Camping prices are increasing…fast. We can’t put our heads in the sand. We have to face up to it and make a conscious decision whether this is our year to go west.
Not to get maudlin, but at 70 years of age, we have a finite window of good health, tons of energy and a bucket list of places that we want to see while we’re on this earth. We have to balance money sense and meeting our long held desire to see the western US and some National Parks.
Luckily, we aren’t posh. We don’t look for resort accommodations with hot tubs, tennis courts and lots of activities. Our favorite campgrounds are bare bones with shade and space. We are thrilled if we run into wildlife (and I am not talking about a kegger at the next site.) We look for trees, water, electricity and nice nature trails.
Here are the facts of RV travel. We tow a 27-foot trailer with a quarter ton truck. We get approximately 10 mpg when we are towing and 20 mpg when we drive the truck without the trailer behind us.
When I budget for a trip, I only count: gas, camping fees, and admissions. Our food and restaurant budget is almost exactly the same whether we are camping or at home, And we’ve got to eat.
That said, there are big changes in camping costs in 2022. Gas prices have doubled in the last year and it isn’t looking like they are coming down any time soon. According to AAA, the average price of gas in the U.S. is now $4.37. Last year we paid on average $2.40 per gallon.
Last year our average cost for campgrounds was $34 a night. That included a mix of State Park campgrounds and private campgrounds.
This year we are estimating an average cost of $40 a night and we will be booking more state and municipal parks, State Forests, and parks run by the Army Corps of Engineers. These campgrounds are less expensive and more to our nature-loving tastes. Private campgrounds are fine in a pinch because they are more available and are often convenient to the highway. They also tend to have camping sites crammed together and no shade.
Bottom line we expect to pay 25% more for gas and camping fees this year compared to 2021.
Last year our trip to North Dakota/ South Dakota and Arkansas was 16,000 miles and took 16 weeks. It cost $6,800 for gas and camp fees.
This year’s 16,000mile/ 16 week cross country trip to Utah / Arizona /New Mexico is budgeted to come in at $8,800.
Now there are a lot of things that can be done to nudge down those prices.
We can stay longer in each campground and take advantage of weekly or monthly rates.
We can also boondock out West. Boondocking (also called Dispersed Camping) is parking without electricity, water or dumping services. That might be feasible for us. Our RV has water and toilet tanks. We will have solar panels for 12 volt energy use once we are out of the mountains and touring Arizona and New Mexico.)
I think the best thing to do, is to be realistic, save our pennies for the trip and have a great time. In 2023 we can trim our sails if we need to. After spending more than a month camping this winter in north Florida and south Georgia, we learned that there is lots of fun to be had closer to home. But I really want to see Utah when my back and knees can handle it.
What are your thoughts on budgeting for camping this year?