Secret #1. Rv’ing can be super cheap, but it can also be incredibly expensive. Of course this seems obvious, but it’s being new to the road that will bite your finances. You will make mistakes with regard to planning, and most of them will be ones that cost you money.
Most people will say you don’t need to make reservations, and whether you do or not depends on your flexibility.
Secret #2. Your RV will limit your flexibility. Weather will limit your flexibility. Add your budget to the mix and you have the perfect storm. Ha! No really, so you want to go visit Anytown, USA? You will be limited by time of year, temperature, and costs. This is of course obvious, but the actual assembly of this 3D puzzle in real life with real constraints is incredibly difficult. It involves researching an area with regard to weather and elevation, potential places to stay, costs to stay there, and speed of getting there. Faster is more expensive, slower (using Weekly or Monthly rates) is cheaper. Sometimes you can’t opt to go the speed of your choice.
The different ways your RV limits you is the following: How much insulation do you have? Are your water tanks heated? How well does your AC work? Are you able to boondock and go offgrid if you want to (if so, for how long?). Even knowing the answers to these and having an idea of how things will play out, doesn’t fully prepare you for dealing with the actual limitation of say, choosing a city in an area to visit but knowing the surrounding areas are outside the temperature band of what you can reasonably pull off. This map gives you a general idea, but with planning, keeping an eye on elevation of your travel path is critical!
Secret #3. Planning for your budget doesn’t necessarily mean those options are available. If you aren’t interested in Boondocking (not everyone is!), sure, staying somewhere for a full month is the cheapest way to go. Daily rates are super expensive, Weekly rates are less so (but only likely affordable if you use this option sparingly), and Monthly rates are where the financial wiggle room is. But, to stay somewhere that meets your interest, temperature range, and time of year? Everyone else in an RV is doing the same thing – and they snagged all those Monthly rate spots A YEAR AGO.
Our plans A, B, C, and D have all been squished and gone splat. Spend a month in Utah? Nope. Ain’t gonna happen. The place we were interested in was booked a full year ago, and still has a waiting list.
Our idea of spending a month (or two!) in Boise, Idaho? Gone. Too many other folks had the same idea – LAST YEAR and there is a waiting list for the places we wanted to go.
A month in Portland? Nope.
We’ve spent the last several weeks planning, re-planning, pulling my hair out, and planning some more.
For a few days we are chilling out in Pahrump, Nevada to escape the heat of Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and even getting a spot here was luck.
Spring is migration season, and as hard as it is to get a spot where you want in Winter, that difficulty remains all year round! I’m telling you this because no one else will. The easiest thing to do is travel off-season, but that again flips your 3D puzzle on it’s side and has you evaluating if you want to BE in those places off-season. Chances are, you don’t.
Sure, we CAN boondock, but we only want to occasionally. A day here, a day there. A small RV means small water tanks and we prefer having at least partial hookups.
Secret #4. It is incredibly time consuming to figure this stuff out. Before we set out, I began following several bloggers of folks like us who work for a living and travel by RV. I will tell you this, no matter how much time you think it will take to learn the ropes of the road, and plan travel paths, it will take you longer when you sit down to do it. Possibly two to three times longer than you expect. Doing this while working 7 days a week is beyond exhausting.
For non-retirees, personal time is different than neighboring retirees. Almost every day we are asked if we’ve seen (some nearby place) to say, “No.. um… we were working. We’re mostly just here for the weather and scenery!” I think people think we’re a little nuts…
Anyway, we had some great travel ideas in plan for the summer, in an affordable method (Monthly rates – yo!), but those plans are not actually doable in a way we can afford, at least not without having the full year mapped out and reserved ahead of time. We could still go to the places we want, if we traveled using overnights and Weekly rates, but that method is way, way outside our budget.
As luck would have it, we finally found a place where we can hang our hats for the next month. It’s in a beautiful part of the country, has great weather, and, holy cow, it’s even affordable! I never would have guessed we’d be able to stay on the Coast in Central California without making some blood sacrifice, but we can!
Grover Beach, California wasn’t part of the initial set of plans, but I’m very excited to head there and check it out! Based on the last several weeks of planning, I have no idea what to expect after next month. If we like it, we may stay there for a few more months (if they have spots available) – who knows? So to our friends and family who keep asking where we will be next so you can come visit us, I’m sorry to say – we’ll know when we get there!
It’s disappointing that our initial set(s) of plans didn’t work out, but our new plan looks pretty nice so far. I’m really shocked we found an affordable place in California, that was probably one of the last places I ever would have expected!
Secret #5. As crazy as all of this is, it’s still amazingly awesome. There is no place in this country I want to be for 12 consecutive months, so even with all of the above, living in an RV is still fully worth it to us!
It looks like the next year will be very interesting one way or another. To those of you following along, thank you for reading!
This post was written in Pahrump, Nevada.