There is a magic allure of the road, of clipping the ‘strings’ of location-based living and taking off for a full-time RV lifestyle. Whether it’s your retirement plan or you’re achieving the dream of an infinite working vacation, getting started in a full-time RV life is going to be full of surprises, logistics, and amazing people you never expected to meet. It can also involve bumpy roads, roadside repairs, and constantly paring down your extra possessions. For all you first-time, full-time RVers out there, we’ve put together ten helpful tips that should assist you in building your plan, finding the right rig, and starting off on the first of many infinite adventures.
1) Test Many Rigs to Find Your Ideal New Home
The one thing almost every full-time RVer can agree on is that it can take some experimentation to know which RV or trailer rig is perfect for you and whoever you will be traveling with. Everyone has their own unique preferences and the right RV for others may not be the perfect solution for you.
You may not need as much space as you think you do, especially with the ability to spread out every time you camp. Or, you might find that a particular rig is infinitely more fun to drive than other models. You may want a loft level or prefer a compact rig, you may want a full kitchen or be satisfied with a cooktop and a few outlets.
Our best advice is to try out several rigs on test-vacations before choosing your final road-home.
2) Go On Many Test Adventures, Longer Each Time
Speaking of test-vacations, make sure to go on several as you begin to plan your full-time RV life. Many people discover that their lifestyles change significantly on the road versus the life you lead in a stationary home. The way you cook, pack, dress, socialize, and plan can change completely and you will find the ways in which you are exactly the same.
It’s important to understand your natural road-warrior lifestyle before you start full-time RVing so that you can build a plan that compliments how you are actually going to live. Once you find the perfect rig design, take it on longer and longer test flights as you prepare your life and luggage for the complete transition.
3) Pare Down Your Packing Essentials
Many first-time full-timers become fixated on the idea that in an RV, you only have the supplies that you bring. This includes food and kitchenware, clothes and personal items, tools and repair gear. It’s all too easy to over-pack and find yourself living like a hoarder when what you really meant to do was simplify with life on the road. So start simplifying early.
Start by writing down your first idea of a packing list, sorted by category and need. Then seriously consider it. Remove everything that you use less frequently than once a week. Consider packing no more than one or two weeks of clothes and no more than two fancy outfits for special occasions.
Most importantly, don’t forget that you’re in a vehicle that can stop by a Walmart or local hardware store at any time. You may also be able to find one-time things that you need by borrowing them from fellow RV-ers, renting them temporarily, or connecting through the sharing economy wherever you happen to be.
4) Get Comfortable with DIY Repairs
While there may be a mechanic shop in almost every small town in America, you’ll quickly find that it’s best to at least have a cursory ability to manage small repairs on your own. This will save you a lot of trouble and expense for things that, if you are knowledgeable and keep your manuals around, could be fixed in a matter of minutes. Having the ability to repair your own fuse box, plumbing, and moving parts can make sure that a good camping trip doesn’t have to be interrupted by a drive to a mechanic in town.
5) Build Your Kitchen
Once you’ve taken a few test-flights, you probably have a clearer idea of how you prefer to cook on the road. Some people prefer traditional stove and oven recipes while many RVers find themselves relying on crock-pots and pressure cookers for the ability to make delicious one-pot meals with minimal effort. Some take along and use bread machines regularly, some highly value the versatile instant-pot design, and some do almost all their cooking over campfires while spending a few weeks at a time in every national park they can find. How you cook will determine a lot about how you stock your kitchen and what is worth your storage space.
You also want to think seriously about the kind of dishes you’ll most enjoy living with. If you pack glass and porcelain, it will need to be carefully protected every time you move the rig or get on the road due to the shaking and swaying inherent with vehicular travel. Some RVers are willing to go through the effort to have all-glass dishware because it feels like home while others have a single set of real glass for special occasions and rely mostly on sturdy unbreakable camping dishes the rest of the time.
6) Go Paperless and Wireless
Paper documents are heavy, bulky, and easily destroyed by disasters. For the RV lifestyle of living light and efficiently, going paperless is your best option for staying organized and keeping track of all the necessary documents. Scan everything you have on paper and store the hard copies somewhere safe and preferably stationary, like leaving a sealed box with a relative. Prioritize storing documents on the cloud where you can access them from anywhere and they can never be lost in a rainstorm.
And, of course, you’ll want some way to connect to the internet from anywhere. Particularly if you plan to work remotely from your RV, it’s well worth your while to invest in a mobile hotspot and possibly a signal-booster to make it easier to pick up internet connection outside of towns.
7) Choose a Home State
Living on the road may be a joy that a great many people partake in, but for legal reasons, you will need an official home address and a home state. Things like your driver’s license, insurance, and voting registration will all require you to have a state of origin and an address that can receive mail. Every state has a different set of rules, regulations, and taxes to consider and some are better than others for people living the full-time RV lifestyle.
Ideally, you should look for a state that does not have an income tax, low vehicle registration fees, and legal policies that work well with your plans. The most popular states of origin in the RV community are North Dakota, Texas, and Florida.
8) Keep in Touch with Friends and Family
Taking off as a full-time road warrior is incredibly fun and freeing for you, but it does make it difficult for your friends and family to keep in contact. They can’t swing by for a visit, it’s less likely that you’ll be sharing a lot of lunch dates, and they may not even be able to call you if the signal is bad. This means that keeping in touch is on you.
In order to maintain your existing relationships and to keep yourself socially sane on the long empty stretches of road, make sure to stay connected with the people you love who don’t live in your RV with you. Send emails, do video chat, and remember to swing by for some special and fun visits a few times a year. This will make everyone feel better and keep you feeling connected to your preexisting community.
9) Stay Flexible
One of the best things about living life on the road is the ability to seize opportunities. If you wanted to, you could do a tour of small-town festivals, travel with a regional renaissance festival for a few months, or take advantage of off-season prices in your favorite parks. Doing your research and planning to go somewhere new are easy and freeing as long as you don’t feel that it is absolutely necessary to stick to a travel plan once you build it.
Be ready to change your departure times to catch an event, or avoid the traffic from an event others want to catch. Being flexible also includes not stressing out about delays, slow traffic, difficult roads, and the occasional repair. Remember to embrace the freedom of the RV life instead of getting wound up in schedules and deadlines. You don’t need those things. You live on the road now.
10) Plan Your Routes for Fun and Adventure
Finally, always think about how to optimize your adventures. There might be some great museums, free historical sites, or legendary restaurants along the way that would be fun to stop at. There might be a festival you want to catch, a beautiful natural attraction to hike through, or family and friends who happen to live nearby. There might even be great adventures to be had by meeting other RVers who are planning something wonderful you’d like to join. Always watch for opportunities for fun and seize them when they arise and you’ll have a truly amazing full-time RV life.