One of the things we’ve always enjoyed is traveling. Before the kids came along, the wife and I would make a point of visiting America’s national parks. Seeing nature, learning a little history, and simply being on the road. One of our first dates was spent adrift in Biscayne National Park on a broken snorkeling boat for four hours with thirty other people and no bathroom.
You don’t get that at Disney World.
And I for one have always enjoyed driving and the experience of the open road. It is an experience that is a treasured, integral part of living in North America I believe and fully support.
As we all know though, things change. We get busy. We make families or change lifestyles. Work, that necessary evil, gets in the way of the living part of life.
In our case, we’re busy as ever, but our children are starting to get old enough where we can, should, start thinking about taking real vacations with them. Actually, from my perspective, it’s not even really about “vacation” as I want them to experience the world beyond our little home as much and as early as possible. I simply think it will make them more well adjusted kids, and eventually, well adjusted adults.
The plus side of our current lifestyle is that we both work from home. So as long as we have an internet connection we can basically work from anywhere. The other harsh reality though is that we’re basically broke. With a focus on keeping a roof over our heads, food on the table and a good education for our children, there is zero money left over for vacations.
The question becomes, can we see the world, or at least our little part of it, on an essentially nonexistent budget? I think so. So like any good project we’re working on a plan. I don’t know when or even if we’ll execute our plan, but a plan doesn’t really cost much to put together.
Our thought is to get a travel trailer and use that as our base camp for our travels. The wife and I have been discussing our vacation options for quite some time now. Nearly every possible scenario was considered, and we decided that a small trailer that we could tow with our current little SUV would be the best choice. It would provide basically a roaming hotel room, and allow us the freedom to explore the countryside and mountain vistas with our vehicle, while the trailer stayed at a campground.
We would need a trailer that could sleep the four of us. More importantly, it must have a toilet and shower. And to keep meal costs low, the trailer would have a small refrigerator, range, sink and microwave. Before you think we’re “glamping”, all of these amenities are very common, even on small inexpensive travel trailers.
Lengthwise we’d go as small as possible; somewhere between 13′ and 21′ long; with 16′ as our benchmark to shoot for.
But Chris, you guys are broke, how can you afford this? We can’t but that’s never been a deterrent before. And as we prioritize things, at least I believe it’s important to get the kids out there to start seeing the world. Doing this when they are in their 20’s is useless. We will all hate each other by then. It’s now or never.
Having a little trailer hopping from campsite to campsite seemingly would be fun as well – little twinkle lights on the awning, turkey burgers on the grill. Meeting strange people that we can hide from in the safety of our hard trailer walls at night.
Anything is possible if you put your mind to it, right?
Travel Trailer Game Plan
We do not have a set schedule, but preferably by spring of next year we’ll be well on our way to achieving our goal of having a trailer and hitting the road.
As stated, our intent would be to use the trailer as a base camp. A place to sleep, hang out at night, eat breakfast and dinner in, occasionally lunch. Aside from trailer cost, we’re assuming food costs would be neutral compared to being at home. Campsite costs run around $20-$30 a night according to USAtourist.com, which is about $100 less per night than a hotel room. We figure we’ll eat out less if we can cook our own meals, so maybe save $20-$30 on food per day compared to a regular hotel based “vacation”. Fuel costs will be higher due to reduced gas mileage (+$300/year?). Plus additional insurance (+$300/year?) so that will offset some of the cost savings of our mobile hotel room.
We’re thinking about twenty nights on the road a year – two vacations at a week apiece, plus a few long weekends. And this doesn’t include any out of state art shows we might use the trailer for. One other awesome thought we had too, was, in theory we could pack up the cats, kids and gear, and park our trailer in a campground on the Gulf coast for two weeks to escape the seasonally depressing NEOhio winter.
It sure beats putting a bullet in my head.
Without doing any hard math, I’m guessing if we had a $10,000 budget the endeavor would pay for itself via cost avoidance in 3-5 years. At which time we could trade it in and get ourselves even further into debt with some other hair brained idea of mine.
Before we talk more about budget though, let’s start looking at trailers. Because up until a few days ago I didn’t even know what to expect they would cost…