10 Easy Ways to Save Money as a Weekend RVer
As prices continue to rise all across America, it's important now more than ever to learn to maximize your money if you still want to RV regularly. And I know personally that weekend RVers, often with average middle-class jobs, need to do everything in our power to save cash and keep the good times rolling on the road.
Here are some tips to help keep you and your Jayco Travel Trailer frequently going on adventures while on a budget.
Camp for Cheap or Free
One of the biggest expenses of RVing can definitely be where you are staying. Some people love camping at well-manicured RV resorts loaded with great amenities like pools, splash pads, volleyball courts, arcade rooms and many more vacation related activities. So, if you are on a budget, it’s possible to reduce or completely eliminate that extra expense by staying at a less posh place.
When we camp, we tend to primarily stay at state parks or Army Corp of Engineers parks. As far as campgrounds go, these are usually two of the cheapest options that still have decent basic amenities. County and local parks as well as HipCamp and Harvest Host camping can also be an inexpensive option as well.
If you are looking to pay nothing at all for a campsite, think about boondocking. With millions of acres all over our country in national forests and BLM land, you are bound to find a great option for free. This is your best option to save money by far.
Use a Fuel App
Another big expense you can reduce is on gas. Of course, if you are in the middle of nowhere with small towns around that only have a single gas pump, this might not be possible. But in most cases, if you plan your route with fuel in mind, you can shave off some of the cost by using a gas savings app.
GasBuddy is our go to app for fuel savings. It seems to have the most up-to-date information and is really easy to use. Waze and Google Maps also have decent gas price information, so sometimes we'll use these to compare to the prices we see on GasBuddy when traveling.
Reduce Your Distance Traveled
How many excellent camping spots can you name within a two-hour drive from your home? Three? Five? Ten? If you said zero, I challenge you explore your home state a bit more.
Originally, Alison and I were not big fans of local camping in the Dallas area since we have always loved camping as a means to find and go on epic hikes. But, as time has marched on, we began to see the value in enjoying the little things in camping. We have actually discovered dozens of pretty cool campgrounds all within a two-hour drive of our house that provide us some excellent experiences.
Staying locally allows us to save more money, too. With less distance traveled, we save a ton on gas and the cost of tire wear which means we can also travel more frequently on weekends. Plus, we get the added benefit of learning more about our own home state.
Don't Eat Out
We have visited so many delicious restaurants over the years traveling it's hard to keep count. In fact, as I'm typing right now and Alison is driving, we're about to take a break to stop at a spot to grab some amazing boudins and cracklin in Louisiana. They're tough to resist.
But if you are on a budget and want to travel more often, eliminate this luxury. Cook your own food while camping. We usually do, and we have found it saves us quite a bit of cash on each trip.
Grilling on a camp grill, using the propane stove, or even nuking your food in the microwave can really reduce your food expenses. Bringing along a pressure cooker like an Instant Pot is also a smart idea and something we do just about every RV trip.
Get a State Parks Pass
Probably the best value we have found while camping is using our state's park pass system. Most states have such systems in place which allow you to enter the parks for a reduced price and some are even free to enter with a pass. Also, many state parks give you discounts on items purchased at the parks or equipment rental such as canoes or fishing gear.
I highly recommend you save some dough by getting a pass if you plan on using your state park system on a regular basis. We have found that in Texas the park pass basically pays for itself after about two stays at different parks. Since we camp much more than just two times a year at state parks, it's totally worth the purchase. The reduced price on activities is just an added bonus.
Free or Cheap Campground Activities
Speaking of activities, when trying to save money RVing, do as many fun things as possible around your campground or in the park you are staying. Cheap and free RV activities can include swimming, bike riding, walking around nature trails, fishing, stargazing, etc. Check with your camp host, park ranger, the park office or the park's website to see what activities are available where you are staying.
The activities don't always have to be outside. We've found it fun to just sit in the camper and play board games for hours on end. We like to think of family time and reconnecting with one another when spending time at a campground more than anything else.
Free or Cheap Activities Outside the Park
If you have planned your RV trip around a particular area that is outside of your campground or the park you are visiting, look for inexpensive or free activities. Try to make sure you cluster all activities based on proximity if possible, to save on gas, as well.
Whenever our family visits an area, our top activity outside of the campground almost always includes hiking. You can typically find us looking for the most beautiful places within a relatively short drive of our campsite. Hiking is one of the cheapest things you can do while outdoors and will save you a ton if you pick it as your top hobby.
Also consider fishing and bike riding. Once you have the gear, they are relatively inexpensive hobbies and give you a great excuse to explore surrounding areas. And if you are camping close to a town, see if they have any historic sites you can visit for free or even local museums offering free visitation days. Check with the town's visitor center for more information if they have one. We love exploring old town ruins and learning the history of the area.
This one is obvious, so let's fly through it. Anyone that has driven before knows you burn more fuel at faster speeds. So, slow down. We like to keep our top speed just under 65 MPH not only to avoid the chance of a disastrous blowout, but to save on gas.
Side note: Remember to check the tire rating on your rig, since many RVers we see on the road tend to push their camper tires past the rating limit.
Avoid Toll Roads
I kind of love country roads.
Checking out all of the interesting farms and little barns as we drive to our destination has become a bit of an obsession for me when we go on road trips. I even find joy when traveling down some of the same roads several times each year to some of the same parks. We get to see how the farmland changes seasonally and all of the unique festivals many towns have to offer. If we were to take toll roads, we'd miss out on this part of RVing.
Taking toll roads can get you to your campsite faster, but then you end up paying fees that usually can be avoided. Plus, in the previous section I mentioned that it's important to slow down to save on gas. Taking toll roads essentially negates this fuel saving on tops of added toll fees of $10, $20, $30 and possibly more.
Do Some of Your Own Maintenance
Not everyone will feel comfortable with this section, but if Alison and I can do it, we're certain you can, too. You don't have to be mechanically inclined to perform basic maintenance on your RV, so don't be intimidated. Also, it's a good idea to have an understanding of how to take care of your fantastic Jayco investment.
Some simple things you might want to learn so you can save money RVing would be: how to winterize, how to check your seals and caulking, and how to lubricate your bearings. Each one of these require regular maintenance and can cost a few times more at a repair place than to do it on your own. Countless forums, blogs and videos all over the web can walk you step-by-step through best practices and give tips. Save yourself a bit of money and simply learn a couple good skills.
With a little bit of planning and practice, saving money as a weekend RVer will become easy in no time. It will help you get out more often so you can enjoy the great outdoors with your family all year long!