Family RV Trip

August 30th, 2018in travel
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We just returned from a week-ish-long RV trip with the family that (to me at least) was some form of love song to my parents: this is what I grew up doing and how I came to love the U.S., and it was something I’d wanted to share with my own kids for some time now.
Overall it was a pretty successful trip despite some cuts and changes - we saw lots of things, nobody murdered anyone (despite some close calls), and I think we’d all do it again (albeit differently - see Lessons Learned below.)
Much like my dad did back in the day (minus the website), I’ll go into full-on ‘my dad’ mode and reflect on some data I gathered durign the trip.

Campground costs

DateCampgroundCost ($)Cost per diem ($)
8-21Three Island Crossing State Park$44.22$44.22
8-22,-23Ruby’s Inn (Bryce Canyon)$128.26$64.13
8-24Fossil Valley RV Park$46$46
8-25Montpelier Creek KOA$64.14$64.14
8-26,-27Yellowstone West Gate KOA$102.07$51.04
8-28Camp Coeur d’Alene$64.80$64.80
Overall, campground costs were reasonably consistent and commensurate with services offered (e.g. Ruby’s Inn (pool, store, …) vs. Fossil Valley (nothing)).

Gas costs

DateFuel amount (gal)Fuel cost ($)Fuel cost ($/gal)Range (mi)Fuel efficiency (mpg)
8-2131.59 gal$96.55$3.05/gal250 mi7.91 mpg
8-2236.78 gal$119.50$3.25/gal307.6 mi8.36 mpg
8-2242.56 gal$138.28$3.25/gal315.3 mi7.41 mpg
8-2436.49 gal$124.03$3.40/gal256.8 mi7.03 mpg
8-2543.10 gal$155.06$3.60/gal390.8 mi9.07 mpg
8-2632.57 gal$106.14$3.26/gal293.4 mi9.01 mpg
8-2846.89 gal$137.16$2.93/gal432.4 mi9.22 mpg
8-2935.03 gal$105.06$3.00/gal274.5 mi7.84 mpg
8-3040.94 gal$130.97$3.20/gal326.8 mi7.98 mpg
Total345.95 gal$1,112.75$3.22/gal (avg)2847.6 mi8.20 mpg (avg)
This correlates with interstate driving, followed by state road and smaller roads driving, then back to interstate driving, and curiously enough interstate driving getting us worse fuel efficiency, even though we often hit similar speeds on local roads. Interesting! My best theory is that local roads were almost entirely empty so there was less accelerating/decelerating due to other drivers.

RV costs

We rented a 30’ Cruise America RV for ten days, with the cost broken down into:
ItemCost ($)
Day rate (total)$2,140.00
Miles ($0.35/mi)$1,006.25
Generate use fees ($3.50/hr)$7
State and rental taxes$558.13
Effective day rate$371.14

Total trip costs

ItemCost ($)
RV rental (total)$3,711.38
Per diem$528.86
Per diem per person (6)$88
…not accounting for food, of course. Overall this feels like a pretty decent way to see a bunch of cool stuff for low-ish cost compared to, say, plane travel. As a bonus, we also got to bring Felix the Dog!

Lessons learned

  • It’s not a great idea to execute on an RV trip with a tight schedule.
    • If the weather doesn’t cooperate (we got rained out in Bryce Canyon and in Yellowstone for a day each), you have to start cutting aggressively and that sucks. We ended up skipping our planned stop at Arches N.P. to get another day at Bryce, and just had to phone it in at Yellowstone. Instead, we got more time to hang out, read, and play games, and that was okay too, just not what I’d expected.
    • If anything goes wrong (even as simple as extra stops required for dog pees, general kid/cat herding/etc.), days get out of whack and it’s unpleasant.
  • It’d be nice to travel less per day, whenever possible. Aim for less ambitious trips, spend more time at State Parks instead of just the big-name National Parks, etc.
  • Don’t underestimate the stress of having no quiet place to escape to in a small RV with six people.
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