Going into this trip, I wasn’t really sure if our life on the road would cost more or less than our life at home. We had the additional income of renting out our house, but we also had additional expenses such as campground fees and additional gasoline. Here I’ll look back at the costs associated with our travel.
Travel Expense Summary
Below is our average spending in various categories across the 5 month trip.
Overall, we averaged spending $4226 per month.
|Item||Average Monthly Cost|
|Cell Phones & Satellite||$216|
Of the total of about $1,000 per month, we averaged about $235 a month at restaurants and the rest for groceries. Going into this I wasn’t sure if we would spend more or less on food on the road compared to at home. As it turns out, we spent exactly the same amount as we would have at home.
This category was a real shocker to me. We spent over $600/mo average on shopping (buying things). This amounted to about $3k in the 5 months. Dang! I had thought for sure that we would buy much less, or almost nothing, while we were on the road, since we didn’t have any space to put new things. It turns out, we found a way!
Some of the large purchases included a space heater, various water filtration devices, a propane grill, hydration packs for the girls, clothing (down booties for me, bathing suit and a down-jacket upgrade for Sarah, clothes for the girls…), a portable tripod, a wireless temperature sensor, etc.
I sure hope that in a repeat trip we can get this spending down– we must have everything we could possibly need by now, right?
Over the 154 days on the road, we averaged $18/night for campgrounds. I’m not including in that number a splurge in January where we stayed at a fancy hotel. Below are charts showing where we stayed every night and the cost (click to see details).
Looking at our campground spending by month tells an interesting story. At the start of the trip, we were relatively new to the idea of boon docking, so we stayed at lots of campgrounds, many of which were more expensive private RV parks (like KOAs). By December we were down in the desert where boon docking spots are plentiful and were starting to prefer boon docking over campgrounds. Then we hit California. We tried our best in February to avoid expensive campgrounds, but there was no other option on many parts of the CA coast (at-least with a trailer in tow).
We spent about $550/mo on transportation. Aside from a few tolls and bus rides, this was all gasoline.
We use Liberty Health Share’s “Liberty Complete” Family plan, which cost $499 per month, which was pretty much our only health related expense each month.
We spent $1237 over the course of 5 months of maintaining our van, Airstream and bikes. Some of this is just car washes (which could sometimes cost around $20 due to the amount of time it took to wash both the van and Airstream).
The big ticket items here included the 130k mile oil change and transmission fluid flush for the van ($210), which just so happened to come due while we were on this trip. Since we were towing a lot of weight, I wanted to be extra sure to change that transmission fluid on time to be kind to Dimes. It also includes $180 for a new windshield when ours cracked from a highway rock.
We also had route maintenance done to the propane components of the fridge and hot water heater in the Airstream at Orange County Airstream when we had a scare and couldn’t get the hot water heater to start. We later regretted spending the $358 considering it’s work I definitely could have learned to do myself.
Our spending on activities, which averaged about $240/mo varied a lot by location, and tended to spike when we were near big cities. A lot of this was spent on zoos, aquariums and museums. There were also a few big ticket items, like the North Pole Experience ($195 for the 4 of us) and Friends the Musical ($150 for Sarah and I).
Cell Phones & Satellite
We pay $13/month for our InReach Satellite Messenger. The rest of the average $216/month was on cellular devices. This was a bit more expensive than it needed to be because we changed plans/providers a bit at the beginning of the trip. Also included in this figure is the purchase of a Verizon Jetpack hotspot ($200). By the last month of our trip, our monthly bill was down to $103, which included my cell phone plan on MetroPCS, Sarah’s cell phone on Verizon, and an unlimited prepaid hotspot plan on Verizon.
The ~$300/mo. in this category includes our splurge when we stayed at the Platinum Hotel in Las Vegas. Subtracting that, the remaining $188/mo includes subscription fees, such as Dropbox, Amazon Prime, and You Need a Budget. It also includes propane ($44/mo), mail handing ($30/mo), and laundromats ($19/mo).
Mail handling includes our Anytime Mailbox service fee to have mail that would have been delivered to our home in Portland forwarded to a mail scanning service. It also includes packages that we mailed home when we realized we brought a few too many things on the trip!
While we were on the road, we rented out our home and we also remotely managed our AirBnB property. This was essentially our only income at the time, as I left my job back in April 2018 to prepare for this journey.
The good news is that we came close to breaking even during our travels. We averaged a net income of $3881 from the two properties, while spending $4226 per month on our travels. So we spent about $345 more per month than we made from these sources.
This doesn’t include income taxes– so it’s possible that the real number is more like $1,000-$1,500 per month spending above real estate income (Oregon is one of the higher income tax states). Still, it’s not too bad of a “burn rate”.
Now that we’re back in Portland for the summer, I’ll likely pick up some software consulting work so that we can get that new van without our savings taking a bit hit.