How Much Does it Cost Us To Be RV Snowbirds?

Introduction

We have full-time RVed for five awesome years now. In each of those years, we have headed south for the winter, leaving behind the cloud and rain of our northwest summer haunts on Vancouver Island to travel the sunny southwest desert.

Lately, I’ve had more than a few folks ask “How much does your winter snowbird trip cost?” With that in mind, I decided to keep track of our expenses during the most recent 2015/2016 snowbird season.

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These figures below aren’t dead accurate but in the ballpark. Furthermore, they reflect snowbirding in the US Southwest, one of the cheaper regions to spend the winter in, unless you head to Mexico. I know from our experience the first year that Florida can definitely be more expensive. Campsites (especially along the coastal areas) come at a premium and free boondocking locations are few and far between. Hopefully, these figures will help new RV snowbirds trying to get an idea of their potential costs.

Black Ball Ferry Terminal Port Angeles WA

Black Ball Ferry Terminal Port Angeles WA

We left Victoria BC on November 7th, 2015 and arrived back on April 24th, 2016 some 170 days later.

Fuel Costs

Diesel fuel to power our 1994 Ford F350 Truck – $1600 RV LP Gas – $350 Portable Generator Gas – $25 (Total spent $1975)

Money Spent on Groceries

We averaged $700 a month for groceries and $100 per month for eating out.  (Total spent $4400)

Multiple Insurance Plans

Truck and Trailer Insurance = $600 RV Fulltimer Insurance = $500 Extended Travel Medical Insurance = $800. (Total Spent $1900)

Camping Fees

We spent a total of 53 nights in RV Parks and Campgrounds. (Total spent $1078)

Fifth Wheel and Truck Maintenance

We spent $250 to replace 2 damaged truck tires and another $400 on truck oil changes and miscellaneous products for the RV like cleaners and lubricants. (Total spent $650)

Internet and Mobile Phone

$600 was spent on our Verizon Prepaid MiFi data plan and $90 on our pay as you go Tracfone mobile phone. (Total spent $690)

Clothing, Laundry, Household Supplies

We spent $800 on new clothing, $175 for laundry and $225 for household supplies. (Total spent $1200)

Pet Expenses

Our beagle Angie’s food runs about $30 a month plus she got 2 new pet beds and assorted treats and bones. (Total Spent $260)

Entertainment

Lumped into this category are things like our $80 National Parks pass, museum and attraction fees and money spent downloading movies and TV shows. (Total Spent $600)

RV Upgrades

New solar panels $325, battery monitor and solar charge controller $300, converter charger $250. (Total Spent $875)

Miscellaneous Expenses

Items and fees purchased that don’t fall into any of the previously mentioned categories like gifts and ferry costs. (Total Spent $800)


Total Amount Spent during our 2015/16 Snowbird season = $14,428 USD or $18,917 CAD if we base it on an average 76 cent exchange rate.


How Did This Season Compare to the Past

I know many Canadian RVers decided to forgo snowbirding down south this year due to the large drop in the value of the Loonie. However, thankfully for us, this recent snowbird season was about on par with others once the smoke cleared. Here are a few reasons why:

Sure our Canadian Dollar exchange rate was much worse than say 4 years ago when it was almost equal to the US greenback. But, most of that was offset by a dramatic decrease in fuel prices. In past years, diesel was about $3.50 USD a gallon but this year it was averaging less than $2. Also, we decided to limit how far we traveled, spending more time in each area visited and taking shorter jumps between them.

Camping fees were also less as we continued to embrace our love of boondocking and adding in more casino parking lot stops versus RV Parks.

Free Boondocking near St. George Utah

Free Boondocking near St. George Utah

Rig maintenance costs were way down at $650 compared to last year when we got hit with several big truck repair bills plus trailer landing jack and tire replacement which pushed our costs to nearly $4000 in that category.

I tightened up the old food budget. More grocery trips were made to Walmart supercenters vs fancy grocery stores. We also saved a lot of money by cooking our own food much more vs eating out.

Conclusion

As you can see my wife, the beagle and I are on the frugal side. It’s one of the main reasons we can continue to enjoy the full-time RVing lifestyle heading into our 6th year.

Anne and Ray on the California coast

I think the beauty of it is you have the freedom to easily adjust your travel and camping expenditures to meet your budget. I know some snowbirds are getting by on a $1000-$1500 a month by staying in 1 or 2 spots the whole winter. Whereas others are spending many times that putting up big travel mileage totals and staying in the best resort parks. From talking to other snowbirds I would peg the average monthly budgets at around $2500 USD.

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