Literally on the Road to Financial Freedom

This post will discuss all of the financial aspects related to RVing full time, including initial costs, static bills, cost of gas, lodging costs, and the amount we’ve been able to save over the past year. This is an account of our personal financial experiences with regards to full-time travel — other people’s experiences may vary. There is A LOT to cover, but first…

A Little Background Info

Different people choose the full-time RV lifestyle for different reasons. There was not an ‘aha moment’ for us that made us decide to trade our life of living in a rented condo in La Jolla, California for life on the road in an Airstream. We had recently sold our home in San Marcos, which is in San Diego’s North County. We had no need to or set plan; it was just a really good time to sell as we were able to make a healthy profit from when we purchased three and a half years earlier. We moved to La Jolla, enjoyed ocean sunsets from our balcony, and took advantage of living in the walkable Village of La Jolla.

We had talked about full-time RVing at different times during the previous years, but there was always a reason not to. We owned a house. We had a dog with a lot of health issues that needed regular access to his vet. We had finally established a good friend group after years of living in the San Diego area with only knowing a handful of people. Travis has to travel fairly often for work and we didn’t know how easy it would be to fit that in. But all of a sudden, those reasons fell away. We sold the house. Our sweet golden doodle had passed away. We’d be able to visit our friends whenever we wanted and they could meet us somewhere on the road as well. And planning business trips would just have to be part of the route planning process, making sure we were near airports at certain times.

When the option of full timing started to creep into our conversations again, we decided to look at what RV options are available and what they cost. We visited a place in San Diego that sells Airstreams as well as every other type of RV — fifth wheels, travel trailers, motorhomes, etc. Travis had always been stuck on an Airstream, but I wanted to make sure we explored all options. Of course, we ended up deciding on an Airstream. This particular dealership didn’t have the exact layout we were interested in, so we scoured the interwebs for both used and new in the length and layout we wanted. After looking at a used Flying Cloud, we decided we definitely wanted to buy new and we definitely wanted an International. We found what we were looking for at Airstream Orange County. To read more about the buying process, check out our post Buying an Airstream.

How We Make Money on the Road

Before I get into specifics about what we paid and what our monthly expenses are, I should explain what we do for work. We own an ERP consulting business. I won’t get too detailed about what that is exactly, but the basic gist is that we install, upgrade, and customize a particular software that manufacturing companies utilize. We owned the business for six years before hitting the road full time. We typically work remote from home, but depending on what projects we’re currently working on, Travis might travel to visit a customer on site once or twice a month. As far as work was concerned, we were already living a lifestyle that made transitioning to full-time travel easy. If you’re interested in more information about our business, check out our website here: Bird Rock Solutions

Initial Expenses

There are two major expenses when choosing to travel full time — the Airstream and the truck to pull it. As stated above, we purchased our Airstream brand new from the dealership. This is definitely NOT necessary. Used, almost new Airstreams can be found if you have enough patience. Some people sell their trailers after only using them a handful of times. Now that we know what to look for, we would feel confident buying used. While Airstreams do hold their value pretty well, it’s definitely cheaper to buy used. Many people buy vintage Airstreams and renovate them, which is definitely a cost saver, but you need the right skills, a lot of time, and a good work space — three things we did not have. We ended up purchasing a 2017 27fb International Signature. We had the dealership install solar panels, Maxxair vent covers, and a Blue Ox weight distributing and sway control hitch. The total cost for the trailer with the add-ons and tax was $87,612.11.

Next, we had to buy a truck that could tow the trailer. We knew NOTHING about towing or trucks, so we did a lot of research. We ended up purchasing a 2017 Ford F-150 XLT 4×4 Supercrew with a 3.5L V6 EcoBoost engine with complete tow package. It was a demo vehicle with 249 miles, so it was considered ‘used’ which helped with the price. There was a rebate if we financed, so of course we did that, but we paid off the loan when the first payment came due. The total price for the truck with tax, which we absolutely love and has every feature we need, was $47,138.56. To read more about the truck buying process as well as it’s features, read our post Choosing a Truck.

All in, we paid $134,750.67. That’s a big number. Huge. Thanks to the proceeds from the sale of our house, both vehicles are paid off, so we own our ‘home’ outright. Again, this aspect of the full-time lifestyle can be done for much cheaper. We bought both vehicles brand new — many people buy used. We bought an Airstream — many people by SOB (some other brand) because they’re less expensive. We had decided that because we planned to full time for quite a while, we wanted to start out with two vehicles that we would know the entire history of. We would know the maintenance. We would know about any damage or malfunctions. Everything would be clean and we would be the first to use it, sit in it, sleep in it, shower in it, and use the bathroom in it.

Static Monthly Expenses

Just like anyone in a bricks and sticks house, we have monthly bills. Our static monthly bills consist of the following:

RV Insurance ————$112.20

Truck Insurance ———-$92.40

Life Insurance ———–$219.58

Disability Insurance —–$76.92

Health Insurance ——-$480.46

Storage Unit —————-$59.00

TOTAL:                     $1040.56

You’ll notice that phone and internet are not included in our monthly bills. Those items are paid for by the business, so I don’t include them in personal expenses.

Cost of Gas

This is going to greatly depend on how much you travel, your vehicles gas mileage, how much weight you’re pulling, and what speed you drive. When they first start out, many full timers spend a lot of time moving from one place to the next. We did. It’s exciting to be out there, exploring, being able to go anywhere you’d like. But it’s also expensive. And time consuming. And exhausting. We hit the road January 15, 2018 and as of November 24, 2018, have spent about $3,040.00 on gas while towing. That’s just while towing — gas used while exploring or living our everyday life is not included. We also put on over 7500 miles. Again, those are just towing miles. While towing, we generally drive 60mph and we get about 14mpg.

Lodging Costs

For lack of a better term, lodging costs include the cost of the actual site where we park the Airstream, but also reservation fees, taxes, pet fees, electricity, and park entrance fees. We’ve paid anywhere from $0/night to $75/night. There are so many options when choosing where to stay. We’ve stayed at private RV parks, KOAs, city parks, county parks, state parks, national parks, casinos, Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) campgrounds, and on a family friend’s farm.

Private RV parks usually offer nightly, weekly, and monthly rates. Staying somewhere for a month is a good way to save on monthly costs; however, where the park is located is very important. We’ve paid $340 for a month in Pahrump, NV, but have also paid as much as $1900 for a month in Escondido, CA (San Diego County). While city, county, state and national parks don’t offer different rates correlating with your length of stay, they also don’t raise prices for weekends and holidays like private parks and KOAs do. For example, we’re paying $85/night for the Thanksgiving weekend at a casino RV resort, when it would usually cost $50 for the Thursday night and $60 for the Friday and Saturday nights. In contrast to that is our four-night stay in Death Valley National Park over the New Year’s holiday. The campground in Death Valley is always $36/night, regardless of day of the week or if it’s a holiday.

In addition to the nightly, weekly, or monthly rate, you may find yourself also paying for:

  • Reservation Fees – Expect to pay a reservation fee at state or ACOE parks. The reservation fee is the same price whether you stay one night or ten, so this is something that can add up if you move around too much.
  • Electricity – Electricity is generally always included unless you are staying a month or longer somewhere. When you stay a month, expect electricity to be an additional charge.
  • Pet Fees – Some places charge them; some places don’t. Since January 15 until today, we’ve paid $32.00 in dog fees, so it’s not a very common thing.
  • Taxes – This is another one that can sneak up on you. Some states don’t have taxes. Some places include the tax in the rate. But some places tack on the tax at the end and you end up paying quite a bit more than you thought you were going to.
  • Park Entrance Fees – Another thing to consider when making a reservation is if your site is within an area that requires a daily entrance fee. National parks, national recreation areas, and state parks are definitely places that have daily entrance fees. Sometimes it makes sense to just pay the daily fee; sometimes it makes sense to pay for an annual pass.

From January 15, 2018 through November 24, 2108, we paid a total of $13,236.46 for all lodging costs. That’s an average of $42.29/day or $1268.67/month. That’s definitely higher than we would like and we’re going to work on lowering that number next year. We have about 5 and a half months worth of reservations booked next year already and we’ve been able to lower the number to $33.63/day or $1008.90/month.

There are a number of memberships that will help lower your lodging costs; these are the ones we use:

  • AAA – Many RV parks give a 10% discount. Member rates vary.
  • Good Sam – Many RV parks give a 10% discount. $27/year. I can’t even calculate the amount of money we’ve saved with our Good Sam membership; hundreds, probably.
  • KOA Value Kard Rewards – 10% off at all KOAs. Earn points that can be used as discounts on stays. $30/year. We’ve saved almost $100 this year with our membership. Additionally, we’ve earned enough points to get $25 off our next stay.
  • Harvest Hosts – A network of wineries, breweries, farms, museums and similar locations that allow RVs to park one night overnight on their property for free. Currently $49/year; increasing to $79/year 1/1/19.
  • Passport America – Save 50% at over 1800 campgrounds/RV parks across the country. $44/year. We’ve saved $410 this year with Passport America alone.
  • America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass (aka Interagency Annual Pass) – Free entrance into federally operated national recreation sites (such as national parks). Free entrance for up to four individuals at National Park Service sites where per person entrance fees are charged. If you are camping in a national park, you will need to purchase either a weekly pass or annual pass specific to that park. Prices vary from park to park. The other option is to purchase an Interagency Annual Pass for $80. Because entrance was free our Interagency Pass, we’ve visited a number of national monuments we wouldn’t have otherwise visited.

Our Current Financial Situation

Our average monthly cost to date for lodging and gas is $1560.04. This amount includes water and electricity. Pre-Airstream life, we were paying $3400/month for rent for our 2-bedroom condo in La Jolla, not including utilities. Obviously, our basic living expenses have decreased dramatically. Thanks to our lower monthly expenses and the fact that we’ve had our busiest year to date business-wise, we’ve been able to concentrate on building our savings, investments, and retirement accounts. Our business is set up as an S-Corp, allowing us to have a SEP IRA to which we can contribute up to 25% of our gross salary, which we were able to do this year. We’ve also been able to save about 16.5% and invest about 15% of our gross income. We don’t have any loans and we don’t carry a credit card balance. We are truly in the best financial state we have ever been in and the only reason we’re able to save and invest so much is because we live in our Airstream full time. While some people live the full time life in order to lower their expenses so they can work less, we plan to work the same amount for the foreseeable future in order to continue to contribute to our financial future and set ourselves up for true financial independence.

Besides the financial benefit, full-time Airstream life has allowed us to see places in our country that we would have otherwise not seen. There have been amazing places, there have been some not-so-amazing places. Every person we’ve met, every city we’ve traveled through — everything has helped us understand and have more compassion for our neighbors. Except maybe our current neighbors who allow their dogs to poop in our site and don’t clean it up.

 

 

Route Planning and the Billings KOA

The most difficult part of route planning for us is when Travis has to fly somewhere for work. The business trips aren’t usually last-minute trips, so that helps, but sometimes we find ourselves in places that we wouldn’t otherwise be in. However, Billings is not one of those places (a place we wouldn’t otherwise be in, that is). When we started planning our route back west from our extended stay in Wisconsin in May, we knew we wanted to spend some time in Montana. We also knew that Travis would need to fly to Minneapolis during this time and that the trip would be during the week of the Fourth of July holiday. Before settling on Billings, we first made a list of all the commercial airports in the approximate area we’d be in — Wyoming and Montana. We then searched to see which ones have direct flights to Minneapolis, because who wants a layover when you’re not flying very far? Then, we had to find a safe place to stay with availability for the holiday week, not too far from the airport. I say a safe place because Travis never wants to leave me (and Max) in a questionable location, obviously. Taking all of that into consideration, we landed on the Billings KOA.

This has been our method of operation since we hit the road full time back in January. Travis has had to make a business trip once a month, so these trips have somewhat determined our route. With each booked business trip, we’ll have a specific date and location we need to be. We also throw some personal date/location combos in there too to make it even more interesting — Crater Lake Rim Run in August, our friends’ October wedding in San Diego, and the Joshua Tree half marathon in November. It forces us to plan ahead, which suits our personalities just fine. We just aren’t go-with-the-flow type of people when it comes to trip planning. Twice we’ve had gaps of a night or two in our route where we were just going to wing it and see where we end up and both times we caved and booked something last minute.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, we don’t like long travel days and not knowing your destination may make your day longer. Two hours is great, three hours is fine, but when we get into four to five hours, we get crabby. We can’t comprehend how some people travel eight to ten hours a day — that just sounds miserable to us and like a waste of a day. If you don’t NEED to be somewhere fast, what’s the hurry? Secondly, this has been a hot, hot summer. After boondocking Memorial Day weekend, we learned that we want and need an electric hookup. We have a 13.5-year-old dog that we want to keep comfortable and we’ve had to work some very long days, so having electricity is essential. Yes, we have a generator, but many places have limitations on generator use and when it’s really hot, we burn through gas like crazy. Also, we would never leave our generator running unattended, so we’d become prisoners to the Airstream — and that’s not fun!

Before we hit the road, we had these romantic ideas, like so many tend to, that we’d boondock nonstop and wake up next to the ocean one day, and in the mountains the next, and so on, without another human in sight. And while there are plenty of Airstreamers and RVers that do just that, we’ve determined we’re not those people. We like electricity and showering every day and doing laundry once a week (or at least every two weeks) and strong cell signals and eating great food at restaurants and exploring cities along with our country’s natural wonders. Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that we’ve learned what type of full timers we are over these last six months. On the full-timer spectrum with off-the-grid boondockers on one end and snowbirds that only move twice a year on the other, I think we fall right in the middle.

Back to Billings.

We settled on Billings and I’m glad we did. We stayed from a Saturday to a Saturday (I’m actually writing this the day before we leave). KOAs are notoriously expensive and this one is no different. I don’t know if they jacked their prices because of the holiday, but our water and electric site (no sewer hookup) was $75 a night, $67.50 with our KOA membership. Thus far, the most expensive place we’ve stayed. That being said, this is such a nice KOA. It’s the first in the country and the current owners have owned it since the 70s. There’s a huge staff that meticulously maintains it and the amenities are great. There’s a decent-sized, albeit cold, swimming pool. There’s a nice little mini golf course that Travis destroyed me on. The bathrooms and showers are so, so nice — probably the nicest we’ve ever seen. We’ve used the showers a few times because we don’t have a sewer hookup and don’t want to be so concerned with the grey tank level. The onsite store is well equipped. Breakfast and dinner are offered every morning and evening (for a price). Our site is super long, allowing us to park our truck at either end of the trailer. We have a nice patio with a picnic table, porch swing, and fire pit. Now, amenities like this are definitely NOT a requirement for us, but if we’re going to pay this much, they’re nice to have.

Site 37

There’s more to this KOA than just the amenities, however. The location is fantastic! It’s not far off I-90 making it extremely accessible for those that are just passing through. Downtown Billings is literally 5 minutes away. We have had some great meals here; we’d recommend Walkers and The Fieldhouse specifically. And one of the best parts — the airport is 13 minutes away! We usually have to drive 45 minutes to get to an airport, so the short drive is really a nice change.

All in all, our stay in Billings has been great. It was a little loud the night of the Fourth (I hate you, fireworks), but other than that, no issues. With the next business trip tentatively scheduled for October, we’re looking forward to moving on to Bozeman, Missoula and Coram to explore more of Montana.

Our First Time Boondocking

While in our hometown of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, we found ourselves without a place to stay for Memorial Day Weekend. Whether it was poor planning or uncertainty of what the length of our stay in the area was going to be (we had already stayed for a month at a campground), we reached out to a family friend to see if we could moochdock at their farm. Thankfully, they said yes.

We had never boondocked before, and the 90+ degree temps (with high humidity) and swarms of mosquitoes educated us very quickly as to what kind of conditions we would choose to boondock in in the future. We have a Champion 3500 watt generator with wireless remote start that saved us during the hot, hot weather. We were able to run the air conditioning continuously, though we never left the generator running unattended and instead turned the fans on and opened the windows whenever we would leave. During the hottest times, we had to refill the generator with gas every 4-5 hours, which meant it kicked off at 3am one night. Instead of getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes while trying to refill it in the dark, we opted to open the windows and use the fans instead. Our last night was a little cooler which allowed the generator to run all night — yay!!

We had filled our freshwater tank before leaving the campground and had no issues making it last the long weekend, especially since I was able to shower at my parent’s nearby cottage one day. I was going to a baptism so I needed to wash and dry my hair, which would have used a large portion of our water and forced us to turn the AC off as it can never be running when a blowdryer is being used.

We had solar panels installed by Airstream when we purchased our trailer and during the times we weren’t using the generator, we were able to depend on those to be able to continuously use our lights, fans, TVs, etc. without worrying about killing the battery.

The refrigerator ran on propane and did a good job of keeping everything cool, and while the hot water heater could have also ran on propane, we never turned it on because we really didn’t need hot showers with how hot it was outside.

Our takeaway from our first boondocking experience is that we like having electricity. We’d have no problem staying a night or two somewhere without it, but it would need to be in cooler temps.

Our spot was a little difficult to get into due to uneven ground, trees, and driving through field grass, but we did it!
We had nice view of Lake Winnebago which we shared with the neighboring cows.
Moo.
We determined it’d be much easier to pull the trailer out of it’s spot with a tractor. For the last night, we were parked in a flat, gravel area so we could hookup and hit the road by 6am the next morning.

Making an Airstream a Home

When we decided to purchase an Airstream, we chose to purchase new as opposed to renovating an old one. Actually, renovating wasn’t even a discussion, for many reasons: 1) We didn’t have the time to renovate; 2) We didn’t have the space to renovate; 3) We didn’t have the skills to renovate; and 4) We legitimately love the clean, modern interiors of the new Airstreams, especially the Internationals. The only drawback of purchasing new, as far as interior design goes, is that the new trailers don’t have the homey feel of the renovated ones. Over the past few months, we’ve been making sure to add personal touches to make our Airstream feel like home. We recently made some modifications to our International Signature that add comfort and warmth to the clean, modern feel.

The Dinette – BEFORE
The Dinette – AFTER

As you can see from the above photos, we changed out the curtains and table, as well as added sconces to the puck lights above the table.

We had the curtains made by Carey Boland of AirDrapes. The four panels with tiebacks for the dinette area in a 27FB cost $780. See the closeup below to see the beautiful herringbone pattern.

As we are currently in our home town, we looked to two family businesses to get the table made. My mom’s cousins own Smith Builders, and they had their cabinet guy make the table ($50). My uncle owns Wirtz Painting, and he stained and sealed the table for us ($50). It’s possible we got family discounts, so don’t quote us on the price. We absolutely love the new table! The color matches the dark finish of the cabinets perfectly.

We purchased the telescoping pedestal ($438) from Silver Trailer Supply, though I wouldn’t recommend ordering from them as we had a few issues. We really didn’t care for the flip-up table leg on the old table as it didn’t feel very stable, and the table even collapsed once while towing. The telescoping pedestal is easy to use with air-powered height adjustment and comes with all of the hardware needed to attach the table top to the pedestal and the pedestal to the floor.

Helpful Hint: When putting the table down to use the dinette as a bed, the table no longer swings out and away from the wall, but goes directly down. This means that the size of the table top needs to be smaller than the original or else it won’t be able to retract completely due to the inward slope of the wall of the trailer. The original table top was 37″ x 39″ and we made the new table top 37″ x 35″. We have about a 4″ gap between the edge of the table and the wall now, which we actually prefer to the table being right up against the wall.

Throw pillows are from Target

We ordered the sconces from EzClipse. They’re technically made to spice up recessed lighting, but they work well with the under cabinet puck lights too. To install, I just attached three small magnets on the cabinet around the light and attached the sconce to the magnets.

Another change we made a few months back was to replace the accordion dividers with curtains. The curtains are actually shower curtains from the Target. We purchased the sliding eyes and the hooks from Amazon, and removed the clamps from the hooks.

We did a few things in the bedroom to make it as comfortable as possible. First, we bought extra deep sheets and memory foam mattress toppers from AB Lifestyles. Then, we bought the comforters, Euro pillows, and throw pillows from Pottery Barn Kids. Anyone who has visited us as commented on how comfy the beds both look and feel. We added a little ‘bunk bed’ for Max by cutting a piece of 3/4″ plywood to fit under the mattresses, stained it, and then added his Petsmart ED by Ellen Degeneres bed on top. Since the photo directly below was taken, we’ve also added a Crosley Keepsake turntable, a succulent (real one replaced by a fake one), and a shadowbox frame of our golden doodle, Ace, who is no longer with us. The geometric planter is from Wildwood Lettering on Etsy and the shadow box is from Social Print Studio, where I get all of my Insta pics printed.

And then of course, PICTURES! We’ve been able to add in a few pictures here and there from our travels as well as our life in San Diego. The picture/plant holder below was purchased at The Queen Bee Market in Del Mar, California from Wildflower California and the delicous-smelling candle is by Paddywax but purchased at the cutest little shop in La Jolla, California called Hi Sweetheart (definitely check it out if you’re ever in the neighborhood). P.S. The plant is a horsetail palm.

Good Vibes frame from Target. Picture frames from Michaels.

We also displayed photos using magnets on the wall pockets from The Container Store, which we use to hold some of our vinyl albums. The faux fur blanket Max is lying on is a favorite in a our house, which is why we have three — one for each of us! They can be found at Restoration Hardware.

And lastly, we collect pins along our travels and display them on cork strips that we’ve mounted in the dinette area using 3M tape. Just a little something to remind us where we’ve been! Cork strips purchased on Amazon.

 

 

Our First 109 Days

I meant to write this post on our 100th day of full-time travel, which was April 24th, but as tends to happen, we got busy and I just didn’t get around to it soon enough, so 109 days will have to work. There are a lot of people out there considering the full-time travel lifestyle or those that are fairly new to it, like us, so I thought I’d share what we’ve learned thus far. Although, I’ve got to be honest – 109 days in and we don’t feel like newbies, even a little bit. It’s amazing how easy it was to adjust to life on the road and how quickly our Airstream began to feel like home.

Things We Thought Would Be Hard and Scary Aren’t So Hard and Scary:

  • Figuring Out How Everything Works: There are a lot of things that make an Airstream function properly and we got a brief, incredibly overwhelming introduction to them during our walkthrough when we picked the trailer up from the dealership. That was five months before we actually hit the road, so we Googled and YouTubed everything when it came time to travel. Don’t worry – everybody does it. It’s how you learn. You also learn by asking questions of those that are more experienced than yourself. The Airstream Addicts Facebook page and the Air Forum website are great places to get additional information (just know you’ll find lots of opinions there too). Also, the Airstream Instagram community is pretty great as well.
  • Emptying the Black Tank Isn’t That Bad: While it’s still gross, mainly just because of the odor, it really isn’t as awful as we thought it would be. Just be smart. Only use RV-friendly toilet paper and always drop a tank treatment packet in each time it’s emptied. We empty it about once a week and always give it a good flushing with the hose.
  • Hitching Up: This was probably the scariest thing for us. If you screw up hitching up, you can cause serious damage to your trailer and your tow vehicle. Go slow, have two sets of eyes on everything, and YouTube what needs to be YouTubed until you don’t need to YouTube anymore. A lot of people have checklists, but both of us knowing what needs to be done and double checking everything before we take off seems to work just fine for us.
  • Towing: You know how I said hitching up was probably the scariest for us? Well, I lied. Towing is scary, but it’s a lot less scary now after doing it for over 3000 miles. Unfortunately, the things that make it scariest (other drivers) are out of our control. People will constantly pass you on the highway – get used to it and don’t let it distract you. They’ll cut you off. They’ll sit in your blindspot. For anyone out there who has never known the fear of towing a 28′ trailer — be considerate and give these vehicles lots of space. Also, you will most likely learn to hate semi drivers. Travis has done all of the towing so far. I plan to get behind the wheel at some point, because we think it’s important for both of us to be able to do it. When purchasing a tow vehicle, get every option available to make towing easier. With our Ford F-150, the trailer break and blind spot monitoring are essential. Some people may feel the Trailer Backup Assist is too, but we’ve never used it.
  • Backing Up: Here’s the thing about backing up – it hurts your brain – but once you’ve figured out which direction and how far to turn the wheel, it’s easy enough. Speed is your enemy. Go slow and make small adjustments along the way so you don’t get yourself in a situation that’s hard to get out of. Figure out if hand signals or walkie-talkies or using driver side/passenger side versus left/right works for you and go with it. And never, ever get mad at your partner for the words that come out of their mouth while backing up the trailer. By the way, we opt for the pull-throughs when available.

Things We’ve Learned About Our Airstream:

  • Many people will tell you to buy a used Airstream that’s a few years old so that all of the issues have been worked out of it. We felt it was important to buy new so that we knew exactly what the trailer has been through and how it’s been maintained. Just as buying new doesn’t guarantee everything is going to be perfect, buying used doesn’t guarantee all of the kinks will be worked out.
  • Smoke Detector: Super sensitive. As in, ‘I’m just trying to make some toast in the toaster but the smoke alarm goes off ‘ sensitive. The vent hood gets turned on whenever anything is cooked and we put a shower cap over the smoke detector until the cooking is done. Of course, we never, ever leave the trailer when the stove or oven is on and we always remove the shower cap immediately.
  • Fresh Water Tank: The fresh water tank is literally under lock and key as you need to unlock a small access door in order to fill it. Our fresh water tank, however, likes to fill on its own while we’re hooked up to city water. This apparently is an issue many Airstreamers encounter and is due to a faulty valve on the autofill relay (whatever that means). We know how to temporarily remedy the issue, but will have it looked at at some point in the future. It’s important to check the level of your tanks regularly. If you notice your supposedly empty freshwater tank is taking on water or is full, turn the city water off at the spigot. Turn the water pump on and use up the water that’s in the fresh water tank. You can then turn the city water back on and hopefully the issue is corrected. I know some people avoid this issue by strictly using the water pump and others turn their water off when away from their trailer so they don’t have to worry about an overflow situation. If you ever return to your trailer and see water pouring out of the area where the tanks are located, this is probably the issue.
  • Windows: They stick and need to be (carefully) unsealed from the outside. Never try to force a window open, as they can shatter. Use a credit card or something similar to stick between the window and the rubber seal, and gently slide it along the bottom of the (unlocked) window until it’s unstuck.

Things We’ve Learned About Living in a Small Space:

  • We’ve lived in a small space before. When we first moved to San Diego, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment where we also both worked from home, so we’ve experienced tiny home living before as well as spending 24 hours a day together. The transition to the Airstream was not that difficult for us.
  • When living in a small space, it doesn’t take much for the place to feel messy. Keeping things tidy is essential: Make the beds. Do the dishes. Put things back where they belong immediately. Close cabinet doors and drawers.
  • There’s Not Much Privacy: You can’t be bashful about bodily functions in an Airstream. There’s a fan in the bathroom that helps mask noise, but there’s no hiding what’s going down in there. There are two curtains that separate the front from the rear of the trailer, so you can get some visual privacy, but not really any sound privacy.
  • We Downsized Too Much: This probably wouldn’t be the case for most people. Neither Travis nor I are sentimental people. We had no problem throwing away, donating, or selling most of our stuff. The must keep items are in a storage locker in San Diego. The rest fits in the trailer with room to spare. There are a few items that I wish I personally would’ve kept (cute little jean jacket and Grey’s Anatomy DVDs) that definitely would have had a place in the trailer. If you have the luxury of a slow move in, bring everything you want to keep and toss as you realize you don’t have room or a need for something.

Route Planning/Travel Days:

  • I wish that we could be people who didn’t need to plan our route ahead of time. We own a consulting business and Travis has to travel to visit customers about once a month, so our route planning is a lot less spontaneous than we’d prefer.
  • We’ve found that we really enjoy State Parks. They typically have a good combination of nature and basic amenities. Every one we’ve stayed at has had water and electric hookups with pretty decent showers, which means you can make your grey tank last longer. The longest we’ve gone without being hooked up to sewer was seven days. The sweet spot is probably is four. State Parks also tend to be pretty dog friendly.
  • We’ve found that we prefer to drive no more than three hours a day. During our drive to Wisconsin, we were driving up to six hours a day, and that is way too much. It feels like an entire day is wasted and it makes us cranky. Plus, we like to try visit a landmark or attraction of some sort wherever we stay and long travel days can interfere with that.
  • Keep time zones in mind when figuring out departing and arrival times.
  • Always keep your eye on the weather a few days in advance for not only where you currently are but also where you’re headed. We once had to make a change when our originally scheduled travel day was forecasted to have 35mph winds with gusts up to 60. No bueno.

Miscellaneous Nuggets of Information:

  • Always fill fresh water before you hit the road – you never know if the next place is going to have it for sure.
  • We’ve become champions of short showers. When at a place with decent showers – use them! Washing my hair in our shower is difficult, so I always take advantage of the showers.
  • We share a towel because there just isn’t a good place to hang two to dry.
  • There’s a Dollar General in EVERY town/city even if it’s not actually a town or city. Seriously, every one. I started noticing this phenomenon early in our travels when we were on our way to Death Valley and it has held up.
  • Regardless of what others think, we do NOT feel like we’re on vacation all the time. We still work, do laundry, clean, do the dishes, make the beds, etc.
  • I’ve always hated having stuff (sweatshirts, empty bottles, etc.) lying around inside the car. I was a firm believer the interior of a car should be clean. Well, that goes out the window when you travel full time. A storage bin, two water cans and a dog backpack live in the backseat of the truck – and I’m okay with that.
  • If you’re a lover of watching TV, you may want to consider getting satellite. We just use the built-in over-the-air antenna — sometimes it works great, sometimes it doesn’t work at all. We’ve gone as long as six weeks without picking up any channels. That’s where DVDs come in handy.

If you have any questions about things I mentioned above, or things I didn’t mention above, please comment below or send a message and I’ll do my best to address them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How We Receive Mail on the Road

A common question we get when people find out we are full-time travelers is how we get our mail. It’s easier (most of the time) than you may think.

Everyone has a domicile, with domicile meaning a legal relationship between a person and a place. Everyone with a driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance of any type, and that pays taxes, needs to have a legal domicile. For most, it’s where they live. But when you don’t ‘live’ anywhere, when you don’t have a fixed place of residence, you need to establish an address to use as your legal domicile address. Some people use a family member’s or a friend’s address, and that is definitely an option, especially if they live in the same state you’ve most recently lived in. Two caveats in this scenario are that that person will have to deal with your mail, and, if they ever move, you’ll have to change your address as well. This is why many full-timers choose to set up a domicile address with a mail service. The three states that most full-time travelers use as domiciles are Texas, Florida and South Dakota and we chose South Dakota. To learn more about establishing a domicile, read our post about it here.

All of our regular USPS mail is sent to our address in South Dakota. We can also have any packages sent there shipped via any other carriers, but we try to avoid doing that so we don’t have to pay to have them shipped to our current location. We get an email any time a new piece of mail arrives and I’m able to look online to see what it is (they scan the front of each piece of mail). When we want our mail, I schedule a shipment and our mail is sent to us. But where is it sent?, you ask.

  • Our Current Location – Many campgrounds will accept mail on your behalf; just check with them how it should be addressed in order for it to get to you. Also, make sure they accept mail from all carriers — USPS, UPS, FedEx, Amazon. Not all carriers can make general deliveries to all locations.
  • USPS General Delivery – The local post office will accept general deliveries on your behalf and hold on to them for up to 30 days. Always call the post office to see if they accept general deliveries before having something sent there (the USPS website can be inaccurate). Also, they only accept things shipped via the USPS, so don’t expect them to accept your Amazon packages. This has worked great for us when we’ve stayed at State Parks/National Parks. The address for general deliveries is: Your Name, General Delivery, City, State, Zip Code. Make sure the package is addressed to whoever is picking it up as you may need to present your ID.
  • UPS Store – Just as the USPS accepts USPS-shipped packages on your behalf, UPS Stores will accept UPS-shipped packages on your behalf; however, they may charge a fee. Again, call the store to make sure they offer this service.
  • Amazon Locker – Amazon Lockers are secure, self-service kiosks where customers can pick up Amazon.com packages at a time and place that is convenient for them. When you check out on Amazon, there’s a ‘Find an Amazon Locker’ option when choosing your delivery address. This service is most likely only available in cities of a certain size, but is also a great option for anyone who doesn’t want their packages stolen off their front porch.

So, that’s it! It’s fairly simple, but be forewarned, things move slowly this way. We often receive our mail about three weeks later than if we were in a bricks and sticks home. Make sure to sign up for paperless for everything you can. Our mail service will open and scan something if we request it, so we’re able to read the important stuff in a timely manner.

 

How We Work on the Road

The number one thing that most people want to know when we tell them we live in our Airstream and travel full time is what do we do for work.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, we own an ERP consulting business that we started six years ago. We’ve worked from home for the last six years, so there wasn’t a dramatic work-related lifestyle change when we decided to begin traveling. We did, however, search out the best products, devices, and services that would allow us to continue working remotely without interruption.

Cell Phones

We have three AT&T cell phones (two personal, one business) with unlimited data. We also have one Verizon cell phone (which is a spare) with unlimited data. We are able to use these as hotspots when needed. It’s nice to have options, as the cell signals can differ significantly between the two companies. A bonus with the AT&T phones is that we can stream HBO on DirecTV Now and it doesn’t count against our data usage. With the Verizon phone, we get NFL Mobile, so we never have to miss a Packer game! All of the phones are supposed to slow down after using 22GB, but we’ve maxed out on one of the phones this month and have not noticed a slow down where we’re currently staying.

Verizon Jetpack 6620L MiFi

The MiFi is a wireless router that acts as a mobile wifi hotspot. We also have unlimited data with this, but once we hit 15GB, it’s supposed to be throttled to 600kbps. You can find more information about the MiFi here, although our particular version is no longer available.

WeBoost RV Cellular Signal Booster

We bought the weBoost Drive 4G-X RV signal booster to help boost our cell and data signals in areas where they may be lacking. From their website: “The Drive 4G-X RV is our powerful in-vehicle cell phone signal booster kit certified for use anywhere in the US. The Drive 4G-X RV boosts voice and data with max FCC-allowed 50 dB system gain, enhancing 4G LTE, as well as 3G network signals, up to 32x. RVers get fewer lost connections and dead zones, better call quality as well as faster data uploads and downloads whether parked or in motion in their RV.  Works in all classes of RV; Class A, Class C and all towables.” An antenna needs to be installed on the top of the trailer and is connected to an indoor desktop antenna. We’ve noticed that you need to be within a few feet of the indoor antenna in order for the signal to be boosted, which generally works fine as the antenna is in the storage compartment above the kitchen table. When we’re in the bedroom in the back of the trailer, we generally have a weaker signal. You can find our particular model here.

The weBoost antenna on the top of our trailer

Computers

Travis uses a 27″ iMac 3.4GHz Intel Core i7 with 32GB of RAM and a 3TB Fusion Drive. When we are towing, the iMac gets secured in a Gator Cases Tote Bag, available from Amazon here. The bag fits perfectly in the space at the end of his bed so we don’t need to worry about it sliding around at all. I use a 13″ MacBook Pro 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 with 16GB of RAM and a 500GB SSD Drive.

Gator Cases Creative Pro Series Nylon Carry Tote Bag for Apple 27″ iMac Desktop Computer
Fits perfectly at the end of the twin bed in our International 27FB

Printer

We found the perfect printer for our needs! We purchased the HP OfficeJet 250 All-in-One Portable Printer with Wireless & Mobile Printing. It wirelessly scans, copies and prints (in color, if needed). It has a battery so it only needs to be plugged in occasionally to charge. The best part?! It easily fits in the drawer beneath the bench along with packs of paper. You can find it on Amazon here.

Fits in the bench drawer with room to spare!

Nice to Meet You!

We thought it would be a good idea to introduce ourselves!

WHO:

We are Travis and Missy. We were born and raised in a small town in Wisconsin, but moved to San Diego about seven years ago. Travis is a Marine Corps veteran and we own an ERP consulting business, Bird Rock Solutions. Our 13-year-old dog Max is along for the ride.

WHAT:

We are (fairly new) full-time Airstreamers traveling in a 2017 International Signature 27FB and towing with a 2017 Ford F-150.

WHEN:

We started full timing on 1/15/18 and we will be traveling for an undetermined amount of time. I guess we’ll travel until we feel the need to put down roots somewhere again.

WHERE:

We plan to travel to all parts of the country as well as Canada. We are very much looking forward to checking out places that we’ve been wanting to visit but never made it to, as well as checking out places we had no idea existed.

WHY:

Well, we tend to get restless. In the 14+ years we’ve been together, we’ve moved 9 times, once 2000+ miles. We love experiencing new places and people — what better way to do that than travel the country?!

HOW:

We’ve talked about full-time travel for years, and recently things aligned to allow us to do it.

First, we own our own business and we work remotely the majority of the time. As far as income, nothing changed for us when we hit the road — we just need to make sure we have a decent internet connection most of the time.

Second, we owned a home in North County San Diego for 3.5 years. We bought at a good time and then the market got hot in San Diego, and we decided to sell. With the profits from the sale, we were able to purchase our truck and Airstream outright; therefore, our living expenses are basically just campsite fees, gas and food.

You know, just some candid shots of us sitting outside our trailer.