When you’re planning an RV vacation or road trip, there are no shortages of cool travel experiences along the way. The only limitation is how to fit all these fun activities into your trip and your budget.
As a recovering extreme couponer, I’ve spent a lot of time cultivating my deal hunting skills. Over the years, I’ve discovered that these skills actually extend much further than grocery shopping! Turns out that there are some really unique ways to save on those dream travel experiences you’re hoping to have on your trip.
I’ll help you fit all the fun activities into your budget, so all you have to do is fit them into your travel schedule. Let’s take a look at my top ways to save on travel experiences.
Look for Free Experiences
If you look at the events calendar for most cities, you’ll find a ton of free events going on around town. These are a great place to start when saving on travel experiences. You can find festivals, marketplaces, concerts, kid’s events, and more.
Some museums also have free admission days. With some banking companies, you can receive one free admission to museums all across the country on the first weekend of every month. Check with your bank or credit card company to see if there are any special perks that you may not have known about.
If you have any memberships to museums or botanical gardens in your hometown, ask if there are partner locations around the country. On a recent trip to San Antonio, my cousin got six of us into the Botanical Gardens for free with her Dallas membership. Those savings add up!
Travel in the Off Season
You’ll save a ton of money if you travel during the offseason. You’re not in the best spot for getting a deal when businesses and destinations are packed (such as in the summer or on spring break). If you can’t travel in the offseason, try to plan events during the week to get a better price.
If you’re on a week-long road trip, get all your experiences in during the week and spend some quiet family time on the weekend. You’ll get better deals and avoid the crowds.
Find Discount Days
For each destination or experience you’re looking at, check the website and social media for discount days (or call and ask).
Common discount days can include:
- Half price ticket days
- Senior’s discount days
- Student discount days
- Military discount days
- Association discount days
- Children’s discount days
- Homeschool discount days
Search for Discounts and Coupons
If you have a specific experience in mind, like a theme park, search for savings online. Check the website, Facebook page, and other social media for any mention of promotions. At select Six Flags amusement parks, you can save up to $20 on admission by bringing a can of Coca-Cola.
Also, look for discounts and experiences on sites like Groupon. ALWAYS read the fine print. The last thing you want is to buy an offer for an experience, only to find that it isn’t valid for the days of your trip or the specific experience you wanted.
BONUS TIP: If you can book any travel experiences online and get a discount, see if you can also get cash back on a website like Ebates or Top Cash Back. These sites will give you a percentage back on your purchase and sometimes also have their own offers. Again, read the fine print and follow instructions on the sale to make sure you get your discount and cash back.
A great place to look for coupons in person is at your RV park or visitor centers. Look for the brochures of places you want to go, and you’ll usually find a coupon on the back. Check to see if the coupon is valid for more than one admission. You can also find points of interest, cool things to do, and RV park discounts in the Good Sam RV Travel Savings Guide.
Ask About Discounts
Another option of getting a discount is just to ask for it! If you are kind and ask nicely about discounts, you’ll usually get one. You don’t want to take advantage of the company, just see if there are any available. If you don’t ask, you might be missing out on some serious savings.
You can call any business, museum, or attraction and ask “Do you have any discounts or special offers right now?”. If they do, great! Whether they do or not, still ask about some of the following discounts. You might find that one discount is better than another, or even stacks for extra savings (such as a special offer combined with a senior discount).
If applicable, ask about some of these discounts:
- Group discounts
- Association discounts (you never know what you might already be involved in that could get you a discount)
- Good Sam discounts
- AARP discounts
- AAA discounts
- Veteran discounts
- Senior Discounts
- Homeschool discounts
- Teacher discounts (homeschooling parents can sometimes get this discount too)
- Honor roll/good grade discounts (Even in college, I asked for extra arcade tokens for good grades and it usually worked!)
Bring Your Own Snacks and Minimize the Souvenirs
Buying food on site at your travel experience could get reeeeeeally expensive. There are restaurants at Disney World where the dinner buffet can be $50 a person!! Whenever possible, bring your own snacks and pack a lunch. It can still be fun and themed!
For example, if you are going to Disney, buy Disney themed food at the grocery store. Buy a Mickey Mouse waffle maker and make your own waffles in the RV (you’ll save SO much money). Buy Disney gold fish, make Mickey shaped sandwiches, etc. Get creative with it. Your wallet will thank you. If you can do this for even a handful of meals, your budget will be more flexible for the more expensive experiences you want to do.
BONUS TIP: If there is a particular chain restaurant that you know your family eats at on road trips, McDonald’s or Cracker Barrel for example, you can purchase discounted gift cards to save extra money on these experiences. Websites like Raise sell discounted gift cards for restaurants, retail, travel, and some experiences. Before you buy through the website, check your cash back website (Ebates or Top Cash Back) to save even more!
Another way to save is to minimize the souvenirs. This one is my weakness. I LOVE gift shops. I love seeing how the merchandise is displayed, and I love getting a good deal. However, I’ve learned that just because something is a good deal, does not mean you needed it in the first place. Souvenir shopping can also make the RV very cramped very quickly. Limit it whenever possible.
Take photos and make your own souvenirs. You can make so many cool photo gifts on sites like Shutterfly (and there are so many free product deals).
Finally, another way to save a ton of money is to volunteer. I’ve saved so much money on conferences and cool experiences by volunteering. You’ll get a unique view of the experience and learn a lot more.
Ask if you can volunteer as a family for a day or two, especially at smaller businesses. Here are some ideas of places you could potentially volunteer and how it could save you money:
- Farms (free admission and animal experiences)
- Zoos/animal sanctuaries (free admission, animal experiences, and events)
- Museums (free admission and events)
- Historical sites (free admission and events)
- Art centers (free admission/classes and workshops)
- Conferences (I’ve volunteered at homeschooling events as a kid and business conferences as an adult)
- Restaurants (I was the baby cow at Chick-fil-A and received free food vouchers)
Now you’ve got a whole bunch of ideas for how to save money on travel experiences for your next RV vacation! With this knowledge, you can get really creative and find ways to save in one area so you can splurge in another.
Remember to be very kind when asking for discounts and to have patience with businesses that may not have experienced your level of deal-seeking skills before. Then, savor the sweet satisfaction of saving on all of your dream travel experiences.
Do you have any saving tips you think are worth sharing? Leave a comment below!