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Retired RVers make travel a way of life

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You'll also have extra costs if you want to outfit your RV for "boondocking" -- RV slang for overnighting in national parks or parking lots, says Hall-Bruzenak. "RVers add solar panels, inverters, and catalytic or ceramic heaters to be able to camp without hookups," she says.

Hall-Bruzenak recommends that new RVers join the RV Consumers Group before buying a rig.

"They provide ratings for various makes and models," she says, "and tell you what the appropriate use is. Purchasing a used RV can be a wise decision because you'll save that initial hit you take on depreciation, plus the previous owner has worked out the bugs, you hope."

Buying secondhand is also smart, Zyetz says, because it's hard to predict what you're going to want until you're actually living on the road. "There are bound to be issues you didn't think of until you have lived in the rig for a while," she says. "I don't believe I've ever met anyone who still travels in the rig they started with."

Living expenses
Daily life on the road can be expensive if you treat it as a vacation, pulling into luxury campgrounds and eating in restaurants every day, but RVers say it can also be quite economical. Hall-Bruzenak says campers she polled in a recent survey to update her book reported monthly expenditures of $1,098 to $5,046. The lowest came from a single woman who "workamps," or takes part-time jobs to supplement her income; the couple with the highest expenses have a $2,765 monthly RV payment.

Hitting the open road
1. Buying your home on wheels
2. Living expenses
3. Practical matters
4. Support groups
5. Assisted RV living

"The range in costs after you start traveling can vary tremendously," Hall-Bruzenak says. "One big factor is where you camp. Many campgrounds are now at least $25 to $35 a night; resorts can be $65-plus a night."

Camping expenses can be reduced in a number of ways, she says, including joining a campground membership program offering reduced fees, taking advantage of free or low-cost camping on federal land, and boondocking at Wal-Marts or truck stops where free overnight parking is permitted.

"If you workamp at an RV park or campground," Hall-Bruzenak says, "you often get a free or lower-cost RV site. Volunteering for a state or federal agency will give you a free site, too."

Practical matters
New technology has made the RV lifestyle a lot easier than it once was, says Kenny.

"With a laptop, a cell phone and a GPS, we've got everything covered," she says. "Our bills are paid automatically. We even have a satellite on top of the RV for DirecTV."

RVers must have a street address for tax purposes and vehicle registration, she says, "but that's easily taken care of. There are many private mail centers that do that as a business. We call them and get our mail forwarded about every six weeks."

Next: "Just go online and type in 'new RVer.'"
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