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Affordable RVing: How To Travel on a Budget

Yes, Affordable RVing Still Exists!

Hitting the road on an RV trip can be an exciting adventure. As incredible as RV travel is, it’s crucial to be mindful of the trip costs involved so you can enjoy the journey without breaking the bank. With the concept of affordable RVing in mind, some creativity and advanced planning can significantly cut the costs of your RV travel without sacrificing the fun. In this article, we will look at key RV travel expense categories with tips to make your next adventure more affordable!

Understanding the Costs of RVing

When planning for affordable RVing, it’s helpful to take a look at both the ongoing and unexpected costs involved in owning and using an RV. This will help you better prepare for your trips and allow you to enjoy the open road without any financial surprises.

Ongoing costs, including maintenance, gas, campsite overnight fees, RV storage, and insurance, are big-budget items to consider how much your RV experience will cost you in the long run. Regular maintenance is necessary to keep your RV in the best condition and ready for fun for years to come. This includes oil changes, tire rotations, regular roof checks, checking seals, and air conditioner cleaning/service. Staying up on routine maintenance can help to prevent larger, more costly repairs down the road. 

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When you’re not using your RV, storing it properly can help prevent damage and prolong its life, which typically incurs a monthly storage fee. Consider using a covered storage facility or using an RV cover to help protect your RV from harsh weather conditions. Insurance is another ongoing RV cost, and it can be affected by the location you choose to store your RV.

Fuel costs will vary depending on your RV’s size, type, weight, tow vehicle, and the distance you’ll be traveling. Campsite fees can range from free boondocking opportunities on public lands and overnight parking lot camping to luxurious RV resorts with top-notch amenities and activities.

Unexpected Expenses

In addition to ongoing costs, unexpected expenses can also pop up while on the road. These may include repairs, replacement parts, tolls, or other fees that could arise while traveling. It helps to set aside an emergency fund to handle unplanned costs. 

This way, you won’t find yourself blindsided by an expense during your RV travels. By understanding and planning ahead for common RV costs, you’ll be better able to travel on a budget. 

Besides, you are likely RV traveling for adventures, memories, travel experiences, and time together. The last thing you want to worry about on the road is finances!

Saving on Gas: Affordable RVing Fuel Tips

Traveling on a budget in your RV doesn’t have to be a challenge. One key area to focus on is saving on gas costs. 

Are you looking to take a cross-country adventure or stay in one general area on your trip? You often don’t have to travel far from home to have a great time. 

Or consider traveling to one location and keeping the trip within that area versus many different stops. Your trip distance is the biggest factor in saving money on gas during your RV travels.

Here are additional tips to reduce your gas costs and make your RV trips more affordable.

  • Stay in one spot longer. The less you move around, the less fuel you’ll consume. Staying in one location for a longer time saves on gas and gives you a chance to explore the area more thoroughly. And, of course, have more time to just hang out and relax at the campsite.
  • Travel shorter distances. When mapping out your route, consider shorter distances between destinations. This way, if you desire multiple stops during your trip, you can still enjoy different areas while using less gas overall.
  • Utilize gas price apps. Find the cheapest gas stations along your route by using apps like Gas Buddy. These apps can help you save by locating the best prices on fuel in your current area or along your travel route.
  • Get a gas discount card. Consider becoming a member of Good Sam. It not only offers a discount on participating campgrounds, but it also offers savings on gas and diesel at Pilot Flying J. 

Maintaining your RV and refraining from overloading the weight on your RV can also help to improve gas mileage. Some important maintenance tips include:

  • Keep your tires properly inflated. Under or overinflated tires can negatively affect gas mileage. For safety, it helps to check your tire pressure every travel day.
  • Perform regular oil changes. Clean oil can improve fuel efficiency. Regularly changing your RV’s oil can help improve your gas mileage and prevent long-term engine damage.
  • Monitor your air filter. A dirty air filter can restrict airflow to your engine and reduce fuel efficiency. Regularly checking and changing your air filter can help increase fuel efficiency and keep your engine running smoothly.

With a little advance planning, smart route selection, and keeping up with RV maintenance, you can significantly reduce your fuel expenses while enjoying more affordable RV adventures.

Reducing Campground Costs

Campground fees can add up quickly when you are RV traveling. Depending on your camping style, it can be cheap to find great places to stay.

Free Or Cheap Campgrounds for More Affordable RVing

Free or inexpensive camping locations can really help save money on your next RV trip. Consider if you need hookups for water, electricity, and sewer. If you require a full hookup campsite, then a privately owned campsite may be your best bet.

However, if only electricity is required, or possibly electricity and water, consider a state park campground which is usually cheaper than most RV resorts and campgrounds. If you have the gear needed for dry camping, you can save big by finding free campsites.

Boondocking on federal BLM land without hookups or other amenities is free and often offers large campsites or more private areas to have room to spread out. While boondocking can help you save money on your RV trip, always be mindful of stay limits and other local rules and regulations.

Consider utilizing services like Boondockers Welcome or Harvest Hosts. Boondockers Welcome is a remarkable platform connecting individuals who are open to sharing their yard or driveway for a few nights with RVers in need of accommodation. Similarly, Harvest Hosts links RVers with farmers, vineyard owners, and business owners who welcome travelers. Both memberships are highly recommended for affordable RVing!

Discount Programs

Affordable RV clubs and memberships are a great resource for budget-conscious travelers. Enrolling in these programs can help you save money at participating campgrounds. 

A great example is the Good Sam Membership which saves 10% off of participating campground fees. If you like to stay at KOAs, they also offer a discount program to save on camping stays.

Staying Longer To Save

Staying in one area longer not only helps to save money on gas, but you may also be able to get a cheaper weekly or even monthly rate at a campground. Ask around to find locations that offer discounts for longer stays. Note that monthly RV stays often have to pay for electricity versus included electricity for nightly and weekly stays.

Tool To Find Great Campsites

The RV Life Pro membership includes RV LIFE Campground Reviews which is a great resource for finding a place to stay during your trip. It also includes an RV LIFE RV Safe GPS, and a full trip planner with RV LIFE Trip Wizard. The suite of tools included in the RV Life Pro membership is perfect for helping you plan your next RV trip. 

Saving on Activities

When planning your RV trip on a budget, one of the key areas to focus on is saving money on activities. By choosing free or cheap activities and taking advantage of discounts, you can stretch your travel dollars further while still having a memorable time on the road.

First, consider exploring the great outdoors for budget-friendly activities. Look for local hiking trails or must-see natural sights in your travel destination. Check the AllTrails App for hiking locations and trails near you.

Cheap or free outdoor activities can include nature centers, paddling, swimming, and biking. Not only are these options often free, but they also provide unique and memorable experiences, as well as plenty of exercise and time out in nature.

Another great idea for affordable RVing is to ask around about free days or activities at museums, parks, and other local attractions. Research your destination in advance to find schedules for these offers, which can help you plan your itinerary and save on admission costs.

Don’t forget to take advantage of local visitor centers for budget travel ideas. We love talking to locals to get activity ideas. Ask around at the campground, and you might discover a local hidden gem!

If there are specific attractions or activities you’d like to experience, try searching for online coupons or discounted rates. Websites like Groupon, CityPass, or local tourism boards sometimes offer deals and special promotions that can help you save on activities, tours, and events.

Saving on Food

A great way to save money while RV traveling is to avoid eating out. Luckily you likely have your own kitchen along for the trip in your RV.

Consider hitting the local discount stores and buying as much food as possible at home before you leave to save on groceries. Shopping at warehouse stores like Costco or discount stores like Aldi can help you stock up for your RV trip for less. Don’t forget the drinks and the paper goods while you are out shopping! 

Increasing Food Storage for Affordable RVing

Have limited fridge space in your RV kitchen but still wish to stock up in advance to save money on food? Consider bringing coolers along. Some of the newer generations of coolers can keep food cold for 2-3 days before needing to fill up with ice again, saving time and money.

Another option is to purchase an electric cooler. Some electric coolers have the option to set the temperature to also use the cooler as a freezer. Larger models have more than one compartment allowing you to have a separate fridge and freezer space within the cooler.

Eating In Versus Eating Out

Cook dinners at your campsite to make the most of your camping experience while also saving money. Grilling is always fun, and it can be a relaxing way to rest and reset at home after a day out exploring. Maybe even try a campfire meal to add to the experience.

Consider bringing along a one-pot cooking appliance like an Instant Pot or a Ninja Foodi for quick meals that don’t use propane. Having a fast option can be a convenient time saver on days when you come home worn out. Plus, with one pot to clean, you can focus instead on relaxing and enjoying your evening campfire.

Packing low-mess healthy snacks for travel days and lunches to have while you are out and about can also be a great way to save more money on food. Plus, having picnics can be a fun and memorable way to enjoy the location you are exploring.

When you do eat out, look for coupons and specials. You can also save by utilizing takeout and enjoying your meal in one of the incredible locations you are exploring.

RV Travel Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive

With a little extra time and creativity planning ahead, your trip can be a blast without breaking the bank. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next trip with these budget-saving tips in mind!

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