Thursday, December 16, 2010

Doin' The Math

My office is exceedingly quiet this week and I'm experiencing some freakish downtime.  As a result, I am brushing up on my math skills by comparing the costs of my usual mode of travel - cars + hotels versus Class B + campgrounds versus Class B + boondocking.  Here's what I came up with based on a 2,000 mile trip lasting 1 month:


Car + Hotel       Total = $3830
Gas - 240         25 MPG = 80 gal. @ $3/gal. (.12 cents/mile)
Hotel – 3,000    $100/night
Food – 600       $20/day

Van + Campgrounds     Total =  $1275

Gas – 375      16 MPG = 125 gal. @ $3/gal.   (.19 cents/mile)

CG – 600       $20/night

Food – 300    $10/day

Van + Boondocking    Total = $675
Gas – 375      16 MPG = 125 gal. @ $3/gal.

Food – 300    $10/day

Campgrounds vs. Boondocking     $675
Hotel vs. Campgrounds     $2565
Hotel vs. Boondocking   $3165
Why, look!  It would be fiscally irresponsible – almost criminal -  NOT to get a camping van!  (Notice how I didn’t include the cost of the van in my calculations).  But if I take two big road trips a year, that’s a $6,000 savings, so the van will pay for itself at some point in the future.  Right?  I just don’t want to figure out how long that would take.  Takes the fun out of rationalization by calculation. 
Yes, I could stay in really cheap hotels (but I wouldn't) and eat bologna 3 times a day (but I wouldn’t).  And I realize I’ve not calculated those miscellaneous expenses like Stuckey’s pecan logs and genuine Navaho blanket-shopping. But then those costs remain the same regardless of travel mode.  And I didn't account for stuff like dump fees and propane replacement. 

Of course, there are intangible advantages to an RV too but that’s another post… 
Some of you more experienced folks might find issue with my assumptions regarding daily expenses.  I’d love your input.
In reality, I would probably do a combination of campgrounds and dry camping.  The pivotal variable in all of these equations though is whether I can learn to:
  • boondock successfully
  • develop the nerve to stay in a truck stop alone and most importantly ...
  • enjoy it. 
There’s only one way to find out! 


  1. Amen.

    If anything, your van+boondocking numbers are a little high. If I'm more or less in "stay put" mode, gas is usually well under $300/month, and food for me is $200-250/month. I think once you get comfortable boondocking, you'll never want to camp any other way. I too initially had the thought that I'd stay in the occasional hotel or campground, but it hasn't happened yet.

  2. I remember my first truck stop night...I was on my way to the Escapade in Goshen, IN. The Flying J had RV spots and I nestled right in there. I heard trucks all night, coming and going but in general I slept pretty well.

    Later I did more Wal-marts than truck stops and now with the two of us, we try to do the same. But do both any time needed...

    Go for it!

  3. The best way to know is to just do it!

    We have done a rental RV a couple of times, but that is because we were tied to our house. We've never really done a driving road trip. Ski trips yeas, visiting friends and relatives, yes, but nothing long term.

  4. It's the time of year and weather conditions that determine for me where to stay....if it's hot, I need electricity to run my ac. (yes, I have a generator, but am not fond of using it!)

  5. I'm hoping to boondock most of the time. I'll be on a tight budget, and if I can boondock most of the time, I should be able to SAVE money each month. I'm thinking once or twice a month staying in an RV park with showers would be nice - long, hot showers without worrying about the water. It will be interesting to see how we do.

  6. Boondocking isn't a tough 'skill' to learn, and once you start you'll find it strange (I think) that people pay to camp. And boondocking / dry camping doesn't necessarily mean truck stops - especially in a class B! (We've been dry camping in our class c for five months and haven't stayed in a single truck stop.)


Let's chat !