10 Ways to Save Money on Your Next RV Road Trip

A helpful guide for planning an affordable RV trip including budgeting techniques, free places to camp, and useful travel discounts

Going on an RV trip doesn’t have to mean big spending or months of saving. With a little bit of research, careful planning, and some simple techniques, you’ll quickly realize just how affordable an RV trip can be.

Rental RVs at Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Advice for non-RV owners

For many non-RV owners, the cost associated with renting an RV for a trip might seem sky high. And while it’s true that renting an RV can sometimes be more expensive than booking a hotel room, there are actually more opportunities to save with an RV.

You have the ability to cook all meals which greatly reduces the amount of money you have to spend on food. You can pack extra gear (bikes, kayaks, canoes, surfboards) and eliminate the need to rent these items elsewhere.

If you’re traveling with a family or large group, it might be tough to squeeze everyone into one hotel room (most standard hotel rooms can accommodate four people). And some hotels don’t even allow pets or charge an extra pet fee. But with a wide variety of RV sizes and layouts to choose from you’re likely to find one that fits your whole crew—dog included—without having to pay double.

Class A motorhome and toad at a rest area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Before you hit the road

While most people think of food, fuel, and campground costs when putting together a travel budget, one factor that is often forgotten—but is still extremely important—is maintenance. Taking good care of your RV goes a long way in preventing major, costly repairs.

Just like a car, your RV’s oil should be changed regularly and the tires inspected daily. If something in your rig needs fixing, do it sooner rather than later. Letting a problem sit for too long can end up costing you more in the long run.

Double-check that your insurance and roadside assistance plans cover not only your tow vehicle/toad but also your RV. There’s nothing worse than breaking down and finding out that your insurance won’t pay to tow your rig to a repair facility.

Fall colors along the Blue Ridge Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Plan around peak travel times

When considering prospective destinations, take note of the peak travel seasons and accessibility—for example, fall foliage in New England or holiday weekends at national parks. Peak seasons will not only impact reservations and campgrounds rates but fuel and grocery prices as well which can vary based on demand and time of year. Tours and entry fees may also fluctuate by season, day of week, or even time of day.

To help save money, when possible travel during shoulder seasons (commonly early spring and late fall) and visit the most popular destinations on weekdays or during slower hours. If you’re thinking about taking a longer trip—a few weeks or even a few months—consider staying in one place for more than a few days. Most RV parks and campgrounds offer weekly and monthly rates which will reduce your per night cost. Minimizing your driving time and staying put can help keep the cost of fuel down as well.

Newfound Gap Road, an RV-friendly route through Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Be mindful of fuel prices

When deciding which route to take, try to use an online fuel calculator to help budget. 

Once your RV-friendly route is set, search for fuel stations along the way and compare prices. Even if the difference is only a few cents per gallon, the cost can add up quickly when you’re averaging 8 to 10 miles per gallon. Try to fill up well in advance of national parks and other popular tourist destinations, top off your tank before you hit a stretch of road with limited fuel stations (these have a tendency to be more expensive), and keep any border crossings in mind. Fuel prices vary by state based on taxes, types of fuel, and other variables like real estate.

Boondocking along Utah Scenic Byway 24 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Venture off the beaten path

Humans are programmed to do what is familiar and popular, including visiting well-known tourist destinations. However, with a little extra research you can often find a similar view, a little-visited roadside attraction, a self-guided tour, or an alternative hike without the added crowds or cost.

Also, keep in mind is that not every night has to be spent at a five-star luxury RV resort. While you may want to budget for one or two nights at a more upscale place, your other nights could be budget camping or boondocking on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. 

To prevent trespassing or illegal overnight stays, always read posted signs and generally don’t stay longer than 14 days. 

6. Pack for various situations

Always check the forecast before you leave including average temperatures and storm seasons. Being prepared for various weather conditions will prevent unnecessary shopping trips for warmer clothes, rain gear, or alternative footwear. Travel with an umbrella, a rain jacket, waterproof pants, and warm layers just in case. Other essentials include a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen, bug spray, and extra batteries as these tend to be more expensive at travel plazas and RV parks.

Driving Dead Horse Mesa Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Plan inexpensive driving routes

You’re always going to spend money on a road trip but the route you take heavily influences how much you spend on things like fuel and overnight stays. For example, the highest fuel prices are in Washington and California. You still want to find pleasant campsites with electrical, sewage, and water access, if possible, but compare prices to locate the cheapest campsite in each area.

Other considerations you should have when planning an RV route include:

  • Points of interest along the route
  • Cheap gas station/truck stops availability
  • Avoiding areas of congestion and toll roads

When researching your route and destinations, look into various pass options for state and national parks. Figure out how often you will visit to determine whether paying for each entry is cheaper or purchasing a multi-visit pass, such as America the Beautiful.

8. Cook in the RV

An RV is a home on wheels which means you can limit the cost associated with restaurants by cooking your own food. However, if you do want to eat at a local restaurant, consider eating there for lunch instead of dinner—lunch menus allow you to experience the regional food without paying the premium pricing.

Include some healthy road trip snacks and beverages. This will prevent you from pulling over to buy higher-priced, less-nutritious gas station treats. Additionally, food prices will vary by location. Produce, meat, and dairy are almost always more expensive in remote areas and can be harder to find, so stock up before you go.

Make use of campground grills and enjoy the ever-changing scenery with home-cooked meals. A small crockpot or slow cooker can be another great time and money saver when it comes to food on the go.

Not a good way to care for your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Keep your tires properly inflated

It may not be something that you associate with saving money but keeping the tires on your RV properly inflated will not only make it easier to drive and handle but it will save you money over the cost of the trip on fuel, as well. The U.S. Department of Energy states that for every 1-psi drop in tire pressure, you can expect your gas mileage to lower by 0.4 percent. This can certainly add up over a lengthy trip, so take the extra time to make sure your tires are properly inflated.

RVers should give a visual inspection of their tires before every travel day and at each stop along the way. But that’s not all! It may seem tedious but you should also check your RV tire pressure before you hit the road—every time!

Tucson/Lazydays KOA © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Consider a membership

There are many different RV clubs and other types of travel memberships including Good Sam and Passport America. One of the biggest benefits of joining is the discounted camping rates. Some other cost-saving perks include promotions at RV retail stores, fuel savings, propane discounts, and free dump station privileges. Other memberships to consider include Thousand Trails, Escapees, Harvest Hosts, Boondockers Welcome, and KOA (Kampgrounds of America).

If you and your family enjoy visiting museums, botanical gardens, plantariums, and science centers, consider a membership. Reciprocal museum memberships allow you to visit other participating museums which grant free or heavily discounted entry to members.

Worth Pondering…

Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will—whatever we may think.

—Lawrence Durrell

30 New Year’s Resolutions for RVers in 2023

Set new goals for the open road

New Year, New Me, or so the saying goes! It seems that every year when we change over from the old to the new, people start making New Year’s resolutions.  These resolutions tend to be focused on things like living better, being more organized, or living a healthier life.

When it comes to RVing though, there are a few resolutions that come to mind as staples within the RV lifestyle. Of course, your resolutions will be unique to you and your lifestyle, but there are New Year’s resolutions that I think that every RVer regardless of lifestyle can make when going into this New Year.

Here are 30 New Year’s resolutions for RVers to consider as you start planning for the year ahead.

Water filters should be replaced at least twice yearly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Learn how to perform maintenance tasks on your RV

It’s essential to keep your RV in good working order and that means being able to take care of basic maintenance tasks yourself. Whether checking the dry-cell battery water level (they are your lifeline); inspecting your propane system; inspecting tires for cracks and uneven wear and checking air pressure; changing your water filter; and keeping an RV maintenance log/checklist to keep track of your maintenance checks, repairs, and replacements, resolve to learn the skills you need to keep your RV running smoothly.

2. Plan at least one cross-country road trip in the year

Whether you’re a seasoned RVer or a newbie, there’s nothing quite like the thrill of hitting the open road and exploring new destinations. Start researching routes and must-see attractions with RVing with Rex for your epic adventure now.

Usery Mountain Regional Park, Mesa, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Spend more time exploring regional and state parks

Many RVers are drawn to the freedom and flexibility of the open road but it’s also important to take the time to explore the natural beauty and history right in your backyard. Resolve to spend more time exploring local and state parks in the coming year and discover all your region has to offer.

Boondocking at Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Try boondocking at least once

Boondocking is camping (often on BLM land) without access to electrical, water, or sewage hookups. It can be a challenging but rewarding way to experience the great outdoors.

Kayaking at Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Learn a new outdoor skill

RVing is the perfect opportunity to try out new outdoor activities and hobbies and there’s no shortage of options to choose from. Learn a new outdoor skill in 2023 whether it’s rock climbing, fishing, hiking, kayaking, or geocaching.

6. Seek out new destinations

While it can be comforting to return to familiar destinations year after year, it’s also important to mix things up and explore new destinations. Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone.

7. Invest in new gear to enhance uour RVing experience

Whether it’s a new cooking set, a portable generator, or hiking poles, there are always nifty RV-related gadgets to improve your RVing experience. 

Reducing clutter makes for happy RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Reduce clutter

There’s no denying the fact that RVs are tiny places to live. Partly for this reason, clutter builds up quickly. Since nobody wants to live in a cluttered space, it’s best to purge things in your tiny home on wheels at least twice a year or when needed. And I know that it is a much more difficult task than it appears.

And the problem is not just cleaning up the mess. In the words of best-selling author Jordan B. Peterson, “I also want to make it beautiful.” Writing in Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, the famed clinical psychologist continued, “Making something beautiful is difficult but it’s amazingly worthwhile. If you learn to make something in your life truly beautiful—even one thing—then you have established a relationship with beauty.”

9. Take a course to improve your driving skills and safety

RVing can be a lot of fun, but it’s also important to prioritize safety on the road. Brush up on things like backing up, lane changes, and emergency braking.

Drive-in sites at Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Try out different types of campsites

One of the best things about RVing is the variety of campsite options available from beachfront to the mountain to lakeside and pull-through to back-in to pull-in. Make a New Year’s resolution to try out different types of campsites and see which ones you like best.

Quartzsite RV Show, Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Connect with other RVers on the road

RVing can be a solo pursuit but it’s also a great way to connect with other like-minded individuals. You might make some lifelong friends along the way. The ultimate RV gathering happens at the beginning of each year in Arizona at the Quartzite RV Show (January 21-29, 2023.

12. Plan a group RV trip with family or friends

RVing is a great way to bond with loved ones and there’s nothing quite like a group RV trip to bring people together. Organize a caravan and create lasting memories on the road.

13. Set a goal to save money on fuel costs

The cost of fuel can add up quickly while RVing but there are steps you can take to minimize your expenses. Reducing your speed and making sure your tires are properly inflated are two ways to save on fuel.

Glacial Skywalk, Jasper National Park, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Set a goal to visit every state

Set a goal to visit every corner of the U.S. and/or Canada. This can be a long-term project but it’s a great way to truly experience all that North America has to offer in an RV.

15. Try new recipes in your RV kitchen

Cooking in your RV kitchen can be a fun and rewarding experience but it’s always nice to have new recipes to try out. Grab a cookbook, research recipes online, and borrow some from fellow travelers. Expand your culinary horizons on the road.

Consider investing in small kitchen appliances such as an Instant Pot, a slow cooker, and an air fryer to make the job of cooking in your RV a cinch.

16. Volunteer your time or skills with a local organization

If you are in a location for an extended period, you may want to participate in volunteer opportunities. Whether it is at a beach clean-up, animal shelter, or a docent at a local park or museum, RVing can be a great way to give back to the communities you visit.

Thousand Trails Lynchburg Preserve, Lynchburg, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

17. Join a membership club and receive RV park discounts

There are numerous RV membership clubs and associations that provide a various benefits such as camping at a discounted rate and access to exclusive parks. Each has its perks and drawbacks. Is it reasonable to become a member of several RV clubs? It depends on your RVing style, wants, and needs.

Some of these are:

  • Escapees (SKP) RV club
  • Passport America
  • Thousand Trails
  • Good Sam RV Club
  • FMCA (Family Motor Coach Association)
  • Harvest Hosts
  • Boondockers Welcome
  • Hipcamp

18. Become a workcamper to save money on living expenses

If you’re looking for a way to save money on living expenses while RVing, workamping is a great way to see new places and meet new people while also helping to reduce some of your costs.

19. Record your travels through journaling and/or photography

Documenting your travels can be a meaningful way to reflect on your experiences and share them with others. So write, photograph, and record videos of your travels and experiences.

Hiking trails at Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

20. Spend more time outdoors

Most people assume that by living in an RV, a person automatically spends a ton of time outside. While this is true for some RVing families, it isn’t always the case. Seeing as how the outdoors can benefit your health, making it a goal to spend more time outside in the New Year is a great idea. 

There are many ways to support this goal. You might choose to invest in a better outdoor setup with things like lounging chairs and outdoor games. Another option is to get set up for hiking and make a point of taking at least one hike in every place you visit. You could also learn a new skill such as kayaking or fishing to encourage yourself to get that fresh air and sunshine that is so good for you. 

Myakka State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

21. Visit more parks

Another fantastic way to get outside more is by visiting the many amazing state and national parks across the country. These parks allow you to soak up the sun while also exploring some seriously beautiful and fascinating places not to mention making some incredible memories that are sure to last for years to come. 

Grab a national park pass and visit as many national parks as you can throughout the year. If you’ll be in a particular state for a while, look into purchasing an annual pass for the state parks there. Of course, you should always ask about junior ranger programs at every park you visit. 

22. Try something NEW, while camping

Relaxing is numero uno but how about spicing up the camping trip with some boating, trail (bike) riding, or go GeoCaching? GeoCaching is fun at any age and can be enjoyed with your friends and family. It’s treasure hunting—and you can use your phone. Wooo, the kids will love this one!

Galt Farmers Market near Lodi, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

23. Support local growers

Nothing beats fresh produce and homemade bread, jams, and jellies. Stop at farmers’ markets along the way. Not only will you be able to enjoy the freshest foods and eat healthier, but you’ll also be supporting local small businesses. 

24. Be present in the moment

In today’s fast-paced lifestyle, it’s easy to forget to take time to be present wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, and whoever you’re doing it with. From texting, and scrolling through social media, to even recording and taking pictures during a hike, there’s just so much noise that can get in the way.

Whether you’re all packed up and on your way to your next adventure or sitting by the campfire, make a conscious effort to really enjoy the experience. Breathe in the stillness of the forest, relax and recline by the lake, or engage in quality family time with a rousing night of games and fun! There’s so much to do that’s waiting for you. Make sure you don’t miss it.

La Sal Mountain Scenic Loop Road, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

25. Take the road less traveled

An important resolution for the New Year would be to take things slow and take the road less traveled. Everyone is in a rush to get from one place to the next so they don’t take the time to enjoy the journey. Instead of driving along the interstate, go an alternate route and drive the scenic byways.

Give yourself room to breathe and enjoy the countryside. Eat at that little diner and get that big glass of sweet tea. Take the family and go blueberry picking at the farm down the road or buy the freshest fruits and vegetables at a roadside stand. The best part about traveling in an RV is being able to make memories along the way, so be sure to take full advantage of each trip!

26. Go stargazing

No matter who you are, something is awe-inspiring about looking up at a star-filled night sky. Stargazing is an incredible pastime that is just not possible to do when living in the city. Take some time this year to visit a Dark-Sky Preserve and spend time with family and friends looking up at the stars. There is always something magical happening in the night sky, so be sure you don’t miss it.

Winter camping at Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

27. Camp every season

Though spring and summer usually take all the glory for camping, there is a lot of fun to be had camping during the fall and winter months as well. Make it a resolution this year to camp in every season so that you can experience the wide variety of camping that the wilderness offers.

Our word of advice though: be sure to properly plan for camping in the cooler weather. The gear you’re going to need will be quite a bit different and you will need to prep things differently than you do for your summer excursions.

Not only will the scenery look different from season to season, but the wildlife will also vary greatly. So don’t forget to bring your binoculars and camera to spot all sorts of creatures, regardless of the season.

The Giant Peach (Peachoid) at Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

28, See a classic roadside attraction

No road trip is complete without a stop at a kitschy roadside attraction. Even if you’re not traveling cross-country, there’s likely a piece of forgotten Americana around the bend that could use a visit. Look for the World’s Largest Roadrunner, the World’s Largest Pistachio, Wigwam Motel, or the Giant Peach.

29. Join a hiking group

Looking to meet new people? Hiking (or running or biking) together can be a great way to enjoy the company of others.  

Santa Fe, New Mexico, a bucket list destination © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

30. Finally make it to those bucket-list destinations

Last but not least, I must mention bucket list destinations. We all have that list of places and experiences. Often, we don’t reach these destinations due to commitments, things breaking, or simply because they are out of the way.

This year is the year to reach those must-see locations that you haven’t made it to yet. Plan your travel around them and make them a top priority. Remember, you travel so you can see the country, so make sure you get out there and do it!

Bird watching is a popular pastime with RVers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Embrace new opportunities on the road with New Year’s resolutions for RVers

There are many potential New Year’s resolutions that RVers can consider as they start planning for the coming year. From learning new skills to seeking out new destinations, the possibilities for growth and adventure are endless.

No matter your resolutions, it’s important to have fun and make the most of your RVing experiences. So as you start planning for 2023, remember to be open to new opportunities and embrace the unknown. Happy travels in the coming year!

Worth Pondering…

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.

—Brian Tracy