Making the decision to live in an RV full-time is an exciting one! The prospect of following the warm weather, downsizing to a simpler, minimalist lifestyle, and finally visiting all the places on your bucket list is a fantasy for many. Unfortunately, when you first hit the road you don’t know what you don’t know, and you’re liable to make some common beginner full-time RV mistakes.
We’ve been there, and have made many of these mistakes ourselves! So, in this article, we’re going to help you identify and avoid some of these very pitfalls.
#1. Bringing Too Much Stuff (RV Overweight)
The very first mistake new full-time RVers make is overloading their RV by packing too much stuff.
This was one of our first downfalls and it happened because we, A) didn’t understand the importance of RV and tow vehicle gross vehicle weight ratings, and, B) we felt like we needed to bring as much stuff as possible since the RV was going to be our full-time home.
Downsizing is a hard and critical part of going full-time RV. It’s an emotionally and mentally draining process where you have to decide whether every little thing you own in your sticks-and-bricks home comes or goes. Most things must go.
#2. Not Making A Realistic Full-Time RV Budget
Getting your finances in order before hitting the road is really important. We recommend sitting down and tallying up all your existing costs, then extrapolating that into RV life. RVing can be a way to reduce your expenses, but it can also be expensive if you’re paying $50+ per night to stay at luxury RV resorts.
Here’s how we built our full-time RV budget and figured out how much full-time RV life cost us.
Everyone is going to have different expenses, so you’ll need to figure this out for your situation.
You may plan to be making some money on the road, but be realistic about what you can make. Options like Amazon Camperforce can offer pretty solid numbers for potential income.
#3. Traveling Too Fast
Once you’re out on the road, it is SO tempting to try to see and do everything as fast as possible. We definitely fell into this trap, and after the first 6 months of travel, we were absolutely exhausted!
Every full-time RV eventually learns to slow down the pace, and many adopt a 2-2 or 3-3 rule: 2-3 hours of driving max on travel days, stay at least 2-3 days.
#4. Booking Your Whole Year In Advance
This can sometimes be the source behind mistake #3 above. If you book yourself up and have to keep moving to hit your next reservation, you might become exhausted soon. This pace is sustainable for a 2 week vacation, but when it’s your full-time life it’s hard to keep up!
Booking out your whole year also reduces your flexibility. One of the awesome things about full-time RV living is that you discover places you didn’t know existed. Some of the coolest experiences you’ll have while RVing are going to be things you can’t find in a tourist’s travel guide.
#5. Getting In Fights With Your Partner When Parking The RV
It might be OK to have an argument with your partner every time you park the camper if you’re camping once in a while, but full-time RVers need radios for easy communications. Not only to save your relationship, but it’ll be a faster and more pleasant experience for everyone – including your new campsite neighbors. You’ll also be far less likely to accidentally hit something. 😓
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#6. Spending Too Much Money On Eating Out
Isn’t one of the best things about vacationing in new places trying out the local cuisine? Yes, but remember you aren’t on vacation! While this is a great way to enjoy new places, eating out all the time is a great way to burn through your RV budget.
We recommend setting a strict budget on dining out and sticking to it. Also, you’re RV has a fully equipped kitchen, so go ahead and learn how to use it! We’ve found that we are able to make all the same meals in our RV that we would have made in our sticks-and-bricks house. If you haven’t already, definitely invest in an Instant Pot to make meal prep at home even easier!
#7. Spending Too Much Money On “Vacation” Activities
Along a similar vein, things you may have splurged on in general on vacation aren’t going to translate over to full-time RV life. You’re going to have to be picky about which activities you take advantage of in your travels. Remember – if you’re planning to travel full-time for a few years or more, you can always come back and do it another time!
Again, we recommend factoring unique experiences into your RVing budget to help you be more thoughtful about which activities take priority and how to spread them out in your schedule.
#8. Spending Too Much Money On Campgrounds
You learn really fast in full-time RV life that campground costs add up fast. Really fast.
RV resorts can easily cost over $50/night, and even State and National Park campgrounds can be $30+/night. That’s like paying $900-1500/month on rent!
Fortunately, there are some great camping membership clubs out there that offer affordable camping solutions and discounts on campsites.
Thousand Trails offers lifetime camping memberships or annual memberships that grants access to a network of parks across the country.
Passport America offers great discounts on member parks to members.
Harvest Hosts allows overnight parking at agritourism businesses like wineries, farms, and museums for a low annual fee.
Boondockers Welcome members get to stay at private member residences overnight for free (or optional fee for hookups in some cases.)
These are just some of the programs out there to help you reduce costs on camping.
Additionally, many full-time RVers eventually break into boondocking on public land for free. In order to do this, there are some ground rules for dealing with resources off-grid and practicing responsible boondocking to keep our public lands open for continued use by RVers.
#9. Not Joining An RV Community
During our first year on the road, we honestly got lonely. Fortunately, we discovered the Escapees RV Club, which is a support network for all RVers to find community on the road. RVillage, FMCA, and Full-Time Families are some other RV clubs that hold events and provide services, information, and discounts for their members.
This is a great way to find friends on the road that you can caravan or meet up with on your travels!
#10. Not Attending A Rally or RV Show
Once you’re a part of an RV community, or if you’re still looking for one, RV rallies and shows are a great way to find people interested in similar things as you. Rallies can be held by your RV manufacturer, an RV club you’re a part of, or maybe even around a non-RV related event, like the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta.
At RV shows you can find groups of owners of a particular manufacturer, go to seminars on RV topics, or participate in ancillary events as part of the show.
We also made the mistake of not attending a rally until we headed out to the Xscapers Bash in the Arizona desert (must be an Escapees RV Club Member to attend). Talk about a fun time and an energetic vibe!
#11. Waiting on Mail/Packages
Receiving mail and packages is a unique challenge for full-time RVers. When you’ve got a mailbox at a home, you don’t think twice about it. When your location changes regularly, it takes some skill to coordinate! You don’t want to be stuck in a place waiting on packages to arrive.
Seasoned full-time RVers typically all have Amazon Prime memberships for free 2-day shipping so they rarely have to wait around long for packages. They’ll also coordinate ahead of time for the next place to receive packages until they arrive. We also appreciate friends and family we’re planning to visit acting as a mail receiver.
#12. Not Keeping Up On Full-Time RV Maintenance
This RV is your house now. Instead of mowing the lawn and cleaning out the gutters, you now have to maintain caulking along your RV seams, your tires, your slide-outs, and a myriad of other minor things to keep your RV in tip-top shape!
If you’re not familiar with RV maintenance, YouTube is a great resource for how to do things yourself. Failure to maintain your RV (and tow or toad vehicle) could result in more major fixes being needed down the road.
You’ll also want to bring along some tools to help get this maintenance done. Check out what’s in our RV Toolkit to get some ideas.
#13. Expecting To Have A Campfire Every Night
We used to be those weekend campers who scoffed at the people who’d sit in their RV and watched TV instead of enjoying a campfire outside. Boy, have the tables turned! We get it now.
RV life is, well, life. And sometimes you just want to watch your favorite TV show and hang out indoors. Campfires can be fun, but not every night.
In fact, many full-time RVers get a propane fire pit to be able to enjoy campfires without the fire building, wood collection, smokey smell clinging to your clothes and hair, and water dousing at the end of the evening.
Pro Tip: propane fires are even allowed in many places where wood fires are banned.
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#14. Not Investing In A Reliable Connectivity Setup
When you go full-time RV, you need to have reliable connectivity. You’ll quickly learn that campground WiFi isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, with slow speeds and/or strangling bandwidth.
To be able to live full-time, you need to invest in some reliable RV internet gear including cell and data plans, a good router, cell boosters, and maybe even a directional antenna. Your needs will depend on whether you need connection for a remote job or if it’s just for streaming and checking in with friends and family every once in a while.
Our setup includes a Max Transit Duo Pepwave router, a Mobile Must Have data plan, a weBoost Drive Reach cell booster, and a directional antenna for picking up weak signals in very remote boondocking locations.
Tip: Get 5% off all your connectivity gear and plans at Mobile Must Have by using code “MOTM5” at checkout! They also have TREMENDOUS customer service!
#15. Not Investing In Lithium-Ion Batteries
When using an RV full time you will quickly find out that traditional lead-acid batteries can be a huge headache trying to keep them healthy and not kill them. The benefits of lithium-ion batteries over lead-acid batteries for your RV are plentiful. In actuality, the cost of lithium-ion batteries per watt over their lifetime is less than the cost of lead-acid or AGM batteries!
While more expensive upfront, these batteries pay for themselves over years of use AND in quality of life. Lithium batteries will last the life of your RV or more in most situations. If you switch RVs, it’s the type of thing you’d want to take with you.
Most importantly, you don’t have to worry about charging them up all the way every time or what voltage they are at when you need your power. Lead-acid batteries are very particular about charge cycles and discharge rates for longevity – and this is virtually eliminated with lithium-ion.
More silent power longer without the running of a generator – now that is definitely worth the investment for full-time RV life. Not to mention, you can increase capacity for off-grid living, which opens up even more places to roam!
#16. Only Visiting Popular “Tourist” Destinations
When planning out your full-time RV travels, it is tempting to look at a map and plot out the big attractions: Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Grand Canyon. It is also then tempting to drive from point A, to B, to C, and cram as much in as possible (like we discussed in mistakes #3 & #4).
We’re here to tell you that there is so much more to see than the popular tourist destinations!
In between Yellowstone and Yosemite, for instance, are the entire states of Idaho and Nevada. You might not know of tourist destinations in either of those places. Idaho is one the most surprising states we’ve been to and took our breath away with its beauty.
Nevada also gets a bad rap, but it too has gorgeous mountains, tons of public lands, and Great Basin National Park.
Again, leave room in your schedule to roam and explore. You won’t regret it!
#17. Not Having A Full-Time RV Exit Strategy
Finally, one easy thing to do before you hit the road full-time in your RV is to think of an exit strategy. Most people don’t do it forever, so at some point you’ll probably want to get off the road and settle in somewhere.
This could be due to a personal choice – maybe you find “the place” in your travels that feels like home, or maybe you get an awesome new job. It could also be due to circumstances beyond your control. We never like planning for accidents or illness, but in these cases, you don’t want to be scrambling for a Plan B.
Having some money budgeted for getting off the road is a great way to make sure your transition back to sticks-and-bricks life goes smoothly. Knowing someone who has a place you could park for a while is also a great backup to have.
Avoiding These Full-Time RV Mistakes Will Keep You On The Road And Having Fun!
Hopefully, these tips make it so that you avoid mistakes that cause many people to struggle with the full-time RV life. From exhaustion to connectivity, to arguments in the campground, you can avoid frustration by knowing what the potential pitfalls are ahead of time. Making small adjustments to your routines and planning now can save you time, money, and headache in the long run!
Have more questions or concerns about hitting the road full-time? We cover the whole process of preparing to full-time RV from choosing your domicile, to downsizing, to budgeting and more in the extensive RV Masterclass online course Preparing to Full-Time RV. Taught by us and two other prominent full-time RV couples, we share our personal experiences (and mistakes) so you can be successful!
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