The RV lifestyle gives you freedom from everyday responsibilities to tackle new adventures with each new trip, and the preparation you do beforehand can prevent unexpected, tedious distractions—like worrying about your budget. RVing certainly involves a financial investment, but don’t shoulder every expense haphazardly. There are plenty of ways to save, and even small amounts quickly add up.
Fueling-up at beginning-of-the-week rates as opposed to weekend prices, completing routine maintenance to prevent costly hiccups, stocking up on groceries rather than paying high prices at end-of-the-road restaurants—everyone has picked up a few tricks over years of trial and error. Your focus should be on crossing state lines and not on paying for what you didn’t plan for. Try out any number of these creative money-saving strategies before hitting the road and travel easy knowing you’ve set yourself up to explore while holding onto extra cash for the next trip.
The veteran RV owner or renter knows the benefits of taking advantage of various memberships available to campers across the country, especially when bundled together over time. RV-specific memberships offer discounts and special offers on campsites and camp-related services, and they also can be great resources for information relevant to your trip and specific to your location.
Good Sam Club offers members discounts at camping retailer stores, certain campsites, RV service, and fuel. It can even provide discounts when purchasing propane, for example. Good Sam is in the business of making your life easier—with decades of experience knowing what campers will need—and these are great one-stop memberships for saving in different ways.
Consider adapting non-RV memberships and cards to save money while traveling, too. After budgeting what you expect to spend on the road, designate a credit card for these expenses, and choose one that earns you points while you travel; the same can be applied to certain fuel cards that will generate discounts the more you use them. (Some of these will pair with grocery stores like Costco or Sam’s Club, and you can merge grocery savings with your fuel savings).
Save Where You Stay
Your destination can become part of your money-saving strategy—and you can still visit the parts of the country you want without paying premium camping prices. The key to finding affordable, cost-effective camping areas—with the amenities you want—is planning ahead. Don’t end up paying at the last minute for the only spot left next to the dump station. Research what’s available at what prices and be willing to sacrifice a night at a truck stop or visitor station if it means an extended stay at a campsite with a good rate (and the best spot).
Government land, especially in the West, often provides a free place for you to camp—and often with some stunning views. Search for B.L.M. (Bureau of Land Management) locations and National Forests but be aware the peak season will be busy and can make quick setups difficult. One tip is to keep a campsite journal throughout your travels each year, making note of coveted sites for the future and recording details about each, like whether or not they provide RV hookups. Each trip is an opportunity to save in the future.
Invest in park passes whether visiting for the day or planning an extended stay at various sites throughout the country. National park passes and state passes allow you to save on entrance fees for a non-commercial vehicle (like an RV), streamline where you can stay, and they can prevent waiting in long lines at entrances. Also: check out the local Chamber of Commerce whenever you can to ask for additional information.
Use Apps to Save
Your phone is the source for thousands of helpful traveling apps you already use for navigation, finding new restaurants, campsite reviews, and countless others. Add to that list the many apps you can use to save money while RVing. Keep track of all necessary maintenance your RV requires before a costly repair with the Maintain My RV app. And keep track of your fuel usage and find the best prices with apps like GasBuddy or Fuelly.
While some of these apps are specific to RVs, other apps for traveling—like those that track fuel prices across the country, or common traffic apps—can be adapted to your travels with an RV. For example, use a navigation app like Waze to know when to take the longer route to avoid the stop-and-start fuel expense due to a fender bender miles ahead.
Going the Extra Mile
If you’re interested in pursuing RV money-saving tips even further, you’re only limited by how much time and energy you want to invest—including making money from the adventure itself. Likely you’ve already spent time reading blogs and watching videos both professional and amateur of those who are using their RV lifestyle to create content; why not try it yourself?
With a smartphone, YouTube, or a free blog platform, and a story to tell, you can generate additional income from the entertainment and hands-on knowledge you might not realize you already have.
Approach each avenue with creativity and put your own spin on ways to save while traveling. What you’ll find is that, not only will you relish the memories made on the road and the relaxation of the RV lifestyle, but you’ll also have the satisfaction knowing you were responsible, creative, and spent less along the way.