.
- Hint: You can cut campground costs by working seasonal jobs or being a campground host, which will allow you to stay in your spot for free. You can also stay off-grid in free camping areas (mostly found out west in the U.S.), using a generator or solar set-up for power – this is a more rugged way of living, but can also be a great way to cut costs. We personally work our traditional jobs remotely, stay at State Parks when we can (cheaper and more enjoyable in our opinion), and spend time off-grid (free, great views, and so much freedom – can’t beat it!).
Just like with a traditional living situation, it is important to be prepared if things are to go wrong. We recommend having an emergency fund of at least $10,000 dollars before setting out on a full-time RV adventure.
This will cover you if you have expensive repairs (like breakdowns or mechanical failures).
By being handy and having the ability to repair things yourself, you can save a lot of money and wasted time at repair shops.
Don’t worry if you don’t already have these skills. We were completely clueless when we first started, but have been able to pick up a lot along the way!
Variable costs to keep in mind:
- Repairs and maintenance (expected and unexpected) can pop up when you least expect it. Things like RV tires can cost $1500-$2000, or something like a slide-out repair can cost $1000.
- Fuel costs can vary greatly by state (it was much more expensive in New England than in the Southeast and WAY more expensive in Canada). We found ourselves paying anywhere from $2 to over $6 a gallon for diesel at times!
- Food costs also vary widely. Remote areas (such as the mountains of Southwest Colorado) will be pricier than places more convenient to larger cities. Sometimes our weekly grocery bill is under $100 and sometimes it seems difficult to spend less than $175
Maintenance and Safety
Regular maintenance and safety precautions are vital to ensure a smooth and secure full-time RV lifestyle.
As an RV owner, it is important to familiarize yourself with essential gear, perform routine maintenance checks, and develop a reliable maintenance schedule. Safety is a top priority, so take the time to learn about best practices for secure and enjoyable travels.
How much does full-time RVing cost?
A few examples of the expected and hidden costs of RV life…
- In our first year of full-time RVing, we spent about 50% of our time off-grid, and the other time at State Parks, with a few RV parks mixed in. In total (campgrounds, fuel, groceries, activities, regular maintenance), we spent about $20,000. Recall diesel was about $5.50 a gallon for most of the year.
- In year 2 we traveled up the east coast and spent 3 months in Atlantic Canada. With no boondocking, we stayed in campgrounds all year long, spending about $12,000 on campsites (roughly $1k/month).
- In year 1 of RVing we had the actuator fail on our turbo, which cost us $2600
- In year 2 we had a bearing go while towing our RV, resulting in about $2000 of repairs and towing costs in Canada
- Our total annual maintenance costs (oil changes, fuel filters, rotations and balance, etc.) costs about $600 – $1000 depending on the year.
Downsizing and Storage
RV living means adapting to a smaller living space, so downsizing is a must.
You’ll need to carefully decide what to take with you and what to leave behind. If you have valuables or larger items, factor in the cost of a Storage Unit (which can cost anywhere from $50-$200+/month).
If you want additional storage while traveling, consider the type of tow vehicles you choose, which can also help you manage your belongings effectively.
Unless you have a larger Class A motorhome, most driveable RVs will be lacking in storage. With towable travel trailers, you can get additional storage in your tow vehicle, while fifth wheels will offer the most robust storage options in the towable category of RVs.
Downsizing is a journey in itself, and it’s all about simplifying your life to fit into your new RV home. Once you get over the hurdle of letting things go, it is truly quite liberating to live in a small space! Less cleaning, fewer headaches, more freedom!
Items For RV Living
As you start to move your belongings from your home to your RV, panic might start to set in.
After a few moments of internal turmoil, try to take a deep breath.
You can get by with a lot less than you think AND fit a lot more than it might initially seem (especially if you took our advice to heart and considered storage space when choosing your RV).
The other great news is that you will encounter plenty of stores to purchase items you might need along the way. RVing doesn’t banish you to a remote world without the goods you need and almost anywhere you go you can get packages sent to you as well (more on mail for full-time RVers below!).
This is our example RV packing list, broken down by category:
- Cups, plates, bowls, dinnerware
- Cooking supplies (pots, pans, spices, cutting boards, etc.)
- Dish towels, dish soap (dishwasher detergent if applicable), sponges, trash bags, cleaning supplies
- Toaster, air fryer, instant pot, blender, electric burner, etc. (we are lucky to have all of these on board!)
- Shower toiletries
- Toothbrush, first aid, skincare
- Cleaning products
- Towels, hamper
- Bedroom (and laundry, if applicable)
- Sheets, pillows, blankets
- Clothes, shoes (for every season)
- Laundry detergent, stain remover
- General & Outside
RV Specific Essentials
To enjoy life on the road, you’ll need the basic RV commodities to live life comfortably.
These include reliable power sources, access to fresh water, and the ability to safely and efficiently get rid of waste.
The most important accessories for full-time RVing are the ones that will keep you safe and keep things running smoothly for any adventure that comes your way – whether you are on the grid or off the grid.
- RV Surge Protector
- Fire Extinguishers
- Flexible water hose
- Power Adapters (30 to 50 or 50 to 30)
- Sewer Hose Kit
- Water Filtration System
- Wheel Chocks
- Jack Pads and/or stabilizer blocks
- Propane Gauges & Leak Detectors
If you plan to boondock or dry camp without hook-ups consider a few additional items…
Suggested Equipment List:
- Water Bladder
- Water Filtration System (such as a Berkey or Clearsource)
- Water Pump
- Portable Waste Tank
- Generator (we love our 3300-watt Generac portable inverter generator as it is quiet and lightweight)
- Solar Panels, Inverter, and Lithium Batteries (not required, but can be a nice upgrade…see our RV power guide for a deeper dive into off-grid power and inverters)
- Hitch Lock (we use this king pin lock for our fifth wheel) and/or SimpliSafe System for added security
- Leveling blocks (some sites will be unlevel)
READ MORE: RV Boondocking For Beginners
Internet & Connectivity
Whether you plan to work remotely while RVing, or just want to have the ability to stay connected with family and friends or stream your favorite shows – having a way to stay connected is an important part of your full-time RV preparation.
Popular Options Among RVers:
- Cell plan with unlimited data and hot spot capabilities (our T-mobile phones have worked in most places in the U.S., as well as Canada)
- Starlink Roam Internet
- T-mobile Home Internet
- Data-only plans with router and booster (our 100GB Verizon Plan costs $100/month)
READ MORE: Ultimate Guide To RV Internet
Life on the Road
Deciding where to stay can create a big difference in what your RV adventure looks like, feels like, and costs.
Depending on your goals for RV life and your dream RV trips, your travels might take you from one epic National Park to the next or from one oceanfront oasis to the next hip city – the world is your playground!
When it comes to budgeting and planning, where you plan to stay and for how long can dictate what you need to do to prepare:
Campgrounds, RV Parks, & RV Resorts
The most traditional kind of RV experience will be had at established campgrounds. Ranging from cheaper state parks with trails and nature areas to RV parks with amenities like a campground store or a pool to luxury RV resorts, these stays will bring you closer to a “home away from home” or glamping-like experience.
At most campgrounds, you will have the option for a variety of hookups so that you can have electric, water, and sewer available. With these amenities, you can take long showers and run all of your appliances to your heart’s content.
At many private parks, you can also save money by booking longer stays (with discounts for month or week-long stays). You can also cut costs by staying at partial hookup spots (such as electric only or water and electric) compared to full hookups.
While some state parks or National Parks may offer full hookups, many will only have partial, and most will limit you to a 7 or 14-day stay. These also often book up more quickly and will require reservations months in advance.
Boondocking and Dry Camping
For a different kind of adventure, consider boondocking or dry camping in National Forests, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, and other public lands or free camping areas.
These options allow you to experience the beauty of nature without the constraints of traditional campgrounds. Here you can often stay for free and have the freedom and privacy that established campgrounds lack.
Navigating RV Travel Days
RV travel days are part of the adventure! With some planning and a solid routine, you can start to get into a rhythm that makes travel days something to look forward to! You are off to a new adventure, after all.
After a few years of full-time RV travel, we now have breakdown and setup down to a science and can be ready to pull out or fully set up in about 30 minutes. A far cry from the times when it took us over an hour just to figure out how to unhitch our truck from the fifth wheel.
These things will come with time, we promise.
A positive attitude and a clear game plan are your best allies for smooth travel days.
A few tips for travel days:
- Have an RV departure checklist as well as an arrival checklist to make leaving for travel days and setting up as efficient and seamless as possible. There are certain things (like making sure awnings are in, windows are closed, doors are locked, cabinets are secured) that you won’t want to overlook!
- Plan for extra time. Give yourself ample time to account for traffic, fuel stops bathroom breaks, etc.
- Always try to arrive in the light (trust us, it’s better for your health, stress levels, and relationship)
- Set a max travel day mileage based on your comfort level and try not to cram too much in too fast. The quickest way to burn out is to travel too far too often without enough rest. Take time to truly enjoy the places you visit!
- Have a service like AAA or Coachnet in case you need roadside assistance
- Have snacks, water, and a great playlist (ideally featuring Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again) at the ready!
Full-Time RV Living Logistics
Unfortunately, full-time RV life is not a free pass to escape all of your adult responsibilities and the “mundane” tasks of life. Even though you will be enjoying the freedom of living anywhere, anytime… you still need the ability to receive mail and have a residence (for things like banking, voting, and taxes).
Lucky for you – getting all that figured out is not as big of a deal as it might sound right off the bat!
Here’s what you need to know:
Residency, Mail, & Banking
Figuring out residency as an RV nomad and managing mail and banking while on the road requires a bit of careful planning.
The good news is that you aren’t the first person to ever full-time RV and there are plenty of services out there to help make the transition easy peasy.
The most popular states for full-time RVers to establish residency in are Florida, Texas, and South Dakota.
These states are familiar with the full-time RV lifestyle and make it easy to establish residency there without having a physical address.
In addition, all 3 of these states do not have state income tax.
Having lived in Florida before and with family that has us spending time in the state each year, we chose Florida as our home state.
Using St. Brendan’s Isle mailing service as our guide, we were able to domicile in Florida, register/insure our RV and truck, and get our Florida licenses all on the same day. Woo!
Services like St. Brendan’s Isle cater to people living in RVs and boats or traveling often. They will have easy-to-follow steps to help you establish residency if you no longer own physical property or have a physical address. Two other popular options for this type of service are Escapees and America’s Mailbox.
Another option is to establish residency through a family member, using their address. You could also have said family members sort your mail if they are willing.
Mail Tips For RVers:
Consider a virtual mailbox or mail forwarding service that allows you to have a place to receive mail to one address, and the option to scan mail in order to review it. This way you can keep on top of mail from anywhere, virtually. For packages, you can have them forwarded through the service or order packages directly to the locations where you are staying.
Popular mail forwarding services for RVers:
If you would like to receive packages directly to your location you can typically send them to private campgrounds.
Other popular mail & package delivery options for RV travel include:
Deliver to Amazon Hub locker or pick-up counter: This is a convenient way to ship packages to a business local to where you might be boondocking. You can look up various locations here. If you are in a remote area where this service is not available your next option will be General Delivery.
USPS General Delivery: Delivering to general delivery at a local Post Office does not always go as planned. We have learned to try and plan for additional time to receive packages based on experience. Multiple times our packages have been stuck in other cities. Packages are free to send to post offices that participate in this service (not all do) if coming by USPS. There is a small fee if sent by other carriers such as FedEx or UPS. We last paid $4 for this type of charge. Be sure to use the full address of the Post Office where you want the package to be delivered. We have also put General Delivery as the company when shipping items.
Finances can be a major source of stress. Not much has to change here when you make the decision to go full-time RVing, but there are a few things to consider that can help things go more smoothly:
- Use a bank that has offices and/or ATMs all around the country
- Consider a virtual bank that allows you to use other bank services while traveling
- If you plan to change banks as you prepare to full-time RV, be sure to make sure the new bank will accept your address if you use a mailing service. These can cause problems at times as they show up as business addresses.
Pro tip: Be sure to transfer all of your important documents, bills, etc. to your new address if you will be leaving your previous address behind. You don’t want things getting lost in the shuffle!
Insuring Your RV for full-time use
One of the most crucial aspects of full-time RV living is ensuring that you have comprehensive insurance coverage for your home on wheels.
RV insurance not only protects your investment but also provides peace of mind as you embark on your journey. It covers a range of situations, including accidents, theft, liability, and damage. The last thing you want is to find yourself without protection in the event of an unexpected mishap.
With the right insurance, you can enjoy your full-time RV lifestyle with confidence, knowing that you’re covered no matter where the road takes you.
After plenty of research, time and time again Progressive seems to come up as one of the best providers of insurance for full-time RVers. They insure your RV for full-time living and travel (which many companies will not do) and provide coverage similar to what you might expect on a traditional homeowner’s policy.
- Our Progressive Policy Details:
- Coverage: comprehensive & collision and liability up to $100,000 per incident
- Cost: $1,300 / year
Personalizing Your RV
Finally, something that might be overlooked but that can make a big difference is taking the time to make your RV feel like a home. In our opinion, creating a comfortable and inviting environment in your RV is essential for long-term happiness.
Whether it’s your favorite decorations, cozy bedding, or cherished mementos, your personal touch will make your RV truly yours. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy renovation/remodel or costly upgrades, we are talking simple touches that can go a long way in making your RV feel like home.
When you do this, you are more likely to travel longer, seeing your RV as your home and not just a temporary adventure mobile on wheels. Consider doing a few test runs to get familiar with your RV and settle in before departing to help build your confidence.
Put up those photos, hang the Christmas lights, and don’t forget your favorite cozy candles!
Full-time RV living is a rewarding and fulfilling way to experience the world. Whether you’re embarking on your first RV trip or are already a seasoned RVer we hope this comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge and checklist you need for a successful journey and epic travel adventure.
If you can embrace the open road with a positive attitude, a well-thought-out game plan, and the desire for a great adventure full of incredible experiences you truly can’t go wrong.
Remember, this checklist is your roadmap to full-time RV living. It’s your guide to making the most of your time on the road. With the right information and preparation, you’ll set off on your full-time RV adventure with confidence and excitement.
So, pack your things, hit the road, and make your dreams of full-time RV living a reality.
FULL-TIME RV CHECKLIST
Once you are ready to hit the road…check out these amazing RV itineraries:
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- Ultimate Guide To RVing Atlantic Canada – coming soon
- Complete Newfoundland RV Itinerary – coming soon