Final Cost of Our Trip of a Lifetime

[Note: Article updated to estimate costs without the RV accident.]

2012 was a magical year.  That’s when we explored the beautiful natural lands of the western United States, Canada, and Alaska.

We left our Kentucky home in January 2012.  We spent 292 days or 9-1/2 months on the road, and ended our trip in Florida in November 2012.  We hiked 836 miles and visited 94 parks along the way, including 29 national parks, 24 state parks, and 11 national monuments.  You can view a detailed analysis of our trip here.

So now that we have finally sold our RV, I am able to calculate all our expenses related to our trip.  Without the accident, the final cost of our trip was approximately:


This computes to approximately:

$5,900 per month
$185 per day
$11 per waking hour

With the accident included, the final cost of our trip was:


This computes to approximately:

$8,000 per month
$250 per day
$15 per waking hour

This total includes all expenses related to our trip, including one-time expenses such as the purchase of our RVs and expenses related to the crash.


These numbers do not include expenses that had nothing to do with our trip, such as maintaining and selling our house back in Kentucky.  Our trip-related spending began when we purchased our first RV in October 2011.  Our spending concluded when we sold our replacement RV in August 2014 to an RV dealer in Tennessee.

Top Expenses

The top 20 expenses of our trip were:

  1. RV Purchases – $30,410
  2. RV Gas – $8,474
  3. Groceries – $6,435
  4. RV Service – $5,189
  5. Campgrounds – $4,671
  6. RV Insurance – $2,255
  7. Auto Gas – $1,987
  8. Cruises/Flights – $1,467
  9. Health Insurance – $1,464
  10. RV Registration – $1,414
  11. Dining – $1,408
  12. Telephone – $1,299
  13. Auto Insurance – $1,281
  14. Auto Parts – $1,011
  15. Clothing – $819
  16. Medical – $454
  17. Charity – $410
  18. Gifts – $409
  19. RV Supplies – $403
  20. Lodging – $398

Factors That Affected the Cost

Factors that helped lower our costs include:

  • We camped for free in national forests, national monuments, and BLM land about one third of the nights.
  • We didn’t eat in restaurants very often, and only had two expensive dinners.
  • We spent most of our days hiking for free.
  • We did most of our shopping at Walmart.

The key factor that increased our costs was the RV crash.  When we purchased our first RV, we spent 4 months searching until we found a good used RV at a great price.  But after the crash destroyed our RV, we were living in a cheap motel and driving all over southern California trying to find a replacement RV.  Under pressure to get back on the road, we ended up purchasing a new RV.  We almost never purchase new vehicles because we don’t want to incur depreciation just driving the vehicle off the dealer lot.  But we also didn’t want to live in a motel for months while hunting for the perfect used RV, and we were able to relatively quickly purchase a new RV that was almost perfect for us.

It also turned out that the type of replacement RV we purchased (Class C with no slide-outs) is not in high demand these days, so we took a substantial loss when trying to sell it.  We also incurred additional RV insurance, registration, maintenance and other costs during the 19 months after our trip was over until we finally sold our RV.  All told, we believe the RV crash resulted in about $20,000 of uncompensated extra charges.

Was It Worth It?

In a word: ABSOLUTELY!

2012 was the most amazing year of our life, and the trip would’ve still been worth it at even double the cost.  We had saved our entire lives for this trip.  If you ever have the opportunity to take a year off work and explore the world, go for it!  Though we recommend not getting into a major accident, if you can help it.  🙂

Theresa and Timm standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon

Here we are with big smiles after hiking the Grand Canyon, the last stop on our trip of a lifetime.

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