Preparing for RV Life

The last several years as we approached retirement age our conversation during every vacation inevitably turned to the question, “Where do we want to retire?” No place ever really seemed to meet all of our criteria. Then on one of our vacation trips we met a couple who were volunteering at a Heritage Site and we got to talking with them. They were giving the Forest Service about 25 – 28 hours a week, and in return they received a gorgeous place to park their camper (a 35′ fifth wheel), electric, water, sewer, and an opportunity to learn in depth about that interesting site while giving something back to society.

As the years passed this idea of traveling where we wanted while taking our home with us, following the seasons, spending enough time at an interesting location to really feel like we had “seen it & done it” began to really resonate for us. Eventually, we began to research the full-time life style and decided we wanted to give it a try. We researched different types of RVs, sizes, and floor plans. We attended RV Shows and visited dealers until we finally found the design that seemed right for us … a 38′ Bighorn 5th wheel trailer. We searched for a gently used unit that we felt was “priced right”.  When we found it, we had it delivered to a campground where we used it weekends and vacations for one season as we settled into the trailer. Then we bought a truck that would be big enough to pull it.

Full-time RV living can be a wonderful way to live and travel, see interesting places and visit family, follow the weather to avoid extremes in heat or cold. It can be a very economical lifestyle … or expensive, depending on how you approach it.   I won’t go into the details of the costs, but some of the other web sites I have referenced discuss costs in detail.

If you have not yet purchased a rig, take time to think about your lives together, what you like to do inside, what you want to do outside, and look at floor plans … look, look, look. When you think you have found some that you like, go sit it them. Don’t worry about the salesman, just sit & imagine your life together in THAT space. Will it give you enough room for each of you to have some personal space? Does it fit your style for eating & recreation? Will it be right for YOU? Some people are happy in 25 ft or less, others need 40+; neither is right, just different. If you can rent a unit similar to what you “think” you want, great!  Nothing beats real experience.  (But if the size or floor plan is ‘way’ different, the value may not be as great.)  We see people who are on their 3rd, 4th, 5th, rig – not because they have money to burn, but because they needed different space than what they first thought when they first bought. Maybe their needs changed, maybe they didn’t adequately think through their needs. Others have their original rig because they adequately evaluated their needs up front.

Frequently you can find a rig that has been gently used. Just because the unit did not fit someone else’s needs doesn’t mean it is not right for you. You can save thousands of dollars buying a rig that is just a couple years old; or you can buy one that is even older and give it a face-lift.

Buy the best quality unit that you possibly can. When I am on the forums and see people expressing sincere dissatisfaction with their unit, the vast majority of times they have purchased a light weight, low quality unit. Those units are designed to be used a week or two for vacation plus a few weekends each year — maybe a total of 30 nights per year. If you are full-time living in such a unit, you are putting 12 years of anticipated use onto the rig for every one year you live in it… it’s no wonder they don’t last long! If you feel the floors flex when you walk on them or bounce lightly on them, beware!

The full-time RV life is wonderful (at least for us). If you become a Full-Timer, welcome to the club. Search the sites I have listed below for bits of wisdom & links to other resources. You will never be completely “ready” so you will have to, at some point after you have done “enough” research, just jump in. The water’s fine!

The internet is a great resource. As you think about where you want to go and what you want to do, do lots of research, book mark sites and information that pertain to what you would like to do. GO SLOW.  Take your time as you travel.  Don’t rush through any place you visit. We are accustomed to having only a week or two to see everything on our vacation trip. But now you have the rest of your life! SLOW down. Find a place that you like or that interests you and stay for 2-3-4 weeks or even several months if you like it there. Immerse yourself in the community, talk to people, see the “off the beaten path” stuff. Plan your route in advance, but not necessarily your time period. If you want to be south in the winter, plan for that. You will make mistakes. There will be disappointments. But there will be amazing times and sights that completely outweigh the few disappointments. Love one another through everything and be gentle with one another’s errors.

And remember if you try it and don’t like the full timing thing, it’s ok … you can change your mind and go find another home in another location you like.  As we were preparing to go Full-Time, my DW asked, “What if I don’t like full-time RVing?”  My response, “We can always sell the rig and rent or buy something else.”


Resources we have found useful:

Great introduction:

Wonderful site tailored to full time RVers:


Three forums for support from experienced RVers:

Escapees Forum:

RVillage Forum:

IRV2 Forum:


Other interesting sites:
They also have a great collection of YouTube videos.
A great collection of Checklists for nearly every purpose.
Ideas regarding budget, costs, and frugal rv travel.

For reviews and comparisons of RV quality & durability, we found to be helpful:

Other useful information from our web page:

Solar Power Installation — How to determine if solar is for you, and how much power you need

Truck and towing capacities  —  If you are pulling a trailer, you need to match the truck and trailer.  Here are some pointers.

Composting Toilet  —  Never empty a “Black Tank” again… We love it, but will you?

Boondocking — Living “off the grid”

For other aspects of making your decisions about RV Living, here are other posts on the subject:   RV Life & Technical Details