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Budgeting Update

I just tallied up some of our expenses for the trip. Our total campground expense to date has been $848.50, which includes all of our overnight stays from October 1 through December 20.

That's remarkably low, because we have taken every opportunity to boondock and courtesy park. For example, our 13 days at Cherry Creek State Park in Aurora CO cost us $318.00 ($20 per day plus a park pass). But 14 days of courtesy parking in California and Oregon (Nov 5-18) cost us nothing. The savings of courtesy parking are huge, and we appreciate it when people offer us a space. Plus, it's more fun!

Our camping expenses have risen lately. California state parks are generally more expensive and we've had fewer courtesy parking opportunities in the crowded areas along the coast. Paradoxically, the closer we are to cities, the fewer people can offer us a space. Neighborhood covenants, zoning restrictions, and limited parking space are the culprits.

Fuel has been another story. Since we spent most of October and early November logging about 6,000 miles, we purchased about $1,200 worth of gasoline. The way to reduce this cost is to drive less, but in our case we needed to get west before the cold weather set in, and so we had a large upfront expense to get out here. Now that we are here, we are spending much less on gas.

We also bought several 30# tanks of propane due to the cold nights in Denver and other high altitude areas, totalling about $150. Our usage is going down now, as we get into warmer evenings in southern California.

Although everyone focuses on the cost of campsites, the real expense turns out to be meals out and splurges. We can easily spend more on eating out in one day than we can on the campground, and a set of tickets for the family to go to an attraction (Monterey Bay Aquarium, Hearst Castle, etc) typically runs $30-50. We keep that under control by aiming for free natural attractions, like hiking, cycling, visiting friends, and beachcombing. Our ASTC Travel Passport is a big help. It gets us into science and discovery museums all over the country for free. Our National Parks pass is also great.

No matter which way we look at it, it is cheaper to travel in our Airstream than live at home. Of course, if we still had a house back in Vermont it would be a different story -- a life on the road would be an added expense. I recognize that is the reality for most people, but hopefully our experience gives you an idea of ways you can keep the expenses down and have fun while doing it.

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