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Old 03-22-2015, 07:02 AM   #15
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Huh, good question. We budget a fair amount each year for the similar type travel you are talking about. Several small trips, a big one in late summer into early fall of about 7,000 + miles and then two to three months in Florida during the winter. We include in our budget yard maintenance while we are gone, mail forwarding by a neighbor on our extended trips - meals out and meals in are part of our household budget so they are not included. Vet care for the dogs and health care for us come under the same category - household expenses. So, all that said we do it for about $10,000 - which comes to $55.55 per day all inclusive - fuel and truck maintenance being the single biggest bite.
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Old 03-22-2015, 08:12 PM   #16
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Great discussion, awesome responses. I'm gaining valuable knowledge. Let's keep it going. I appreciate the break down of how each variable affects your cost. Looks like 75-150 is reasonable daily expense assuming moderate frugality. Closer to 175-200 if driving more or choosing private campgrounds. I'm intrigued about the cost associated with the brick and mortar home. I'd love to down size but doubt the "boss" would go for it. I'd love to be able to spend 3-4 months a year traveling. So, 120 days X $150/day = $18K per year, above and beyond fixed expenses.
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Old 03-22-2015, 09:51 PM   #17
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Sweet Spot.

I suspect somewhere at the RV makers association they know pretty closely what the average daily cost of RV travel is. I suspect the true number is something horrifying like 300-500 a day all in.

My feeling is that the overall economics is somewhat like Gym memberships, which theoretically should be costing dollars per visit, but on average are running $92 dollars a 45min visit, when you factor in the dropouts. 50 million people sign up for a membership in January, and by Feb 80% are on the couch but their credit cards or PAP is getting hit monthly untill June or July when they finally overcome their guilt and cancel what they aren't using.

To me the only way to beat the numbers on cost per day is to USE THE THING, a LOT.

Consider:

- Deprecation of 25% driving off the lot. 20% a year on motorhomes, 10-20% on trailers. (even if your AS is depreciating at 1/2 the rate of a car or RV in general, it's increased capital cost will make up for that)

- depreciation
- repairs/maint. on RV
- TOW VEHICLE, depreciation, repairs, maint., setup, gear,
- insurance/accidents, medical, towing
- storage
- upgrades
- camp fees
- fuel
- food
- accessories

now we have to get grim and consider the years which the average user will operate both the TV and trailer and put it on top of the entry and exit prices of the trailer on the depreciation curve. What's the *real* average period of ownership, 5 years ?

The tow vehicle debate gets me irked also. If your well maintained trailer depreciates 1/2 the rate of a motor vehicle, but you're still swapping out and or repairing new 50k+ heavy duty trucks every 3-6 years the heavy expense is not in the trailer.

Probably the best economics would be to use a modest but capable tow vehicle starting 3 years old, and a AS, starting 5 or 6.

Use it. Till the wheels fall off. Enjoy the Intangibles. Hey, It's cheaper than a boat. Anything is cheaper than a boat. Even planes are cheaper than boats.
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Old 03-22-2015, 10:04 PM   #18
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I suspect somewhere at the RV makers association they know pretty closely what the average daily cost of RV travel is.
They do indeed. RVIA— Recreational Vehicle Industry Association— commissioned an independent study a few years ago, comparing the costs of various vacation modes. In fact, there were two parallel studies, one for the US and one for Canada, and the results were pretty much the same for both. I don't have copies of those studies anymore, but I looked them up when I was shopping for an RV, just so I'd have a better idea what I was letting myself in for.

Camping in a travel trailer is the second cheapest vacation there is, only beat out by tent camping. The average travel trailer gets about 45 days of use per year, if memory serves. People that use theirs more often can lower the per-day cost because the "fixed" costs are the same no matter how many days you use it.

That's for the total cost of owning the RV, including depreciation and everything, amortized only over the number of actual use days per year.

The most expensive vacations per day? Cruises, especially when you don't live in a seaport city and have to fly to the coast just to get on the boat.

Second most expensive? Camping in a Class A motorhome. For some reason, Class A motorhomes see the least use per year of all RVs— only about 16 days per year on average, if memory serves— so the cost (already higher than any other RVs) is amortized over fewer use days.
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Old 03-22-2015, 10:16 PM   #19
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The cost basis is relative to your associated variables. Some might say the cost is gas/food/campground fees. Some will add maintenance etc etc. Lastly, some will add AS and TV depreciation etc. It's all relative, you could say the cost is all those things plus home owners insurance, utility bills on your home property taxes etc. What I'm curious about is the cost differential of me sitting on my couch and growing old vs me driving around the country creating new experiences?
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Old 03-23-2015, 07:56 AM   #20
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I have been camping for 5 years and the one thing I have found is that you have a choice in how much you spend. First in planning a trip you need reserveamerica.com and recreation.gov and the state parks web site for campgrounds. If over 62 fed. gov. campgrounds will always be cheapest and in my mind best. I like to boondock and with google maps can find a place to camp most times. Lots of states let you stay in rest areas, if you do not know if you can call the state (YP.com) for number.

The thing I can say is only you know what you have to spend. I have found that cutting back on costs has not taken the fun out of camping and we can go lots more. In the 5 years I have been at it I have cut costs a lot and we have more fun. Maintenance on you TV and AS are the most important thing in keeping costs down.

We spend about $100 per day and use the 200-2 rule. (Travel 200 miles per day and stay 2 nights or more at each place. We are 72 and 73 years old in modest health and this really works for us.
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Old 03-23-2015, 08:11 AM   #21
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As to home base. Both adult kids live within five miles of us, boss says we do not sell house and go full time. We do however as posted go for what we consider long periods of time. Our expenses might seem low compared to what you have found, but we don't skimp, eat out fairly often both at home and while traveling and therefore do not consider eating out as an RV expense. Nor buying food or clothes etc. Those are costs we incur home or not.

We run an F350 Diesel and she gets about 13.5 MPG towing if I keep it around 60-65. As to the depreciation et al. We don't worry about it, we bought this thing to have a good time, not as an investment. We went to FL for two weeks and staying in a Residence Inn, due to my back issues we did not take the AS. While sitting around the pool one night we roughly calculated we could spend almost 1,000 nights in Residence Inns and still not come to the cost of the AS we have, truck, camping fees etc. So, an AS is not an investment - it's a "toy". And we love it.
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Old 03-23-2015, 09:06 AM   #22
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We do it a lot and I do not track expenses much. For us, when traveling, it is about 20 to 25 gallons of diesel on travel days and $30 to $50 a night for campground fees. Have had to pay $75 on holiday weekends when we had to be in a certain area. When in an actual area we like the campground fees might go down because we will use Forest Service or other low cost sites. When traveling it often costs as much to drive to and from the cheap site as it does to stay in one near the highway. We use lots of fuel on non travel days also. We go on WBCCI Caravans. The cost is usually about $100 a day (for 2 people) witout fuel. But that includes a whole lot of activities at each location and the camping fees and some meals. We use fuel and eat when we are at home also.
I do not really worry about what traveling in the Airstream cost verses other ways to travel because that is what we like to do now. Plus we have a dog that goes with us. I do not think the OP meant to include ownership costs? Just user costs? That might be a whole different analysis that I would rather just not do at this stage. Maintence costs? Waiting today for people to come and replace the airconditioner. There ae definitely costs associated with keeping an old Airstream on the road.
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Old 03-23-2015, 09:24 AM   #23
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great responses. The daily averages is what I was considering. I too figure 100-150 daily for the directly associated type expenses. Fixed costs are what they are.
"fixed costs" noun

business costs, such as rent, that are constant whatever the quantity of goods or services produced.(your 'business' is enjoyment of travel )
So,
  1. rental space for year in year out storage of your TT
  2. Annual insurance costs
  3. Typical repair costs (only an estimate)
  4. Et cetera (purchase price, amortized, for example)

These are the 'fixed costs'. When you travel in it is when you incur the 'incremental' costs
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Old 03-23-2015, 10:23 AM   #24
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It depends on a lot, how much maintenance you can do yourself, fuel mileage and price, etc. For me and my family, a 4 day trip is around $100-$110 a day. That includes gas, food, campground fee and beer. If you don't drink beer (or drink cheap beer), knock off $15 a day . Maintenance costs for both trailer and tow vehicle are fairly insignificant spread over the season as I do all the work myself, maybe $10-$15 a day. Last year I had to do front wheel bearings in my truck and replace a brake line and only a small thing here or there on the trailer (not airstream last year, but they're not complicated). If you have to pay somebody for maintenance, it can change things quite a bit. For example, wheel bearings were around $170 to do myself, $600 at a shop.

Fwiw, that assumes around a 2 hour driving radius from my house (1 tank of gas). Farther is more, add $10-$15 a day for each tank of gas depending on price of fuel. Cost goes down the longer you stay as the gas/maint gets spread out over more days and the beer consumption/day goes down quite a bit (at least for me, ymmv). You can also get larger quantities of food and save on bulk pricing a bit, but we usually go with another family and buy bulk/split cost anyway so it wouldn't save too much. We use very little propane, basically just to cook breakfast and maybe the odd lunch to where we didn't even go through one full tank last year.

I didn't include the sunk costs (price of camper) as they are already spent and it doesn't matter whether we go camping or not. Also, the tow vehicle is used for a lot more than just camping and we had it before the camper so only costs directly related to towing count in the above.
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Old 03-23-2015, 03:46 PM   #25
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An interesting approach would be... what is my incremental cost by being on the road vs home? Food should be a wash. Campsite, gas, maintenance etc would go up. But, my "at home costs" should be slightly lower.

Secondly, someone commented on spending the night at rest stops as being illegal? Is this true? Can't you pull over for the night and sleep until the morning?
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Old 03-23-2015, 03:47 PM   #26
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Is camping overnight at rest stops illegal????
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Old 03-23-2015, 04:17 PM   #27
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Overnight camping for free in state run rest stops is not legal in most states. Free camping is allowed at Walmart in some communities, but not all. Low cost camping at VFW is sometimes available. City Parks sometimes are less than $10. Senior Passes at COE areas can be $12. Vets get free camping on the base. BLM camping is cheap but no services.
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Old 03-23-2015, 04:23 PM   #28
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Is camping overnight at rest stops illegal????
That varies. Some rest areas are posted "no overnight parking." Others provide 24-hour security and you can ask the security guard if it's okay.

I did an overnight stay at a rest area just outside of Dallas during the Hurricane Katrina evacuation. It was anything but restful! Admittedly that was an unusual circumstance, but based on that experience I'll probably never overnight at a rest area ever again.

A long-time RVer I used to work with told me that the best place he found to stay overnight on the way to a remote destination was at a church. They tend to be in better and quieter neighborhoods than the average Walmart or truck stop or rest area, and few pastors/ministers/priests/whatever will turn you away, especially if you volunteer to pick up any trash in the parking lot before you leave. It's a basic tenet of campers to leave your campsite in better shape than you found it, so a spot of light trash pickup is not exactly an onerous chore to pay for your overnight stay.
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