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Old 10-16-2014, 03:41 PM   #1
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Planning for something crazy!

So the wife and I (and our two children (both under 5)) are seriously toying around with the idea of paying off most of our debt, quitting our careers, selling the house, buying an RV and setting sail across North America for a year.

No, it's not a midlife crisis (we are both 35) and we aren't running from any underlying issues in our relationship/family. We just have this burning desire to unplug, experience life/nature/culture and do this before we hit retirement age (which chances are I won't hit anyway due to some typical big guy health issues). The plan is to do this in approx 15 months (impatient) or in 3 years (more financial flexibility). My wife is a teacher and will home school our oldest while we are on the road.

This is where I turn to this fine forum to seek out advice from people who have done it/are doing it. What are some things we should be sure to learn/plan for prior to doing this adventure? What kind of rig would you recommend (2 adults, two kids under 7, two dogs (one 65 lbs, one 20). Any do's and do not's? Talk me out of it and talk me into it! All/any advice would be welcome. We are complete novices at this so it's a complete and utter lifestyle change. Go big or go home right?!

Lecture me guys and gals! All is welcome. Thanks for the insight!
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Old 10-16-2014, 04:13 PM   #2
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What is your budget for buying a motor home?

Do you have any "handy man" or mechanic skills?

Do you have the type of job that can be done over the Internet (even if only part-time)?

What would be your monthly budget for fuel, campgrounds, food, etc?

Would you have an emergency fund to cover unexpected repairs, medical illness, etc?

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Old 10-16-2014, 04:20 PM   #3
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We are doing this very thing you dream of right now, minus the two dogs.

My suggestion is to go with a BH or TH setup in a FW. You can try a MH but there is just simply more room in a FW. And the BH setup in a MH is much harder to find. Plus the bunkrooms in MHs that you are able to locate are typically just a little alcove and right next to the master bedroom, separated by a curtain. Whereas, in a FW the BH is on one side of the RV while the master is on the other.

A TH would be a better setup for you since you have dogs. Were I you, I'd try to take the dogs out of the equation. It's hard enough to keep after two kids on the road, and staying organized becomes a very time consuming, yet much needed task. Adding dogs to the mix will make that harder. But if you must have them with you, then consider getting set up in one area at a time for a month at a time. The idea is that setting up camp in a FW takes a bit longer than a MH, adding kids and dogs into the mix just increases that time so try not to be on the move so much. Go to an area of the country you would love to see, stay at the CG for, say, a month (better rate that way too), then use your TV to go explore that area in a radius up to 200 miles over that month. This approach to the travel part seems easier for us than picking up and moving every 4 days. But we still only average 8-10 days in one spot thus far.

Setup usually takes me 2-3 hours. Breaking camp usually takes me 5 hrs. Reason being two fold. #1 we're pretty much maxed out in storage so getting everything placed just right then pull it back out later when we make camp again takes time. #2 I like to make a nice outside area for us to hang out so setting up all my stuff for that is a chore. Hence the need to stay in one place at least for a few days at a time. It will make the experience much more stress-free overall. Of course, if we're just passing through an area, I can cut those times way back putting less into the setup process. I don't have auto-levelers so that adds to the setup time if we're in a dicey spot, as is often the case. But like anything, you get better and better at it the more times you do it.

Two bathrooms are a necessity as well with a family of 4. We are getting by with one right now but the need for two is what started our search for the next largest FW we could find. We've thus far settled on a 2015 Cyclone TH but we'll have to upgrade the TV to a newer model diesel to make that work.

The reason you want an BH and to not settle for putting the kids on the foldout couch bed or convertible dinette is because you will be the one pulling that stuff out and putting it away 2x a day. It's better if you give the kids their own beds/ own room. Keeps the kids "stuff" out of the living area of the RV.

As far as schooling, we use an accredited structured program where the kids are taught by an actual teacher via a DVD program. The deal we have with the kids is that if they stay two weeks ahead on their lesson plans, we can go out and do things, excursions, etc. If they fall behind, the fun stops until the education gets caught up. All that said, we do make sure we allow for free time and breaks away from endless hours of study.

Hope that helps for now. Feel free to ask me any specific questions.
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Old 10-16-2014, 04:24 PM   #4
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Not trying to talk you out of it. Just some comments from experience. I am a financial planner and I have clients who have tried to do similar things to what you describe. Some thoughts. 1. Whats the rush to do it now? Why not get a less expensive unit now and enjoy short trips? 2. Think about long term money needs that you can start funding now. Kids college, retirement income, etc. 3. At your age do you realistically expect to remain debt free the rest of your life? Just some things to think about. Ultimately its your decision. Good luck
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Old 10-16-2014, 04:36 PM   #5
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1.) 50k-100k though that may depend in if we go MH or TW.
2.) No
3.) Possibly, but may take some convincing. Assuming not.
4.) No clue. Could use help on this. We plan on staying weeks at a time at locations.
5.) Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pasdad1 View Post
What is your budget for buying a motor home?

Do you have any "handy man" or mechanic skills?

Do you have the type of job that can be done over the Internet (even if only part-time)?

What would be your monthly budget for fuel, campgrounds, food, etc?

Would you have an emergency fund to cover unexpected repairs, medical illness, etc?

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Old 10-16-2014, 04:43 PM   #6
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Why not man? I say do it. Here's my contrasting viewpoint....

Is it the most financially prudent thing to by such a depreciating item that requires maint? Nope, not even close - BUT what's the other side? Well you could continue to beat yourself to death in a 9 to 5, invest every penny you have and have a couple mil at 60 - ok not bad -- 35 to 60 would be a bore.

I like the mixture idea... and that is, you save some, you live some. I also like the idea of "mini-retirements" throughout life. Taking 3 months, 6 months, 15 months and basically retire is fine by me. Your working years aren't over, that's for sure.

My advice would be to certainly not max out your budget on the RV, not even close.

Let's look at your choices before budget.

1) Class A Diesel (the route I took) - Expensive to buy, expensive to fix - if you get a lemon here, you could really be up a creek! Not knowing your idea of what it should cost, can't advise you there just yet. You can get into a DP for anywhere from $50k (very very used) to 350K (brand new and hot) and higher if you're filthy. $80k to $130k can net you a nice used unit - that will more than likely require *some* fixer up maint money right off the bat. (4k to 10k would be a good estimate)

2) Class A Gasoline - Works just fine. Sure the DP's have more torque, I don't think it's a big enough deal to worry about. Research here matters of course, but the entry cost is way lower. 130k will net you a very nice brand new bounder (although I don't recommend you buy anything new unless you are going to keep it a long time - like 5 years or more.)

3) Fifth Wheel - Nifty amount of room, nice layout - you need a truck... and a pretty hefty one depending on the weight. New you can get an awesome 5th in the 75k to 120k range. Used you could spend 30k or 40k and get a barely used one.... I personally would dislike the setting up and all that. I watch people do it, and some make it look easy, but not all... in 100% of the cases I think "Boy, glad I don't have to do that..."

4) Travel Trailer -- Still need a truck, will be smaller probably, and I personally would not want to bumper pull something 40' long, but I'm a sissy, so I'd probably stick to the shorter range of things.

That's your choices.

Living the lifestyle is actually pretty inexpensive. When we are the road, we don't spend a lot - less than it costs me to stick and brick it for sure.

To boot, this country has a lot to offer, and it's well worth the time and money and effort to spend that time with your family while you can.

So, back to you - realistically what's your min and max on what you think it should cost you to get moving - then we can start a discussion on years, brands, models.
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Old 10-16-2014, 04:46 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gthunts View Post
Not trying to talk you out of it. Just some comments from experience. I am a financial planner and I have clients who have tried to do similar things to what you describe. Some thoughts. 1. Whats the rush to do it now? Why not get a less expensive unit now and enjoy short trips? 2. Think about long term money needs that you can start funding now. Kids college, retirement income, etc. 3. At your age do you realistically expect to remain debt free the rest of your life? Just some things to think about. Ultimately its your decision. Good luck
1.) While I wish it was today, 1.5-3 years seems like a good amount of time to plan. But mostly because we want more than the 9-5 and waiting for retirement is a soul crushing thought (no offense to anyone). We have discussed renting/buying prior to get experience for the big adventure.
2.) The idea is to purge the debt prior (only way we can do it) and do it without touching retirement. Wife may be able to take a sabatical with could help with maintaining employment and some benefits. Kids college tied into general saving plan. Also, part of reason of waiting to year 3 would be loan forgiveness for wife's student loans.
3.) Absolutely not. But the longterm goal is to come back to reality with minimal debt when we replant roots.

Appreciate the questions!
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Old 10-16-2014, 04:53 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by plasma800 View Post
Why not man? I say do it. Here's my contrasting viewpoint....

Is it the most financially prudent thing to by such a depreciating item that requires maint? Nope, not even close - BUT what's the other side? Well you could continue to beat yourself to death in a 9 to 5, invest every penny you have and have a couple mil at 60 - ok not bad -- 35 to 60 would be a bore.

I like the mixture idea... and that is, you save some, you live some. I also like the idea of "mini-retirements" throughout life. Taking 3 months, 6 months, 15 months and basically retire is fine by me. Your working years aren't over, that's for sure.

My advice would be to certainly not max out your budget on the RV, not even close.

Let's look at your choices before budget.

1) Class A Diesel (the route I took) - Expensive to buy, expensive to fix - if you get a lemon here, you could really be up a creek! Not knowing your idea of what it should cost, can't advise you there just yet. You can get into a DP for anywhere from $50k (very very used) to 350K (brand new and hot) and higher if you're filthy. $80k to $130k can net you a nice used unit - that will more than likely require *some* fixer up maint money right off the bat. (4k to 10k would be a good estimate)

2) Class A Gasoline - Works just fine. Sure the DP's have more torque, I don't think it's a big enough deal to worry about. Research here matters of course, but the entry cost is way lower. 130k will net you a very nice brand new bounder (although I don't recommend you buy anything new unless you are going to keep it a long time - like 5 years or more.)

3) Fifth Wheel - Nifty amount of room, nice layout - you need a truck... and a pretty hefty one depending on the weight. New you can get an awesome 5th in the 75k to 120k range. Used you could spend 30k or 40k and get a barely used one.... I personally would dislike the setting up and all that. I watch people do it, and some make it look easy, but not all... in 100% of the cases I think "Boy, glad I don't have to do that..."

4) Travel Trailer -- Still need a truck, will be smaller probably, and I personally would not want to bumper pull something 40' long, but I'm a sissy, so I'd probably stick to the shorter range of things.

That's your choices.

Living the lifestyle is actually pretty inexpensive. When we are the road, we don't spend a lot - less than it costs me to stick and brick it for sure.

To boot, this country has a lot to offer, and it's well worth the time and money and effort to spend that time with your family while you can.

So, back to you - realistically what's your min and max on what you think it should cost you to get moving - then we can start a discussion on years, brands, models.
Initially we are thinking 50-100k for whatever setup we go with (will finance). Our big fears are the maintenance, driving and setup and being we are novice, convenience will be a big selling/starting point for us.
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Old 10-16-2014, 04:58 PM   #9
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OH I FORGOT ONE - the handy class C! Great machines, little smaller inside, but less $$ to get into one.

Were it me, I would consider a gasser class A - especially if you're going to sit a lot. Think fleetwood bounders, newmar canyon stars, tiffin allegro (might want to research the chassis....) Maybe even a Pace Arrow - 3 to 6 years old

With any rv, there are going to be things about the inside and outside you won't like aesthetically. Grandma's couch, ugly carpet whatever - but who cares... it's just a thing to get you "there" But boy make sure it's mechanically sound, whatever you buy. You don't want an opening 14k fixer up bill (totally not unrealistically possible - ask me how I know )

With two kids, you might also be interested in bunk models, like the Forest River berkshire - its a diesel, but pretty reliable and affordable. A buddy snagged a nice couple year old model for 85K (from lazy days - who lists everything at double the price +10% then expects you to negotiate well ... if not, you lose)

As to your "monthly" budget for gas and whatever, just look at what you spend now to live - rent/mortgage, property taxes, insurance, HOA (), food, gas, water --- add that all up, subtract your bus payment and wala, you'll likely pay less than that between it all if you sold your house.

As to your tow car - reliable cash beater that get's 4 people around in town without breaking down. We can get into all that later once you're a little firmer.

Campground weekly rates can usually be had in the $25 to $35 a night range (sometimes higher) but if you commit to two weeks, have AAA and Good Sams, and beg a little, you can get a good rate. Electricity and water are usually included. So what.....?? $700 - $1000 a month?? Some places have monthly rentals in the $500 dollar range - Move every month - you need a little time in a place to soak it in anyway yes? So then your gas bill is very low - only other real expense is insurance, food, propane, activities.

Also don't forget, you MH loan will be for 15 years (i'd keep my cash if I get a low interest rate)

Lot's of gypsies on the road these days, and a lot of younger and younger ones like us - being all foolish and stuff.
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Old 10-16-2014, 05:10 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StupidDialUp View Post
Initially we are thinking 50-100k for whatever setup we go with (will finance). Our big fears are the maintenance, driving and setup and being we are novice, convenience will be a big selling/starting point for us.
Setup on a class A is a snap.

We pull in, disconnect the car on the first level straight ground we find... pull just past, swing out, back in (with a spotter!!!!!! here's a few more !!!!)

Yank out the electrical cord, plug er in. If I'm full of water, and my tanks aren't full, I won't even pull out those hoses.

back inside, hit the auto level button, wait 2 minutes while it does it's thing,... once done, open the slides, lay down a rug, have a beer. finished.
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Old 10-16-2014, 05:12 PM   #11
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U rock
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Old 10-16-2014, 05:17 PM   #12
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Further GThunts makes good advice, I'm not trying to oppose the idea of savings, investments, college funds and what not.
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Old 10-17-2014, 08:57 AM   #13
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Just do it.

The reason we "younger crowd" do this sort of stuff now is to give our kids the most amazing family and travel memories ever. Will it be perfect? No. Is it utopia? No. Will it save money? Sort of... depends on how you approach the process but it won't save all that much. The idea though is to bond with your family in a much more fulfilling way, and give your children an experience they can't ever repeat or replace considering they will only be this age in life ONCE.

It's not easy, being on the road with kids. But it's rewarding nonetheless. Flying to a European or Asian destination for two weeks with kids isn't easy either, right?

My Dad died at age 54 as a result of being mis-diagnosed by another physician. I learned from that. Life is very short. And sometimes all those things you put off until retirement simply won't happen due to things you can't control.

Our plan is to FT for a few more years with the kids (I still work so I have to scheduled that J.O.B. thing in with our FTing lifestyle), then take a couple of years off from the RVing life while we buy a farm or ranch property (we're looking in the Walla Walla, WA area right now). Then we'll get back into traveling again only by then we'll on the ocean (sailing), not the road. At that point we plan to cruise around the world for 4-5 years in a Catamaran (will still be working and cruising while we do that too). Once that's done, we'll then stop traveling for a while altogether and I'll put in 5-10 years of hardcore work to pad my retirement one last time. Then when I do retire at 60 or 65, we might finally do the retiree FT RVing thing with a new $500K rig (something like that). You know, do it in style like we see now when those big rigs pull in to the CG. Point being, you can try this lifestyle now for a few years on a budget, then go back to work and try it again later with a bit more flare once you approach your golden years, knowing a heck of a lot more about what you want in an RV/ MH.

One thing is for sure, if you wait till the kids are a lot older, they likely won't be interested in it or will be heading off for college by that time. Like my wife says when I get all frustrated with the Dad stuff, "they will only be this exact age TODAY. Enjoy it now because you won't get this chance, at this very age for them, later in life."

I agree with Jay Harper that setup in MH is much easier. But the bunks in all the MHs I saw are right next to the master. The FW works better for us in that regard. If you only set up once a month (as in stay at each CG using the long term rates vs nightly), then that issue is minimal. If you're moving around a lot, like we are now, then yes the setup is a pain on a FW vs a MH. But the newer FWs have autolevelers now so the difference, if going new, is minimal. Hooking in and out of the FW hitch is a cinch. That only takes me a minute or two once the landing jacks are down. Backing it in to a tight spot can be challenging though, since each CG is different.
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Old 10-17-2014, 09:29 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StupidDialUp View Post
Initially we are thinking 50-100k for whatever setup we go with (will finance).
Stupid question I suppose...but, I thought you said debt free??

Not wanting to pour cold water on your dreams, be nosy, or even mention reality, but....If you both quit your jobs and you say it "may take some convincing. Assuming not." when asked about a type of job that can be done over the internet.....How will you make the payments on the financing of the RV, pay everyday living expenses, and pay cost associated with the other extras you may want to enjoy while touring?? Just sayin'

Best of luck in pursuing your dreams.
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