Hi! My husband and I have been traveling in an RV for the last 16 months and wanted to give everyone a summary of our travels. In this article, we will talk about the two different routes we took, what our costs were to live full time in an RV, some interesting facts, and our lessons learned while on the road.
- RV Saving Tips
- Interesting Facts
- Lessons Learned
We did two huge loops across the USA. Starting in Austin Texas, we went north and followed the east coast down to Florida, and back around to Texas. We left August 10th, 2018 and found our way back to Austin on April 1st, 2019.
East Coast Destinations Include
East Coast Highlights
- Ziplining over a zoo in Richmond VA… Yes, it happened
- Have you ever heard of Dollywood in Knoxville TN?
- Mardi Gras was even better than we expected in New Orleans LA!
We had so much fun, we decided to keep going and do the west coast! We left Austin on April 23rd, 2019, and finished in Phoenix AZ on October 26th, 2019.
West Coast Destinations Include
West Coast Highlights
- Carlsbad Caverns in NM is out of this world
- Sand Dunes in OR
- Magic Castle in Los Angeles was truly magical
RV Finances Overview
Ben and I really were not sure if we would enjoy living in an RV full time so we decided to buy an old used RV and remodel it rather than buying a newer one. We went to a bunch of consignment places and were initially looking for a gas RV that was less than 32 feet long. However, we ended up getting a 37 foot Allegro Bay diesel engine from Tiffin. It was a great vehicle and the end result turned out well if you ask us!
RV Purchase & Renovation Costs
- $23,357 purchase price
- $8,021 in additional costs
- $31,378 in total costs to get on the road
Cost of RVing Full Time
We Averaged $1,265/month
We also weren’t sure how the cost of living in an RV would be a month over month so we started tracking from the beginning. The categories we considered our “rent” included; RV parks, Car fuel, RV fuel, and RV/car maintenance. This came out to $20,245 over 16 months which would be $1,265 a month. Not a bad price to see so many cool places!!! Here are a few more facts.
- $9,660 spent on RV parks (Stayed in RV parks full time)
- $5,964 Vehicle maintenance costs
- $3,474 RV diesel fuel
- $962 Car fuel
- $185 Other costs like liquid propane or tolls/parking
- TOTAL: $20,245 (16 Month Expenses)
Monthly Costs Break Down
The annual numbers can be a bit large and intimidating, but if you break it down into monthly costs they look a lot more manageable. Also, we stayed in RV parks full time and moved about every 2 weeks. So if you do any kind of boondocking or long term renting your rates could be a lot cheaper.
- $603 a month for RV parks
- $372 a month in maintenance repairs
- $217 a month in diesel fuel
- $74 a month in car fuel
* These numbers don’t include food, adventures, shopping, and everything else. This is strictly what we considered our rent.
Total RV Costs For 16 Months
- $31,378 for RV purchase & remodel
- $20,245 rent for gas/parks/maintenance
- TOTAL: $51,623
* We plan on selling the RV when we get back to Texas to hopefully recoup what we spent on it. Fingers crossed!
RVing Money Saving Tips
There are ways to save while on the road which we discovered as we traveled. Here are our best tips!
Saving at RV Parks
- Thousand Trails (Free Parks) – This is a membership that allows you to stay up to 2 weeks at a time for free at specific parks. Then you have to spend 1 week out of their system of parks. We scheduled most of our trips around these parks and stayed for free a total of 201 days during our trip. If we would have paid our average park cost, the total cost would be close to $6,000! This totally made the $550 annual fee worth it to us.
- Passport America (50% Discount Parks) – When we were not staying for free in Thousand Trails we would try to stay in a Passport America park because they are 50% off the price. You have to call each park because they usually only allow a couple of days off or blackout at certain times. When we went through Utah & Idaho during the summer, none of the Passport America parks gave us the discount because it was the busy season. We didn’t track these numbers as well, but our spending on “non thousand trails” parks was around $6000, so my guess is, we probably saved $4-$5K using Passport America.
- Good Sam (10% Discount Parks) – We didn’t use this one much, but it was always nice to have because almost every park took it.
- State Parks – State parks always seemed to be cheaper than regular parks and they were closer to the attractions we wanted to go to anyway. This saved us a lot of money for Mardi Gras! The state park was only about $20 a night whereas ALL the other parks were $50+ a night upto over a hundred a night.
Saving on Gas
- Gas Credit Card – you get points!
- Good Sam Card Discount – 10% off at Flying J.
- Gas Buddy App – a great way to find cheap gas close by.
Other Money Saving Hacks
- Storage / Maintenance – Pay for the maintenance and get the storage for free 🙂 We did this twice! We stored the RV in Atlanta and got a few things done while we flew to Salt Lake City and Hawaii for Christmas. The second time was in Salt Lake City while we stayed with family and had some maintenance work done at the same time.
- National Parks Pass – We loved going to the National Parks. We did 6 National Parks on our West Coast trip. Having the park pass easily paid for itself and made it an easy decision to spend a day going to a National Park.
- Audio Books From Library – Free Audio Book apps so we could listen to lots of books for free! Our favorite app is called Libby.
- Amazon Prime – Free Shipping Anywhere, this is how we did a lot of shopping.
These are just a few random facts about our trip. Enjoy!
- 65 – The number of times we moved
- 11, 431 – The number of miles we drove together in the RV
- 201 – The number of free rent days we got through Thousand Trails
- $28.79 – The average cost per day of an RV park we paid for
- 442 – Number of days living full-time in an RV
People We Met Along The Way
One of the absolute best things about this trip was meeting up with people that we usually don’t see who live out of state. We made it a goal to take a picture with everyone but sadly, we didn’t quite get everyone! Here are some of the ones we did we see.
Vitamin G is Important – A huge lesson learned we learned was the advantages of living in nature. The RV parks were usually surrounded by trees, by a lake, or close to a river. It felt so nice to walk out your door and get some “vitamin G” (G stands for green) as we would call it.
Connections & Experiences > Stuff – You really don’t need that much stuff… seriously. When we got married, we didn’t have that much stuff so we sold a bunch, combined what we had, and put a few things in storage. As we traveled, we went and dropped off more stuff at goodwill because we realized, if we didn’t touch it in a few months, we really didn’t need to keep holding on to it.
LifeStyle- We have been extremely blessed that we can work remotely. We realized that the corporate life wasn’t for us and we really wanted to create our days that didn’t involve looking forward to the weekend. We spent all day, every day, together and found a good balance between work, play, and travel. It wasn’t easy to find the balance at first, but once we did, life got a lot easier. It also helped that our commute was about 10 feet 😀
Physical Breaks – Because the morning commute is only about 10 feet in our 37 foot RV, we made it a habit to go on a few walks a day. We would take a football or frisbee with us to work on our hand-eye coordination. It really helped us not to feel stuck inside all the time and a good chance to stretch our legs.
Great question! There are people that do this for years but that’s just not for us. We are expecting our first child in Feb 2020 and looking forward to settling down as a family. We will continue to travel and have adventures but they will look different with little ones.
What Ben Will Miss About the RV
- Waking up in new and beautiful places
- Finding stickers to put on our sticker wall
- Seeing people across the country
- All the natural light
- Minimal lifestyle
- Using the RV as a great conversation piece and ice breaker
What Molly Will Miss About the RV
- Planning out the routes and locations to explore
- Having the flexibility of traveling
- Driving through beautiful places with the huge windshield
- Hunting for stickers and patches as our souvenirs
- Spending so much time with Ben and working together
What We Will NOT Miss About Living in an RV
- Living in such a small space
- The stress of breakdowns and surprise maintenance costs
- Internet uncertainty
- Weather and how noisy rain can be while trying to sleep
- Not knowing if the next park was a good one or not until we got there
- Shopping at Walmart all the time
- Cooking in such a small kitchen
- Driving on rough roads (we felt everything in that old RV)
- Paying for laundry
- Having low water pressure
We created a video of our most frequently asked questions if you are interested in the RV lifestyle. If there are any that we didn’t cover, please reach out to us! We love talking about it!