Okay, I have to start by acknowledging that we have crossed the line into the second half of 2022, making this post about my 2021 travel year embarrassingly late. Late or not, it is always a fun post to write as I reflect back on where I traveled, the adventures I had and the people I met along the way. As Dr. Seuss so lovingly and perfectly said…

Oh, the places you’ll go

Another Word About COVID

I ended the 2020 travel year in review post by saying how glad I’d be—how glad I thought we’d all be—to have 2020 behind us. Little did we know. As a collective we might have done ourselves a disservice by saying we only needed to get through 2020.

I actually found 2021 harder than 2020. Now, in all fairness, I didn’t lose a job or income in 2020 the way so many did. But, emotionally, 2021 was brutal. And it’s interesting because I’ve talked to a lot of people who feel the same way. I think in 2020, we got our minds around this COVID thing and believed we needed to suck it up and 2021 things would turn around and be better. But we continued to struggle with this pandemic, the death and all the divisiveness that has ensued through 2021. And it was hard.

But there is comfort in the idea that things do seem to be getting better and 2022 won’t be as hard.

Word of the Year

Did you hear that the 2021 Word of the Year was Vaccine? Some report the word as Vax. But, either way, the meaning is the same. You might remember from last year’s List of Firsts that the 2020 Word of the Year was Pandemic. No surprise there. And maybe no surprise this year either.

Okay, enough about that. Let’s get to what the actual travel year looked like for this full-timer RVer.

Travel Stats

I put 4,400 miles on the van in 2021. As you can see by the travel map, I didn’t travel far. I estimate that Quill only traveled 1,500 miles in 20201. Total miles traveled was nearly identical to those traveled in 2020 though half of what I traveled in 2019. Since the first five months of 2021 were a continuation of the COVID stay-at-home, the numbers aren’t a reflection of a true year as a full-time traveler.

Interestingly, 2022 is looking like the numbers will be similar. I like slow travel which means I like getting to a new place and staying around for a while to really get to know it. When I started, one month stays seemed right. But lately, that seems too quick for me.

I liked staying in Sumpter, Oregon, for my workamping at the Sumpter Dredge for two months. And, after, I liked staying in Long Beach, Washington, for three months. So, I’ve definitely noticed a shift in my preferred style of travel.

That, of course, is then reflected in the number of miles I put on Violet Quill (van and trailer).

Map of US with travel dots from eastern Wyoming to the coast of Washington.
The blue dots are paid campground, green are workamping spots, red are Harvest Hosts (though the Museum of Clean is buried below two other dots since I stayed at several locations around Pocatello) and purple is “other.”

Breakdown of Where I Stayed

I said one of my goals for 2020 was to decrease my average nightly cost to camp. Of course, I succeeded with that in 2020 due to moochdocking for half the year. In 2021, it was a repeat experience.

In 2019, my per night average cost was $14.03. It dropped dramatically to $6.06 due to almost 200 days of moochdocking with family in 2020. In 2021, with over 150 days of moochdocking and three months workamping, it dropped even further to $5.53.

However, and in all fairness, it didn’t drop. In the past when I’ve had work done on the trailer and had to stay at a hotel for a couple nights, I factored that into the per night average. It makes sense to do that since it is a cost of travel even though it isn’t a campground expense. When I had that horrible trailer breakdown in Idaho and ended up in an overpriced hotel for four nights, it meant my true average nightly cost came in at $7.73 for 2021.

A small white trailer next to a white van with trees in the background.
My camping spot at an RV park in Evanston, Wyoming in July 2021. I stayed for a month to take advantage of the discounted monthly rates..

An overview of where I overnighted looks like this:

  • 110 paid camping spots
  • 2 Harvest Hosts stays
  • 160 free nights (aka moochdocking)
  • 89 workamping nights
  • 4 nights were “other”

My Harvest Host night stays were a winery in between workamping assignments and a fantastic Idaho museum.

Since I spent three months workamping in 2021 (the most I’d done previously in a year was a month), the number of nights of paid camping spots made up less than one-third of a year. Now, that’s a way to save on camping fees.

Moochdocking nights were similar to 2020. No surprise as basically the last half of 2020 and the first half of 2021 were COVID-related, non-travel, stay safe days.

The most unfortunate stat here is the four nights of “other.” You will remember my RV breakdown in Idaho. It resulted in a four night stay at a hotel causing me to be a couple days late to my Kam Wah Chung workamping job.

Tins and boxes with Chinese writing on the outside stacked on shelves.
Doc’s Hays herbs and animal parts that made up the medicines he became known far and wide for providing now on display at Kam Wah Chung.

2021 Travel Expenses

As I report 2021 expenses below, keep in mind that I am sharing what is related to RV life. That means things like gifts, donations, health insurance, books, postage and similar things are not included. The numbers here add up to about $17,000. If you are curious, my total expenses for the year were just over $21,000.

RV Related

  • Camping Fees: $2,727 making my average nightly cost $7.73 though, as I said, $809 of that was the four days in a motel while I waited for the RV to get repaired. I spent another $51 on supporting the businesses at Harvest Hosts by buying wine, items in gift shops and paying entry fees. The most expensive nights were $38.88 for the Batise Springs RV Park in Pocatello, Idaho. The least expensive nights were in Long Beach, Washington at Cranberry RV Park where I got a monthly rate which came in at $14.87 per night.
  • Gas for the van was $1,076. Gas prices for, basically, the same number of miles as last year meant this category was 25% higher.
  • Propane came in at $16.46. This is a number that other RVers might find low but I prefer to use a space heater for warmth generally making my electric bill higher. But I prefer the heat from a space heater.
  • Maintenance costs were $3,900. This is four times what it was the previous year. The bulk of the expense was the repair from the roadside breakdown. But I also had a big jump in vehicle registration costs. In fact, it was a tenfold increase. Yes, my registration in Wyoming was ten times more expensive than it was in Alaska, if you can believe that.
  • Insurance for my van, the trailer and a renter’s policy which covers all my belongings in came to $2,097.
  • RV-Related Memberships and Fees for RV Events added up to nothing. I had planned and paid to attend the Escapees Escapade but ended up cancelling due to the hot temperatures and fear of not having hook ups while there because I still had Kitty then.  
  • Supplies and gadgets for the rig were $276.
  • Storage Fees for the RV added up to $576.
Clear stream with greenery and rocks. Photo taken from a low bridge.
This was a little bridge over a stream at the Batise Springs RV Park. It was so clear and still the water looked like epoxy.

Other Travel Expenses of Interest

  • Laundry (primarily in the form of quarters) was $0. I average $100 per year but in 2021, between moochdocking, workamping and leftover quarters from 2020 I didn’t need to buy any more quarters. In fact, still have many rolls so it’s doubtful I’ll spend anything on laundry in 2022 either.
  • Internet and blog-related costs added up to almost $1,700. This is an increase from last year but it was because it was time to upgrade the phone which I include in this category.
  • Food cost me $4,571. This doesn’t include eating out but, keep in mind, that’s something I rarely do. Eating out came in at less than $200.
  • Entertainment and Adventure, you might be surprised to learn, added up to a whopping $12, the entry cost of one museum in Wyoming. I’m the queen of finding free and low-cost things to do. However, that wasn’t the biggest reason. It was simply a pretty quiet year.  
Small public laundry room with coin-operated machines.
Laundry at the RV park in Rawlins Wyoming.

So there you have it. I have officially wrapped up 2020. How did your travel and / or expenses change throughout the pandemic? I’m curious.

Other Posts in the RV Life Series:

To see products recently purchased by readers or to browse and shop at Amazon, follow any one of these links. Huge thanks for your support.

Affiliate Link Disclosure. As a result of being an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.