I know what you must be thinking, what kind of topic is this? Going RVing is synonymous with being entertained, right? No advice necessary? But wait; as a full-timer, especially a working-age one, it’s not always that simple.
For years I’ve been pointing out to future full-timers that unless you’re truly rich, treating this lifestyle like a perpetual vacation is a no-no. It’s so tempting when you get started to want to strike out from coast to coast and hit every major attraction along the way. The new found freedom is intoxicating, you just have to see it all!
But you’ll run out of money if you stay in vacation mode for months on end: driving every day, hitting every tourist stop, eating out every evening, paying for a premium RV site every night. Not to mention how stressful and tiring it can be to keep up a tight schedule for that long. This is something every young full-timer learns pretty early on, either by trial or by getting the advice from others in advance.
I’ve talked plenty before about things you can do to save and earn money to keep you on the road longer, so it’s time to explore another topic: How do you still get out and see the things you want to see, and do the things you want to do, when you’re on a budget?
Five ways to get out and have fun that are less hard on your wallet and sanity:
- Set aside a certain amount of money for entertainment for each week or month, and then stick with it. Not every day is going to be a good tourist day anyway – bad weather happens, and chores will need to get done. On days you don’t visit an attraction you can still enjoy the location you’re at: take a walk, sit outside and read, take a drive to the nearest town and see what’s there.
- Take advantage of monthly RV rates. Instead of paying premium to stay closest to one attraction, pick a central location from which you can explore several areas and pay a cheaper weekly or monthly rate instead of the daily one.
- Even better: Try boondocking. There is a lot of public land out west where one can camp for free, jumping from location to location. If you’re looking to explore new areas, especially the desert, this is about as authentic an experience as you can get.
- Think of ways to cut corners. If you don’t buy souvenirs for every place you visit, and don’t eat out every time you go out, that leaves you more money to work with. Pack lunch to take with you, and take photos for a souvenir. Stay at parks that you can get discounts at through memberships (just make sure the membership cost is worth it!) or other deals.
- Look for attractions that have less, or no, cost of admission. A lot of museums don’t for instance, and then you learn something too. National Forests and Wildlife Refuges tend to be cheaper to visit than National Parks, and also less crowded. If you’re going to do a lot of National sites (parks, monuments, etc), buy an annual pass. It may be $80 up front, but it’s good for a whole year.
And I know the reverse is also true for some people. What if tourist things aren’t your cup of tea and you’re worried you won’t be able to find enough to do to keep yourself occupied on the road?
- Visit friends and relatives. Even if they don’t live in a top destination area, it’ll still be someplace new, and you’ll have locals to show you around.
- Caravan with other RVers. The friendships you’ll make have endless possibilities for entertainment, and as a bonus you can likely carpool to local attractions to save on gas.
- Think hobbies. Despite space issues there are a lot of things you can do on the road: Fishing, crafts, music, writing, photography. Learn a new skill, or even a new language. There must be something you always wished you had time to learn how to do – now’s the perfect time to start.
- Volunteer or work-camp. Benefits usually include a free or greatly reduced RV site, helping others, feeling like you’re doing something worthwhile, really getting to know a new area, and depending on the gig – money.
I find that I still have plenty of fun and get to do a lot of neat things while I travel, even though I’m working full-time for a good part of the year and am location bound for months at a time. Being a young full-timer need not be synonymous with all work and no play.
What do you do to keep yourself entertained on a budget?
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