Well, our 7th snowbirding adventure in a row is in the books. This year we once again visited the southwestern United States spending the bulk of our time in sunny California and Arizona. We spent much of the time off-grid free camping in desert BLM areas and casinos along the way which sure saved on camping fees!
One question I’m often asked is “How much does it cost?” So, I’ve gone through our receipts from the 6-month trip and organized our basic expenses into categories. The figures aren’t 100% exact but in the general ballpark. Hopefully, you’ll find it useful as you plan your trip south next winter.
Note: These figures are in US dollars and don’t include a special side trip we made to Catalina Island celebrating Anne’s birthday
Ferry Trip Cost – $440
We take the Black Ball MV Coho Ferry to and from our summer home on Vancouver Island, British Columbia over to Port Angeles, WA. The $220 charge each way is for our truck and fifth wheel with a combined length of 44 feet and two adults.
Fuel (truck diesel, propane, generator gas) – $2500
The bulk of the cost was truck diesel fuel for the long trip down from BC to Arizona. Roughly $750 each way. Once in the southwest, we didn’t move too far or too often and enjoyed lower fuel prices, especially in Arizona.
Campground Fees – $1500
We spent 60 nights in RV Parks and National/State Park Campgrounds. The rest of the time we were free camping on BLM land, on friends private land or in casino parking lots.
National Park Pass – $80
We buy the “America the Beautiful” annual pass. Since we visit them often, the pass pays off through entrance fee savings at parks and federal lands.
Phone and Internet – $1600
Internet connectivity is a significant expense for us but vital to maintaining our blogs. We both have a cell phone, so we can keep in touch when apart and a Verizon Jetpack hotspot for cell data. As we spend so much time off the grid in a rural setting, the Verizon hotspot is our go-to device to access the internet.
- Verizon Jetpack on a prepaid plan – $10 per gigabyte
- Unlocked Smartphone using Roam Mobility Snowbird Plan – $38 per month (Unlimited talk and text plus 4 gigabytes of 4G LTE data) *Update* Went out of business in 2020
- Cheap $29 Walmart Tracfone – about 10 dollars a month to keep it topped up with minutes and $10 a gigabyte for data use.
Extended Travel Medical Insurance – $725
When we travel to the USA, our Canadian healthcare coverage is not sufficient to cover all potential costs of getting sick. We buy an extended medical insurance plan. We are both still relatively young and healthy, so the cost isn’t too high. We buy it through BCAA (BC version of AAA) and get a 10% discount since we use their roadside assistance as well.
RV & Auto Insurance – $820
I’ve taken six months worth of our yearly insurance costs to come up with this figure. We carry auto insurance on the truck and trailer, plus BCAA roadside breakdown coverage and a special full-time RVer insurance policy.
Truck & Trailer Repairs – $1950
When you live full time in an RV and travel extensively, you’re bound to encounter mechanical breakdowns. This year we had more than our usual share mostly because of our 1994 Ford F350 diesel truck starting to show its age. It needed a new fuel lift pump, rear axle speed sensor, glow plugs, cooling fan clutch, fuel return O-ring kit, coolant flush, oil change and fuel filter.
Quite the list but she’s paid for so not too bad in our eyes versus payments on a new truck. Hat tip to Desert Truck Service in Mojave, CA and Willits Tire and Auto Service in Willits, CA for the excellent service.
Grocery and Misc Supplies – $4600
I cook the vast majority of meals at home in the RV so we spend a bunch on groceries. We like to eat healthy fresh food and will often splurge a little in this department. Supplies include things like bathroom and cleaning products, cost of laundry, RV maintenance items, dog food/treats, booze, etc.
Meals and Entertainment – $500
Covers meals we ate out and fees for visiting tourist attractions, museums and buying occasional online TV shows and movies. We don’t have a satellite dish so no costs there. We watch free over the air antenna TV when available.
Total Cost of Basic Expenses for our 6 months Snowbird Adventure = 14,715 USD or roughly $19,000 Canadian
If you look at my accounting for our trip two years ago you’ll see it was very similar. That season came in at $14,428 USD or $18,917 CAD