There’s never been a better time for RV travel. You can travel fully self-contained with your own bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen. It also allows you to have plenty of sleeping space for the whole family and room to bring along your toys. The best part of RV travel is all the opportunities for saving money along the way.
Saving on Food & Snacks
One of the best things about RV travel is that you can save money on food and snacks. Even the smallest campers have a refrigerator and a pantry or cabinet to store food. If you only make your own breakfast and dinner, a typical family of four would still save $60 per day at a minimum. That is based on the average cost of fast food/fast-casual restaurants. If you normally would eat each meal at a sit-down restaurant, you’d save even more.
In addition to saving money, dinner around the campfire is also an enjoyable way to wind down and savor family time. Bring along a grill, cast iron skillet, or dutch oven and you can cook outdoors as well. The outdoor kitchen with pantry space, a sink, and a grill is becoming a very popular amenity on new RV models.
Pack your own drinks and snacks for your outings and the savings continue to grow. Most theme parks, attractions, and even museums these days charge $4 for a small drink or bottle of water. Bring your own refillable container and that’s another $32 per day. If you or your kids get tired of plain water, try carrying a small bottle of Mio flavored water enhancer.
Saving on Entertainment
Another perk of RV travel is room to bring your toys with you. This greatly reduces entertainment costs for a variety of reasons. First of all, it minimizes gear rental. Bike rentals can range from $10 - $30 per person for a half-day rental. Kayak rentals often start at $30 each and go up depending on the popularity of the location you are visiting. Instead, if you enjoy these activities, you could pay a one-time fee to mount a bike or kayak rack to your RV or tow vehicle.
Another way to save on entertainment is to choose a location that has a lot of activities included in the campground. We’ve visited many state parks that have biking and hiking trails, rivers or lakes, and nature centers or historical sites. One of my favorite free activities that you can do in most state parks is called geocaching. It is a fun type of treasure hunt for the whole family. In addition, privately owned campgrounds often have swimming pools and organized activities.
Saving on Fuel
RV stands for recreational vehicle so it stands to reason that fuel is going to be one of the most significant costs of your trip. Neither motorized RVs nor trucks pulling towable campers are known for getting great gas mileage. There are a couple of strategies that you can employ to save on the fuel costs for your next RV trip.
The first, and surprisingly overlooked option, is to stay close to home. No need to travel across the country when you can find some hidden gems in your own backyard. Check out the web for state parks in your home or neighboring states and see what they have to offer. You just might be pleasantly surprised.
If you are going to be traveling greater distances, be sure to download the Gas Buddy app. It is free to use and will show you where the most affordable gas, diesel, or propane is in your location. You can also use it to plan in advance. For example, if you are going to be traveling to Yosemite from the Midwest, you don’t want to assume that fuel prices are the same. Trust me, they aren’t! We had serious sticker shock at the pumps when we were in California last year. Using the Gas Buddy app, you can type in various locations along your travels and determine how much you’ll spend for fuel at each stop.
A final area that often goes overlooked for saving on fuel is your driving habits. First of all, to save on fuel you should slow down. On the highway, aerodynamic drag causes fuel economy to drop off significantly as speeds increase above 50 mph. Also, be aware that hard acceleration also greatly increases fuel consumption. Instead, accelerate smoothly with light to moderate throttle. This allows the automatic transmission to upshift into higher gears sooner, reducing engine RPM and saving fuel.
Saving on Campgrounds
The final area with great opportunities for saving on your RV travel is campgrounds. There are several techniques for saving in this category. First of all, choose your campgrounds wisely. What I mean by that is find the campgrounds that are worth the money. Look for those that have activities that you love and don’t forget to read reviews. There is nothing worse than shelling out your hard-earned cash for an RV “resort” that doesn’t live up to that title.
Be sure to look for discount programs too. For example, if you stay at a lot of KOA’s, they have a rewards program that costs $33 a year and gets you 10% off every stay plus bonus points towards free stays. If you are a senior citizen or have a permanent disability, the National Parks System has an annual pass option that gets you 50% off most federally managed campgrounds including National Parks, National Forests, and Corps of Engineer campgrounds.
Also, if you’re only stopping for the night or a couple of days to visit family or specific attractions, ask yourself how much the campground really matters. If you’re not going to be spending time at the pool or mini-golf, why pay for it? Instead, use your Boondocker’s Welcome membership to find alternatives. Just remember not to overstay your welcome as most hosts only expect guests to stay for 1-3 nights.
More Saving Tips
For more tips on saving money or RV travel in general, check out our website Chickery’s Travels. If you’re interested in extended or full-time RV travel we also have a program called Full-Time RV Finance. In it we cover financial planning for full-time or extended travel, all the expenses that should be included in your budget, how to make money on the road, and how to achieve debt freedom.