I recently got a message on Instagram, and it’s like many I’ve received in the past that I keep meaning to answer in a blog post because there’s really no way I can fully answer it by typing out the words with my thumb.
I’m so eager to start my family on this type of journey but desperately seeking guidance on how to even go about beginning to think in life on the go mode! My soul is burning to get out there- but I have so many questions! Any suggestions for a wayward wannabe traveler like me to get my foot out the door on an exciting family adventure?
Whew! This is kinda like asking me to share the secret of life with you. (Kidding.) I’ll do my best to cover as much ground as I can here, where I have full use of both typing hands. This is coming from the perspective of traveling throughout the US full-time with children. No advice for Europe or hoping all over the globe… yet.
First, I think it’s SO IMPORTANT to say that we were not accomplished travelers or campers or hikers before we committed to this. The most we had traveled with our kids was a flight or two to Disney, and a cruise, and lots of road trips to see family.
We had never stepped foot in a national park as a family. Scott took the kids camping in a tent a couple times and I stayed home because so much nope to me camping in a tent with kids. (And also I really did have other work commitments those weekends, I swear!)
So if you want to travel with your family, but you don’t feel like you do that enough to jump in and do it full time, stop. There are no prerequisites for this life.
Also? We are not camping. We live in an RV with a bathroom and an air conditioner (and a dishwasher and washer and dryer, even!). It’s totally different. So if you also “don’t camp” you could still totally live in an RV.
Where and how will you live?
If you are looking to travel in an RV, there are two different ways people can approach this. Many choose to buy their RVs with cash, opting for older models which can be found pretty cheap. It’s not unreasonable to expect to pick up an older travel trailer with a bunkhouse for less than $10,000. Many times you can negotiate a truck and trailer together for cash when other families are wrapping up their full time journeys. The upside to this is, of course, no payments while you travel, and that gives people a lot of flexibility when it comes to income.
The downsides, in my opinion, are you are spending a lot of cash on your setup, and that can seriously deplete your savings account. Older used rigs don’t come with warranties, and they could have mold. You especially need to be careful buying RVs from flood-affected areas.
The other option is to finance. That’s what we chose to do so we could get a new truck and nearly new (one owner for just a few months) RV. We wanted peace of mind that our RV and truck were in good shape and the chances that either would need repairs on the road would be small. That meant selling our house and dropping that mortgage payment, then filling our savings account with what we made off the sale of the home. We used a small portion of that for down payments on the RV and truck, and were able to keep the rest in our savings account.
We do have payments to account for on the road, but they are much less than what we were paying for our house, truck included.
What if you don’t want to deal with an RV?
If you intend to travel at a slower pace than a new place every few days to a week, and if you’re okay traveling without all your own personal conveniences, it may make more sense to stay monthly in VRBO or similar rentals. You can also checkout Sublet.com or Craigslist in areas you intend to stay to search for short-term, furnished rentals.
How will you work?
Scott worked remotely for the first few months at the job he had for the last 15 years, and now he works with me on my business, but mostly helps plan our route, school the kids, and keep the RV from becoming a biohazard.
I run another blog, which is my full-time income. I am a book author, and I speak and consult. I am also actively working to grow this platform and monetize our site, our social channels, and our YouTube channel. In addition to all that, I recently launched a side-hustle where I sell my photos from our travels.
I made a little shy of 6 figures last year. That is not a humble brag. That is me being transparent about what we are working with. It’s possible to travel full time with much less, though. It all depends on your pace, and your budgeting skills. As a freelancer, we’ve had some lean months, and have been able to make it work by staying at our campsites longer, not going out to eat, and relying on lots of free entertainment. There is plenty to be found!
It’s unrealistic and I wouldn’t suggest for anyone to decide to embark on this life with plans to fully support it by blogging or with a YouTube channel if they don’t already have one that’s supporting them. So that’s not a viable means of income for many, but there are many other ways people make money while working from the road. These can include, but of course aren’t limited to:
- Fulfillment By Amazon – already established businesses
- MLM businesses that are already established (for example: essential oils)
- Online tutoring (VIP Kid is a popular one)
- Traveling photography business, also already established
- Travel nurse
- Oil field work
- Seasonal harvest jobs
- Workamping (many times this is working at an RV park in exchange for a site hookup and sometimes a paycheck, but this also includes many other exchanges of work)
The key to many of these is that they are already established and reliable sources of income. You could certainly try to launch a new business from the road, but I would strongly recommend you, at minimum, have a very healthy savings account in case it takes longer than you intend to become profitable.
Along with this piece of the puzzle, you need to figure out things like insurance and what kind of access to the internet you’ll need.
What about school?
If you have school-aged children, you’ll need to look up the homeschool laws in your home state. As Texas residents, we really lucked out. It just took a letter to our children’s school to notify them we intended to homeschool. Everything else is entirely up to us. Some states require more documentation, or that you use specific types of curriculum. It doesn’t matter what state you’re staying in at any given time, you go by the laws of your home state, meaning the state you have a permanent address at.
We spend on average about 10 hours a week doing lessons and reviewing materials, and the rest of the time we supplement with our experiences on the road. Don’t feel like you have to cram in 7 hours of sitting kids down in your RV or rental every weekday for lessons.
How can you have a permanent address and where do you get mail?
If you’re selling your house or leaving your lease, you’re going to need an address in the state you’d like to be your home state. For us, we knew we wanted to stay in Texas because of the homeschool laws and for tax purposes. Luckily, we were able to change our address to my mom’s address. She also receives our mail for us. She could send it to us, but most of it is junk. We do all our bill paying online.
If switching your address to a friend or family member isn’t an option, or if you want a different home state, there are services that help with that. Since we haven’t utilized them, I’m not knowledgeable enough to talk about them, but here’s a top-level Google search to get you started.
How long can you do this?
Some families travel for a stretch of a few months- maybe over a summer break or in between jobs or moves. Some families, like ours, set out to see as much as they can in a pre-determined time period. We’re aiming for between 12-18 months. Other families decide to jump in and make this their lifestyle for as long as it works. There are many full-time traveling families who’ve been happily doing this for years.
I think it’s important to have a plan, but to also stay flexible. We know that if it suddenly becomes uncomfortable or unrealistic for us to stay on the road, we can head back to Texas and stay with family while we figure out next steps. And if this lifestyle keeps going well for us, we have plans in place to stretch it out a little longer.
What about pets?
Many full-time RV travel families travel with their dogs and cats. It adds an extra layer of coordination, but it can be done.
We opted to have our 2 dogs fostered while we are gone. For us, the stress of dealing with 4 kids in the RV was such that adding young and active dogs to the mix was just too much. Also, we personally felt it would not be a good life for the dogs. We are out of the RV a lot. Many days we are gone for more than 8 hours. When we are traveling from one site to the next, we stop at a lot of places that don’t allow dogs, and we would have to find a safe place for them to stay because the RV can be way too hot when it’s not connected to electric, or sometimes very cold.
Again, many successfully manage these obstacles with some planning ahead, and their animals are just fine. I’m not saying it’s not a good life for all dogs and cats, just that it would be difficult for ours (one is a very large English mastiff.)
And there’s also the issue of space when we travel. Our truck cabin is already full with 6 people. We would have to put them in the RV to travel, which we don’t feel is a safe or comfortable way to go.
I have to stress that this particular decision was THE HARDEST thing to figure out. We love our dogs like family, and when we got them, this trip wasn’t even on our radar. But life changes, and we did everything in our power to be sure they are well taken care of by people who love them as much as we do. We pay all their vet bills, have food shipped to them, and take care of them in any other way that they need while we’re gone.
Their foster moms text us pictures and videos often, and occasionally they upload them to our @ArloAndRosie Instagram account.
What should you sell and purge?
This is going to end up being a whole other post that I hope to dig into soon. The short of it is you could sell everything, but if you don’t intend on living this way forever, I wouldn’t advise it. We didn’t sell everything. We sold and gave away a lot of stuff, for sure, but we have enough in a 10×10 storage unit and in family’s homes that we could easily furnish another house sparingly again.
We also kept our 2 other vehicles. One- a sedan- was paid off already, and my cousin now drives that to college so it’s not sitting while we’re gone. Our other- an SUV- we only had a year of payments left on. It didn’t make sense to sell it when we were so close to owning it. My sister is driving it while we’re away.
There’s a possibility we’ll rent out the RV and truck together when we settle, and this will still leave us with 2 cars to work with.
What if you hate it/ something breaks down/ you run out of money?
Before we launched, whenever we started to feel anxious about any number of things going wrong, we talked out what worse case scenarios were and then what we would realistically be able to do. Barring anything super crazy, we have a solid plan for every one. This meant having a bare minimum that we didn’t want to drop below in the savings account. This also meant having a place to fall back to (family) if we needed to get back on our feet and figure out our next move.
Some resources to get you going:
I could write so much more, but what’s more important than reading what I have to say is starting to do some real research. If you’re reading our story and thinking your life is nothing like ours and wondering if that means you could even try this, please know that this lifestyle looks different for everyone. There are so many ways families are making it work.
So to start, I would highly recommend joining the Facebook group Fulltime Families. This is what I first stumbled upon when I was wondering if we could even do this… if this was even a thing people do. Indeed, there are thousands of families already doing THIS right now, and many of them are in this FB group. It’s a wealth of information.
Additionally, they have a website, and a membership program for $45/year that is especially helpful if you’d like to meet up with other fulltiming families on the road.
If you’d like to explore RV site memberships, look into Thousand Trails. We have an annual camping pass with all the zones. There’s no way we could have afforded California without it.
I’ve also heard good things about supplementing TT memberships with an RPI membership. We haven’t done this yet so I can speak personally about it, but @ThoseByrnesGirls has an IG story highlight “Travel Costs” where she lays out their experience with it.
Finally, speaking of Instagram, check out the #FulltimeFamilies hashtag to find lots of other families making this lifestyle work. In my experience, this whole community has been so helpful and is always willing to share their highs and lows and tips and tricks. We are @Happy.Loud.Life there!