Don’t Go Broke on Your Next RV Trip
When you think of budget travel, you probably think of camping. Camping is thought of as being a cheap activity, but once you start tallying up the costs, camping can quickly become expensive. Keep your wheels turning by learning how to save money camping, on fuel, food, and more.
Budget Travel Tips for Smart RVers
Over time I’ve learned these 10 ways to save money RVing. Apply these budget travel tips to your next adventure to enjoy many more in years to come.
1. Prepare your own meals
Skip the convenience stores and fast food takeaway meals on busy travel or tour days. The average cost for a fast food meal is $5 to $7 per person. For a home-cooked meal, the average cost is only $1.50 to $3!
Instead of hitting the drive-thru, load up your cooler with healthy snacks, lunches, and drinks for busy days. Having food already prepared will help keep you from impulse buying at the convenience store.
Check out these great ideas: 5 Easy Sack Lunches For A Day On The Trail.
2. Join RV clubs
Join RV clubs such as Passport America, Escapees, or Thousand Trails. Memberships with these clubs can save you a great deal on camping fees. Passport America offers its members 50% off camping fees at their 1,800+ participating locations.
Learn more about Passport America in this Do It Yourself RV article.
3. Outdoor activities for budget travel
Another sneaky expense that can eat away at your travel budget is outdoor activities. Check out the local area for free hikes or must-see sights. Alternatively, if there is an excursion that you want to do that is more expensive, look for an online coupon or discount day.
Lucky for you, there are fee-free days to visit all of the National Parks in 2021.
4. Indoor activities for inclement weather
When the weather is not cooperating and you have to spend some time inside your RV, it can be tempting to hit up the local movie theatre or recreational facility. In 2019, the average cost for one movie ticket was $9.29 (and that doesn’t include buttery popcorn or a soft drink). A movie day out with the family can add up.
Instead, stock up on fun games like cards, backgammon, chess (anyone else obsessed with Beth Harmon from The Queen’s Gambit?), and board games. Check out your local thrift store or online marketplace to find cheap board games. If you really need to get out of the RV, check out your local library.
5. The ultimate budget travel hack: boondocking
If you are really serious about budget travel, then try boondocking. As we have previously described,
Boondocking, also known as dry camping, dispersed camping, or wild camping, is the art of staying in the wilderness without hookups or designated campsites.
For the best free camping around, learn how to boondock in your RV. Check out Your Ultimate Guide To Boondocking Off-The-Grid.
6. Get the best campground rates
For those who are not looking to dry camp and want to stay in campgrounds, you can stretch your travel budget by getting the best campground rates. Campgrounds may bump their rates during holidays, on the weekend, or during the busiest seasons. Get the best rates by staying during the week or in the offseason.
Alternatively, you can save money by staying for a week or longer – typically the average rate is lower when you stay longer. Use RV LIFE Campgrounds to find the best campgrounds for the area you are traveling to.
7. Travel slow
Another great way to budget travel is by traveling slowly. This means staying in one spot longer and driving shorter distances. By traveling slow, you can save money on your accommodations by getting that long term rate and on fuel by not gassing up as frequently.
This also gives you a chance to fully explore an area before moving on to a new destination.
8. Find cheap fuel
The price of fuel can wildly vary depending on where you are traveling. In the Western US, the price of gasoline is about 20% higher than the national average; in California, the price is about 50% higher than the national average! The cheapest gasoline is in the Midwest and South where it is about 5-10% cheaper than the national average.
If you want to save money on fuel, one Facebook group member says to skip the highway gas station (if you can). Instead, make your way into town for typically lower prices. To preplan your fuel stops, use the RV LIFE Trip Wizard app to visually plan your RV route. Keep track of your fuel expenses with a tool such as Fuelly.
9. Use RV solar power
If you’re really serious about long term savings, then solar power may be a good option. While there is an initial investment, you can save money on your electricity costs in the long run. Solar power is especially important if you are frequently boondocking and find yourself constantly refilling your generators.
Read more: What You Need to Know About RV Solar Power Systems.
10. Keep up with regular RV maintenance
Lastly, if you really want to keep your travel budget lean, keep up with your regular RV maintenance. Nothing is going to eat into your budget like a surprise breakdown on the side of the road. If you suddenly breakdown and need to take your rig to the mechanic, you could be paying a fee of $129 to $189 per hour!
Save yourself cash in the long run and learn about RV Maintenance 101. Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to potentially avoid a costly repair (or serious accident!)
For more budget tips, check out these great resources:
Jennifer lives with her husband and their two cocker spaniels in a 29′ trailer in Mexico. She is one half of DashboardDrifters.com and the founder of RVSpotDrop, a web service for full time RVers.
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