If you spend any time on RV related internet forums, you’ll see a handful of questions that come up over and over and over, chief among them: ‘how much does it cost to live and travel in an RV fulltime?’ The topic has been addressed numerous times by people far more helpful than me, so I will (a) refer you to their posts (below); and (b) join them in telling you that the answer is: ‘it depends.’

The thing about this lifestyle is it’s just like any other lifestyle: you can spend as much or as little as you want depending on your tastes and your budget. Asking an RVer how much it costs to live in an RV is like asking a New Yorker how much it costs to live in New York. “Well, are you asking how much it costs to live on the 30th floor of a high rise building overlooking Central Park on the Upper West Side, or are you asking how much it costs to split a 2 bedroom apartment with 4 roommates in Queens?” Both are “living in New York” but, obviously, they mean very different things.

The same goes for fulltime RV travel.

There are folks who “travel full time in an RV” for 30K per year or less. They may boondock or work camp for large chunks of the year (meaning, camp for free out on federal lands or work for a campground in exchange for a free campsite). There are others who “travel full time in an RV” for 80K per year or more. Those folks may travel “plug to plug,” and consider any campground that doesn’t have full hook ups, a swimming pool, and a hot tub, unacceptable. Both our 30K friends and our 80K friends are “traveling fulltime in an RV,” but, obviously, they are living very different lifestyles.

The most important determination you have to make when budgeting for this lifestyle is: what does ‘this lifestyle’ even mean?

I figured what would be more helpful than trying to answer the overall question (because it can’t be answered) is to talk about what we are spending on our biggest travel related expense campground fees to give an idea of how much our version of this type of travel costs. There are two and a half years worth of data to look at right on this blog (see our maps page and our campground reviews), so, when I share our numbers, you can see what those numbers get you.

As for our other expenses, many of the sites I mention below provide information about other RV travel related costs insurance, maintenance, connectivity, etc. My caution with that information is that it is all very personal and may not be all that helpful when trying to determine what your own costs will be. For example, our healthcare expenses are going to be utterly unhelpful to someone in a different age bracket, residing in a different state, or insured by a different insurance company. Our connectivity costs, for an unlimited Verizon plan we purchased on the secondary market several years ago, are going to be very different than what is currently available for purchase right now. And, as we learned the hard way last year, the maintenance costs we have to pay for our 17 year old tow car are a lot higher than the maintenance costs other people pay on their much newer cars. A lot of budgeting numbers are simply not “transferable” between people. Camping costs are, which is why I’m focusing on them here.

With regard to other expenses grocery bills, entertainment costs, hobbies, clothing, etc, I will tell you the same thing that every other honest blogger will tell you: Your expenses for those things aren’t going to change very much. If you’re used to buying your groceries at Walmart, making most of your meals, entertaining yourself by streaming movies, and you rarely spend money on clothing or gadgets, you will likely do the same thing when you move into an RV.  If, on the other hand, you do your normal shopping at Whole Foods, you enjoy eating out at high end restaurants in big cities, and you routinely purchase the latest iPhone as soon as it comes out, your tastes are also not going to change when you move into an RV.

People who think they’re going to start traveling and suddenly cut their costs by 90% are fooling themselves. Or, perhaps, they can do it, but they probably won’t be very happy doing it. Our grocery orders today look remarkably similar to those we made in 2015, and cost about the same too. And while we no longer have to pay for cable internet service, HOA fees, and property taxes, we now have to pay for our data plans, our fulltimer’s RV insurance, and our health insurance policies.

While our personal yearly expenditures have dropped enormously, that’s due almost entirely to us getting rid of our stupidly expensive mortgage and no longer living in a insanely expensive region. For most Americans, living in normal towns with normal home ownership costs, their expenses are not going to decrease all that much when they move into an RV. They’re simply going to trade one expense for another (assuming they travel the way we travel). If, on the other hand, you happen to be reading this post from an overpriced hovel in D.C. or New York or San Francisco, and you’ve been paying your mortgage on said overpriced hovel for 10 or 15 years and have lots of equity built up, congratulations!!! You can sell that shit and live in an RV for peanuts (relatively speaking)!!!

Where we Stay and Why

Before getting into details, it’s important to understand what kind of campgrounds we stay at. And that’s an important point we almost exclusively stay at campgrounds. We rarely dry camp and we haven’t work camped. For reasons I’ll explain below, we almost always stay in developed campgrounds with at least some services.

Additionally, while we don’t care about campground amenities (e.g., pools, tennis courts, and activities for the kids), we also don’t want to end up parked next to Breaking Bad. I research every place we stay and we’ve never once stayed anywhere we felt unsafe.

Finally, we plan our travels around seeing certain places (national parks, cities, etc.) Oftentimes, that means we pay a premium for our campsites. For example, the picture above was taken at Zion Canyon Campground which is located right outside the gates of Zion National Park. We could have saved money by staying farther out, but we were willing to pay a premium for the convenience of being able to walk from our campsite into the park each day.

If we wanted to save a lot of money on camping, but still stay at campgrounds, we’ve seen monthly campground rates as low as $350… We might be parked in the middle of nowhere, but it could be done. Alternatively, we could boondock more. Many RVers spend way less on camping costs than we do because they dry camp more often. The problem for us is our rig kind of sucks for boondocking. Our all-electric, residential fridge requires us to run our generator for about 5 hours every day in order to keep our batteries charged. And because we don’t run our generator when we’re sleeping, if we dry camp, we end up burning a whole lot of our day (and our gasoline) waiting around. If, on the other hand, we’re plugged in at a campground, the day is ours to spend as we wish.

The alternative, of course, is to invest in solar panels. Lots of RVers do this and it’s something we might do at some point as well. But solar isn’t cheap you can easily spend 5 or 10 thousand dollars (or even more) depending on the set up you choose, and even with a pretty robust system, you may still have to run your generator for an hour or more each day. Given that we spent our first 18 months on the east coast where opportunities to boondock are limited, and given that we’re headed back there again this year, investing in solar just hasn’t been a huge priority yet (Pro-Tip: if you think you might want to boondock a lot, don’t buy an RV with a residential refrigerator. Get one that uses propane).

Statistically Speaking….

So, with all that in mind, how much does our brand of fulltime RV camping cost? For 2018, our grand total for all camping across the year was $13,174. Cue one half of blog readers recoiling in horror as they gasp “How could they spend that much???” Cue the other half of blog readers exclaiming: “Oh… that’s not that bad!” For us, personally, it’s about $1,000 more than we wanted or expected to see.

During 2018, we traveled through 11 states and stayed at 57 unique campgrounds. Our nightly average was $35 per night.

How does this all break down? Let’s go to the charts!!

Government vs. Commercial

We spent 134 nights at state and county parks, and 226 at commercial parks.

This is actually the exact opposite of what we want to be doing.

For starters, government campgrounds are usually cheaper than commercial ones:

But more importantly, government campgrounds tends to look like this:

…while commercial ones often look like this:

So, why do we end up with this backwards ratio? A couple reasons. First, sometimes in order to be where we want to be, our only option is to stay in a commercial park. There are no state parks in downtown New Orleans or San Diego, or Portland. If we want to stay in these cities (not 20 or 30 minutes away), we have to stay in commercial parks.

Second, just because there’s a government park, doesn’t mean we can stay there. Many federal campgrounds were built back when RVs were much smaller. So, there are a lot of places we just won’t fit.

Third, even when there are government parks that have campsites and roads large enough for us, sometimes we still choose commercial places because they offer us more certainty. A lot of government run campgrounds are first come/first served, which means we don’t know if we have a place to stay until we drive up to the gate. It’s not a big deal in the off season or at lesser known parks, but when you’re dealing with Bryce or Grand Teton or Joshua Tree in the middle of high season, it’s nice to not have to roll those dice. Now, there are plenty of folks who will tell you:

Just wing it!!

Drive around and let serendipity be your guide as you explore the many possibilities of a life of travel!

Embrace the uncertainty of living in the moment to allow your free spirit to shine from within as you throw caution to the wind and let fate be your guide!

Allow your journey to BE the destination!!!!!!”

We are not those people.

I want to know where we’re sleeping at night and I don’t feel like driving our 55 foot swirl covered monstrosity all over hell and creation trying to find a place to park.

Usually, it’s just easier and less stressful to book a commercial campground a couple months before our trip and know that we’ve got a place to go. Pro Tip: If you have your heart set on parking in lots of national forest and national park campgrounds, and you don’t want to be a slave to reservations, don’t buy a big RV. Keep it under 30 feet for maximum flexibility.

Most Popular States

We spent the most time this year in California, mainly due to our spending two full months at Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego. Come to this park on a normal day during high season and it costs $95 per night (for the cheapest site). Stay for a night during their low season, and it costs $70 per night. But, stay for a month in the off-season, and the price drops to $35 per night. For us, this was a reasonable price to pay for access to a location we adore.

Our next most popular state was Arizona, where we began and ended the year. However, because we spent a lot of our time in state parks, it was one of our less expensive states, on average.

Our stats for Oregon, where we spent the third largest amount of time, are instructive for a different reason. Because we needed to fly back to the east coast, we ended up canceling some of our state park reservations and extending our stay at a higher priced commercial park, making our overall costs for the state higher than they would have been otherwise.

Like many of our numbers for the year, these statistics were thrown off because sometimes life takes a dump on your head and you get stuck paying for it. Pro Tip: Have an emergency fund. A big one.

Speaking of skewing the numbers, you may have noticed that our most expensive state, as far as nightly averages go, was Louisiana of all places.

Why? Because we spent four nights at the most expensive campground we’ve ever stayed at anywhere – the French Quarter RV Park. It costs $108 per night to park your house just two blocks from Bourbon Street. The good times roll…right over your good intentions.

On a related note, other than a couple random outliers, we are generally paying consistent prices across the board. Commercial parks have usually been between $35-$45 per night, while government parks have almost always been between $25-$35.

Discount Programs

One thing that has saved us substantial money over the years is our membership in Passport America. This program costs $44 per year and gets you half off a number of campgrounds. There are all kinds of restrictions and the campgrounds are almost always rather forgettable, but they’ve always been good enough for our needs.

The other discount program we are members of is Good Sam. It costs $29 per year and offers 10% off member campgrounds. Good Sam’s network of campgrounds is much larger than Passport America, so we use the discount more often, but at only 10% off, it doesn’t move the needle all that much.

Pro Tip: If you’re going to join just one discount program, join Passport America.


So, that’s it… those are our camping stats for 2018. While, as I mentioned above, our camping expenses were about $1,000 more than we expected, a good portion of the end of the year involved things beyond our control. If I knew how the year would end, I would have limited our stays at some of the pricier campgrounds we picked earlier in the year (e.g. New Orleans), or chosen free overnight stays at Walmarts or wherever rather than Passport America campgrounds, but hindsight is 20/20 and, other than two or three campgrounds that really weren’t worth what we paid for them, we have no regrets about where we stayed. More importantly, we have no regrets about the awesome year of travel we had.

Other Resources

Below are several posts by other bloggers about the costs of RV travel and/or individual expenses. It should go without saying that there is no right or wrong way to do this. There are as many different budgets and styles of travel as there are RVers, and it’s nice to know there are lots of ways to live and travel in a home on wheels.

Nina at Wheeling It wrote a comprehensive two part series about the costs of RVing.

Ingrid at Live Laugh RV also wrote a two part series.

Chickerys Travels wrote a post about budgeting for RV travel.

This family usually stays at campgrounds so their camping costs are similar to ours.

Here’s an interesting post capturing prices at some RV resorts across the country. A lot of these make our numbers look positively cheap.

Our buddies, Celena and Shoam, shared their numbers last year.

Shannon and Ken at Zamia Ventures recently discussed their 2018 expenses

RV Dreams is a popular site that’s been a resource for camping budgets for many years.

Jim and Carmen at Living in Beauty share all kinds of interesting information about their full time travels on this page.

(If you know of other good resources that should be on this list, please let me know and I’ll add them).


  1. Wow! That’s a lot of graphs! Nicely done synthesizing the data. While I know we will never use this data, I’m always glad to know you know and and refer people to you ???? looking forward to seeing you in a few months! Miss you!

  2. Wow!! Amazing detail and charts! How do you keep all the records of this stuff?? Really, I’d like to know!! Why? Because, FINALLY, after talking about doing this for like 15 years (!!) no kidding…we are a week away from buying a 2019 36 LA!!!!!! We almost got ‘er done, we 3 bids from the “big 3 dealers” everyone talks about and got the best deal from Carol Koons at Sherman RV in Sherman, Mississippi..one of those 3..but, the next day my husband left for a mission trip for a week to the Texas/Mexico border. But he promised we’d place the order when he gets back! I am so excited!! So, wondering how do you keep all those records??? That is awesome!

    • Hey! That is awesome!! We bought from Sherman too and had a really good experience. There was a guy there named John who did our walk through and really helped us understand everything. They were great! And I am very excited for you! We love our 36LA. It’s been very reliable and has suited us really well. Are you guys going fulltime or is this a weekend/vacation RV?

      As for the statistics, Kevin likes to build computer programs and he built one that keeps track of all our campground reservations information throughout the year and then allows us to run these statistics at the end. He then used a WordPress plug-in for my blog to create the graphs above. He’s re-working his computer program now and adding to it. Maybe one day he’ll make it available to everyone since people seem to love it, but he’s not quite there yet. I do think it’s interesting to keep good records though and see how we did across the year. We can learn a lot from these numbers and change things as we go to improve things.

  3. This is an AMAZING post!!! I absolutely love your New York analogy, it is perfect. I wish I had kept records as well as you did. Maybe this year, lol. As workampers, our numbers are obviously going to be different. And since we live on the money we make workamping, we can’t go the volunteer route. Most of the time we only make reservations for our destination. Our travel nights are usually “on the fly”, mostly because you never know when you are going to be tired of driving, some days we drive 8 or 9 hours – others only 4 or 5 hours. And we are willing to sleep in a rest area or Walmart on travel days. We love Passport America and use it almost exclusively. That being said, I do always “google earth” a place before making reservations, keeping in mind the image may not be current. Again, awesome post, thanks for sharing your stats!

    • There really are so many ways to do this. Some of our friends almost exclusively boondock on federal lands. Others workcamp from job to job. Others travel seasonally between two places. Others move every week or two. There are as many different ways to do this as there are people doing it. Thankfully lots of people share their stories online and there are so many ways now to find out about different routes to take and places to stay. Isn’t it great that we can review an entire area with google maps before we drive there? People were a lot more daring 20 years ago when they truly had no idea where they were going to be spending the night!

  4. As always you write so well even the boring information was pleasing to read about. What about Thor? More about the new fur baby.

    • Haha. I’m starting to think Thor might be the most popular member of this family. Stay tuned… I’ll have updates soon. I promise!

  5. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing too!
    It’s a little different in our world. My wife and I are retired from a life that didn’t produce retirement income other than social security. However, we tapped our credit line, rented out the house, and bought a 40’ DP and set out to see the country. After 2 1/2 years and virtually every state (except California (( for personal reasons ????)) checked off our list, we’re living with all our needs fulfilled and not going further in debt while traveling. We traveled 28k miles last year including much of Canada and Alaska. During our travels, I’ve placed every expense on a spreadsheet.
    My data looks a lot like yours, except in reverse. I’m ex-military (10% discount almost everywhere); Senior Nat. Park Pass holder (50% discount at state/national parks); and although we have Passport America, we’ve only used it once in 2 years. Our camping expenses are a small percentage of our overall expenses, with diesel fuel being the highest (10-12 mpg, but a lot of miles. Also Canadian/Alaskan fuel is not cheap.)
    We Boondocking (dry camp) most of the time. There’s no reservations needed, and parking is always available whenever we feel the need to stop. Truck stops, Walmart, Lowes, and rest areas are all potential stops, but so are national and state forests. The latter works best for us! It works great for us as we move on down the road most every day.
    We don’t have solar, so we use the diesel generator if we decide to stay for several days, but otherwise the main engine keeps the batteries charged while we’re driving.
    Last year we stayed for 2 weeks (each) in Denali and Glacier national parks, and rode around on electric bicycles. Those places were very memorable, but we have the best times catching up with friends (both known and FB friends). Last year, we visited 42 families, reconnecting with some and for the first time with others.
    I don’t miss the huge house (6800 sf) and all the maintenance that goes with it. The cost of maintaining our DP is a fraction of the cost.
    But that’s us!
    Just thought l’d share a little.

    • Wow! I think I need a nap just reading this! 28,000 miles in a year is NO JOKE. That is some serious mileage! We’re at like 21K after 2.5 years. My hat’s off to you. You guys are seeing so much, and spending your time in awesome places! 2 weeks in Glacier and Denali? That must have been incredible! It’s interesting, as I mentioned in a previous comment, to see all the way people do this. You guys spend very little on camping, but probably way more than us in gas. I am definitely jealous of the senior parks pass! We have an annual pass for visiting the parks, but those senior passes offer monster discounts. I agree with you on seeing friends and family. We’ve spent more time with formerly long distance friends these last two years than we ever did before. It’s been a huge perk of this lifestyle. Anyway, thanks for sharing and happy travels!

  6. “Allow your free spirit to shine from within as you throw caution to the wind.” Haha I’m not that kind of traveller, for sure. Moving a big bus with a flat towed that cannot be backed up is stressful enough. We want to have a good idea where we are going and staying. This is a very well written post, Laura. I think the living-in-NYC analogy is a good one for providing the perspective to those who are thinking about the full time RVing.

    • Thanks! I’m glad to know I’m not alone on this. If you spend too much time on social media, you start thinking you’re the only one who doesn’t want to live life with no plans. Nope… not for me, thanks! I’m sure if we were in a truck camper, van, or small travel trailer, it would be a different story, but with this behemoth? Not a chance!

  7. You always provide such solid, well thought out and nicely presented info. The charts and graphs are genius. It’s the willingness to share from folks like you that helped us enormously before we took off and now add perspective to help us gauge things as we travel, so a big THANK YOU for that. The fact that you wrap it up in good writing and a healthy dollop of humor is just delicious icing on the cake.

    At first reading, I was closer to the group who might think, “Yikes! That’s a high per-night average.” At second reading, I remembered that we’re actually spending more overall this first year of traveling than house-living because we had no mortgage and now have to pay for some health insurance. So while we have a lower per-night average (so far) we have a higher yearly outlay overall (for now.) As you wisely pointed out, the routine living expenses transfer almost equally from one lifestyle to the next.

    I’m with you on the planning, sister! It is too stressful to throw a dart at a map and wing it. Adaptability is one thing. Thinking you’re going to casually tool around in 40′ of steel and park wherever and whenever you want is what ulcers are made of.

    Thanks again for the engaging post and the inspiration. 🙂

    • “What ulcers are made of…” Ha! I just got a dose of that today and learned a fun new tip to pass on: “If you’re going to leave a gap in your calendar to fill in later, make sure it’s not during President’s Day weekend!!”

      I have no idea how all these people run around without reservations. I figured I had plenty of time to find a spot for just 4 nights, but what do you know? Everything is already booked up solid! I looked at BLM options on our route and everything is either “wouldn’t try it in a big rig!!!” or “it’s nice, but the locals come out and shoot guns all day. Ummmm yeah. How bout no? Luckily, I just found a spot in some random campground. But in the meantime, had to spend lots of time trying to find some option that would be workable. My belly would be nothing but ulcers if I had to deal with that kind of uncertainty every day.

      Anyway, I’m glad this information is helpful. Everyone’s situation is different, but it’s worth thinking about all the options and realities out there. It’s helpful to us because we can see where we overpaid and screwed ourselves when things went south at the end of the year, so now I’m making a conscious effort to keep our numbers way lower at the beginning of 2019. From now on: all bad financial decisions will be made after December 1st, as budgets permit!! 🙂

  8. This is a honest, realistic post for future wannabe RVers or even experienced ones. There are probably too many that think RVing will be so much cheaper. I wish I would have kept better track of our data…another New Years Rsolution! As others commented, love the graphs & New York analogy. It’s all relative. Still hoping our paths will cross some day, but it looks like we will be on opposite coasts for the summer!!

    • Thanks! I hope it helps some people out. It is, indeed, all relative. No right or wrong and what goes up in one category for one person, often goes down in another category for a different person. I know you are headed west for the summer… We’ll have to keep track of each other. I still haven’t figured out our route yet. Just need to be on the east coast by June. You never know… maybe we’ll cross along the way! If not, I’m sure we’ll end up in the same place at the same time SOME day! It’s bound to happen!

  9. I think we came in right around $1000 per month for our 2018 travels, and run from paying over $70 a night at a nice RV resort to $20 for full hookups at a military base. We offset the higher costs in the summer where we were constantly on the move to stay monthly in the winter at reduced rates. Your write up should help the folks who think living in an RV is cheap, maybe if you decide to go full on breaking bad and camp in quartzite for months on end, but That is not our style…

    • Yeah, I think if you’re staying in campgrounds, and trying to balance the expensive stays with the less expensive stays, but not end up anywhere that feels sketchy, you’re looking at $900 to $1100 per month. Obviously, there’s always going to be variation, but I haven’t seen much that makes me think we could stay at the types of places we like for much less than that. I am trying to really focus on the state and county parks though. It’s just such a win/win for us. They’re nicer and cheaper. So if there’s an option for that, that’s what we want and I am going to be making a lot of effort to get us reservations in those spots.

  10. Love the graphs! And I think it’s really helpful for people considering this lifestyle to see a range of costs – not just the “live on $2,000 a month!” ones. We are remarkably similar to you in terms of budget – I think we generally fall into the 10-12k range for campgrounds, depending how much time we spend in more expensive states (hello California & Colorado). We have overhauled our budget over the last couple years (bye bye Whole Foods), but that’s had a lot more to do with going from my salaried corporate job to starting our own business, and wanting to retire in Shoam’s 50s (I’ll obviously just be 37 forever ????). And the fact that we were just spending stupid amounts of money in our old lifestyle, mostly because we were unhappy and trying to buy/drink all the fancy wine our way out of it.

    • Honestly, seeing your blog about your costs helped me realize we were not crazy, reckless, idiots overspending on campgrounds. There are just a ton of people writing about boondocking – and that’s great – but it’s not for everyone. I hope more people who stay in campgrounds consider publishing their numbers, because from the responses I’ve gotten to this article, it really is helpful. And yeah, it’s not just our mortgage that went away, but lots of those city living/commuter costs we used to have to pay that we don’t have to deal with anymore. Dry cleaning and parking garages and all that. We got rid of a lot of other pointless expenditures in the years before we quit because we wanted to save money. That’s where my deep and abiding love for boxed wine came from. 🙂

    • I’m starting to think I should just set up some social media accounts for him. I think his life is much more interesting than ours anyway, no? HA!!

      Updates are coming… I promise…. 🙂

  11. “Embrace the uncertainty of living in the moment…as you throw caution to the wind and let fate be your guide!” LOL!! That’s a good way for us to end up totally stressed out, cranky, miserable, and driving too many miles to end up camped next to a dumpster because it was the only site available for 300 miles.

    When we started our fulltime travels six years ago, we allocated $350 per month for camping because we read that’s what some of the bloggers we were following spend. That turned out to be totally unrealistic for us, even though we camp host for two months in the summer on Lopez Island and spend a month on my folks’ property in the winter in Florida. And we mostly stay in state parks, county parks, COE parks, and national parks, with nice RV parks here and there if they’re close to something we want to do.

    We are not into Walmart stays and we don’t boondock unless it’s a great location. We’re just not interested in parking ourselves in the middle of the barren desert somewhere to save money. So our true camping costs are closer to $800 per month average (and that includes our three months of “free” camping). That includes those pesky reservation fees/taxes/and day use fees that some parks charge!

    We deliberately chose a smaller rig so that we can fit in just about anywhere, but we’ve found we need to make reservations in advance to get a good site in the parks we want. So much for “winging it,” but still, we wouldn’t trade this life for anything else at the moment. Such a helpful post, Laura. And wow, are you ever good at graphs and charts! I like visual aids. :-))

    • I really hope people who find this article also read these comments because, again, yours is so instructive. Your numbers and camping choices are not that different from ours even though you have a smaller rig and can go more places and you volunteer for several months. I, too, read lots of blog posts about camping for free, or for very little, and assumed we too would be spending 14 days at a time parked on BLM land before dumping our tanks and heading back out again. None of that has been accurate for us. It can certainly be done, it’s just not what we want to be doing. It helps to read lots of perspectives and consider what you really want from this lifestyle. And yeah, if you want to be doing what we’re doing, get used to the idea of reservations. It’s as simple at that. The number of available campsites has simply not kept up with the number of RVers, and I don’t see that changing anytime real soon. Luckily, with some advance planning, most of these challenges can be met and, for us, the overall benefits far outweigh the hassles.

  12. After eight years on the road, buying a house and all that goes with it was quite a shock. Boy, living on the road is SO cheap!! You forget that you don’t get free electric, water, sewer, WiFi, taxes, cable (sometimes), and garbage when you settle. I so understand why the parks are filling with people living fulltime. What a savings those eight years were for us. You did an awesome job. You saw a lot, met with friends, and had a variety of homes for very little money.

    • Yeah, when I think of our monthly camping costs as replacing our old monthly mortgage, it’s ridiculous. Then, add in all the other costs of homeownership and, wow…. it’s unreal. Of course, there are costs associated with RVing that you don’t have with a settled home, but when I compare our old numbers to our new ones, it’s staggering. Selling our place in such a high cost of living area and not buying something else to replace it was such a benefit. And yeah, looking back at all the the things we saw and did, we cant complain at all about these numbers.

  13. Very informative post! I love the statistics and all the charts. I never thought to analyze costs by state, I’m going to try that! It really helps to hear the explanation for why your costs ended up higher or lower than you expected. Sounds like you found a great deal in San Diego! Paying for a whole month makes a lot of sense. You really saw a lot in 2018!

    • Thanks! All the stats and charts are totally courtesy of Kevin! I am really glad he created a way for us to keep track of all these numbers and also track our campsite recommendations because the information is really interesting not just for us, but for other people as well. I’d definitely recommend keeping track, if you can. And yeah, San Diego is a lot of fun, but we could never justify the regular prices at that campground. Monthly in the offseason though? Absolutely. It’s a fantastic spot for the monthly rate.

  14. Great post and well said. It never ceases to amaze me how some folks think living in an RV costs next to nothing. Hope life has returned to a more relaxing pace for you and that you’re enjoying your new addition. Safe travels and thanks for the mention and linking to my site!

    • Thanks for writing such a helpful article! Hopefully all of this stuff will help some folks out. And yes, thank you, things have settled down a bit and so far, knock on wood, it’s been a catastrophe-free 2019. Let’s hope our good luck continues! Hope you guys are well!

  15. So much good information packed into this post! Based upon our 4 1/2 years of fulltiming, whenever we are asked what the costs of this lifestyle are, I always start answering with “It depends…”. It is very highly individualized. At best, all one can surmise from looking at other’s budgets and actual spending is a baseline. We track all of our expenses in Quicken, which makes it very easy to categorize all of our transactions, and track on a real time basis. Last year, we spent over $13,122.00 (Ouch!) on campground fees. We expected them to be high, as we spent a lot of time on the east coast near cities and high population density areas. Almost all of those stays were in commercial campgrounds (our RV is too big to fit into most public campgrounds on the east coast). During 2017, our total campground fees were a little over $10,000, but we spent a lot of our time in the west, including a lot of stays in state parks and other public campgrounds, and in more remote areas with lower fees.

    BTW, my wife can always tell when I am reading your blog, because I am often laughing (you know the good belly laugh kind!). Thank you for your posts, they have provided a great deal of humor, at times when I needed it. I hope you and Kevin (and Thor!) have wonderful travels in 2019.

    • Hi! Thanks for sharing your numbers as it really does seem to help folks out! Your camping expenses this year were actually almost exactly the same as ours, which is interesting, especially since we were out west. The east coast is definitely tough. Between the lack of options for camping in a lot of places and the overall high costs, it’s a tough place to RV. We truly love being out west, especially when traveling in this behemoth, but both of our families and all our old friends are on the east coast, so we’ll just have to do our best to stay in budget this time. Wish us luck!!

      Anyway, thank you for reading and thank you for your kind comments. I’m glad to know folks enjoy this site because I certainly enjoy writing it. I wish you and your family all the best in 2019 as well! (Also, Thor says “HI!!!” 🙂 )

  16. Thanks for linking to our 2018 cost summary! Although we met our target cost for camping in 2018, I, too, believed we would do much more boondocking than we actually did. The biggest obstacle for us is that we want to be close to interesting destinations, so camping in the middle of nowhere — albeit for free — doesn’t really work for us. It makes more sense for people who are working and just need a place to park with good internet service for 40+ hours per week, which I didn’t fully appreciate when we started planning our RV life. We’ve found a few great boondock spots, but we’re much more likely to pay up to be right in (or next to) a gorgeous park. Luckily for us the state and national parks are still relatively affordable, assuming one can get reservations.

    • You’re exactly right about the boondocking thing. I think if we were working, it would be great, but to just to be out on BLM for the sake of being out on BLM doesn’t make a lot of sense for us. If there are a group of our friends hanging out, sure! But I don’t want to just sit out there staring at each other for days on end… especially given our power issues and all. Anyway, I think its important for would-be RVers to understand these variations in lifestyle, and to make sure that they are signing up for the right things. So it’s helpful for any of us who are willing to share, to share… The more info that’s out there, the better!

  17. Wow, Laura, you have kept a good set of records using a spreadsheet and a database! Your graphs, your stats and analysis reminded me of my old job 🙂 that I will never go back to.
    But you did a great job enlightening new and seasoned RVrs with your presentation. As for us after seven years we are still within our budget in terms of campground site and fuel costs. (at the beginning, diesel was at $4/per gallon) so we are now way ahead. Our lifestyle right now is living on the cheap that getting a stick house is still way out ahead in the horizon.

    • Hey MonaLiza,

      That is seriously impressive that you’ve stayed within budget for seven years! I am definitely being a bit more conservative in 2019 based on how things went at the end of 2018. I want to leave plenty of cushion just in case things go sideways on us – which can happen for personal reasons, or things beyond our control, like a spike in fuel costs. Just like anything else, the more experience we get, the more we figure out how to avoid the pitfalls.

  18. Great read, its good to hear others experiencing much of the same thing. I have to admit after selling the house and taking this lifestyle on full time in 2016, the costs have somewhat curbed our enthusiasm. Despite being fortunate to be able to work full time remotely and having a relatively good set up (36LA, satellite, solar, etc) we just haven’t found boon docking appealing enough to justify the savings. We’re from Canada and escape the -30 degree temps each winter in CA or AZ and our biggest challenge has been balancing our sense of wanderlust with the reality of cost. In order to afford this lifestyle we often settle for long term or seasonal rates at the expense of limiting our travels. Maybe we’re not doing it right, and have yet to find that perfect balance between Commercial/Parks/Boon docking and affordability, but articles like this make us feel like we’re not alone. Thanks

    • You are definitely not alone. There’s an entire industry out there that has a vested interest in convincing you to buy an RV and join their club and read their book and subscribe to their blog and no one in that industry sells their product by displaying high resolution photos of fed-up RVers crammed in overpriced commercial campgrounds – errrr, I mean “resorts” – with obnoxious neighbors and barking dogs. And no one who promotes boondocking all day shows the 3 miles of washboard road you sometimes gotta drive down to get “there” or the times they got stuck in the mud or the sand or the grass, or when they had the weird neighbor who stared at them, or found tons of trash strewn around the desert because there was no one to clean it up, or the time they considered driving into town to do something, but decided they were just too far away to make it worth the trip.

      I do think planning way ahead can make a huge difference though. We’ve been staying in a lot of the Arizona state parks this winter and they are truly beautiful and well managed. We had good experiences with some of the Texas state parks and great experiences in Florida as well. But, you need to make reservations far in advance. (For Florida, you’ll do better focusing on the panhandle than southern Florida). We also found some really nice state parks in Louisiana (Bayou Segnette near New Orleans, Palmetto Island in Abbieville) and there are some beautiful county parks near San Diego (Santee Lakes and Sweetwater Summit Regional Parks come to mind). None of them are $10 per night, but they’re almost uniformly cheaper than the commercial places.

      Of course, planning way in advance has its downsides too, but we find the state parks to be a nice compromise to balance costs and location. Good luck.

  19. Hi James!
    I’ve already commented on this thread, but after reading so many responses regarding boondocking, it seemed appropriate to clarify exactly how we do it.
    We use Verizon cellular, the Go Unlimited Plan, and a weBoost roof-mounted antenna. With this combination, we toured the lower 48, Canada and Alaska and only lost signal in a couple of places for a few miles at a time. This checks off the ‘no internet’ concern that several people raised.
    I used Google Maps on a iPad Pro, which sits on the dash and is always on. It’s how I navigate, but it’s also how I find a place to stop.
    First, I determine an approximate location in any place that is marked green (state or national forest). Camping is allowed in virtually every green area on Google Maps!.
    If I want to stay a while, I consider the nearby attractions and then turn Google Maps on to ‘satellite’. Zooming in, I can see the details of every wide spot where I can park, and can even determine the road surface material and condition, and ability to turn around. (We are 65 feet long, counting the 4-down toad.)
    I drop a pin at that location and mark it with the date and preference number (#1, #2, etc.). I repeat the search for a 2nd and 3rd location in case the previous location didn’t work out.
    So there it is in a nut shell. We have unlimited internet access, free camping, domestic water, refrigerator and bathrooms on board, 24 hours of electric (w/o generator, but it’s used when a/c is required), and no roudy neighbors.
    I hope this is helpful, but any way that you determine fits you best, just make sure you enjoy it! RVing is great!

    • This is all good information to have for folks looking to boondock more. I really am amazed by people who lived this lifestyle before all these awesome websites and apps we rely on came about… Just things like getting gas are easier because we can pull up Google satellite view and see exactly what a particular gas station along our route looks like and determine whether we can fit. That functionality allows us to go so many more places than we might have been willing to 15 years ago. I am also jealous of your 24 hours with no generator situation. We have to run ours for a long time every day, but that’s because of our all electric fridge. I think if it wasn’t for that, we might be more into dry camping, but 5 hours of generator time is a bit much. Hopefully people do the research beforehand and pick a set-up that works for their intended and ideal version of camping because I agree with you – RVing is great. Happy travels!

      • I have to laugh but its seems comforting to hear others addressing the same issues we have. My initial intentions were to do more dry camping to offset the costs of staying in ‘resorts’ with all the amenities. We have a set up very similar to yous Laura, 2014 Allegro 36LA. Came equipped with 4 solar panels and 4 6V coach batteries. Even with that I have found that after 4-5 days the batteries start getting depleted pretty fast and we have to run the gen at least an hour in the am and another hour in the pm to keep them topped up. You are correct in that we also have a residential electric fridge and that is the biggest hog, especially when you are dry camping in the heat and unable to run AC very much. The longest we have ‘survived’ dry camping was 30 days but we were also very close to a dump station and water source. I can pump fresh water into the motor home without moving it. Ive done lots of research and Lithium batteries will be my next upgrade. Pricey but if you do the math and consider how much longer Lithium will last, they are not. It will be difficult to give up the residential fridge however.

    • Congrats on the rig and starting fulltiming! I hope you love it as much as we do!

      As for reservations, it totally depends on where you’re going and what kind of park you want to stay at. For winter camping in popular spots like southern Florida and Arizona, you need to start looking about a year out – especially if you’re trying to get into the state parks. You’ll have more flexibility if you’re looking for commercial parks, but even those, you may end up on a waiting list for if you’re looking at Tucson in January or February. (If you’re over 55, there are a lot of age restricted parks that will also be available to you).

      For popular places near big national parks, no matter what time of year, you may need to start looking 6-12 months out as well. Again, it depends if you’re trying to stay in a government run campground or a commercial park. Commercial parks tend to be a bit easier to get into, but you still need to book well in advance.

      If you stay away from the super popular national parks and the snowbird locations, you’ll have lot more options. For more run-of-the-mill spots, I often don’t make reservations until a couple weeks before. So right now, I have all of our stays for December and January, 2020 in Florida booked, but I have nothing reserved yet for April, 2019 because we’ll be crossing the middle of the country and I don’t expect to have a hard time finding places to stop in Kansas and Ohio.

      You’ll also find that a lot of people reserve whatever they can a year out and then cancel their reservations closer to the date, so state park sites WILL open up in Florida in the winter and Montana in the summer. We don’t like to have that uncertainty, but plenty of people find great sites at the last minute. (In other words, don’t panic. You’ll find something.)

      One final tips: Make sure you have reservations several weeks out for all big federal holidays… especially things like Memorial Day and Labor Day. Campgrounds fill up with weekend campers and it can be tough to find somewhere to go.

      Best wishes!!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here