Cost of Full-time RVing

Every now and then, I’ll receive an email or comment asking what it costs to RV full-time?  I know a lot of people are either curious for the sake of general curiosity or because they have a genuine interest in the lifestyle. Seems folks either think you need to have a lot of money to travel full-time, or they think you’re down and destitute and the lifestyle barely costs anything. With that said, full-time RVing can be as expensive or inexpensive as you choose. It’s all about personal preference.

Lake Havasu State Park Arizona

The first thing to consider when it comes to breaking down monthly costs is the type of  RV you have (or will have), and whether or not you’ll have a  monthly payment or pay cash for the equipment. The next considerations are how often you travel, where you park, and the activities you do in the places you visit.

Budgeting for full-time RVing is a very personal thing with lots of variables, and one size does not fit all. I’ve put together a general list of items most RVers can expect to pay to sustain the nomadic life of full-time RVing.

Budgeting list

  • Camping Fees
  • Gasoline and Propane
  • Groceries and dining out
  • Phone and Internet
  • RV / vehicle maintenance and repairs (perhaps a monthly payment)
  • RV / vehicle Insurance and registrations
  • Mail service – domicile
  • Clothing, shoes, personal items
  • Storage facility
  • Medical expenses and health insurance
  • Membership fees
  • Entertainment
  • Miscellaneous – pets, alcohol, hair cuts, etc. Depending on your interests and habits you might have other costs I haven’t thought of or that don’t pertain to us.

Full-time RVing

Monthly expenses

Camping Fees – Similar to living in a fixed location, you need to consider monthly rent. There are quite a few options available. There are people who boondock year-round and only pay small fees to dump their holding tanks and take on fresh water. A bunch of RVers enjoy workamping in exchange for a free place to park, and then there are others who enjoy all the amenities of an RV park and budget accordingly.

egretIf you boondock (camping on public lands with no facilities) or you work camp (volunteer at a campground, State Park, National Forest, Wildlife Refuge) in exchange for a free campsite, your camping costs can be zero.

Private RV Parks can range on average between $300 to $900 a month. On the other hand, those looking to splurge might pay upwards of $1,800 or more a month for a fancy resort-style RV park. Location and amenities are the major factors in such a fluctuation of fees.

Al and I tried work camping once and didn’t find the risk/reward to be worthwhile for us personally. Be sure and do your homework and know what you’re signing up for when you agree to work camp (aka workamp which is a trademark of Workamper News ). The thought of a free campsite is enticing, but do the math and understand the physical demands! Plus ask yourself, “Is this a place we would gladly pay to stay? Is it worth the risk for the reward gained?”

Let’s do the math …. Many state parks now charge about $30 a night (or more). If you were to stay a month, the cost would be $900 for the month (30 days times $30). If you decide working in exchange for a campsite would be ideal, keep in mind these state parks require couples to work 20 hours a week – per person. Thus, between the couple it’s 40 hours a week or 160 hours a month. (Two people for the price of one campsite. A single person would be required to work 20 hours for the same campsite. If you ever wonder why parks prefer couples, you just got your answer. ) So back to the math …. $900 a month divided by 160 work hours = $5.60 an hour per person. For an individual it would be $11.25 an hour ($900 divided by 80 monthly hours).

Colorado wildflowersSome folks love volunteering and don’t care about the numbers, while others are dealing with long-term injuries incurred while work camping.

In lieu of work camping, Al and I manage our monthly rent budget by utilizing a combination of options. When we stay in a private RV park, we go for a monthly stay or at the very least, weekly. The monthly rate is always the most economical.

Daily rates are usually the most expensive unless you’re able to utilize a discount membership rate through an organization like Escapees or Passport America. The nightly discounted rates quite often apply for one night only and are not available on weekends or holidays, but each park is different. So be sure and call ahead for clarification. We’ve actually stayed at places up to three nights at the discounted rate.

We love staying at National Parks, National Forest Campgrounds, and Corp of Engineer Parks, all run by the Federal Government. With Al’s old fart’s card (America the Beautiful Senior Pass), we usually pay half of the nightly fee. There are also special benefits for military personal, veterans, and the disabled. We love those discounts, but not all federal places offer the special discounted rates. As the government turns over the managing of these campgrounds to private management companies, these companies are given free rein to charge what they want and to honor or not honor any special passes. We’ve even noticed these private companies charging higher camping fees for holiday weekends.

State Parks and Regional Parks are always a campers delight, but too many nights at a rate of $30 – $60 a night can really put a crimp in anyone’s budget. This is when a little boondocking (aka dispersed camping) can help offset those monthly expenditures, but dispersed camping is definitely more work and requires much more forethought living off the grid and is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.

As you can see, there are so many camping options with a wide range of fees. It took Al and me well over a year of full-time RVing to find our groove, but that doesn’t mean we don’t change it up on a whim and end up throwing the budget out the window, but we always end up back on track.

Since Al and I enjoy the diversity of private RV parks, state parks, regional parks, and boondocking by mixing things up, in 2017 we managed to keep our monthly rental expenditure under $400 a month. This works for us, and we feel we handled our campground budget well in 2017. (Our 2018 budget was closer to $500 a month)

Next on our list

Gasoline and Propane – Gasoline is entirely dependent on how much we travel and the price per gallon we pay. Obviously this number can fluctuate a lot, and it’s something we have no control over other than to drive less when gas prices sky-rocket. But what fun is that?

gas prices in Death Valley
gas prices – February 2012 in Death Valley …. ouch!

Propane use also varies depending on how cold the weather gets, and thus how much we use the furnace. We also use propane for cooking and our refrigerator when we’re not hooked-up to electric. If the weather is cold and I’m baking a lot, then our propane will need to be filled more often. Propane prices also fluctuate.

Last year (2017), we spent about $125 on propane (for the entire year) and an average of about $325 a month for gasoline. Not too bad, but we did slow our travels in 2017. With the exception of our winter excursion to the Texas Gulf Coast, we spent most of the year meandering around the state of Arizona. In previous years, we traveled further with trips to Idaho, Wyoming, Texas, Illinois and all parts in between. In 2016 we spent around $350 a month on gasoline and in 2015 it was closer to $410 a month.

Farmer's Market

Groceries and dining out – We find these costs to be very similar to what we used to spend living in our sticks and bricks home. We don’t go out to eat very often, but when we do, it’s usually to socialize or learn more about an area. We enjoy looking for local places that offer lunch specials or visit a local brewery or winery.

Part of the fun of traveling is exploring new places which includes local farmers markets, dining out at local restaurants, and meeting new friends. Connecting with fellow bloggers is always so much fun. And not all my blogging pals RV and yet we seem to have a lot in common. One (of many) upsides to a nomadic life is the people we meet.

Phone and Internet – Staying connected is vital to us. I have an iPhone 5, Al has a dumb flip phone, and we have a Verizon hotspot with 30 Gigabytes of data. If we’re not careful by monitoring our daily gig usage, we can easily gobble up those 30 gigs in a couple of weeks. Therefore, we’re currently shopping around for other plans, including the unlimited ones.

This subject makes my head spin and again there are so many variables. I know RVers who spend around $100 a month for phone and internet while others spend well over $300 a month. It just depends on your needs.

To be continued …

In my next post, we’ll work our way down the rest of that budgeting list 🤑

sunset over Lake Havasu

what does it cost to RV full-time

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How To Retire Early: Your Guide to Getting Rich Slowly and Retiring on Less

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Laughlin and a Wildlife Refuge

After our little side trip to Oatman, we were back on the road heading toward Laughlin, Nevada. With tummies full and a perpetual smile plastered across our faces, we wondered why wild burros had such a heart warming impact on us. I think most of us will agree, baby animals are absolutely adorable and these little burros were so incredibly cute that I couldn’t help but smile.

wild burros Oatman AZ
There’s something entertaining about wild burros roaming about!
wild burros Oatman, Arizona
This little one was taking a nap, or at least trying to.

Continuing down the road

We arrived at the Golden Nugget Hotel in Laughlin, Nevada, right around 1:00 in the afternoon. The gal behind the counter was super nice and did her best to find us an available room with a king size bed, but none were quite ready for check-in.

Golden Nugget Casino Laughlin Nevada
Golden Nugget Casino Entrance

Golden Nugget Laughlin NV

So with a little time to kill,  Al and I headed to the lower level for dessert at Bubba Gumps. Not only was the dessert delicious, the outdoor dining was sheer perfection.

Bubba Gump dessert
OMG – so good!
Bubba Gump dining in Laughlin, NV
the outdoor dining area was perfect – overlooks the Colorado River

We found the ambiance of the outdoor dining at Bubba Gump so delightful that we returned a few hours later for dinner and discovered their early bird menu. I ordered the fish tacos (yum), and Al ordered soup and salad. Al loves a good New England Clam Chowder and he said this was some of the best he’s ever had. His Caesar salad was also very good. The next day, we returned for lunch and ordered fried shrimp and more clam chowder. Yep, I’d recommend dining here especially if the weather is perfect for sitting outside, which fortunately for us, it was.

Casino in Laughlin Nevada

Laughlin, Nevada, is pretty small, and Al and I soon found ourselves feeling a tad bit bored. We’re not much into casino gambling these days, especially after having lived in Las Vegas in the mid 1990’s. So we strolled up and down the river walk and in and out of the casinos several times a day getting in some exercise and doing some people watching.

It perplexes me the number of people who smoke cigarettes. I’m reminded gambling, smoking and drinking seem to go together. It was obvious, many of these smokers were dealing with failing health. Sad! I guess not everyone knows how to make healthy choices … that or they don’t care 😪

Laughlin Nevada
getting in our steps along the riverwalk as the sun was rising

We also took the opportunity to check out all the available RV parking opportunities in the area. Most of the casinos offer dry camping in designated sections of their parking lots. There’s also a RV Park with full hook-ups right on the main drag.

Laughlin, NV
most of the casinos allow boondocking in designated sections of their parking lots

On the east side of the Colorado River is Bullhead City, Arizona. This is where Al and I ran a few errands by stopping in at Sam’s Club, Target, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Just north of Bullhead City is a great campground called Davis Camp. It’s located right along the water and just below the Davis Damn which forms Lake Mohave. Al and I stayed here during our first road trip with the 5th wheel back in 2012. Further up the road is Katherine’s Landing on Lake Mohave. Although the lake looks inviting, the campground here not so much. But from what we’ve heard, this is where the campers in the casino parking lots come to dump their tanks and take on water.

Laughlin NV
Laughlin along the Colorado River

Laughlin Nevada

With our explorations of Laughlin and Bullhead City complete. Al and I were eager to hit the road and return to our RV, but a stop along the way was in order.

pelicans in the desert
Pelicans in the desert?

Stopping at a wildlife refuge

Our route back to Lake Havasu City would take us along the Havasu Wildlife Refuge boundary. I had high hopes to encounter a bunch of birds. Oh, how my camera and I have missed photographing the birds at the Texas Gulf Coast this winter.

Havasu Wildlife Refuge
Havasu Wildlife Refuge

I didn’t prepare to take bird photographs on our little jaunt to Laughlin, Nevada, and therefore left my favorite camera behind. Oh well, this wasn’t a serious photography outing anyway. My point and shoot camera will have to do.

We made a few stops at the Havasu Wildlife Refuge, and although I found a raw beauty in the landscape, the birds were rather elusive.

Havasu Wildlife Refuge
Havasu Wildlife Refuge … in search of birds

During our second stop, I did spot some ducks off in the distance. I walked over to the palm tree on the far right (seen in the photo above) and just then a cormorant flew by.

cormorant in flight
cormorant flies by while a coot bobs in the water

I continued to stand at the water’s edge scouring the landscape. I spot a lone egret in the distance in one direction and some ducks floating in the water in the other direction.

egret Havasu Wildlife Refuge
a lone egret in the distance
Red Heads
Red Head Ducks

Although we didn’t spot an abundance of birds, I did enjoy my quick visit with what few birds we did see. Perhaps if we had a kayak, we could see more of the refuge and possibly more birds.

pelicans Havasu Wildlife Refuge
It’s strange seeing pelicans in the desert. I associate them with the ocean, but I’ve also seen them in Colorado.

All in all, we enjoyed our little vacation. It was a nice three-day get away, but we were glad to get back home to our RV.

Havasu Wildlife Refuge

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All photos in this post were taken with the
 Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70  and edited in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6

Oatman and Route 66

A few weeks ago, a friend of a friend asked me inquisitively, “Would you be interested in a free three-day, two night stay at the Golden Nugget in Laughlin?” Without much thought, I quickly responded with a “Sure”. Next thing I knew, I was given an envelope holding the special certificate. The only downside was Al and I didn’t have much time to schedule our get away considering the certificate was due to expire rather soon.

Thus two days later on Jaunary 31st, Al and I packed a small bag and hopped in my little red truck bound for Laughlin, Nevada. Since we were starting our journey in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we guesstimated the drive would take a little over an hour allowing us plenty of time to dilly and dally and take a detour off the beaten path. And dilly dally we did!

Route 66 Arizona
part of our drive – traveling historic Route 66 in Arizona

One of my favorite things about blogging is engaging with you, my readers. I love your suggestions, recommendations as well as reading your own personal blogs enlightening me on sites to see and things to do. Thanks to a few of you, Oatman, Arizona made my list of places I wanted to visit, and it just so happen to be “kind of” on our way to Laughlin.

Oatman Arizona wild burros
A couple of locals welcome us to Oatman, Arizona.

Off the beaten path

Route 66The town of Oatman started life over 100 years ago as a mining tent camp, and quickly became a flourishing gold-mining center.

In 1915, two miners struck a claim worth 10 million dollars in gold, and within a year, the town’s population grew to more than 3,500.

But both the population and mining booms were short-lived. In 1921, a fire burned down most of the small shacks, and three years later the main mining company, United Eastern Mines, shut down operations for good.

Oatman survived by catering to travelers on old U.S. Route 66. But in the 1960s, when the road was rerouted to what is now Interstate 40, Oatman almost died.

Oatman, Arizona
Souvenir shops line main street.

Since then, Oatman has undergone a tourism renaissance thanks to the increasing interest in Route 66 and the explosive growth of the nearby gaming town of Laughlin, Nevada, which promotes visits to the historic town.

wild burros Oatman, ArizonaOatman is a fun little place to visit. It’s an authentic old western town with wild burros roaming about and gunfights staged in the street. Although the burros are said to be tame and can be hand fed, they can also get aggressive if you have food in hand. We watched one women get surrounded by the burros and nipped when she wasn’t giving them food fast enough.

And when I say food … for $1, purchased from any number of vendors, you’re given a paper bag filled with hay nuggets to hand feed the burros.

The towns people ask that you please not bring apples, carrots, etc. to feed the wild burros. It all has to do with burro poop  💩   After all, someone has to keep the streets clean of dodo for all the tourists. With that said, I do recommend you watch where you step! 🤭

baby burro Oatman Arizona
The baby burros are so dang cute. I couldn’t resist a little scratch behind the ears.

Do note, the little babies, aside from being irresistibly cute, have stickers on their head saying, “do not feed me anything“. They aren’t ready for solid food just yet and are still nursing. Thus, it’s not in their best interest to feed them any hay nuggets or anything else for that matter.

baby burro
Baby burros have stickers on their head requesting they not be fed anything.

Oatman’s “wild” burros are the descendants of burros brought here by the miners in the late 1800’s. When the miners no longer needed them, they were turned loose. Each morning these burros come into town looking for food. They wander the streets and greet the tourists and will eat all day if you feed them. Shortly before sunset they wander back to the hills for the night.

Oatman, Arizona
The town has some interesting signs.

Oatman, Arizona

The Oatman Hotel, built in 1902, is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mojave County and has housed many miners, movie stars, politicians and other scoundrels. The town was used as the location for several movies such as How The West Was WonFoxfire and Edge of Eternity.

Oatman Hotel

Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned at the Oatman Hotel on March 18, 1939. Their honeymoon suite is still one of the major attractions at the Oatman Hotel. Gable returned there often to play poker with the local miners and enjoy the solitude of the desert.

Oatman hotel Arizona

Al and I ate lunch in “the Saloon” which is located in the hotel. Although the food was average, the atmosphere was entertaining and anything but average.

Oatman Saloon
Al getting ready to order lunch at “the Saloon”. Thousands of one dollar bills adorn the walls.

What’s in a name?

After a few other names were passed over, “Oatman” was chosen for the name of the town in honor of Olive Oatman, a young Illinois girl who had been taken captive by Indians during her pioneer family’s journey westward in 1851 and forced into slavery. She was later traded to Mohave Indians, who adopted her as a daughter and had her face tattooed in the custom of the tribe. She was released in 1856 at Fort Yuma, Arizona.

Oatman, Arizona

If you enjoy history and quirky out-of-the-way places, you’ll enjoy a visit to Oatman, Arizona.  Al and I spent about an hour strolling around town and another hour enjoying lunch at The Saloon.  It was a fun couple of hours and I’m glad we made the stop, but I don’t think I’d recommend venturing too far out of the way for a visit. Although the drive here was interesting and definitely worthwhile. Another place checked off my list!

Oatman, Arizona
Even Al couldn’t resist the cute little burro!

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Lake Havasu City, Arizona

It was shortly after 6:00 in the morning as I sat in the comfort of my RV waiting for the sun to rise. While enjoying my first cup of coffee and contemplating my plans for the day, I admired the view out my large rear window and couldn’t believe my luck in snagging such a great campsite.

Lake Havasu
My view at six in the morning. I’m sitting on the Arizona side of the Colorado River glancing over to California.

I was camped at Lake Havasu State Park in western Arizona. It was the second week in January and although it was a mere 48 degrees Fahrenheit outside at six in the morning, I knew by noon the temperature would be closer to 70 degrees and sunny. Now this is my kind of winter … a gal could get used to this!

sunrise Lake Havasu
A little more light as I wait for the sun to rise.

Al was thoroughly entertained by my morning antics. Every ten minutes I was jumping out of the RV with the camera and tripod in hand trying to capture the amazing light. Unfortunately, some things just don’t resonate in print.

I loved the stillness and quiet of the morning and eventually began to stroll down the beach in search of photo-ops. I’ll admit, I was more focused on savoring the moment than I was on taking photographs.

Lake Havasu State Park Arizona
Lake Havasu State Park, Arizona – morning fog

As the sun began to rise, there was a low hanging mist in the distance. Since it was still relatively early in the morning, there were few other people out and about. It was just me and the birds and I was loving it.

birding at Lake Havasu State Park
An egret flies by while the coot in the foreground squawks. A variety of ducks are floating in the distance.

I managed to capture a photograph of the first ferry run of the morning. This ferry operates daily taking passengers from Lake Havasu City over to the Havasu Landing Casino run by the Chemehuevi Indian tribe. (pronounced; chem-a-wev-e)

Chemehuvei Ferry Lake Havasu
The Chemehuvei Ferry in the distance

During a previous Lake Havasu City visit, Al and I along with our friends hopped on the ferry one morning for the quick boat ride over to the California side of the lake. The cost is a mere $2.00 per person. However, the local newspaper always has a coupon for egreta free pass which we of course took full advantage.

Since none of us is into casino gambling, we opted to enjoy breakfast with a nice lakeside view at the Havasu Landing Casino followed by another fun ferry ride back to the Arizona side of the lake. Hmm, might have to do that again sometime.

After spending two wonderful hours strolling along the shores of Lake Havasu watching the morning unfold, I arrived back to the RV just in time for breakfast …. al fresco style.

With such a fabulous campsite and view, it would be wrong to not take advantage of that picnic table.

Lake Havasu State Park, Arizona
Lake Havasu State Park – site #10 – the lake is behind me

Unexpected Arizona …

Most folks would never associate water and boating with Arizona, and that’s just one reason visiting western Arizona is such an unexpected surprise … a very pleasant surprise. Thus, making it a popular tourist destination.

Lake Havasu Arizona
sparkling clear waters of Lake Havasu

The sparkling clear water is a recreational invitation. There are a wealth of hidden coves and beaches perfect for all kinds of water activities; fishing, water skiing, paddling, or even high-end power boat racing. You’ll see it all here.

Lake Havasu City
I so want to do this!!!
Lake Havasu boating
Boating on Lake Havasu is a popular pastime around western Arizona and my fav!

But there’s more available activities than those associated with water … although anything to do with the lake is my personal favorite. Lake Havasu City is host to a variety of festivals and championship competitions. For a complete and up to date list of events visit Go Lake Havasu.

And then there’s golf, off roading, hiking, gaming, birding, scuba, pickle ball, disc golf, skate park, and a weekly flea market. In addition there are a bunch of interesting sites to see. For starters, there’s the famous London Bridge and all the lighthouses. I’m still working my way around trying to photograph as many of the lighthouses as possible.

lighthouses of Lake Havasu

One unique event I stumbled upon was Buses by the Bridge. This quirky event united VW bus owners from around the world. What an eclectic group this was!

 

Popular tourist event …

The annual Winter Blast is the most popular event of the year bringing in thousands of visitors for the three-day weekend. It’s held each February over Presidents Day weekend. If you enjoy fireworks, then this is the show for you. Pyrotechnic vendors come from across the country to display their pyrotechnic products and skills and the spectators benefit from the fantastic show – four full days of amazing fireworks displays.

Rockabilly Reunion
Rockabilly Reunion – Car Show and Music Festival – Feb 16-18 (2018)

In conjunction with Winter Blast is the Rockabilly Reunion. This is a 1950’s themed music festival and car show. This is one hopping weekend in Lake Havasu City and reservations for any kind of lodging are a definite must.

There’s dispersed camping (aka boondocking) north and south of town, but you can expect to be elbow to elbow even in the desert during this weekend. The rodeo grounds also offers dry camping for this event but reservations are necessary.

During our first road trip with the fifth wheel RV back in 2012, we tried to find an available campsite in Lake Havasu City during Winter Blast. We were complete RVing newbies at the time. Fortunately for us, we found dry camping available at the Crazy Horse Campground during this very popular weekend. We sure learned a lot during that road trip.

Rotary Park Lake Havasu City Arizona
Rotary Park Lake Havasu City

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Lake Havasu City then and continue to enjoy each and every subsequent visit. Although I was feeling under the weather a good part of January, I’m doing much better now and hope to be out and about exploring more of western Arizona soon. My camera has sat idle way too long!

sunset Lake Havasu
Good night from Lake Havasu!

********************************************************

Ok … I gotta share my newest kitchen gadget. Al loves popcorn, but we refuse to buy the microwave kind – read the ingredients. Microwave popcorn can always be found on those “don’t eat” lists for obvious reasons. Bad stuff! Anyway, making popcorn on the stove top can be kind of a pain … more so for me needing to dig out the oversized pot in my tight quarters. My friend introduced me to this nifty product (affiliate link) Cuisinart Microwave Popcorn Maker
It’s collapsible, hardly takes up any space, and makes great popcorn. The only downside is it doesn’t seem to pop all the kernels and doesn’t make a large amount. Hubby says, it makes only one serving. For most folks it’s probably enough for two.