After a heavy snowfall, there’s often a period of peaceful quiet where the world seems to stand still. In these moments, winter is the most beautiful, but it can’t last. Because snow shoveling, icy road conditions, and high heating bills aren’t far behind.
Yet cold weather relief may be found in an unlikely avenue: Traveling. While the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that winter fuel bills in 2019-2020 will decline among average U.S. households, there are additional winter living costs to consider. Along with high natural gas bills, you may also shell out excessive amounts of cash on winter-centric automotive tune-ups and repairs, as well as winter gear such as boots, snow pants, and more.
Although it may seem counterintuitive, traveling south may be more cost-effective in the long run than buckling down through the winter. Of course, you’ll be a lot more comfortable in your own home-away-from-home: A well-maintained recreational vehicle. Not only are RVs cheaper than a hotel stay, they come with better amenities that are also more personalized.
So, if you’re on the fence about what to do for holiday travel and the cost of winter living is high in your part of the country, you might consider driving south for the winter. Here’s what you need to know if you aspire to be a snowbird this winter.
Traveling: An American Holiday Tradition
The 2018 holiday season was a record-breaker, at least as far as travel was concerned. AAA reports that 112.5 million Americans spent their holiday away from home in 2018. Further, the vast majority of those travelers, more than 102 million, traveled via roads and highways. The result, especially in major metropolitan areas, was plenty of roadway congestion.
Thus, if a holiday road trip is in your future, you need to be smart about it. If your trip will be more robust and lengthy than a simple holiday weekend at Grandma’s, you have more flexibility when it comes to travel dates. But keep in mind that adequate preparation is a key component of any road trip, regardless of duration. Make sure to research your destination and places you plan to stop along the way. You’ll also want to get your vehicle ready and stock your RV with a variety of essentials, from food to first aid supplies, before you head out.
Much like you prepare your home for the possibility of a winter weather emergency, you should also get your RV ready for the winter, even if you have no travel plans. Your RV can essentially serve as a safe house or bunkhouse when winter storms hit, so maintaining and cleaning your RV is a win-win. Ensure that all engine fluids are topped off and changed if needed. You should also swap out old linens for clean, fresh ones, and re-stock your RV pantry with canned goods.
Winter Trip Planning Essentials
Once you’ve made the decision to get away during the winter months, you have a lot of planning to do. As previously mentioned, you should keep high-traffic dates in mind when putting together your itinerary. And to keep food expenses low while you’re on the road, make sure to bring plenty of healthy food options, from snacks to quick-fix dinners.
You also need to consider what you’re leaving behind. Give your home a good once-over before you depart, and ensure that all unnecessary appliances and electrical items are turned off. You may also want to inspect your home for leaks or drafts that could allow heat to escape. As for in-home temperature, experts recommend that you set your thermostat to between 62 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit while you’re away. Such a low setting should make a huge impact on your winter energy bills.
In addition, don’t forget that your household bills will continue to pile up, no matter how long you’re away. Consider setting up automatic bill payments so that you can avoid the negative repercussions that come with not paying your utility bills — such as a lower credit score and/or disconnection of your utilities.
Potential Winter Travel Roadblocks
Once you have your bills squared away and your RV is fully stocked with supplies, it’s time to hit the road. But what if your RV itself is standing in the way of your winter travel plans? The good news is that there still may be hope.
If you long to escape harsh winter weather but your RV isn’t up for the journey, consider taking out an auto repair loan. Make sure to compare all available options to get the best interest rate. Conversely, you may be able to find a repair shop that offers payment plans. Either way, the loan repayment amount should factor into your winter bill schedule.
The RV repair process is a good time to update any vehicle components that may be outdated, including the tires. If you expect to traverse snowy road conditions on your way south, you’ll want to ensure that your tires are up for the job. And don’t forget to check your spare tire as well.
When it comes down to it, winter is expensive. Leave the cold weather and its associated high costs behind by taking a lengthy vacation where the temperatures are warmer. By getting your RV road-ready well in advance and heading south, you can take holiday travel to another level.
About the Author: Frankie Wallace is a recent graduate from the University of Montana. She now resides in Boise, Idaho where she spends her days gardening and reading.