In 18 states and two territories (one American and one British), I stayed in 73 different places:
25 state parks
12 Thousand Trails campgrounds
4 independent campgrounds
4 Passport America campgrounds
2 KOA campgrounds
2 Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds
2 parking lots
1 Lower Colorado River Authority Park
1 USDA Forest Service campground
1 county park
1 Harvest Hosts site
… and one sailboat
I definitely got my money’s worth from my Thousand Trails membership. I think my total spent is currently about $550 for about 80 days, so roughly $7/night. But I’m not going to be renewing it when it expires next year: those campgrounds seem like good places for families with small kids and people who are looking for stable bases for extended periods, but that’s not how I want to travel or live.
My KOA membership was not worth the money. Again, great for families with kids and I definitely enjoyed my really nice showers at the KOA in Bellefonte, PA, but I don’t need the amenities they offer and even with the reduced membership rate, they were some of the most expensive places I stayed.
My one night at a Harvest Host site was lovely and I remember it fondly. But I don’t tend to want to drop in to places for a single night. If that changes in the future, I might think about trying out Harvest Hosts again, but for the moment, I’ll let that membership lapse.
Passport America costs around $45/year and I bought a three-year membership, so I’ve got plenty of time for it to pay off. In fact, the park at which I’m currently staying is both a state park and a Passport America park, and I saved $14 on an upcoming night’s stay because of my PA membership, so yay. But I’ve got a pretty long way to go before that membership pays for itself and two of the parks on the PA list were among my least favorite of the places I’ve stayed so I don’t seek out the PA parks. I should check out more of them, though, because it’s a nice discount when the park is okay.
Generally speaking, the only worthwhile memberships for me were the state parks. I’ve got a Texas State Park pass and a Georgia State Park pass and they were very much worth the money, might even be more so, since I’ve got months left on both. Live and learn, right?
I can’t believe I haven’t stayed in a single national park — what kind of camper am I??? — but they’re typically more restrictive about dogs than state parks, and I’ve really quite enjoyed discovering the state parks. Still, that might be a goal for Year Two. 🙂
I budgeted $900/month for campground charges, figuring an average of $30/night. If I stayed at KOAs and independent campgrounds or even some of the more expensive state parks, I’d be breaking that budget on a regular basis. As it is, however, my blend of campgrounds and driveways kept me under budget every month. The closest I came was $826 in April, from paying for my two week stay at Cedar Key in May.
I budgeted $400/month for gas and fuel (propane, too) and I came in under budget on that, as well. My grocery budget, though… yeah, not so good. Eating the way I eat — heavy on vegetables and protein, almost non-existent on breads, pasta, grains — is not cheap. Now that I can’t buy in bulk and store leftovers in my freezer, I’m spending more on food than I want to.
The dogs were also way over budget. No surprise, there, but ouch. Having two aging dogs is not the kind of thing where you want to look at the dollars. Even hiding some of their food costs in my grocery budget, I spent over $300/month on the dogs. I’d budgeted $90. Yep, the dogs cost $10/day.
Health insurance and care, internet, auto and RV insurance, the storage unit, taxes… none of those were surprising numbers to me, although they do add up. Life in the van is definitely less expensive than it was in my house, but I really had hoped I’d have a book or two released by now, though, so that’s not so good.
But there, another goal for Year Two — publish books! And visit national parks. And continue spending ridiculous amounts of money on the dogs, because really, the only way that number goes down is bad, so the positive side of breaking my budget on pet care is definitely that I have two dogs that I adore still and that’s good news.
Speaking of which, I am out of dog food, so need to make a run to a grocery store, unfortunately half an hour away. Time to get going!