My husband, daughter, and I have been traveling in our RV since 2015. While we have definitely had more motorhome “camping” experiences, our travels have also involved using our RV as a movable second home. Although we are not full-time RVers, our motorhome is home for us 12 to 15 weeks per year.
Our original idea was to make numerous short camping trips. We made reservations at a campground, loaded up the RV, and hit the road. It was fun, but we quickly tired of the significant transition time required on both ends of the trip.
Since we live on a mountain, we cannot keep our motorhome at our house, so we had to rent a spot at our local campground storage area. Additionally, during cold months, the RV requires winterization which limited our travel in the winter months.
As we came to prefer spending time on the coast of South Carolina, we elected to buy a lot in a motorhome park there in lieu of continuing to rent storage space. Now we drive our car five hours to the coast to either stay in the motorhome (which is then like a beach house without the strings attached!), or we load up the RV from there and take off on our next adventure.
Ours is only one example of the many ways people experience RV travel and living. From using the RV exclusively for camping to treating it as a second home, the nature of the experience and the price of the lifestyle can differ greatly.
How our RV travel choice has impacted our finances
Being the money nerd that I am, I always evaluate the costs involved in our various travels. I do this for budgeting purposes, but also to see whether owning and operating an RV actually saves us money over traditional travel.
Obviously, buying the lot at the beach wasn’t cheap. But when we factored in the monthly storage rental savings, the gas savings (since we routinely drove the RV to the coast and now we don’t have to), and the lot rental fees at various places we might go, we determined we would break-even on the lot purchase in five to seven years. The scenario seemed reasonable to us, especially since the lot we own is already significantly appreciating in value.
We do have property tax and HOA fees to pay, but the math still works favorably given the number of trips we take to the beach. I would consider food costs to be pretty equal to what we spend at home. We dine out a bit more frequently when we’re at the coast but economizing in other ways while traveling offsets the extra cost of restaurants.
So why don’t we simply buy a condo at the beach instead? While we spend most of our RV travel time at our beach location, we tend to take at least one big trip each year. Last summer, for example, we spent a month traveling around Ontario, Canada. We have grown to like the combination of routinely visiting a place we know and love and venturing out to new places from time to time.
An additional bonus of RV travel is the fact that your pets can come along. We climbed into the motorhome for our Canada trip last summer just two weeks after picking up our new puppy, Piper. Our cat, Nala, went to the coast with us last month for the first time. After a couple days of normal cat freak-out behavior, she adjusted and appeared to really love being there with us.
Saving money on pet sitters or pet boarding has been a significant benefit of RV travel. Before we were RVers, when we traveled, costs usually involved airfare for three of us, lodging, and pet care back at home. While I don’t have absolute numbers, my sense is that we save a significant amount on our travel costs now.
Of course, the addition of the cost of the RV itself cannot be ignored. Breaking even on our motorhome will take some time. It might even be impossible. But we feel it’s all worthwhile since we otherwise would have probably purchased a beach condominium. We now also have the ability to rent out our house when we’re on the road, which prevents our house from being vacant and provides some additional income.
How this is simple for us
How has this lifestyle choice simplified our lives? Even writing this, I realize it seems the decision has made our lives much more complicated. However, there are several ways in which being RVers has helped us slow down and smell the roses.
First, when we are in our motorhome, we spend an enormous amount of time outdoors, which has always been a priority for us. For some reason, when we’re at home on the mountain, it is much easier to find excuses to stay indoors. Given the limited space in the RV, getting outside is a no brainer.
Second, the amount of space in the RV is limited. Especially when we take weeks-long trips, we must be very economical with our “stuff.” The result has been magical in terms of making us rethink the “stuff” we have at home. If we get by with far fewer clothes and less gear while traveling, why not at home, too?
Finally, we spend more time together as a family. I cherish that togetherness, which has impacted our home life, too. We now spend much more time together doing fun things at home on the mountain.
I doubt we will ever be full-time RVers. We enjoy our home and like having a home base. I am not certain we’ll RV forever, either. Once we’ve seen the parts of the United States and Canada on our wish list, we might feel ready to tackle something different. Who knows!
How about you? Do you travel in an RV? Has it saved you money and simplified your life? Share your story!
You might also enjoy the post Managing Your Money on the Road.