I’d like to speak with you today about RV Life and the RV Lifestyle. I’ve been on the road for 8 consecutive years now and I’ve got a few thoughts to share…
As you saw in my video above, this post was inspired by a reader/viewer who reached out to me after a younger couple made a video that ALMOST stole his RV dream.
As you review the information that follows, please feel free to use the space below to share your own tips and insights!
Now, I will NOT tell you that there aren’t challenges to living the RV Life, however, for every challenge, there are MANY rewards. AND… the choices you make can to a GREAT DEGREE mitigate the challenges you will face.
Succeeding at the RV Lifestyle – an Insiders Tips…
As I outlined in my video, there are a few key areas that can make or break your travelin’ experience. These include – the cost of your travels (campground costs), the quality of life at the campground (having ample space around your camper AND avoiding over-crowded campgrounds), maintaining connectivity (ESPECIALLY important for those of us who are doing business while “on the road”, and limiting the “downtime” due to “camper issues” – ie – unexpected repairs.
Allow me to address each of the above points in some detail…
Selecting Campgrounds that offer the opportunity for a GREAT RV CAMPING EXPERIENCE without breaking your wallet
Here are a few rules of thumb (and the size of your camper will determine the extent to which you can use this plan)…
- Look for state parks, National Forest Service (NFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), dry camping, and dispersed camping opportunities in preference to privately-owned campgrounds.
- Do some basic “advance research” to find “the ideal campsite.” I use two primary tools in my searches – Campground Reviews (.com) and Allstays.
- I use the reviews site to read what other RV’ers have to say about a particular campground/park, etc. When doing so, you have to read between the lines (somewhat) to gain a sense of whether the campground you’re considering is for you. AND you can also gain a sense of whether you’re going to have a good cell signal there (which translates into internet connectivity for your computer – read on for more detail below.)
- Allstays helps me to locate campgrounds/camping areas near water (a personal favorite of mine) or any other features I’d like to be near AND it contains data on LOW BRIDGES so I know in advance if my route has any “gotchas.”
- Join two INEXPENSIVE discount RV campground membership programs. You’ll see who I recommend in my post HERE.
- Plan to spend a week (or even a MONTH) in a particular spot. Your greatest discounts will apply to those kinds of extended stays instead of paying daily rates. Important: These discounts often apply to private campgrounds, in fact, most public camping (State, National Parks, NFS, BLM) are limited to about 14 day stays.
- Over 62? GET A GOLDEN PASS!! $80. for a lifetime pass for discount rates at most National camping areas (not just National Parks.) Hint: Buy it AT a National Park instead of online- you’ll save the $10. processing fee.
- Look into the same for state parks – and – look for other state discount programs. For example, both Wyoming and Idaho offer (separate) discounts to pass holders and the “break-even point” when you factor in the cost of the pass is about 7 nights in any state park in either state.
A note about the LENGTH of your RV Camper
The longer your camper is, the fewer options you’re going to have as to where you can take it. I wrote an article that addresses the ideal length for an RV camper – I encourage you to review it.
In summary (thus far), if you follow my tips and thoughts, and avoid KOA (and similar) campgrounds, you’ll find your nightly costs are closer to $15-20 instead of $40+! I traveled this summer after breaking camp in the Jackson Hole region in early April and averaged about $15/night for the entire 7 months of continuous travel. I’m now back to monthly rates as I stay the winter again near Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Beat the crowds – seek out DRY CAMPING opportunities
Often referred to as “boondocking”, I’ve been doing this for quite a while, in fact, at one point this summer, I went FOUR WEEKS (save for 3 days) without a campsite that had access to “shore power” (110-volt electric supplied by a power pedestal.)
Successful dry camping experiences require solar power (at a minimum) and ideally a generator. I finally “broke down” and purchased a generator this summer – here’s my story on that topic (and a note about solar panels as well) – CLICK HERE. My Lake Cascade post shows in one of the videos how different the usage level is of a campground that provides hookups vs. one that is dry camping only.
One additional feature that you must plan for IN ADVANCE… when purchasing your camper, look for one with a LARGE fresh water tank. I’d recommend a minimum of 70 gallons. This is just a small piece of advice I offer my clients who hire me for my Concierge RV Buying (and Selling) Service.
Dry camping (boondocking) also tends to be FAR less expensive than camping with hookups. My average stay while boondocking is about $10 per night, and I never pay over $18. while dry camping.
Trying to conduct business while “on the road” – let’s talk CONNECTIVITY
Wow has the world changed! Twenty years ago I could not be running a business from my camper. I recently had a client who was doing their own work (missionary service) in southern Canada, he had a motorhome in Georgia, and I was in Idaho – I successfully handled the sale of that camper, and then negotiated the purchase of a fifth wheel in Tennessee, including its inspection locally AND its transport to Georgia – so that when they return to Georgia, their new camper will be waiting for them! (Interested in this kind of service? Contact me!)
My connectivity plan is simple: I have a Verizon smartphone. I’ve learned how to use an app to “tether” it to my laptop. My data plan is extensive enough to allow for as much use as I like. Contact me privately if you want to learn the mechanics of this. I also have an AT&T plan with a “harman spark.” It too is adapted for use in my camper. Again – contact me to discuss the mechanics. There is also a new “togo” service from AT&T which is worth considering.
The bottom line? Between virtually unlimited service with both AT&T and Verizon, in 7 months of travel, I found ONE campsite where I could not get online – and even there, connectivity was only about 1 mile away! So… you gotta get pretty remote to NOT have connectivity anywhere in the “lower 48” continental United States!
Limiting your “downtime” due to RV Camper issues
Hammering on poorly built RV campers has become a pastime of mine! Its the reason the industry is struggling to grow over the past 20 years! Despite massive expansion in the population one typically considers when thinking about rv travel, and I’m of course referring to “seasoned citizens!” – there has been LITTLE GROWTH in the actual RV’ing population. This strongly suggests as more enter, many leave – and I fear are leaving because of all the problems they encounter with their camper. This situation MUST change – and you have a say in it by buying from the FEW manufacturers who make a superior product.
I’ve written several articles addressing the quality of camper issue in the RV’ing world, most recently a “fifth wheel buying guide” where I NAME NAMES – exposing both the good AND the bad.
Here’s the bottom line: Buying a quality camper (it does NOT have to be NEW) will GREATLY reduce the likelihood you spend weeks (months) dealing with a wide variety of rv repair issues. Yep, it’s really that simple – well – save for one fact… 85% of all the campers made are sub-standard – so it really helps to know what you’re looking at! Again – I urge you (even if you’re looking at a travel trailer or a motorhome) to review my fifth wheel buying guide – it will at a minimum get you started moving in the right direction.
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9 thoughts on “RV Life – The REAL Scoop…an insiders tips”
I have been researching RVs, boon docking, every aspect of full time RVing. I hope to purchase a Class C, maybe a travel trailer, I do not want to rush it, then I came across your You Tube blog I think it’s called ,I have been cross country twice on motorcycle, camped all across the United States. I am older now, my body says no more. I am a very simple person, I am leaning towards a Class C smaller of the models. I saw I could buy used from RV rental companies. I have access to mechanics who advised me what engines to avoid, I will be traveling with animals, can you advise me which brand would be best for a simple person. No slide outs. Simple. I will not be buying in New York, I was advised not to. What’s your thoughts? Thank You.
Thanks for reaching out. A few questions if I may before I offer any suggestions. Are you planning to travel full-time or will the camper be for more occassional use? If you did get a trailer, do you have a vehicle that can tow it? If so, what is the year/make/model of your vehicle? Do you see yourself camping at rv parks with full hookups (electric, water, sewer) or are you more inclined to dry camp (no hookups)? Lastly, what kind of budget are you working with to get a camper?
We both have service from Verizon and use Andriod phones. The app within the basic operating system to turn the phone into a hotspot has worked well for us most places we have gone.
Thanks for the affirmation.
I was interested in your comments about internet access. I have droid and my wife has apple. I have a windows laptop and she has an ipad. She doesn’t have any issues getting internet access but I can’t get anything(most disappointing). We have Verizon for service so I tried to see what I could do but they wanted to sell me a bunch of expensive stuff to get mine to work. We’re retired and our money is “TIGHT”! Any ideas?
Bob, look in the playstore on your phone for Foxfi or PDAnet – they’re the same thing – its a 1 time fee of about $10. – it will turn your phone into a hotspot and when you follow pdanet’s directions, you can connect (wirelessly) to your laptop so it can surf the internet. Let me know if you require further assistance to get this up and running. By the way – I assume your droid is a smart phone? Al
I’m reading your posts and watching your videos very closely Alan. I should be a full time RV’er by this time next year (if not much earlier). I attended an ORV tour last month in Le Grande Oregon and was VERY impressed with their build process and the new 10th Anniversary ORV edition trailers look great. I like the Arctic Fox made by Northwood, but the high profile for this fifth wheel concerns me not only for bridges and overpasses, but for strong side winds. ORV’s “Mid-Profile” 5th Wheel RVs seem to be tall enough for me. All the best for you as you get ready for this ski season (I’m jealous – Grew up at Lake Tahoe).
Like everything else in life….it IS what YOU make it! I have lived several years in a RV full time, I loved it. It was not as we used to sing in the Army…”every day a holiday and every meal a feast” LOL
I will also say….Life in a sticks and bricks can be even MORE challenging!
Each to his own. I have lived both ways and have overcome challenges as they came up.
A wise man Kevin! And points well taken. Al