February 26, 2020 (by Angela)
Since going full-time in the RV and through the spring of 2018, most all of Jim’s work contracts had been where we could move to a campground near the hospital for which he was working. The client then paid our site rent and utilities rather than the much higher cost of consultant travel to and from each week (staying on site is about 75% less than weekly travel expenses). That situation was a win for the client and a win for us. With Jim traveling to and from the job site, or between contracts, for most of 2018 and 2019, we needed to pay our own site rent and utilities.
As Jim and I adjusted to having to pay all of our own site and utility fees during this period, we finally settled on $600 per month as our budget amount for a month of site rent plus electric. We bought propane as needed. Eventually, he and I purchased a mobile dish satellite for which we pay only in the months we use it. This way, if the campground has cable, we don’t need the dish. Otherwise, we have a TV option. The last thing we’ve added to our set up is a MiFi to ensure connectivity in situations where WiFi is absent or lacking in campgrounds. The fees for Dish and MiFi were not, and are not, part of our budget for campsite rent expenditures.
Currently, Jim is working a contract remotely; he has been since the end of November – about the time we left our wonderful Camp Hosting gig at Shawnee Forest Campground. It was the first week of December 2019 when I approached Jim about an idea. I had seen Thousand Trails was offering a special price for the first annual Zone Pass (good for a geographical area). Additional Zone Passes could be added for almost nothing (about the cost of 2 nights or less at a campground). Another package known as the Trails Collection could be added for not much more than many campgrounds with full hookup charge for a week without any discounts. I suggested to Jim that we purchase the Southeast Zone Pass along with the Trails Collection and give it a try in 2020. After we looked at the pros and cons together, we decided to give it a go.
There are rules that must be followed. For example, with the plan we have, reservations cannot be made more than 60 days in advance. We can only stay a maximum of two weeks in one park, and then we have to be out of the Thousand Trails (TT) system for seven days before we can stay again. The exception is that if we stay no longer than four days in a park or campground, we can transition to another for up to four more days, etc. There are some limits on holiday stays, but we’ve not run into an issue with that yet. Some parks require that at least one of us is over 55 – not a problem, and we kind of like age-qualified parks. A few parks in high-demand areas require a $20/night fee instead of being free to us. These are often places that would normally be in excess of $100/night otherwise. Electricity is always included, and so far we’ve always had full hookups.
Knowing we’d have to be out of the network roughly every third week, we set our new budget for campsite fees and electric, if extra, to $200 per month. This is in addition to the annual TT membership fees we paid, which totaled $784, or $65.33 per month for 2020, which means we get three (3) weeks of full hookup camping, including electric and sometimes cable TV, for $65.33.
Jim and I plan to make use of other discount programs we have or use the occasional boondocking option during our time out of the TT system. Since we know where we’re staying until the end of February, I can tell you how it’s going so far.
In January 2020, we spent $198.55 on campsite fees; additional electricity was $2.30. This totaled $200.85. For February, we spent $201.04; however, the Encore RV Resort (TT Trails Collection) in which we are staying now charges $3 per day, plus tax, per dog as a pet fee. This is the only campground or park in the TT system in which we have stayed or have reservations to stay that has a dog fee. You’re told at the time of choosing to make a reservation online about the fee. The pet fee for our 14-day stay here cost $46.31. This is included in the $201.04. We could have chosen a different park in the area without this fee, but this is a really nice RV Resort park we wanted to try.
In summary, Jim and I feel that our experiment is going well, and we’re on budget. At the end of the year, we’ll try to give you the final results. If it works as planned, all costs included, we will cut our site rent and electricity expense by more than $4,000 in 2020. Our fingers are crossed!