Before I even begin, I’m going to take the punchline out of so many potential jokes in the comments section. No, we didn’t RV to Hawaii. We took a plane. But yes, my wife and I did drive an RV to 49/50 states in the past 13 months (all before our 25th birthday).
Traveling across the country this past year we got a lot of strange looks in RV parks, state campgrounds, and while filling up with gas. Being only 23 years old and driving a 29-foot, 1994 Class C motorhome drew some funny glances. People would look at our Breaking Bad looking RV, see the shiny new logo for “Hourly America”, and then begin to question our livelihood for the next twenty minutes while I was trying to connect our sewer line at another RV park.
While you probably clicked on this article with the idea that we were a couple of trust fund kids living off our parents wealth and traveling the country, I’m going to have to disappoint you. Not only are we not raking it in in the financial department, but we’ve been actively paying off a big chunk of student debt.
A Guide For Those Who Want to Drive Across America
But this post isn’t about paying off debt. I wrote this post as a guide of sorts for anyone who wants to do a cross-country RV trip in a short period of time. It’s not realistic for everyone to quit their jobs and travel like we did. However, once I show you the numbers from our time on the road you can then have a more educated opinion on the costs associated with living on the road or driving an RV across America.
Our RV in Seattle.
The two ways we were able to RV across the country at our age were because of a remote income and being extremely frugal on the road. Below I’ll break down the exact costs of how much money we spent while traveling to all 50 states in this past year, how much money we spent on the road, and some practical tips to begin planning your own journey.
Your Travel Costs May Be Different
One thing I’ll say before getting into the specifics: the cost to start full-time RVing will be different for everyone. It all depends on your spending habits and how much comfort you need to get by.
Are you willing to stay in more state parks and cook a lot of meals in the RV, or do you need to eat out at all of the local restaurants when visiting a new town? There is no right answer, it just depends on your own preferences.
Some things change, some things remain the same.
For us, we didn’t have much money to spend. Our goal was to enjoy as much of our surroundings as possible for as little spent as possible. Sometimes this meant passing on experiences we would have loved to go on, but it was the tradeoff of covering so much ground in such a small amount of time.
Cost breakdown for visiting 50 states by RV:
- Gas: $6,593.57 (Obviously going to be your largest expense, by far. I recommend downloading an app such as Gas Buddy to help you find cheap local stations. Also, never fill up at the station closest to the interstate, that’s a rookie mistake.)
- Lodging: $2,710.84 (We had memberships like Passport America, Good Sam, and also camped in a ton of driveways and farms. Other great resources are Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome.)
- Groceries: $2,053.05 (We cooked almost every single meal in the RV. My wife has a gluten allergy, so we didn’t really have a choice to eat out a ton and it saved us so much money as a result.)
- Gym Membership: $344.84 (at Planet Fitness, these are great for showering on the road. Super cheap and have over 800 locations).
- Phone Bill: $1,311.22 (Verizon. We had service almost everywhere except west Texas where there is literally nothing around for miles. We used a Verizon Jetpack for WiFi service and it worked great for us.)
- Eating Out: $512.88 (Sometimes you need to go out and have a margarita and queso)
- Giving: $210
- Maintenance: $1,955.72 (You’ll definitely want to budget for monthly maintenance, our average monthly maintenance cost was $340.)
- Miscellaneous & Entertainment: $3,432.60
- Alaska and Hawaii costs were $4,602.38
Total cost to travel to 50 states: $23,727.10
How we self funded our time on the road:
- Sponsorship: $13,171.35 (read here about how we found a sponsor)
- GoFundMe (crowdfunding campaign): $4,175
- Freelance work and writing: $3,175.37
- Selling 2004 Mercury Milan: $4,000
- Total Income: $24,521.72
How long did the 50 state road trip take?
The 48 state portion of our journey took exactly 200 days. In some states, like California, we spent as long as a week visiting. While others, like North Dakota, we spent only 8 hours in. Below is a picture of the route we took. Alaska we spent two weeks visiting and Hawaii we spent one week.
- Our average nightly cost for lodging was $13.55.
- Our average daily cost on food for two people was $12.82.
- The number of miles we covered in RVing to 49 states was approximately 21,000 miles.
Final Thoughts About Cross-Country RV Travel
Traveling across America in an RV was the greatest adventure so far in our lives. We’ve learned how to live in a small space, appreciate simplicity, get along in our brand new marriage, and even how to create remote income so that we can continue our traveling.
What driving an RV to 49 states has taught me, is that travel doesn’t have to be for the rich or retired. Driving an RV across America is an adventure that I recommend everyone attempt at least once in their lives.
Go swimming in a lake next to the Tetons. Explore the Grand Canyon. Drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. And don’t let the fear of the unknown and money hold you back. If two crazy kids can do it with an old (but faithful) motorhome, so can you.
If you want to learn more about how to travel on a budget or how we made money on the road, I put together a free course you can find here called How to see America on $2,000/month or less.