We’re deep into planning “Odyssee” #2 (yes, we’re doing it again!), but before we do the big reveal of our winter 2016-2017 plans, I wanted to take a step back and understand how we spent our time (and money) during last year’s trip (a map of our route is here). So I fired up Excel and did the data slicing and dicing. Guess you can’t take the consultant out of me! For those of you wondering what this lifestyle costs and how it works, here is the deep dive.
OK, I know the type below is really small (you can click on it to make it larger), so I’ll summarize the highlights. We were gone almost 4 months and drove almost 7000 miles; that surprised me – it didn’t really seem that far! But that is a pace equivalent to about 22,000 miles a year, so while we covered a lot of ground, it wasn’t that much more driving than we do at home. While there were times when we traveled on consecutive days (mostly getting out of winter in December and getting back home in the spring, or sprinting across New Mexico), we averaged over 3 nights in each place we stayed. That’s long enough to explore the surrounding area, but not long enough to get bored. The pace feels about right to us, although we’re going to experiment with some changes this winter.
Campground fees averaged out to $22 a day – that seems pretty reasonable. Between food and dining out we spent about $35/day. That’s less overall than we spend when we’re at the “stick house”. In the RV we spent a bit more on groceries per day, and a bit less on dining out than at home. That makes sense: we were usually camping in remote areas, where there weren’t a lot of fancy restaurants. And our constrained pantry space in the RV means we couldn’t buy food and supplies in quantities that offer the best value.
For those who like all the details, here’s where we stayed and what we paid for every night on our journey. (Note that the total cost includes things like annual state park passes and occasional discounts for things like Passport America and Good Sam.)
Where did our trip take us? Mostly Arizona, but we spent a surprising 26% of our time in California. We didn’t plan to spend that much time in the Golden State, but once we got there we loved it and decided to stick around. New Mexico is one of our favorite places, but we mostly like the northern part of the state, which is too cold in winter. The southern end doesn’t seem to have much going on, so we dashed across it going both east and west.
What types of properties did we stay at? Mostly state parks; they have the right balance of nature, space, tranquility and basic facilities that seem like the sweet spot for us. They aren’t necessarily the lowest cost option, but they are a good value. And some, like Anza-Borrego Desert in California are seemingly hidden gems – even to Californians!
Next were RV parks, featuring two SKP (Escapees) parks that we really liked. RV parks can vary widely in quality, from very basic to high end resorts. We tried to find ones that were in the middle of the range, well kept up and didn’t have the sites too close together. They’re generally not our first choice, but sometimes make sense depending on our route. And some (like the SKP parks) provide an instant sense of community.
We stayed in more National Parks than we expected to, including Joshua Tree, Organ Pipe Cactus and Big Bend; and visited others along the way, including Carlsbad Caverns, Saguaro, and Guadalupe Mountains. All were highlights of the trip.
County parks are a lot like state parks, and the two we stayed at (McDowell Mountain and Gilbert Ray in the Phoenix-Tucson area) were spectacular. We hope to return.
By the way, we only had reservations at about a quarter of these properties before we left home, mostly the high demand places around Phoenix, Joshua Tree and Huntington Beach. The others we booked along the way, looking a week or two ahead as we figured out where we were going to be, or as we learned about an interesting new place. We were also mindful of reserving ahead for holiday weekends, which are always crunch times in campgrounds.
What types of facilities did these parks have? We mostly chose electric/water sites, but I was very pleased with how many nights we spent dry camping (without hookups). Between our solar power system and water conservation skills, we were able to be self-contained for more than a third of our trip, giving us lots of flexibility. Moving as much as we did, there really wasn’t a need for full hookups.
How much did we pay to stay? Our campground fees averaged out to $22/night, but ranged from free 🙂 to $73 (on the beach at Huntington Beach, CA – our big splurge). California in general was the most expensive state – no surprise there. Once you paid for the annual park pass, Texas was the best value.
So that’s the very exciting Odysseing Infographic! What will this year bring? We’re still figuring it out, but it’s going to be a little bit the same and little bit different. We hope to incorporate some lessons learned from last year’s trip while still shaking things up a bit. More to come soon!