If you rent an RV or are new at the RV lifestyle, you’ll soon realize that RVing can be expensive depending on where you want to go and what you want to do! But if you follow these top money saving RV travel tips and set a budget, you’ll be on the road with less stress but more money in your pocket for adventures and fun!
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A lot goes into planning an RV vacation. You’ll have to figure out how much it’s going to cost before even putting your motorhome or camper into drive.
There’s three expenses you need to think about; food, fuel and fun! And of course, there’s a few other costs that may get in the way of that.
But, what if you don’t know where to start? Say you’re a beginner RVer or perhaps you’re renting an RV for the first time. You want to have the trip of a lifetime but you know it’s going to hit you right where it counts; in your wallet.
After seven years as full-time RVers, we’ve mastered balancing RV travel, fun and adventure and our checkbook all at the same time. In fact, we actually bank more money than ever before by using our own money saving travel tips.
Read more: RV Expenses for the Full-Time RV Lifestyle
So, let’s see how we cut costs on the road while RVing!
Money Saving RV Travel Tips: How to Cut Costs on the Road
1) Cheap or Free Overnight RV Parking
Parking at campgrounds or RV parks can get expensive if you’re not staying long-term. They range from $25 upwards to over $100 a night depending on location and amenities.
If you’re just traveling from point A to point B, there are three ways to cut costs and save money during your RV road trip that include cheap or free overnight RV parking options.
Moochdocking is when you can park your RV on family or friends’ property or driveways.
Lotdocking is where you can park your RV (with permission) on commercial property such as Cracker Barrel, casinos, or Walmarts.
Boondocking is camping off the grid on public lands or other places without hookups.
Be aware though, there are two caveats to lotdocking, First, you must always ask for permission. Because in some locations, local ordinances may disallow overnight RV parking.
Also, lotdocking sort of goes against the money-saving or ‘parking for free’ theory. It’s customary to patronize a business’ by making a purchase such as fuel, goods or a meal.
Which, when it comes down to it, are you really saving money by lotdocking? Well, yes and no. You’re going to need to buy fuel and food anyways. So why not show your appreciation with gratuity through a purchase?
There’s other cheap or free overnight RV parking options if you’re a current member in good standing at fraternities, military organizations or even churches that may allow you to park your RV for a small donation.
Read more: Where to Find FREE Overnight RV PARKING
2) RV Club Membership Money Saving Discounts
There may be times where we may need to park at a campground or RV park so we can hook up to electricity, do our laundry or enjoy a long hot shower.
But, as I mentioned earlier, campgrounds and RV parks are not exactly free. So, we found some cost cutting memberships that give us handsome discounts on some campgrounds or RV parks.
FMCA, Escapees and Good Sam Club all work in conglomerate with various campgrounds and RV parks by providing a small percentage off of your camping fees.
Passport America offers 50% off fees at participating campgrounds and RV parks but at their discretion of days and seasons.
Harvest Hosts membership offers great places to park for free at participating wineries, breweries, museum and even golf course parking lots. However, while overnight parking is free, it’s customary to show your gratitude by making a purchase, experience a wine tasting or a take in a round of golf. But those are some experiences you’d do anyways right?
Boondocker’s Welcome is an RV club membership where hosts invite you to stay overnight (or up to several) on their properties for free. There may be some exceptions should they offer electric or other hookups for a small monetary exchange. But it’s far cheaper than paying for a high priced campground or RV park.
HipCamp is another RV and tent camping membership that allows members to discover and book tent camping, RV parks, cabins, treehouses, and glamping opportunities from national parks to blueberry farms.
Those are just a handful of RV club memberships that provide safe free camping or for reduced rates on campsites. You just have to find what fits your RV, your lifestyle and location.
For more information and discounts on each RV club membership, click the appropriate banner below to learn more:
Read more: Where to Find FREE Overnight RV PARKING
3) Dine IN
As much as we enjoy regional or gourmet cuisine, dining out gets mighty expensive. After figuring in your meal, tax and tip, your wallet will get thin fast.
This is where your RV travel budget comes in to play. You need to allot a certain amount for restaurant dining and stick to it. Our budget allows us to dine out less than one day a week which is a huge money saver. Now, we may break that budget here and there when gathering with friends. So, we’ make it elsewhere in our budget.
We also typically don’t eat out on the road unless we’re supporting a business or organization who allows us free overnight RV parking (Cracker Barrel, casino, etc.).
On travel days, we literally eat out of the fridge. Beforehand, I’ll cut up some healthy vegetables, cheeses and meats for munching on. And once we turn in for the night, I’ll warm up pre-made meal.
4) Slow Your Roll!
It’s a fact that driving the speed limit will save you money in the long run. From gas mileage to wear and tear on your RV and toad or tow vehicle, you won’t be dishing out as much for fuel, unexpected repairs or replacements.
Oh and by driving slower, you’ll avoid those hefty speeding tickets too!
5) Money Saving Fuel Discounts
One of the biggest RV expenses is diesel fuel. Depending on how big your RV is and how far you travel will dictate how much you should budget for fuel.
Of course, smaller RVs have less fuel expense, you still have to budget for fuel. But there are ways to save money at the fuel pumps.
Our first go-to fuel money saver is using Gas Buddy. They have an easy-to-use downloadable app that allows you to see what the current prices of fuel are in the area you’re located. App Store or Google Play
If you have a diesel RV or diesel truck, the TSD Logistics Fuel Savings Program can save a substantial amount of cash at the diesel pumps. While we do have a diesel powered motorhome, we chose not to get it for reasons we’ll talk about in a future article.
But, if you are interested in the TSD Logistics fuel saving benefits, you have to fill out an online application for the card, provide some personal information and banking information. Then, you’ll have to wait for approval.
Another fuel savings program is for current FMCA members. You can take advantage of the TCS Fuel Discount card; a cash secured card offering fuel discounts at in-network locations throughout the United States. The TCS card though, is only good for discounts on over-the-road diesel fuel at in-network locations.
Good Sam also has their own membership fuel discount program affiliated with Pilot Flying J.
There’s other fuel discount programs out there through a variety of other memberships. Find one that works for you and your RV.
6) Limit Entertainment
Another way we save money on the road is we limit expensive entertainment venues and opt more for cheaper or free experiences.
This means skipping over pricy concerts, movie theaters, theme parks that have high-priced admission fees.
We opt for kayaking, hiking, bicycle riding, beach combing, and other activities that don’t cost a thing after overhead of purchase is paid for. We may have to fork out a couple bucks for parking or ramp usage but that’s far cheaper than taking in an expensive show or entertainment venue.
But, if and when we are in an area of an entertainment venue that we want to experience, we plan ahead by allotting for it in our RV travel budget.
If we do take in a local movie, concert or cool experience, we’ll use GroupOn for online discounts.
Another money saving RV travel tip is to pick up local tourism travel booklets at welcome centers or tourism offices. Sometimes they have money saving coupons or ads that also offer cost cutting discounts. Even if they are only a dollar or two, it adds up!
And lastly, since we’re Retired Military, we’ll see if military post or base MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation) or Outdoor Recreation offices offer discount tickets on events, entertainment or experiences. While we were in Las Vegas, we got 50% discounts on a few shows which saved us a ton of money.
7) Don’t Buy Stuff
I’ll be the first to admit, this is difficult for me at times; especially in fun touristy areas where shops are filled with fun souvenirs. But now that we have a small Class C motorhome, we just don’t have room to store or even have things.
That said, we do buy souvenirs for our Grandson such as books, clothes, t-shirts and small toys. And like those coupons in tourism travel booklets mentioned earlier, I’ll see if there’s a coupon for merchandise even if it’s for 5-10% off. Every little bit of cost savings counts.
A lot of stores offer military and first responder discounts, so don’t be afraid to ask if you’re Active Duty or Retired Military, active Firefighter or Police Officer.
8) Money Saving RV Maintenance, Installations and Repair Tips
If you want to save a ton of money, learn to do your own RV maintenance, repairs and installations.
Doing your own RV maintenance like oil changes will save you a ton of money. Also, learning how to install or repair your own RV components not only gets the job done at a fraction of the cost but also, you’ll learn how the system works. So, it’s a good idea to keep a good stash of tools and RV maintenance supplies.
For example, Dan saved us over $400 in labor and upcharged supplies when he changed our oil in our Winnebago View himself. He also saves money by doing oil changes in our toad vehicle as well.
Also, Dan completed both, our fifth wheel’s and motorhome’s solar and battery installation. By doing them himself, he saved us thousand of dollars.
Washing your own RV and toad or tow vehicle is another big money saver. That alone saves us about $80 at the RV wash stations such as Blue Beacon.
If you keep up with your basic RV maintenance, you minimize chances of expensive repairs. So, take care of your RV and it will take care of you and your wallet!
Our Money Saving Travel Tips Wrap Up
So, those are just a handful of cost cutting ideas that can take the stress out of balancing your budget during your RV travels.
There’s so many RV park discounts, RV club memberships, discounted products and service that allows you to enjoy the RV travel. We hope these money saving tips help make your road trips and travel experiences more enjoyable and less stressful.
Check out our YouTube Video on How we save Money on the road:
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