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Considering the possibility of living on the road full-time is a big decision. You can go anywhere, whenever you want, and there are no time constraints. But you also must make sacrifices like internet and electrical appliances — or do you?
Here, our experts share tips on preparing for full-time RV living, including how you can set your RV up to run all your personal devices and appliances without relying on the grid.
The RV lifestyle puts you in the driver’s seat and opens you up to a world of freedom that most people never knew was possible.
This expert guide will teach you the secrets of how to get there.
Step 1: Do Your Research
You’ll need to answer these questions if you’re searching for a new RV.
- What RV size will accommodate your lifestyle and family size?
- What type of RV do you desire? (Camper van, motorhome, travel trailer fifth wheel, etc.)
- Which features are important to you? (Slideouts, island bed, solar panels, etc.)
Your travel and camping plans will determine the answers to the above questions.
- Is staying in one place for a few weeks or months more appealing, or do you want to be able to pick up and go quickly?
- Do you need many resources (power, water, propane, gas), or can you be more conservative?
- What do you prefer: boondocking (also known as dry camping with no hookups or amenities), staying at national or state parks or resorts?
You can help answer these questions by renting a few different RVs and exploring their advantages and challenges firsthand.
Step 2: Create a To-Do List
A to-do list will help you plan everything else you need to do.
Your checklist may include:
- Researching RVs and campervans online
- Renting RVs to explore how it feels to live in one
- Organizing a garage sale
- Listing your home for sale
- Getting appropriate healthcare coverage to suit your mobile lifestyle
- Selecting a mail service
- Finding remote work via online jobs, seasonal work, freelancing, or starting a business
- Finding camping areas and destinations
- Decluttering and switching to a minimalist lifestyle
It’s best to jot down as many ideas as you have since it’s better to be overly prepared than not. Then start tackling your checklist items one by one.
Step 3: Declutter and Minimize Your Belongings
Decluttering your home and simplifying your life will require daily effort. The items you choose to get rid of will depend on your plans. Are you planning to travel for a year before settling back down? Is it better to put a few things in storage just in case living on the road doesn’t work out, or just carry what you need?
As you declutter, think carefully about what items you actually need as you go through the process. Decluttering can be draining and emotionally exhausting — especially if you decide to get rid of everything. Paring down your possessions can also be incredibly liberating.
- Set aside time every day to declutter and simplify.
- Decide what you’ll do with each item: Create three different piles — items to keep, donate or throw away.
- Keep your focus on one small area at a time: Compartmentalizing allows you to make progress towards your goals and not feel overwhelmed.
- Rent a storage unit: While storage units can be pricey, they are great for storing essential items and keeping them safe while you’re gone. For example, if you have expensive appliances or equipment, you may want to keep it in a storage unit.
Step 4: Set Up Your Energy System
An RV requires onboard power to keep your appliances and devices running — like your TV, dishwasher, heating and air conditioner, etc. How much energy you need will depend on your van, trailer, or camper size, the number of appliances you want to run, and the amount of electricity they consume.
When it comes to RV energy systems, you have a couple of choices: gas generators or solar generators. Choosing solar power for your RV is one of the most resourceful things you can do. Solar generators don’t emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases, so they don’t contribute to climate change. Plus, they don’t produce excessive noise or toxic fumes that gas-fueled generators do.
Solar generators use strategically placed solar panels to capture solar energy from the sun and convert it into AC energy for your RV. Solar-powered RVs are a great way to make the most of your surroundings and harness natural sunlight. Solar generators allow you to plug in household appliances and electronics without needing the electrical grid or fossil fuels to run them.
There are factors to consider when selecting a solar generator for your RV.
- Panels: Choosing solar panels made of efficient materials will help you capture as much solar energy as possible. Usually, these panels come in 100-watt ratings, so you’ll need to determine how many you need based on your RV’s energy requirements.
- Battery capacity: Calculating your daily energy usage will help you determine the best size battery. Analyze the power draw of your most commonly used electronics and appliances to determine the minimum wattage you’ll need. Find the generator with a suitable battery storage capacity based on the results.
- Compactness and portability: Since this generator needs to fit in your RV, you’ll need something easy to transport and compact enough to optimize space efficiency.
EcoFlow Power Kit — Solar Made for RV Living
With the EcoFlow Power Kit, getting enough solar energy for your RV is easy. Made explicitly for RVs, vans, trailers, and campers, the Power Kit from EcoFlow is a modular system with a plug-and-play design. It includes four charging methods, smart controls, and battery stacks that let you customize your energy capacity from 2kWh-15kWh.
Installation is easy, with online tutorials for DIY customers or the option to call an EcoFlow certified installer. Once your solar kit system is up and running, you can enjoy free energy from the sun in a space-efficient power hub that’s easy to conceal — but it looks so good that you may not want to.
That’s RV living for the 21st century!
Step 5: Get RV Insurance and Health Insurance
RVing doesn’t protect you from sickness or injury. Maintaining your health coverage is essential. Always be aware of what’s covered and what isn’t. Getting slapped with an outrageous healthcare bill can be incredibly stressful at best — and potentially devastating.
Make sure you know where to go in case of an emergency. See if any RV clubs or organizations offer cheaper alternatives or discounts.
Your insurance needs will differ if you use your RV as a home. RV insurance typically covers damage caused by you and other drivers. However, your needs are slightly different when living in an RV. For example, you may have to stay in a hotel during warranty repair or get towed when your car breaks down. Standard insurance typically won’t cover these items.
Quality RV insurance policies take your unique situation into account. Knowing your policy covers a hotel when you most need it gives you peace of mind.
Shop around to compare insurance plans, pricing, and extended warranty options.
Step 6: Find a Mobile Internet Solution
Mobile internet solutions are a common obstacle for full-time RVers. Whether traveling for work or fun, you need a reliable mobile internet connection. The internet connections at campgrounds are often inconsistent and of low quality.
It is common for RVers who require a quality connection to have multiple data plans from different mobile internet providers. This redundancy is useful when one provider does not have service in your camping area.
Below are some options for getting reliable internet access.
- Mobile phone plan
- Data extender
- Hotspot plan
- WiFi extender
Step 7: Determine Out How to Get Your Mail
Make the transition to a paperless lifestyle. You’ll need to have mail forwarded to you from your mail service, so if you aren’t careful, bills can quickly become overdue.
E-billing, or automated billing, is an easy solution for avoiding this problem. It’s available for most services, including cell phones, credit cards, health insurance, and auto insurance.
You also can reserve a post office (PO) Box at the nearest post office if you know you will be in or near a particular location for some time. However, senders cannot send certain types of packages to PO Boxes, so double-check before ordering anything online or from a vendor.
If you’re living at a campground for a while, you can often use the campground’s address to receive mail. You can arrange with the office to receive your mail at a different campground if you plan to stay at one campground for several months and then another for several months.
Setting up a mail solution is always a good idea — even if you think you’re 100% paperless. Government and tax-related documents are often still only sent by mail.
Step 8: Find Remote Work
A common issue when preparing for RV life is how you’ll earn money. Creating a consistent income stream can be challenging when living in an RV, especially for people with little work experience.
Many employers are responding to the desire of potential employees by embracing remote work. Your current employer may let you work from home — even if your home is on the road. It’s a good idea to start the conversation early in case your employer denies permission to offer to work remotely. You’ll have more time to explore other remote work options.
Here are some ideas for income streams you can pursue while on the road.
- Remote job listings: Many websites specialize in remote job listings. You can find dozens of job positions such as data entry, virtual assistants, copywriter, customer service, and more. The more skills and experience you have, the easier it will be to find a remote job.
- Start a business: Those who have business experience or are highly skilled in specific areas may want to start a remote business. Let’s say you have skills in web design. You can become a service provider and start a web-design agency. Being your own boss lets you set your rates and control your hours.
- Passive income: If you already have considerable savings or assets, finding a passive income stream could be worth a look. For example, owning a rental property allows you to receive monthly income from your tenants. You can hire a management service to maintain the property and deal with most issues.
Step 9: Pack Only the Necessities
Many examples of full-time RV living packing lists are available online, but what you need to bring depends on your lifestyle. You likely won’t need as many things as you think, and you can always pick up necessities on the road. Only pack the essentials!
Here are the things you’ll want to bring:
- Clothing: The type of clothing depends on the areas you’re planning to visit. A mild climate means leaving most of your heavy clothing out. However, in colder regions or up in the mountains, you might need thermal clothing to keep you prepared for the inclement weather conditions.
- GPS navigator: It’s better not to burn through your cellular data for directions. Instead, use an RV GPS to find the best traveling route. It’ll give you warnings around steep hills or sharp curves. It’ll also help you find RV campgrounds and parks.
- Comfortable mattress: Living full-time in an RV means you’ll want to invest in a high-quality mattress. You can buy a comfortable gel foam mattress to help you receive a good night’s sleep.
- Cooking supplies: Most full-time RVers will use either crock pots, power pressure cookers, or air fryers to prepare their meals. A pressure cooker is typically a good choice since it’s ideal for small places and allows you to cook many different types of food.
- Health and emergency supplies: Make sure to bring all the necessary resources for health and emergencies. Essential supplies include antiseptics, bandages, allergy medicine, EpiPens, nausea medicine, eye drops, cough syrup, flashlights, fire extinguishers, extra batteries, etc.
- Water filter: Essential to keep your water free from contamination.
There are many other items you’ll want to consider. Make sure to do your research. Join RV Reddit boards and ask experienced RVers what essentials to bring!
Step 10. Get an RV Inspection Before Taking Off
Before you start your new lifestyle, schedule a professional RV inspection to ensure everything works as it should. Whether you’re using an RV you own or have decided to rent one, it’s wise to get one final check done.
If you’re about to purchase a used RV and the previous owner isn’t willing to allow an inspection, that’s a red flag that there may be something wrong, and you may want to consider walking away from the deal. You can find professional RV inspectors with this helpful online tool.
Step 11. Plan For RV Maintenance
You’ll also want to budget for routine maintenance and be prepared to do most of it yourself. Essential RV maintenance can include pumping the sewage tank, checking tire pressure, and regular oil change intervals, as with regular cars.
Of course, unexpected repairs may come up as you travel, so ensure you have a cushion of cash set aside in case of emergency repairs or replacements. Packing a maintenance kit can help keep everything together so you know where to find your tools when it’s time to get to work.
Step 12. Book Campsites in Advance When Possible
If you plan on camping in many different places during your RV travels, it’s best to book campgrounds and campsites ahead of time whenever possible – especially if it’s a spot you don’t want to miss, like a national park.
While you may be able to meet a lot of your power needs without the help of a campsite if your RV is equipped with flexible solar panels or a power kit, there are still a lot of conveniences that are offered by parking at a campsite for a while.
Planning ahead will not only help avoid disappointment if the area is full when you arrive, but you may also get discounted rates for booking in advance. Do research using websites with reviews before making a reservation to see if the environment and amenities are compatible with your lifestyle.
Step 13. Don’t Forget About Seasonal Travel Trends
RV travel is excellent, but it’s still susceptible to seasonal travel trends, and you won’t want to forget how these may impact your schedule. If you plan to travel in the summer, many campsites will likely be booked up early due to vacations. For this reason, you may choose to go off the beaten path during these busy times – which is made even easier if your RV is equipped with solar panels like EcoFlow’s 400W Rigid Solar Panel.
Take this into consideration when planning routes and setting destinations. You’ll also want to plan for extreme weather occurrences – like snowstorms in January and February or heavy rainfalls during hurricane season (June 1st through November 30th) – and stay alert and informed while on the road so you can easily adjust your plans and reroute elsewhere if necessary.
Step 14. Keep Cash on Hand
Keep some cash on hand when you’re out and about. Not all areas have ATM access, and not all places accept cards – especially in more remote locations that you may be exploring by RV. You’ll also likely need some cash and coins for things like laundry at laundromats or showers at campgrounds while on the road.
It’s good practice to carry at least $500 with you at all times or around $50-100 in cash per day you’ll be out. You can use ATMs along the way to pull more money out as needed – just be aware of pesky ATM fees! You can find helpful maps online to find free options nearest to you.
Step 15. Consider Homeschooling Laws if Applicable
If you have children, research the laws of each state when it comes to homeschooling. Each state’s laws are different, so be prepared for potential changes in curriculum and requirements as you move from place to place.
It’s best to plan using resources and paperwork for a smoother transition between states if needed. Many full-time RV’ers homeschool their kids, allowing them to explore the world while having a well-rounded education.
Moving into an RV can be challenging, but it will all be worth it once you get on the road. Living off-grid gives you freedom that few can dream of — the freedom to go virtually anywhere and anytime you want.
Following these expert tips should help you fully prepare for the adventure that awaits.
Now it’s time to start your research, experiment with living in an RV, and follow the steps in this guide.
Ready to invest in a portable power solution that lets you live your full-time RV life to the fullest? Shop the EcoFlow Power Kit today, and welcome to solar-powered RV living for the 21st century.