We’ve been full-time RV travelers for 5 years now and have found numerous way to save money along the way. In this article we’ll share our top five tips for saving money on RV travel including ways to reduce both campground and fuel costs.
Tip #1: Saving on Overnight Campground Stays
When we first started our RV journey we had a 44′ Fifth Wheel with a residential refrigerator and a tiny inverter that couldn’t keep it powered overnight. As a result, we always stayed in full hook-up campgrounds, even for overnight stays.
We used a program called Passport America to save a lot of money on these stays. It only costs $44 a year and gives you 50% off the regular nightly rate. Just use it for 2 nights, and you’ll get your money’s worth. It is important to know that there can be restrictions because each park is individually owned and makes their own rules about participation. This information is provided for you in the Important Campground Notes section of each park’s listing on the Passport America website, mobile apps, printed camping directory, and e-directories.
Another way we save on overnight stays is by choosing Corps of Engineer Campgrounds. These parks are federally managed and available for all of the public to use. Situated on lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, they are found in some of the most beautiful settings and are reasonably priced. If you have the senior or access (disability) National Parks Pass, you get 50% off the already low rates. Here’s one of our favorites:
Tip #2: Saving on Extended Campground Stays
As full-time travelers who are working full-time, we prefer staying a month in most locations to allow ourselves time to really get to enjoy an area. As a result, we get massive discounts! We stayed at a fabulous RV resort in Arizona winter that has 2 pools, 2 hot tubs, a bar & restaurant, mini-golf, and more! The least expensive sites (back ins at the back of the campground) were regularly $65 a night. BUT stay a month and it was only $690 for the month. Divide that by 30 days and it is only $23 a night!!!
Many (not all) places with a monthly rate meter electricity. Since we have solar, we don’t need to use much so our electricity bill for the month we stayed at that resort was only $29. I asked the cashier the typical rate and she said about $150 for a large, all-electric rig. Still, if you add that to the $690 and divide by 30, it is still only $28 a night and a great deal!
Tip #3: Saving on all your Stays
Another terrific way to save money on overnight and even longer stays in by boondocking or dry camping. After we upgraded our power system and installed solar, we started doing more off grid camping and loved it!
Of course, you can stay overnight at retail places like Walmart or Cabelas, but we really like Casinos if we’re going to stay in a parking lot. We go in and get a player’s card that usually gives us $10 of free play on the slots and sometimes even win money back! You often get 50% off buffets too!
The spots we love best for overnight stays are Harvest Hosts, a membership program of farms, wineries, breweries, and even some museums that let you dry camp on their land. Click here for 15% off via my affiliate link (that means I’ll get a small commission if you buy a membership through it). In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that this is not really a money-saving technique because you have to buy a membership and then you’ll obviously want to spend money at the business, but we still love it. To us, there is no better way to see this country than to meet the people who make it unique and Harvest Hosts allows you to meet small business owners all around the US.
Boondocker’s Welcome is another great program where private land owners allow you to stay overnight at their location for FREE. Of course, there is an annual fee, but it is only $79/year for unlimited stays.
For longer dry camping stays (more than 1 night) we prefer FREE camping on public lands.
Tip #4: Saving on Fuel
Our first tip for saving on fuel is to slow down! Believe it or not, this actually can lead to significant savings. A study of diesel trucks was undertaken that showed that slowing down 10 miles per hour on the interstate can save 27% fuel efficiency! We never drive over 65 MPH and get 12 MPG towing our fifth wheel with a Chevy 3500 HD dually truck. We also ensure our tires are properly inflated and we keep up with all preventive maintenance.
Another way to stay on fuel is to travel slowly or close to home if you have the option. Explore the hidden gems within an hour or two of your current location instead of trying to race across country and back in two short weeks.
Tip #5: More Fuel Savings with Apps
We use two different apps: one to save money and one that pays us back with a rebate. When we’re really lucky we can use them both at the same campground.
The savings app is called Gas Buddy and we use to find the range of gas prices near our current location when we’re at a campground. When we were in Tucson, we found a range of $0.30 per gallon in a five mile radius! We also use it to find the prices of propane.
The rebate app is called Get Upside and we use it to search our location to see if there are participating gas stations. If so, you scan the receipt and upload it to the app. Once you reach $20 they send you a rebate!
Bonus Tip: Mindful Spending
We have found that setting financial goals and tracking our spending is hands down the best way to save money. Otherwise, it is way too easy for all the small things you buy to add up.
We created a program called Full-Time RV Finance to help others financially achieve their full-time travel dreams. Over the course of 25 videos, we’ll help you chart your course towards financial freedom, create a realistic full-time RV budget, and learn how to make money & save money on the road.
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