Project Escape Recap: By the Numbers
Last week I shared the trip highlights from our year on the road living in an RV, an event otherwise known as Project Escape. This week I wanted to share some of the numbers involved in making that happen. I tried my hand at making my own infographic, holy hell, do I love Canva.com!
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A Few Explanations
You can find all 55 weeks of Weekly Wanderings in my Series section. And I'd like to personally acknowledge my friend Katie of Domestiphobia who I think commented on every single one, she was such an immense supporter of Project Escape!
The 5 RV Mishaps were 2 tow-related issues when we lost brake attachment near Bryce Canyon (#1) and on the way to Palouse (#2). The slideout related cable issue we had on our trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to Phoenix (#3). And two electrical issues. The first one was in Las Vegas which impacted floor heating and an electrical panel was fixed when we got to Red Bay (#4). The second losing our washing machine when the electricity died twice in our RV park in Palm Springs(#5).
We made it through the entire year only having to unhook once to turn-around. I think that is some kind of RV record and I am knocking on wood that it continues! When you have a tow vehicle like our Jeep, there is an elaborate system for hooking it up to the RV and making sure it brakes, signals, etc.
It's dirty and it takes about 10 minutes to do, so it's not something you want to do multiple times a day. Therefore you need a large turning radius to make turns and to move around (together we're about 60 feet long).
There are no u-turns in an RV unless you have a free and clear 4-lane road…and when does that happen? We were always super anal about getting the turn right, but at the Love's gas station parking lot in Troutdale, Oregon they don't have an exit sign when you are finished pumping. We guessed wrong and ended up boxed in so we had to unhook, get ourselves turned around, and rehook. We only had to do that ONCE the entire year!
The two Jeep mishaps were finding ourselves in a ditch in Palouse (thank you nice farmers!) and getting a flat tire in gator-infested Everglades National Park.
We got very, very lost in the RV finding our way to the RV park in Palouse (thank you to the nice lady who let us turn-around in her farm!). And we got lost 4x4ing in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, the area the topographical map covered had been altered by weather (we think).
I've only just begun writing about RV parks. There is so much to say and it isn't all good. But there are some gems out there and those are the ones I want to highlight. As the RV industry continues to grow, RV Parks have a lot of work to do to attract newer, younger (65 and below!) clientele.
Lastly, I didn't add this to the infographic, but I read 40 books! I shared some of them in my monthly Currently posts, but 40 is way too many to list out.
I really struggled with how to best present the budget, our expenses, etc. I absolutely do not want to discourage people from RVing. We had an amazing experience and at the end of the year it was cheaper to live the year on the road, than a year in our “regular life.” So in the end, I have decided to represent our expenses as a percentage of our overall budget. I don't think the total amount matters. I wholeheartedly believe that you can RV at any budget level!
I should note that I did not add in insurance costs (medical, life, etc.) as they would be something we paid whether we were in the RV or not, although they were quite expensive!
As you can see, the largest part of our budget was RV Parks, our RV loan, and groceries. Trust me, if we had had access to better food, that grocery budget would have been a larger part of our budget! Foodies we are! We knew what we were getting ourselves into and brought a ton of our own food supply. Jessica's food was also included in our grocery budget.
We definitely could have saved money when it comes to RV parks. One thing we learned way late in the process is that most of the time it is better to book for a month even if you are only planning to stay two weeks. Or by the week, even if you are only planning to stay a few days. It is usually far cheaper.
Also, we conscientiously treated ourselves to some luxury resorts that were quite expensive. Since we were under budget overall for the year, we were okay with that.
We sold our home in the San Francisco Bay Area and put the majority of our proceeds into savings for the purchase of a future home. We put a down payment on a new RV (a 40-foot motorcoach) and the rest of the rig was financed with an RV loan. Our loan payments were the second-biggest item in our budget. The good news is that RV loan interest is tax-deductible!
Our next biggest expense was fuel. We over-budgeted for fuel. Diesel and gas prices were better than we anticipated. Our RV is a diesel-pusher so we purchased diesel and DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) a solution that cleans diesel emissions. We liked the Love's brand, their stations were usually better than others. We probably could have saved more money if we went to smaller stations, but we preferred to remove the element of surprise.
Having a brand new RV our maintenance costs were low. We paid for a 6,000-mile and 15,000-mile maintenance service on the Freightliner engine/chassis. All other repairs were covered by our warranty and we spent three weeks in Red Bay, Alabama having our rig serviced at the manufacturer for free.
RV insurance is another essential item. We probably were over-insured, but better to be over than under!
Dining, like groceries, would probably have been a much larger chunk if we hadn't been in the middle of nowhere for most of the year!
Misc. expenses included Mr. Misadventures' airfare for our Viking River Cruise in Portugal along with other items that didn't fit into other buckets, things like household items (dish soap, paper towels, etc.).
We thought we would spend more on propane, haircuts, and clothes, but in the end, we used very little propane (until the last month of our trip when we spent a lot of time in the snow); I only paid $20 for my (usually) lousy haircuts and we didn't need a lot of clothes!
So that's it! What would I do differently? To save money, I'd do a better job at park reservations. If I was really serious about staying in the RV long-term, I would have invested in satellite internet. It costs about 6,000 for the equipment, plus a monthly service fee, but it would probably have meant fewer grey hairs. Extravagant, but rolled into the initial expense of the RV, it might not have been so bad.
Where do I think you could save money? RV parks for sure. We treated ourselves to some resorts, which is obviously not a must. Fuel. If you are willing to go to some smaller service stations you could save a bit on gas. Food. We are gourmands and spent a lot of money on food whether we are living in an RV or not. I am sure you could do a better job economizing on food. Those were the main expense categories and there is plenty of room to reduce costs.
How about you? Do you have any questions about the RV numbers? Have you had similar experiences in your RV? Does this make you want to hit the road? Do tell!
Wow, that’s not a cheap year when you take into consideration medical etc. is on top of that cost. What is your intent with regards to the RV? Will it be sold once you have jobs and are situated in one location?
@Vicky, it can be a lot cheaper. Smaller RV, cheaper parks, cheaper food. We are going to trade-in for a much smaller RV.
Love the info graphic, such a cool way to project the data. Nice post in all!
such a great idea….it is on our radar.
It’s awesome that you were able to learn so much from the adventure. A second RV trip should be even better now. I really want to do one someday.
@Liz, yes, we made mistakes that we would do differently next time, but overall we had a great time!
Oh wow I can’t believe you were on the road for a year! I get antsy being on a car for more than a few hours so I always prefer flying to get somewhere. You guys sure did have quite an adventure! So many places visited! And your RV is pretty sweet! If I were to ever go RV-ing, I’d want to go in one of that 🙂
@Jolina, we had a great time and I would highly recommend it!
wow, this is a huge project! I will check more details of that trip on your blog 🙂
I’ve never been tempted to RV, although I do love to travel. I’m certain you saw so much of the country that I’ll never see. But RVing seems like work to me. I want a hotel where someone else takes care of everything. I was a bit surprised by the cost, pleasantly so because I now think it’s not necessarily cheaper to RV, just a different experience. I’m sure you met so many people and have great stories to tell. I’m going over to your diary to read some. I find it fascinating! Thanks for sharing.
@Cathy, you can definitely RV for a lot less than we did. It was nice from time to time to get away and stay in a hotel! RVing is just like driving around in your home, so you have the normal chores that you would with any place. But you can leave for a trip and come back as well! We had a king-sized bed, sleeper couch, washer/dryer, full shower, double sink bathroom, full fridge/freezer, so we it was like a junior suite of nice hotel!
This is so cool. I really like reading stats like this. I wish I was more organized when I travel to keep each detail for future reference.
P.S. I like your graphic, I love Canva too! 🙂
@Jaynie, I wish I was as organized when it came to my taxes!
This is something I think I would really enjoy doing with my husband…taking one giant road trip wherever we wanted to go! I think it’s wonderful that you made it happen. I haven’t read all of your RV’ing tales, but I’ll bet it was one grand adventure!
@Tami, it was a lot of fun and I would definitely do it again!
Wow this sounds like soo much fun!!!!
Driving around the states is one of my dreams. That’s awesome you get to do that!
Now, I am a bit nervous about budgeting. I will sure be following your blog closely. I am curious as to how you do it.
@Gem, we created a huge budget before we even left, detailing all the things we thought we would spend money on and then bucketing that on a monthly basis. We kept track of all our spending in a spreadsheet on a monthly basis.
Fantastic! Nothing better than taking your home with you all the time 🙂 Road trips are great, gets me inspired to go on another one this summer. Luckily you guys have low fuel costs, in Europe we are not always that fortunate so I guess that would take up a bit more of our budget. Many thanks and wish you lots of fun on the road.
@Julian, you also need smaller RVs in Europe. I lived there for three years and only saw small ones!
Awesome trip! Are you planning another one to finish off the US States?
@WhenTwoWander, hoping to one day! Would like to do the Northeast and Canda.
I would try it but my husband is absolutely against doing that much work. Your post is certainly comprehensive enough to be a great guide though.
@Carol, once you have systems in place, it is not as bad as it seems! It’s like doing housework and home maintenance.
I’m living in the bay area now and have always wondered about RV life. I’m surprised to see that housing/transportation took up 60% of your expenses. Did you like having the larger RV? Is there a way to chop that down by going with a smaller model?
@Julie, yes I would go smaller, we definitely had a nice rig. Our motorhome cost $250k so we had a “nice” little monthly mortgage on that. There are far less expensive RVs out there. We decided we wanted to do it with all the comforts king bed, washer/dryer, full fridge. There are plenty of smaller, less equipped models. Also, we splurged on RV parks every other month or so, with big splurges ever six months. The place we stayed in Key West for 10 days costs us $1900, the average cost for a night is around $40-50, but staying a week or more brings that down.
Nice graphs and breakdown of your budget, very well laid out. I’ve never thought about the RV thing, but like the idea of a tiny-house. They are becoming very popular now, some of them you can put on wheels.
@Bec, I could live in a tiny house now that I have lived in an RV. We saw a couple in a few of the parks we stayed in, they are so cute!
What an amazing adventure! I would love to see more of the country with my family. I have such great memories of road trips as a kid.
@Crystal, it was and I would do it again! Road trips are so fun!
I don’t own an RV due to four small kids and a busy work schedule for the hubby right now but my in laws are looking into one and I would like to go on one because I love traveling and it would be fun to take a trip in one!
I don’t own a RV but my in laws are looking into getting one! I love to travel so it would be a fun family trip to take across the country to show my kiddos. Definitely looks like it is a trip that must be budgeted due to gas and food.
@Kristina, I think it is great for family trips and I know your kids would love it!
I’m so impressed, Andi! This is an amazing guide for people considering something similar. You should write a book about your year on the road!
@Lois, I don’t know if anyone would read it! I do love the book you gave me last year, it was an inspiration to me on the road!
Have you guys considered doing any Boondocking or exploring some of the free camping options? We haven’t RVed in the US yet (but we’re hoping to soon) but we’re hitting the road here in Canada this summer and are hoping to intersperse camping at National and Provincial parks with some free camping and boondocking to keep our costs down. When we were RVing in France we rarely stayed at campgrounds and actually loved avoiding the crowds. We camped on a lot of farms through France Passion (Harvest Hosts is similar in America) and used overnight free/cheap stops along the way. We’re really curious to see how it compares over here.
@Alison, now that we have some experience we would absolutely boondock to save money. Also we really like the idea of being camp hosts. You work a few days a week for the campground and you get your spot for free. We have friends doing that.
This definitely makes me want to hit the road! My mom and I considered getting a small camper and exploring the US. It seems exciting!!
@Adriana, you would have so much fun together!
I have always wanted to go traveling in an RV, someday I will take the kids and go across country for a great trip in one! It’ll be awesome!
@Melanie, you would have so much fun, the kids will love it!
I always thought it would be fun to travel EV style. However, with a family size of 6 + 2 cats, that’s probably not very feasible. That’s ok though, we travel and see the sights locally and the kids argue less, ha!
@Marissa, we saw some large families doing it, so it may happen in the future. They can fit beds all over the place. Our cat did just fine!
I love the infographic and appreciated that the explanation came with it. It’s amazing to look an epic trip like this at a high level and think about all of the small twists and turns. It’s great that you spent less on fuel than expected!
@Sutee, thank you. I also think it is important to capture the trip and be able to look back, that’s the great thing about having a blog!
Such a great post, so useful and informative. I’m surprised that the fuel was only 7% of your budget though. Thanks for taking the time to break it all down simply and your honesty, sounds like it was one hell of a trip and congrats on only unhooking once, I’m sure it would have been a daily thing for me!
@Matt, we got lucky on the fuel prices being lower than they had in years. Plus we stayed in places one week or more except for three different long haul trips, that saved money on gas as well!
What an adventure! I love the infographic of the breakdown of your trip. I will be sending this post along to mt friend Meg and fellow RV blogger who is planning to hit the road for a few months this fall.
@Katie, thanks! Share your friend’s blog url, I’d love to read about her adventures!
This post was so informative! I’ve always thought about renting a car/van to do an epic road trip. I don’t think I’d be able to handle driving a big ‘ole RV! It’s definitely good to learn about the budgets and what the majority of your budget will go to. I imagine in your time traveling you had an amazing time and saw some awesome things! Really sounds like an excellent trip.
@Erin, there are great schools that train you about RVing including driving. It is actually a lot easier than I thought it would be! Also the smaller ones are definitely a lot easier to handle!
Thats is such a nice project!! I would love to try this kind of thing, sounds like a cool adventure, but first I would need to find friend who would agree in coming along lool
@Isadora, it would be better if there was at least two of you, but I did see several women doing this on their own!
You are so inspiring me to hit the road more often and for longer period of time. This is such an inspiring project. I am going to try something similar, setting up a project for myself.
@Neha, oh I hope you do, we had such a wonderful time!
It is interesting to know that a year traveling in an RV was cheaper than a year at home. This proves that everyone can travel if they really want to. Your adventure sounds amazing and I would love to be able to work remotely and live a year on the roads as well.
@Joanna, we were quite surprised ourselves. We could have saved even more money by going to cheaper RV parks, but we chose not to.
Ha, thanks for the call-out! I definitely read them all, even if I missed a comment here or there. It’s eye-opening to see the numbers like that. I think based on your experience if we were ever to do this, I’d consider the trailer/truck route, because if there’s anything that stresses me out, it’s vehicle maintenance. And I think having to do so much maintenance on a brand-new vehicle would drive me bonkers. Of course that would mean buying a truck *and* the camper, but I could see getting a dingy used camper, fixing it up a little, and calling it a day. Though yours does look quite luxurious!!
@Katie, it’s standard maintenance that you would have to do on a car at a certain mileage. But they are definitely way less expensive motorcoaches. There also tons of really nice fifth wheels. I have to admit I love the older fifth wheel makeovers! I love seeing their photos on Pinterest and blogs!
I love going on RV trips! I’ve never gone on one quite as long as your trip, but every trip
I went on I enjoy a lot!!!
@CourtneyLynne, what kind of RV to you have? Where has been your favorite place to go in the RV?
Wow! That’s quite amazing. The budget amount did throw me off a bit. I imagine it would be even more if I made a trip such as yours with my family of 4.
I love the breakdown of everything. We will be spending almost 3 weeks this summer in our camper van (nothing like the RV) so I am realistic about the mishaps. I can’t wait to keep following your adventures.
@Jessica, oh summer, that adds even more complexity as there are a lot of extra people out there. I hope you have a great time!
This was awesome,I love that it’s not just guys on fishing trips anymore as women are jumping on the friends getaway band wagon .
@April, so true! Although in the RV we have, we are definitely glamping!
Very interesting, thanks for sharing how you live 😮 very unique