Come summer, two of our favorite clients might be checking in with us from the wilds of Alaska. Or they could be calling from the Valley of Fire in Nevada, from Yosemite, or the Acadia National Park in Maine. This retired couple has managed to do what many people only dream of, spending 6 months each summer on the road in their RV travelling from coast to coast across the U.S. What’s more, they’ve managed to do it on a budget.
Bob and Dianne started their summer sojourns in 2005. Both retired that year, and as Dianne puts it, “they wanted to travel but since they weren’t millionaires, they couldn’t keep going around the world.” They first tried camping, but missed some of the creature comforts. That led to their first summer trip with an RV, and they were hooked.
“Every day an adventure”
They have now moved up to their third RV (this one’s diesel to save fuel costs) and couldn’t be happier. Each summer, they alternate destinations. One year they go West, which a few years back meant a drive from Florida to Alaska, and the next year they head East, driving toward their native New England and points as far east as Newfoundland.
What prompted the travel bug? They had a dim view of the traditional retirement where you “sit around and age.” So Bob and Dianne vowed to get on the road and stay busy, making each day “a new adventure,” as they call it. They’re usually on the road by April or May, and only return to their home in central Florida when the temperatures cool in October or November.
Their trips are a combination of “planned in advance” and “improvisation,” says Dianne. She gets recommendations of great places to visit from other RVers and keeps a file of trip ideas. She then coordinates with the kids and grandkids to plan family visits along the way. This summer’s trip West will include the couple’s first visit to Big Bend National Park in Texas, but the rest of the itinerary is open.
How do they keep their costs down? Dianne says they like campgrounds managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. They are usually in nice locations by a river or lake, and offer special discounts for overnight stays. The couple also belongs to the Thousand Trails, which runs a network of private camping resorts. For a membership fee of about $500 per year, they can stay – usually at no cost – at RV parks across the country. Bob estimates that a full season of diesel fuel costs about the same as just one week on a cruise ship.
Don’t think they’re roughing it as they travel the highways and byways. They make a point of shopping at the local farmer’s markets wherever they go, and take a small Weber grill with them for impromptu barbeques. They have satellite TV, a fridge that can keep chilling on battery power if needed, and find plenty to do at each stop, whether reading, detouring to check out local attractions like the presidential libraries, or catching up with fellow travelers they’ve met on previous trips.
Keeping it together while you’re on the road
They’re pros at keeping their lives organized, even when they are away. They take their laptop (complete with air card) on the road with them, pay bills online, and keep in touch with a low-cost, unlimited-use cell service that uses their home telephone number. Mail is forwarded to them, wherever they go, under a service provided by the Family Motor Coach Association.
Is RVing across the country for everyone? Bob and Dianne say couples should do fine as long as both like to travel. Despite the close quarters, they say they actually “get along better on the road.” While they do plan their itinerary to include visits with family, they agree their lifestyle may not be a good fit for retirees who like daily visits with the grandkids.
The best part of their trips? The couple says it’s meeting interesting people, hiking and enjoying other outdoor activities, and seeing this country’s spectacular scenery. Reports Dianne, “everyday is an adventure with something new to do and see” and that’s why they’ll keep up their travel “as long as their health holds up.” They’re gratified that through careful saving and wise investment planning over the years, their nest egg has grown enough to fund a comfortable retirement and the freedom to travel, in a way far beyond what they ever thought they could afford.
A perfect fit
Bob and Dianne have found a unique way to make the most of their retirement and indulge their wanderlust, all without breaking the bank. Their story is a great example of what good financial planning is all about … making your life goals and your resources come together in a perfect fit. Join us in wishing Bob and Dianne a great trip as they venture westward, and be sure to talk to us about how we can work together to make your dreams a reality.