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How to Save Money When RVing

Updated on October 11, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I have traveled extensively throughout the US for many years and enjoy helping people to enjoy their own vacations.

If you plan to travel in a motor home, trailer or camper and want to save a good deal of money doing it, these tips will help you to achieve this goal.

I’ve been RVing for more than 50 years and can tell you that many people spend far more than is necessary during their vacations.

I believe this is because they

  • don’t understand that they can reduce their costs significantly without sacrificing
  • have more money than brains or
  • think they need to have all of the luxuries when they’re on the road.

Whatever the case, the bottom line is that when you RV, your living quarters are the same no matter where you go, so unless you have very exotic tastes, you’ll be just as comfortable paying $15 per night for a campsite as you will be paying $40 or more!

My husband and I just returned from a two month RV trip.

Our basic costs for gasoline, dining out and camping totaled less than $25 per day.

  • If you follow the advice I provide here, you can do the same.
  • If not, you’ll be paying much more, but you won’t be having any more fun!

Tips that will help RVers to save hundreds of dollars on every vacation they take.
Tips that will help RVers to save hundreds of dollars on every vacation they take. | Source

The Key to Saving Is Good Planning

You should start planning your vacation several months before your leave date because this gives you time to gather the facts you need to

  1. forecast trip costs,
  2. find the best deals on campsites,
  3. arrange for the least expensive travel routes,
  4. time your trip and
  5. reduce your restaurant food costs.

Doing this research takes time, but the amount of money you will save as a result will be well worth your time and effort.

Forecast Travel Costs

Good planning includes doing some realistic travel cost forecasting.

How to Estimate the Cost of Your Next RV Trip shows you how to do this.

  • If you want to save money, this is one of the best ways of doing so because forecasting allows you to get a true picture of travel costs.
  • If you don't like what you see, you can go back and adjust your travel plan until you are happy with what you will have to pay for your vacation.

Find the Best Camping Deals

There are a number of methods you can use to greatly reduce what you pay to camp. You would be amazed to learn how easy this is to do and how much fun you can have doing it.

One of the best is to join a good discount camping club. The one my husband and I use, Passport America, allows us to save up to 50% (sometimes more) and has 1900 affiliate parks.

Some of them do have limits on the days when you can use the discounts, but if you plan carefully, you can get the full financial benefit of staying in them.

The membership is very inexpensive, $44 per year, and quickly pays for itself, so it’s worth the investment.

How to Save a Small Fortune on Your Camping Costs and Live Free in Your RV both give you more tips about saving on campsites, so you should take the time to read them.

You can save even more by

  1. making use of national park discount passes and
  2. taking advantage of the many free and inexpensive privately owned parks that have hookups.

Finally, you can use your negotiating skills to obtain discounted prices for many campsites.

For example, the trip I mentioned earlier was inexpensive because my husband and I found a campground owner who worked a deal with us to stay in his park for $14.50 per night if we would guarantee him a month.

He was located close to a big tourist area and offered full hookup, 50 amp service with free cable and WIFI. In addition, he gave us free coffee and snacks twice each day!

So while other people were paying $45 per night to camp right in the middle of all the action, we were saving $30 per night and were still close enough to enjoy the local entertainment venues! Staying there saved us $900!

We found this park because it was listed in our Passport America camping guide.

If you want to know where the free and inexpensive campgrounds with hookups are located, you need only buy a copy of Americas Guide to Free and Low Cost Campgrounds.

We have used this excellent guide for years, and have spent many happy hours camping for practically nothing in beautiful parks with hookups all around the US.

You can find additional information by searching "free campgrounds" on the internet. There are literally hundreds of them, but not all have hookups so read the details carefully.

Finding deals like the ones I discuss here is easier than you may think, but doing so does require that you do some research before ever leaving home.

The bottom line is that you can save a small fortune on camping simply by

  • investing in a good camping club,
  • buying a book or two,
  • checking the internet and
  • making a few phone calls to verify information.

You can stay in this government park for $11 per night if you have a National Park Pass.
You can stay in this government park for $11 per night if you have a National Park Pass. | Source

Reduce Restaurant Food Costs

Eating in restaurants is the second biggest expense for people on vacations, but you can reduce those costs by

• cooking and eating most of your own meals in your coach,

• eating breakfast or lunch in restaurants (instead of dinner) or

• taking advantage of dining specials.

Many restaurants have certain days or times of the week when you can enjoy some of the meals they serve while paying less for them.

For example, every Thursday one place in Florida gives away free BBQ wings, and on Wednesdays, another gives away free pie!

You can also choose to "double down" on certain deals if you eat a late lunch in place of your dinner.

• For example, a local Gulfport, MS casino runs its mid week buffet lunch until 3:30. The price doubles after that, but the food is mostly the same.

• So, a couple who is seated before the meal service changes can save as much as $25 and virtually eat the same food!

What makes finding such deals possible is research. If you want to cut costs but still enjoy some of the luxuries, you have to find out where the deals are and how they work!

Seek Out InexpensiveTravel Routes

Most RVers don't "get" that they can save money traveling from one destination to another simply by taking the time to seek out routes that allow them to go from point A to point B using the shortest, best, least expensive and most efficient roads and highways.

The best way to do this is to use trip planners that estimate mileage to help you compare options.

It takes some time to come up with the right plan, but once you do, the savings can be huge.

For example:

  • If I am getting 8 miles per gallon and want to drive from Tampa, Florida to Louisville, Kentucky, I can choose routes that take me 878 miles, 912 Miles or 1088 miles. At two dollars per gallon, the first one will cost $220 for gas, the second $228 and the third $272.
  • The difference in dollar between the first and third routes is $52, but if I return home using the same route, I've saved $104. Yet, I've ended up in the same spots!
  • I've also saved myself many hours of driving and have reduced the wear and tear on my equipment.

You should also plan to route yourself through as many states as possible that charge less for fuel because doing this can be a big money saver.

Using the information from internet sites such as Gasbuddy lets you know how much gas and diesel fuel cost nationwide on any given day.

Thus, if you try to pass through the areas that charge less, you can take advantage of their pricing and equalize your fuel costs.

It costs less to use certain roads and highways than others.
It costs less to use certain roads and highways than others. | Source

Time Your Vacations

The most interesting thing about taking RV trips is that the longer you stay put in one spot, the less you pay!

This is because campgrounds give significant discounts to people who are willing to stay in their parks for a week or longer. Staying in one spot for a month can actually cut your camping costs in half.

I just spoke to a park owner of a park in Hermosa, SD who charges $28 per night plus tax but was willing to give me a site for one month for $15 per night. I found out about this great price reduction simply by calling and asking what he would do for us if we decided to stay at his park!

FYI: Hermosa is a very small town that sits 17 miles outside of Rapid City and is located at the entrance to Custer State Park!

You can also save a small fortune by traveling off season because things will cost much less.

Once the main rush of tourists have left town, vendors drop their prices for just about everything, and off season RVers benefit big time!

You Don't Have to Spend a Fortune to RV

I can honestly tell you that it really feels good to come home from an RV trip knowing that I had a great time and spent relatively little money to do so.

It does take some time to do the research and set things up, but the payoff is huge.

Campground owners and tourist venues want you to think you have to spend a fortune to travel, but this simply is not true.

Many good deals are out there just waiting for you if you are willing to use the RV travel money saving methods I've shared with you here.

Would you use any of these methods to save money when RVing?

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  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 2 months ago

    Karen Hellier: Thanks. You might be smarter to copy and paste them into your computer because I'm old and if something should happen to me, they'll probably go offline. I've thought about putting them into a Kindle book but frankly don't have the energy to do it lol!

  • Karen Hellier profile image

    Karen Hellier 2 months ago from Georgia

    Wow, lots of great tips here to keep in mind when I start traveling with my RV...ha ha, when I get one. Not at that point yet But I need to bookmark your articles because they are all so helpful!