Alternative Housing Ideas for Those Who Like to Travel


The traveling lifestyle has always intrigued me, but the thought of trying to find alternative housing while traveling seems challenging to say the least. Getting a hotel room and seeing the sights is usually the way I choose, but there is something about traveling in an RV, van camper, converted moving truck, or ambulance RV that is appealing. I’m not sure if it’s having your house with you and all the comforts of home or being able to see the country and pick up and go when you please. I don’t know if I could go the whole alternative living lifestyle of super-cheap living, but I’ve never given it an honest try. Because it’s intriguing, I’m going to discover more about the alternative housing ideas for those who like to travel to see if this could be my thing someday.


There are a few common and not so common alternative housing ideas for those who like to travel, like motorhomes or RVs, van-campers, moving trucks, and a converted ambulance as alternative living choices for travelers. We’ll explore the pros and cons, costs, and parking involved with these alternative housing ideas so you can determine which is right for you. 

RV or
Moving Truck
WhatA recreational vehicle built for camping now converted into full-time living quarters.A vehicle built into a camper for full-time living.A box truck used for moving furniture, built into a camper, or tiny home for full-time living.An ambulance once used for emergency services, built into a camper or tiny home for full-time living.
ProsCost less than a traditional house, freedom, travel with your house, versatile- explore new areas, meet new people, no neighbors, sellable, ability to homeschool if traveling with children.Even less cost than an RV, freedom, travel with your house, versatile- explore new areas, meet new people, no neighbors, sellable.More room than a van-camper can fit a family of 4, Can fit a bathroom,
freedom, travel with your house, versatile- explore new areas, meet new people, no neighbors, sellable, ability to homeschool.
Better constructed than a moving truck or van-camper, freedom, travel with your house, versatile- explore new areas, meet new people, no neighbors, sellable, can fit a bathroom, fewer repairs due to road durability.
ConsRepairs, harder to keep friends, parking challenges, no professional service ties, wastewater and clean fill necessary, no privacy, no fancy meals, no extended in town visits, miss family and friends.No bathroom, repairs, harder to keep friends, parking challenges, no professional service ties, wastewater and clean fill necessary, no privacy, no fancy meals, no extended in town visits, miss family and friends.May need to homeschool if traveling with children, harder to keep friends, parking challenges, no professional service ties, wastewater and clean fill necessary, no privacy, no fancy meals, no extended in town visits, miss family and friends.Harder to keep friends, parking challenges, no professional service ties, wastewater and clean fill necessary, no privacy, no fancy meals, no extended in town visits, miss family and friends.
Cost$8,000–$16,000 used or $35,000–$300,000 new.$5,000–$60,000 + DIY build or $175,000 with professional build.$5,000-$20,000 DIY build out.$14,000-$120,000 + DIY build out.
ParkingCampsite for $15-30/night, RV park might have daily, weekly, monthly rates, boondocking for free.Campsite for $15-30/night, RV park might have daily, weekly, monthly rates, boondocking for free.Campsite for $15-30/night, RV park might have daily, weekly, monthly rates, boondocking for free.Campsite for $15-30/night, RV park might have daily, weekly, monthly rates, boondocking for free.

Motorhome, RV, Fifth-Wheel, Camper

The history of the recreational vehicle that we lovingly refer to as an RV, motorhome, fifth-wheel, or camper today has its roots in the pioneer days of traveling across the country with a horse-drawn covered wagon. While there have been many versions of the recreational vehicle since the early 1900s, contemporary RVs can have many levels, pop-outs, and conveniences like fireplaces and hot tubs. 

What is an RV? 


The basic layout of an RV has the driver up front, as in any car or truck, but the middle section houses the living space. This typically has a small kitchen, cabinets, and a dining area that can convert into a bed. Moving further back in the vehicle, you have a small bathroom with a shower, toilet, and sink similar to what you’d find on an airplane. The final compartment usually holds the master bedroom area with a queen-size bed, maybe a tiny closet, and about a foot of walk space on each side of the bed. Perfect living quarters for a small family on a camping trip, but how about living there permanently?

My Grandparents used to own a fifth-wheel that they hauled with a full-size Chevy truck from Oregon, to North Dakota, down to Arizona twice a year. They lived in it permanently and rented parking spots in RV parks. They didn’t have another home. Everything they owned was in the fifth wheel. I thought it was odd at the time, wondering why they never wanted to stay in one location, but as I get older, I see the value of traveling across the U.S. and seeing all the fantastic sites. They upgraded a couple of times in both truck and 5th wheel over the years but always stuck with a streamlined model for easy driving. 

So if you’re considering this form of alternative living for travelers, what can you expect for costs, advantages and disadvantages, and where to park your camper? We’re going to cover those questions. 

What are the advantages of living in an RV? 

For those who may have horrible memories of traveling in an old-school RV with poor ventilation and being stuck for hours with your siblings on the road only to park next to 50 strangers in the same situation, the advantages of RVing might not seem like enough to get them on the open road again. 

However, for those who are sick and tired of the city and want to get away, possibly permanently, and live in an RV, these advantages are for you. 

  • An RV costs less than a conventional house- You don’t have a mortgage, extra utility bills, homeowner’s insurance, or taxes to worry about. The money you can save by living in an RV rather than a house will allow you to enjoy your travels and pay for experiences on your journey. Buying a used or cheaper RV can save you more money than buying new.
  • An RV provides you the freedom to change locations at any time. If you decide you don’t like the area you can drive to another one.
  • An RV is built to travel. Living in an RV means you are ready to go as soon as your eyes are open. You can simply jump in the driver’s seat and head out. 
  • An RV is versatile. Being on the open road gives you opportunities to explore and experiences you’d never have living in the city. You meet new people and find events for those who also like travel.
  • In the city, we don’t necessarily get along with all of our neighbors. An RV helps you leave the neighbors behind. You can drive to a new location in an RV and possibly remote, where you won’t find other people.
  • An RV is sellable. If you change your mind and decide to settle down and leave the open road, you can sell your RV to the next generation of travelers and earn back some of your money.

What are the disadvantages of living in an RV?


As you know, there is no housing that is all sunshine and roses; life happens. Here are a few of the disadvantages living in an RV can bring. 

  • An RV will need repairs. Just like a regular house, you will have to fix things. Things get shaken around and can become loose or break when you drive. RV repairs can be expensive. Performing preventive maintenance is mandatory if you make life in your RV.
  • When you’re constantly moving, it’s hard to build a community of friends. You can always make new ones, but keeping in touch can be tricky. An RV can make it harder to keep friends.
  • Finding a doctor, dentist, or eye doctor can be hard on the road. An RV can make professional services difficult. Insurance may also be complicated without a permanent address. A good credit card, health sharing program and PO Box can help.
  • An RV can cause parking challenges. The cost of parking in a campground or RV park can add up, and some only allow for extended stays and require planning. Finding a cheap or free place to park your RV can be challenging. You can look for a boondocking guide to help you map out the best locations for free or cheap parking. 
  • When you decide to travel, you leave your family and friends and a location you know for uncertainty. Unless they have a parking spot you can travel back to; you may not be visiting very often. An RV doesn’t allow for extended visits.
  • An RV doesn’t have a lot of privacy. Outside noises, barking dogs, tight spaces can cause problems. If you travel with others, you don’t have extra space to getaway. When you live in an RV, you are basically in a tin box; this could be a beautiful tin box, but a tin box.
  • An RV doesn’t allow for fancy meals. Cooking in an RV can be challenging, and you may find you eat out more often than cook. Learning how to prepare one-pot meals can help. But without extra storage for canned, frozen, or fresh ingredients, you may need to slim down your cuisine options. 
  • Yes, you need to empty your waste from your RV into an appropriate receptacle in an RV park, and some rest stops. An RV does not have external plumbing. You’ll need to learn tank maintenance to ensure there are no problems.

How much does it cost to buy and live in an RV?

The price of an RV depends on many factors like class (there are 3), age (new will cost more), and extra bells and whistles. Used will always be cheaper than new, but it doesn’t mean super cheap if it’s a newer RV. You can find many used RVs for $8,000–$16,000 under ten years old. You can probably buy one from a neighbor for less, especially if they don’t use it. A new RV can range from $35,000-$50,000 for a class C, $100,000–$200,000 for a class B, and the best, the class A’s can cost $200,000–$300,000. 

However, once you start driving them, you can live on $1,400-$4,000 a month depending on your parking, waste removal costs, and cooking or eating. 

Where can you park your RV for free or cheap?

Parking your RV for free or cheap is called boondocking. It is a well-known way to save money in the RV community. Boondockers Welcome is an online resource of owners who will let you park on their property for free. You just have to know where to look. 

If you can’t afford a large RV, how about converting a van into a camper. Let’s explore that alternative living idea. 

What is a van camper? 


Like an RV, a van-camper or camper van is a van converted into a tiny RV. You have all of the rooms and amenities, except a bathroom, but on a smaller scale. Much smaller. 

What are the advantages of living in a van-camper?

The advantages of van-camper living are the same as RV living. Freedom, travel, versatile, sellable, no neighbors or new neighbors regularly, and it costs even less than an RV after a while. Your build might initially set you back, but overall, van-living is cost-effective. 

What are the disadvantages of living in a van-camper? 

There are a few disadvantages that are new to van life: 

  • You don’t have a shower. This can be remedied with a portable unit you use outside, visiting a proper campsite, truck stop with pay showers, a local gym, or swim club, which all charge a daily fee. 
  • No privacy at all. In an RV, you at least have a bathroom and a little bit larger “home.” In a van camper, people will knock on your windows and doors to see if anyone is in there or to see the interior. 
  • Holding a traditional job is difficult. According to a survey on Outbound Living, Only 9% said they were unemployed; 4% said they were retired. 14% considered themselves remote workers, 13% were entrepreneurs, 10% worked seasonal jobs, and 5% worked odd jobs to make their livings.

How much does it cost to buy and live in a van-camper?


Buying the van depends on the size, type, and brand. There are a few popular brands and styles on the market that people like to use for converting to a van-camper

  • The Dodge Promaster is the least expensive panel style starting at around $33,000.
  • The Ford Transit is mid-range, around $37,000
  • The Mercedes Sprinter is high-end, with four-wheel drive, starting at around $56,000.

You can DIY your van conversion for $5,000-$15,000. A conversion company may charge you between $40,000-$175,000. Once you have your van set and ready to travel, regular living expenses are between $800–$3,000 a month. 

Where can you park your van camper for free or cheap?

Again it’s best if you can boondock. Follow the advice on the Boondockers Welcome website. If you need to pay for camping, you’re likely to pay $15-$30/night on average. 

A van camper is a little different than an RV, but if you’re willing to sacrifice staying clean, this form of travel might fit you. 

What is a moving-truck home? 


You’ve seen a box truck around town rented by people who need to move their belongings from one house to another but don’t have a vehicle large enough for furniture or boxes. Box trucks are being converted into tiny homes, RVs, and campers for people to make their homes on the road. 

What are the advantages of living in a moving-truck home?

Like a traditional RV, you can have all of the creature comforts of cooking and keeping clean in a moving-truck house. This family bought their box truck for $5,000 and built it out for $4,000. They have a shower, a rudimentary water system, but it works, and if you’re looking to live cheaply, it can work for you too. Check out their video

The advantages are the same as an RV and maybe a little more than a van-camper as you could add a bathroom. They have four people living in this moving truck so that a small family can live and travel. 

What are the disadvantages of living in a moving-truck home?

A small family can live and travel. When it comes to having your family with you, you need to find online schooling or homeschool for your kids. In my humble opinion, both are great alternatives to public school as they will learn much more traveling than sitting at a desk. 

It’s still not as big as an RV, so any alone time needs to be outside the moving truck and off by yourself in nature. 

How much does it cost to buy and live in a moving-truck home?

This example family was the cheapest I found in my research. They bought the van for $5,000 and converted it for $4,000. So for $9,000, they have a moving-truck house for 4. I found other costs to buy a box truck for under $20,000 and convert it for $5,000-$15,000, similar to a van camper. 

Where can you park your moving-truck home for free or cheap?

When you live in a moving truck, you still have to follow local laws for parking the vehicle. Most local laws do not allow people to sleep in their vehicles overnight in a public area. Again there are exceptions like a 24hr—Walmart, some churches, or boondocking on someone’s property. 

The moving-truck home seems like a good mix between a van-camper and RV when you actually convert it into more of a tiny house than a camper. 

What is a converted ambulance? 

A converted ambulance is similar in size to a box truck but built with a few more bells and whistles that you don’t get from a vehicle used for moving. When dealing with people’s lives, as you would in using an ambulance for emergency services, there are extras like a safety seat, tons of storage, ventilation, insulation, and more. 

We have a family friend who bought and converted an ambulance into a tiny house. He has everything, including a composting toilet and a portable shower. It is amazing! He’s a big guy at 6’3”, so his bed/couch takes up a lot of the living space in the back. Being a single guy, he doesn’t have many worries, and as long as he can pull his motorcycle, he can live anywhere—more on this story later in an upcoming interview. 

What are the advantages of living in a converted ambulance? 

As I alluded to, a converted ambulance has many advantages over a van-camper or moving-truck house. 

  • Insulation is a huge advantage. An ambulance is well insulated for keeping critical patience warm in transport to the hospital. This extra insulation is perfect for living in an ambulance. 
  • Ventilation is a bonus. Generally, in conversion for a van or moving truck, you would need to add ventilation to the ceiling; an RV typically already has a fan, and so does an ambulance. 
  • They are wide. Because they have beds and seating in the back, they are usually wide vehicles. You can place a queen size bed across the back and still have plenty of room for others to sit. 
  • Extra seating is a bonus too. There is a safety seat, but there is also seating that runs along the side for paramedics to sit while traveling with a patient. This extra seating is great to have in place, and you can install storage underneath. 
  • Storage is in abundance. Imagine keeping all kinds of medical equipment and materials locked up yet ready to use when you’re helping someone. Those special storage compartments, closets, and cubbies are already installed and available to use for an ambulance RV. 

What are the disadvantages of living in a converted ambulance?

  • Even though an ambulance seems like a great combination of pre-built extras and a moving truck, those built-ins take up a lot of space and will cause you to get creative and possibly remove quite a bit of equipment, seating, and storage. 
  • Insurance companies don’t understand the ambulance RV model. An ambulance has a particular category for insurance; it is considered a commercial vehicle, not a recreational vehicle. You will need to explain your intentions to build the ambulance as an RV or camper to get the right insurance. 
  • Legal issues might bite you. You have to remove everything on the outside of the vehicle, indicating that it is an emergency vehicle. You can get fined for not doing so.  
  • These vehicles are built to power pumps and medical equipment to save lives; they have some unique construction and complex electrical systems. The construction and electrical are complex. If you’re handy, you can take the time to remove what you don’t need and keep other things. It may help to hire a mechanic to help you. 

How much does it cost to buy and live in a converted ambulance?

You can find a used ambulance online for under $20,000. It will probably have higher mileage than you are used to seeing. In the YouTube video for the off-road ambulance, Tom said he paid a lot more than 14,000, so you can guess. A AEV Chevrolet/GMC TraumaHawk Ambulance without the special medical equipment costs $120,000. 

Where can you park your converted ambulance for free or cheap?

If you’re like this very inventive ambulance owner, you can add on some off-road tires and go whenever the earth takes you. For the rest of those who stick with the road travel tires boondocking or finding a campsite for reasonable would be your best bet for free or cheaper parking. 

More on converted ambulances to come when I interview a friend who made one of these alternative housing options himself. 

Based on our findings for alternative housing ideas for those who like to travel, which is your favorite? Comment below. 

If you’re interested in more permanent or unique forms of alternative housing, check out our 25 alternative housing ideas articles to get your imagination running in high gear. 


Eva is a freelance copywriter specializing in all things real estate, B2B, PropTech, ReTech, CRETech. Owning rental property herself, Eva's love of real estate has turned into a passion for alternative housing options and educating people about the different types of housing available.

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