Full-Time RV Living for Beginners
Posted: October 26, 2022
Categories: Travel & Lifestyle
In the fall of 2017, Corey and Jessie Nickerson of Finding Our Someday sold their home in Maine to start full-time life on the road with their two daughters, Lily and Leila. After losing Jessie’s father to ALS, they took a leap of faith and decided not to wait on their “someday.” They took to the road to live life to the fullest, circling the U.S. multiple times while finding their passion for travel and philanthropy. Over the years, Corey and Jessie have learned a lot about the RV lifestyle while trekking along in their Grand Design Reflection. Read their guest post to get pro tips and tricks about full-time RV living.
Full-Time RV Living for Beginners
by Jessie Nickerson of Finding Our Someday
Photos by Finding Our Someday
You’ve made the decision: you and your family are hitting the road full-time! You’ve gotten rid of stuff to prepare for a more minimal life. You’ve told your family you’re leaving (half now think you’re crazy), and now you are listing your house and looking for the perfect RV. There are so many options and an incredible number of things to learn with this massive life change that it can become overwhelming.
After close to five years of living full-time in our 35-foot Grand Design Reflection travel trailer as a family of four, we want to give you our top five tips for beginner full-timers to help make the transition into your full-time RV lifestyle as easy as possible for you!
1. Figure out what type of RVer you want to be.
I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t RVing just…RVing? Not quite. These are some of the questions that you need to ask yourself as you plan on getting into RVing full-time:
- Do I want to be in RV parks and resorts with full hook-ups (electric, water and sewer) all the time?
- Do I want to be able to boondock or dry camp (camping with no electric, water or sewer hook-ups)?
- Do I want to have the ability to visit tight National or state park campgrounds or off-the-grid locations?
- Do I want to moochdock (camping on someone else’s property or in their driveway) with family and friends throughout my travels?
All of these questions will help you narrow down the size and kind of RV you need to be able to RV in the way you want. Our biggest piece of advice here is that bigger isn’t always better. You need to be as small as you can while still being comfortable for your family.
If you answered yes to that first question and no to all the others, a giant 5th wheel or motorhome would be perfect. But if you want to do any of those other types of camping, size and maneuverability are going to be very important aspects of your RV search. Will that big toy hauler make it up Aunt Jo’s driveway? Will this 43-foot 5th wheel be able to fit in Yellowstone National Park?
Narrowing down where you want to go and how you want to RV will save you time, money and possibly embarrassing situations down the road!
If you want to know more about the different types of RVs on the market, check out Lippert’s “Types of RVs” blog post. If you want to learn more about which RV is right for you, read Lippert’s “RV Buying Guide” blog post.
2. Don’t overbuy “RV things” before you hit the road.
There are obvious purchases that need to be made when moving into the RV lifestyle. If you show up to a campground or a dump station without a sewer hose, you are going to be in a world of hurt. If you haven’t watched the scene from the movie “RV” with Robin Williams where he doesn’t have the right sewer hose attachment, look it up on YouTube. This situation, lovingly referred to by many RVers as a “poopsie,” needs to be avoided at all costs!
Those types of necessary RV parts and accessories (items needed for dumping tanks, electrical cords to plug into power, leveling blocks, etc.) are important and should be budgeted for when planning to hit the road. However, please know that you do not need to buy every single RV gadget on the market until you have actually lived in your RV for a while and know how you travel and what your actual RV lifestyle needs are going to be.
We have encountered so many people who waited sometimes years to hit the road because they thought they needed everything before they launched. Not only did it delay them from going out and living the life they want now, but it also caused them to waste money that they realized later they didn’t need to spend. They ended up not using some of the items they purchased!
Here are a couple of full-time RV living must-haves that we recommend purchasing before you hit the road:
- A good back-up camera. This is something we would not travel without. We have the Furrion Vision S RV camera system with the 5-inch screen as well as the side view cameras. This helps with backing in and out of sites as well as understanding tail swing when pulling in and out of places like gas stations and driveways.
- More than one battery. If you are not upgrading to a full solar set up with lithium batteries, we highly recommend upgrading to two lead acid batteries. We traveled for the first four years of full-time RVing with two lead acid batteries, and we boondocked two-thirds of the year. We recommend EverStart 29DC Deep Cycle RV batteries that you can get from Walmart.
- A Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). A TPMS system will alert you if there is any change in tire pressure or temperature so that you can stop before having a blowout on your rig. And trust us, you DON’T want to have a tire blow out on you while driving 60 mph down the highway. We, unfortunately, know from personal experience. We use the Lippert Tire Linc TPMS now. Don’t skip this one, it’s important.
- A good grill or method of cooking outside. Deciding to hit the road full-time usually means that you want to enjoy the outdoors. When you live in less than 300 sq. ft., utilizing all outdoor space is a must! Cooking outside also keeps the mess of making a meal out of the RV and reduces smell and heat from being trapped inside the RV. Don’t get us wrong, we cook inside regularly as well, but having the outside option makes such a big difference. We have a GMG Davey Crockett and a Blackstone griddle.
3. Find inexpensive places to stay.
Like most everything these days, the cost of staying at an RV park has gone up considerably since we hit the road. Unless money isn’t an issue at all, you will quickly go broke if you are staying in $100+/night campsites. But what are the alternatives? We have a couple recommendations for how to save money while still finding great places to camp each night!
We use a couple of apps that help us find free boondocking, inexpensive city parks, Walmart parking lots for a quick overnight while on cross country trips, National and state parks, and other surprise locations. Our favorite apps are Campendium, the AllStays and The Dyrt. All give great locations for camping and offer many reviews of each site, so you can decide what works best for you.
The other major money saving tip we have is getting the Thousand Trails Zone Pass membership. We utilize Thousand Trails when we are in Florida or the Southeast and Southwest in our travels. You can usually find a Zone Pass for around $499 and an extra $59 per zone (five total) if you want to add other parts of the U.S. This allows you to stay for up to 14 days in one park with full hook-ups before having to be out of the system for seven days, or to park hop from one Thousand Trails park to another if you only stay four nights. The membership pays for itself in one 14-day stay, so it is well worth it!
You can also get discounts for staying in some places for longer periods of time. This not only saves you money on a campsite but also on travel costs like fuel.
4. Full-time RVing is not a full-time vacation.
This one gets a lot of people when they first hit the road. We are guessing that most people hitting the road and reading this blog are not independently wealthy and will have some sort of a budget to follow to make this lifestyle work. If you begin your full-time RV journey going to every new restaurant you come across and trying to do every excursion that you have seen on YouTube or Instagram in every location you visit, your money will run out very quickly.
When we went to Alaska in 2018, our first year on the road, many people wrote to us expressing how shocked they were that we hadn’t taken the plane tours around Alaska. At the time, they were $600 per person. For our family, that would have been $2,400 for a four-hour excursion. Spending that much money on one event when, if used another way, would extend our travels by close to a month just didn’t make sense for us. And when you are in places like Alaska, there are so many amazing adventures that are free — like kayaking around icebergs!
The moral of the story is that it is easy to spend money on the road. The more disciplined you can be in budgeting what will be spent on “special things” like eating out and fun local adventures, the longer you will be able to live this lifestyle to the fullest!
5. Finding community and “your people” on the road doesn’t just happen on its own.
It’s easy to look at social media and think that as soon as you hit the road, you are going to meet your best friends, travel together and camp happily ever after. But many people eagerly jump into this lifestyle only to realize months into it that they are lonely and feel like they have been duped.
First, we want to say that the RV community is the most welcoming, generous and caring community we have ever been a part of. That being said, connecting into that community doesn’t just magically happen with the purchase of an RV. Like anything else in life worth having or being a part of, connecting with others on the road takes effort. You won’t make friends if you are sitting in your RV all day long.
Get outside around a fire pit or grill up something that smells delicious. We have had many people stop by in campgrounds to see what Corey is making in his smoker! And as cliche as it sounds, just say yes when someone invites you to their fire or gathering. You never know when you are going to meet your new travel buddies!
We also recommend getting involved with various RV organizations to connect with other full-time RVers. There are many options, no matter what demographic you fall into.
Are you a family with five kids that are traveling and homeschooling? Fulltime Families Family RV Club is a great organization to plug into. Or if you and your spouse are retired, you can connect with Escapees RV Club, which also offers other groups like Xscapers for working-aged RVers.
All these organizations throw events throughout the year and across the country to help connect RVers wherever they might be! One other great way to connect is through our friends, Nathan and Marissa, with Less Junk, More Journey. Their Nomad Near Me app allows you to reconnect with people you have met on the road and to know where they are in their travels, so you don’t miss each other in the future if you are in the same area.
Since many full-time RVers are utilizing Thousand Trails in the winter months, staying in their campgrounds is another excellent way to connect with people on the road. Meeting other families on the playground or other couples on the pickle ball court will give you even more opportunities to find “your people” while you travel.
One of our favorite ways we have found community on the road and how we have purposefully taught our daughters about community in the last five years has been finding places in our travels to serve and give back. Our family has served at wildlife refuges, cattle ranches, local community food drives for the holidays, meal prep facilities for the elderly and many more.
We are so excited to be launching an initiative with Lippert in October that will help connect RVers with non-profits all over the country so that we, as full-time RVers, still have opportunities to make this world a better place, even if our “community” changes on a regular basis, and to connect with other RVers while we serve!
Follow Our Adventures
From myself, Corey and our girls, we wish you all the best as you hit the road and find your SOMEDAY!
Welcome to the RV family!
If you’d like to keep up with our adventures, feel free to check out our website or follow us on social media!
NOTE: We do not work with any of the companies mentioned with the exception of Lippert. These are all honest reviews of items we have tested and found to be the best option for us and how we travel.