RV Lifestyle Fellow Travelers know that heading out on a road trip in a recreational vehicle affords a unique opportunity to explore the nation in comfort and style.
But for it to truly be financially feasible requires some conscious effort.
That’s why I took notice when Nerdwallet recently did a blog post on “5 Ways to Save Money on Your RV Road Trip.”
Fellow travelers with experience can consider the list a good reminder of how to travel efficiently. Those who are newer to the RV lifestyle will obviously garner something from it, too.
Either way, here is the list of ways to save money from Nerdwallet (if you have any additional tips, please be sure to leave them in the comment section below):
- Choose a smaller RV
We all know there's a pretty wide range of RV sizes out there. It seems obvious, but remember: Whether you rent or buy, the bigger you go, the more it’ll cost. (Anyone interested in renting an RV should be sure to check out these past stories from the RV Lifestyle.)
- Use fuel efficiently
Prepare to spend more at the pump; RVs get about 6 to 18 mpg, depending on the size and model. By comparison, cars average about 24 mpg. It’s recommended to use AAA’s gas cost calculator to estimate the expense upfront. If you project expenses getting out of hand, try a few saving strategies:
- Use an app like GasBuddy to pinpoint gas stations along your route and identify locations with the lowest prices.
- Pay with a credit card that offers rewards on gas purchases.
- Slow down. Plain and simple, the faster you go, the more fuel you use.
- Find free (or cheap) destinations
While you’ll avoid the cost of staying in hotels while RVing, you could still face fees for camping plus hooking up to water, sewer and electricity. The good news: There are plenty of affordable campsites. With an RV, you can camp free overnight on U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands and in Walmart parking lots, where allowed. In fact, I recently did a blog post on “How to Find Free Overnight RV Parking,” which has a bunch of links for how to find free spots. One of our favorite services to use is provided by Harvest Hosts. Check out our video below as we show you why we love it!
You can also save money on RV rentals if you’re willing to drive between certain destinations. For example, Cruise America has “one-way specials,” which cuts costs for travelers who pick up and drop off their vehicles in specific cities. Look for other area-based deals online and ask seasoned RV travelers for recommendations via blogs and community groups, including the RV Lifestyle Facebook Group page (if you haven't signed up yet, I invite you to do just that).
- Bring your own food
This one is a biggie, which is why we try to offer you new and interesting recipes from our own Mary Jane Curry for the road.
Stock up on fresh produce (and support locals where you're traveling) as well as your favorite fixings for sandwiches for a cheaper — and healthier — alternative to eating at diners and fast-food joints.
Grocery stores can provide amenities along the way, too.
If you want to sprinkle in a few restaurant meals, research your options. Before the trip, plan where you might eat and see if there are discounts available.
- Join a club
Memberships and loyalty programs offer a wide variety of perks. A one-year, $44 membership for the camping club Passport America includes a 50 percent discount per night on stays throughout its network of RV campgrounds. There may be exclusions, though, often during popular travel times like Fourth of July and Labor Day weekends. Check availability at each location in advance.Other memberships can help you save year-round. Find out about rewards-club benefits at places like gas stations, grocery stores and sporting goods stores.
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