How much does it cost to travel full time?


Still in Yuma where the weather is warmer than most.

Many folks from our seminars ask how much it costs to live full time in the MotherShip. Of course this will be wildly different for everyone. To give some guidance we have addressed major expense categories.

Fuel
Food
RV Parks
Motorhome Maintenance
Other Expenses

Fuel

We love to drive! Thus, fuel for us will probably be higher than anyone except for Dar and Cindy on their first trip! Our 2006 budget estimate for diesel fuel was $4.00 per gallon. We can get as much as 8 mpg, even more with a tail wind. We average about 800 miles per month so that would be 800 miles / 8 mpg x $4 or $400.00. However, that does not account for the 13% grade in the Canadian Rockies. We have spent $512/month for the last 13 years. You can see from the maps below that we traveled more in the early years. That is typical of full time travelers; spend a few years "seeing it all" and then settle in to some favorite places. We have not settled yet as we need to get to the Canadian Maritimes!

13,300 miles
19,310 miles
13,007 miles
13,877 miles

5,605 miles
12,405 miles
7,736 miles
7,230 miles

5,740 miles
7,956 miles
5,704 miles
5,243 miles

4,152 miles

Food

Eating in your motorhome costs the same as eating at home. If you eat in, traveling by motorhome is cheaper than traveling by car, motel and restaurants. In 2008 we planned a 2-day trip from Atascadero to San Diego for Emily's university graduation. We were going by car: 700 miles, two motel nights and seven meals. The car fuel was minimal. Add the motel and meals and the cost seemed pretty high. Reset! If we took the MotherShip the fuel was $350. But eating in and staying at the Chula Vista Elks lodge for $20 per night yielded a total cost less than traveling by car. One day motorhome trip is more; two or more days, motorhome is less.

We always eat out at family get togethers; but doesn't this home cooked less expensive meal look good?

We ate at this Route 66 diner but it was less money and better food when we BBQ'd at Lathrop State Park in Colorado.

We so enjoyed lunch with Gordon and Karen in Algodones, Mexico. The home cooked chicken fillets were cheaper but no margaritas.

Can't miss a birthday with the girls, but those bacon and eggs cost 80% less.

We enjoyed a burger with Don in Weed, California. But Paul's BBQ was free. We miss Paul!

We rarely go out by ourselves like this 44th anniversary lunch at Ragged Point, California.

Eating in is the way to travel for less. We have averaged $921.00 a month for food ($4.95 per meal including wine), "your mileage may vary".

RV Parks

We spend less on camping than on fuel and far less than food! For 13 years, we have averaged $16 per night. This is a very low amount compared to most. Let's see how we have done this.

In 2006, $35 seemed like a typical RV park daily fee. It was $33 at Fredericksburg RV in Texas and $36 at Minuteman RV in Littleton, Massachusetts in 2007.

In 2016 it was $35 at Phillips RV Park in Evanston, Wyoming. Only $15 at Roads End RV in North Pole, Alaska.

California will cost you more than most states. Flag City RV near Lodi cost $54 in 2013. Motorcoch Country Club in Indio will set you back over $100 every night. We have stayed 9 nights for a total of $217! How? FMCA specials and coupons. We are coupon campers, see Coupon Camping. Coupons are available to "first time" guests, to get you to see their park.

If you are any good at math, you can see the above parks cost way more that $16 per night. What gives? Homes, Elks, boondocking, Cracker Barrels, casinos, truck stops, churches, Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Cabelas, BLM and other government properties, Quartzsite, Slab City, RV service centers, Alaska and other states and more.

Our first "home stay" was with Charlie and Cheryl whom we met in Las Vegas. The Elks Lodge in Louisville, Kentucky. We have stayed three times for a donation. And they were incredibly hospitable.

The St. George Utah Elks is just $15 for 50 amps, water and dump site and a gorgeous view. We say "we own Walmart" as we have stayed free at over 40 locations.

Our favorite boondocking site ever is near Mt. Rainer, Washington; huge, off the road and quiet. We had inches to spare at Hank and Ann's in Ontario, Canada. They invited us when we met in Carrabelle Beach, Florida.

Daughter Emily and Chad put in full hookups for us at their "Paradise" California home. We have spent 109 nights at their house. That is a blessing to us. Today they are blessing another RV family who lost their home in the Camp Fire in Paradise.

You can see more ways to dry camp at Dry Camping Photo Collection. See all parks and Elks lodges at RV Parks we have Visited

Motorhome Maintenance

A motorhome is a car and house with moving walls. It has dual water systems, dual heating systems, A/C and D/C power, carpet, tile, laminate, wood, fiberglass, Naugahyde, plastic, steel, aluminum, rubber, chrome, paint, hundreds of yards of wire, tons of hot, cold and sewer piping and lots more. "Yes, Virgina you will spend a lot on maintenance." Our first RV salesman said, "Don't buy a motorhome unless you have a tool box and a sense of humor". We have that tool box and more.

We document every repair no matter how small and our list has over 300 entries. This includes tightening a screw, replacing a windshield or rebuilding the engine. Even without the big repairs we have had, plan a large budget for washing/waxing, tires, oil changes for engine and generator, annual flushing of black/gray tanks, packing front wheel bearings, replacing worn parts, replacing dirty window shades and curtains, re-upholstering chairs ...

You will need some of our Tools and Supplies

Other Expenses

If you travel full time it is like always being on vacation for some. Not for us. We just live our daily lives with different neighbors. We enjoy biking, hiking, pickleball, happy hours and table games. If you are in the "vacation mode" you could spend thousands of dollars per week on activities. Traveling throughout North America you have endless choices of ways to spend all your money.

This should give you an basic idea for a budget. If you have any questions feel free to email us.

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?" Luke 14:28

With love, Pete, Ellen and Mandy

Photos from 2006 to 2018

The Full Time Motorhome Living Guide

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