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Posts Tagged ‘Budget travel’

Wood storks right out my RV was a common sight during the month my RV spent on Pine Island in Florida. -- Photo by Pat Bean

  “The real fun of traveling can only be got by one who is content to go as a comparatively poor man. In fact, it is not money which travel demands so much as leisure, and anyone with a small, fixed income can travel all the time.” Frank Tatchel, “The Happy Traveler,” 1923

The view from my RV's rear window at Cade County Park near Sturgis, Michigan. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Travels With Maggie

Several people have asked me lately, how I can afford my life on the road. My response is that the way I do it is probably cheaper than maintaining a house, for sure if you have a mortgage or pay rent.

I have a basic budget for food, entertainment, gas and lodging of $60 a day. It was $50 seven years ago, but both gas and RV park fees have increased since then.

A daily break down might be $30 RV park, $20 gas (My small RV gets 15 mpg and I don’t do long drives), and $10 food. I rarely eat out.

However, a week’s stay some where saves gas money for things like a trolley car tour, a bookstore purchase or museum fees. When my budget is strained, I simply sit more.

Staying at a state park that has RV hookups, which is my overnight lodging of choice, usually costs only about $20, which gives me some leeway for commercial parks that might charge $35 a night, and I’m running into more and more of these lately.

For safety reasons I don’t skimp on choosing a clean, populated, lighted park. An emergency overnight stop for me is a Wal-Mart parking lot, which I only have used one time in seven years, and that was to escape traveling in a sudden storm.

I didn’t choose my way of life to sit in a parking lot. I want a view and a place to hike.

A squirrel viewed from my RV when it was parked at my son's home in Lake Jackson, Texas. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Free winter parking at my kids’ homes, where I can usually hook up to their electricity, usually saves me enough to cover the cost of regular maintenance for my RV. The bonus here is that I get to spend time with loved ones.

In addition I’m serving as a campground host at an Idaho park for four months later this year, where in exchange for some part-time chores, I get a free campground site with a lake view and free utility hookups. The money I save during this time will be used for more on-the-road adventures.

Living in a 22-foot home (which I bought when I sold my home) where everything has a place, also means I save money simply by not buying things. It’s amazing how much money you can save this way, even on clothes when the space to store them is tightly limited. I basically live in pants, shorts, T-shirts and tennis shoes.

Not counted in this breakdown are my monthly expenses for health and vehicle insurance, and my phone and air card bill for my computer. I do all my money transactions on the computer, and thankfully have an angel of a daughter-in-law who forwards my mail for free.

Except for an occasional credit card bill to cover emergencies, I have no bills.

So there you have it. Frank Tatchel was right. It just takes a bit more money these days than I suspect he was talking about in 1923.

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A good spot to sit and watch nature flow past on the Frio River in Garner State Park in Garner State Park ... Photo by Pat Bean

“Rest is not idleness and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. — John Lubbock

Day Three

Staying put a day or so while traveling has multiple advantages. More time to enjoy an area, a time to rest from driving and sight-seeing, and a means to balance the budget. My goal when traveling is to live on $50 a day. Ideally that means spending $20 on gas, $20 on campground fees and $10 on food.

It never works out exactly like that. State parks and other public campgrounds usually meet the nightly lodging fee criteria, but commercial parks can run up to $35 a night. Some cost even more, but those I avoid. A longer day’s drive means more spent on gas, but a multiple day stop averages that back to my budget restriction. Ramen noodles and free parking in my kids or a friend’s driveway help cover overages and things like museum fees, trolly tours, books and an occasional restaurant splurge. Volunteering for a month or two at a state park, where I get a free camp site and don’t drive, covers emergencies like an unexpected dentist bill or new tires for my RV. It’s a balancing act I’ve worked out in the six years I’ve lived in my RV. It mostly works, although red is not an uncommon color on my accounting sheet.

Maggie took the rest day seriously ... Photo by Pat Bean

Today was one of those rest and budget-catch-up days, my only expense being the $15 camping fee. Exploring the park with Maggie and Mother Nature’s wildflower landscape were free.

Garner sits by the cool, clear Frio River, mentioned by George Strait in his “All My Exes Live in Texas,” recording. The park itself is named for former Vice President John Nance Garner, also known as Cactus Jack in his hometown of Uvalde.

A popular get-away for Houstonians, many a youngster has taken his first dance steps to a jukebox tune on the concrete slab at the park’s lodge. It’s where campers hang out in summer after a day of fishing, tubing, birdwatching or kayaking. Me, I took short walks with Maggie down by the river, watched the birds from my RV, and read a China Bayles mystery.

Photos and prose copyrighted by Pat Bean … Do not use without permission

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