Beginner’s Guide to Full-Time RV Living: 8 Ultimate Tips for Life on the Road
Written by Jordan Stokes.
Table of Contents
Deciding to take your life on the road? More and more people have made the leap and quit their jobs to enjoy the freedoms and experiences of nomadic living. Not sure how to get started? Here are 8 beginner tips so you can get the most out of RV living, and lucky for you, there are no strings attached.
While some may think the tiny house movement is gobbling up all the minimalists, we can’t forget about marvelous, good old-fashioned, RV living! There’s a lot of spontaneity and flexibility when it comes to traveling in your home. Yes, it’s awesome to have the opportunity to explore new places right outside your door, but traveling full-time can come with its challenges. We want you to be prepared for everything, which is why we’ve created a beginner’s guide to full-time RV living, with 8 tips for starting life on the road.
Beginner Tips for Full-Time RV Living
So, you’ve quit your job (or recently retired) and you’ve bought your RV, what’s next? Whether you’re hitting the road solo, as a family, or with pets, this kind of minimalist living can fulfill all of your wanderlust dreams. From planning and preparation to unexpected mishaps, we’ve got everything you need to know to start your journey in your new house on wheels.
- Get to Know Your RV
- Have Plans and Do Your Research
- Get Your Domicile and Insurance
- Make a Checklist
- Communication is Key
- Expect the Unexpected
- Be Flexible and Have Fun
If you’re really committed to RV living get ready for some fun because life on the road is an incredible privilege. Trust us, not everyone can pack up their belongings and ditch their mortgage for a home on wheels. Inside of our 8 main tips, we’ve broken down common misconceptions of full-time travel like costs, how to stay connected with friends and family, and more.
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8 Ultimate Tips for Full-Time RV Living
Get to Know Your RV
Every RV should come with a hefty stack of manuals, read them!
We’re not saying you need to be an RV guru or anything, but just like you should get to know your car before driving, you should also get to know your RV, and we mean get to know everything. There’s nothing worse than trying to find the right fuse switch in a heavy rainstorm, or not knowing anything about basic plumbing or how to patch a leak in a pinch. It may also help to learn how to do your own oil changes, change flat tires, etc.
It’s important to establish a routine to perform these annual chores and general maintenance that is required, especially if you’re driving full-time. Trust us, it would help to know these things yourself instead of relying on roadside assistance, tow trucks, and random auto body shop employees telling you what’s right and wrong with your own RV.
Pro Tip: You should also be able to download PDF versions of the manuals for backup.
Have Plans and Do Your Research
Like any vacation, traveling full-time is going to take a lot of planning, which may have landed you here in the first place. Good news! We’ve got you covered.
Before you set out on the open road you should at least have a general idea of where you’re going, where you’re staying, and for how long. In fact, some of the most popular campgrounds and RV parks across the U.S. are booked out months in advance, and you want to make sure you don’t miss your window at Zion River Resort in Utah or Boyd’s Key West Campground in Florida.
Building a flexible itinerary will allow you to budget your trip, help you get a sense for time and location, and allow you to share it with friends and family in advance.
Try using a vacation planner like Tracks + Trails to help you get started.
Get Your Domicile and Insurance
A mobile lifestyle isn’t for everyone, and because you don’t have a permanent address on the road, you will need a domicile. There are 50 different sets of rules and regulations when it comes to taxes, licenses, vehicle inspections, voting registration, bank accounts etc., and your home state might not be as accommodating to nomadic living.
Luckily, there are several U.S. states that allow full-time RVers to claim residency without owning or renting property, and Florida, South Dakota, and Texas are the three most popular. Learn more about how to establish your residency here.
Along with a domicile you will also need insurance (this will likely help you determine which state you would like to domicile in). You can learn more about RV insurance here. You’ll likely want a policy that gives you the adaptable coverages you need, like liability protection (both on and off the road), roadside assistance, and replacement coverage for your personal belongings that are essential to your home on wheels.
Pro Tip: You will also need to sign up with a mail forwarding company. They will also provide you with a street address for DMV and voting-related purposes.
What will you need with you? What will you NOT need? Downsizing is an important part of RV living, as living in a space the size of your old bedroom might be as minimal as it may get. If you’re having trouble shedding items from your life, you might be a few years away from full-time RV living.
Downsizing will allow you to prioritize and keep the essentials, and get rid of anything that may otherwise go unused. For example, do you really need 3 pairs of boots, 10 sweaters, and ALL of those bowls? Where are you going to put it all?
You will find that you will bring way too much stuff in your first year of travel, that’s just the way it goes. After all, expertise comes from experience, doesn’t it? Keep what you need, get rid of what you don’t; it’s that simple.
Pro Tip: Use the one in, one out rule. You bring something into the RV, then something has to go. This will prevent stuff from piling up and force you to have more of a minimalist mindset.
Make a Checklist
Everything has a place in the RV, keep it that way! The last thing you want is knives falling off the counter and drawers flying open as you turn a corner. A checklist will allow you to make sure everything is put back in its place (and put back correctly) before you get back on the road.
It’s important to make sure all items are secured, the generator, lights, and water are off, windows are closed, and more. Create a full pre-departure checklist with reminders and make it a habit to check it after everywhere you go. Trust us, it helps.
Communication is Key
If you’re traveling with your significant other or family, communication is key! Especially since you are traveling in a small space and are limited with where you can go.
A lack of communication can create arguments and stir up frustrations and anger, which can put stress on the relationship and on your travels! Keep communication open.
If you have multiple drivers on board and are driving long distances, it always helps to speak up, share the load, and take driving shifts. If you’re not comfortable driving a big RV, there are driving classes available that can help make you more confident.
Expect the Unexpected
If you’re mobile 24/7, 365 days of the year, things are bound to run off course, and that’s okay! We’re preparing you for it. It could be severe weather, a flat tire, or a pesky RV repair, whatever it maybe, you should always expect the unexpected while you’re on the road.
There are a few things we recommend here:
- Have an RV repair fund for those unexpected repairs (like a windshield, electrical etc.)
- Carry a spare tire in case you get a flat (always)
- Develop a plan in case of emergencies
If there is an emergency and you need to evacuate the RV, do you have easy access to all of your essentials? What will you do in case of a medical emergency? What about a medical emergency without cell service? What about flooding after a storm or a severe weather warning? All of these are things that could happen, and you want to be prepared. After all, this is your new life on the road.
Pro Tip: Be on the lookout for local weather events like flash floods, tornados, high winds, and other severe weather that can affect your travels. We suggest investing in a good weather radio, checking local forecasts, and using weather apps on your smartphone/tablet to stay up-to-date.
You can find more information on what to do in these types of situations here.
Be Flexible and Have Fun
Not everything on the road will be carefree and easy. Weather and traffic, might not always be on your side and that’s okay — at least you’re still not paying that exhausting mortgage payment every month! While these things, as well as other unexpected mishaps are likely to occur, you may not be following your itinerary as expected. That’s why we suggest you build a more flexible travel plan.
A flexible travel plan allows you to leave places earlier if you don’t love them as much as you thought you would, and allows you to extend your stay at those really awesome places. That’s the beauty of a mobile lifestyle! Don’t like where you are? Just pack up and go!
The beauty of full-time RV living is not only the freedom and flexibility that comes along with it, but also the incredible community of RVers you will meet along the way! As long as you follow our 8 tips and have a positive attitude, your first year on the road should be a breeze. Just remember to read the manuals, do your research, communicate, be flexible, and have fun!
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to consider the cost of gas, campgrounds with electric hookups, dumping and refilling your fresh and wastewater tanks, registration and insurance, as well as food, entertainment and more.
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