Have you been thinking about ways to cut your camping costs? After traveling full time for over two years we have learned a few ways to cut our costs on the road. These tips will help you keep your campings cost low and on budget.
Campgrounds will usually provide discounts based on length of stay. Booking for a week may trip your nightly rate a bit. But booking for a month could slash your nightly rate up to 50%. Monthly stays are an excellent option for those needing to watch their camping budget. It also means less driving, which will save money on fuel!
Decrease the miles between each destination to save on fuel. Stop every few hundred miles. Find a place to explore and enjoy all the small towns you travel through. There is nothing better than finding a small town coffee shop or cafe to linger and get to know the locals.
Watch The Pump
Paying attention to the price at the pump can save you money. There are several apps that will tell you the current gas prices in your area allowing you to choose the best price. You can also join fuel savings programs that will keep more money in your pocket.
TSD RV Fuel Savings Program
TSD RV Savings Program can save you a boatload on diesel. At the time of this writing, we had used the card seven times. You can see our savings below. The only catch is you will need to use the trucker lanes at truck stops. It doesn’t cost you anything to join. We LOVE it. TSD Logistics Fuel Savings Card has all the details about this program, including how to sign up!
- 7 Purchases with TSD Fuel Card
- 286.57 gallons
- $142.70 in savings
- Saved Per/Gal Average $2.00
- Saved Per/Purchase Average $20.38
- Price Range with TSD $1.71-2.74 per/gal
Gas Buddy is an app that can save you up to $0.25 per gallon for gas. The app will show you the price of gas all around you, enabling you to choose the cheapest option. You can use this with your tow car as well as your RV. It is free to join. Available for Apple and Android.
Gas Guru is an app that shows current gas prices around you. It is not a discount program but may help you find the cheapest price if you choose not to join a discount program like Gas Buddy. Available for Apple.
National Park Pass
National Park Access Pass
For those who qualify, the America the Beautiful Access Pass (through the National Park system) can save you on your camping fees. Anyone with a permanent disability qualifies for this card. This pass is not military connected but if you have a VA rating you will qualify. Check out all the rules on the National Park website to see if you qualify for the pass. This pass is good for life. Here are a few perks for anyone with the pass.
- Free and discounted National park amenities
- Save 50% at Army COE campgrounds
- Reduced or free admission at some state parks
- Discounts at some military base campgrounds
National Park Senior Pass
The America the Beautiful Senior Pass is another way to save on camping for anyone who qualifies. This pass is available for US citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. Applicants must provide documentation of age, residency, or citizenship. Check out the rules on the National Park website to see if you qualify for the Senior Pass. This pass is good for life. Here are a few perks of the Senior Pass.
- Free and discounted National park amenities
- Save 50% at Army COE campgrounds
- Free entry into some state parks
Cut Camping Costs
SHARING IS CARING. PLEASE BE KIND AND SHARE PIC ON PINTEREST!
Don’t forget to ask for your discount on camping. Most campgrounds will list the discounts they offer on their website. If you are making your reservation online and it doesn’t offer a discount option, call for your reservation instead.
- Membership club discount
Booking at campgrounds during the offseason is a great way to save money on camping fees. There are many other advantages to offseason camping including, shorter lines at attractions, and a less crowded campground.
City parks are hidden gems that are often overlooked by RVers during trip planning. We have found beautiful free boondocking, full hookups for $10 a night, and everything in between! We find city parks by using the filters in RV Trip Wizard and Allstays app.
Of course, a great way to save money is to skip the campground all together and boondock on free land. If you are nervous about boondocking, don’t worry; it will get easier every time you do it. We were nervous at first, but now we love it!
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t boondock because you own a large class A RV. Our rig is 35 feet, and we boondock with friends with a 40 foot and 42 foot rig. So don’t believe the hype!
US Forest Service (USFS)
Bureau of Land Management (BLM)
Most RVers learn quickly about BLM land, especially if they think of heading to Quartzsite, Arizona for the winter. We had a great time camping on BLM land during our first winter on the road. To find free camping on BLM land head to RV Trip Wizard, Allstays, or the BLM website.
Army Corps of Engineers (COE)
Many people don’t realize the COE also offers land for free boondocking. It is usually near water, clean, and well maintained by the COE. To find free camping through the COE, check their different regions on their camping map to see what they offer in each region. Finding COE Camping: Our Favorite Way to Camp has more information on camping with the Army Corps of Engineers.
RV Trip Wizard can help you find great boondocking!
Many places allow RVers to stop overnight to sleep as they travel to their next location. You can find these locations with apps such as Allstays or websites such as Free Campsites. Below are a few companies that allow free overnights. Be sure to call ahead to make sure it is allowed before stopping. Some cities have ordinances against overnight stays.
- Casinos (Casino Camper)
- Cracker Barrel
- Bass Pro Shop
- Dicks Sporting Goods
- Camping Worlds
- Rest areas
- Rest welcome centers
We love Harvest Host! If you have been following us for a while, you will know we use them often! This membership program allows you to overnight for free at one of their more than 1080 locations. You can choose from museums, farms, wineries, breweries, amusement parks, golf courses and so much more! Often the route to our next destination is based on the location of Harvest Hosts. Use our affiliate code to save 15% off your membership: YOUMERV.
Boondockers Welcome (BW) is another one of our favorite membership programs! We have used it many times, and we LOVE it! This program has over 2000 free boondocking locations in the US and Canada. Many of their hosts offer amenities such as water and electricity so you don’t even have to boondock!
Many people are confused about the differences in Harvest Host and Boondockers Welcome. So lets clear up the confusion. Harvest Host allows you to boondock at businesses for one night. Boondockers Welcome will enable you to boondock on privately owned property for multiple nights. We have stayed as long as seven nights….for FREE!
It is so easy to find a perfect spot to boondock. Log into BW, find a location, read the description about the site, including amenities and RV size. And then reach out to the host. It couldn’t be easier! By the way, you can look at their map to see the locations before becoming a member. Be sure to use our affiliate code to save on your membership: YouMeRV.
If you are retired military or a qualifying Veteran (Find out if you qualify for campground access), military campgrounds are a great place to park the RV. They are not free, but they are usually much cheaper than the local area. We’ve stayed at military campgrounds with full hookups ranging from $17 to $50 a night. High touristy areas may have camping fees up to $100 per night. Thankfully, our average is $22 a night. Each individual military campground will set its own rate. As a bonus, you will also have access to the base amenities like MWR, commissary, exchange, veterinary services, medical and more.
There many websites that will help you find military campgrounds across the US. Here are just a few.
- Military Living
- Air Force
- Coast Guard
- Joint Services Campgrounds and Facilities PDF
- Base MWR
Have you seen this website? Hipcamp is a camping version of Airbnb. It is free to join, and it allows you to search over 300k camping properties. You will have to pay the host for your stay, but you can find some great deals.
Join a Camping Club
There are many clubs available for camping that could save you money. Be sure to do your homework before you buy. Not all clubs are created equal, and not all clubs will work with your style of camping. Here are just a few available to you.
- $29 annually
- 10% off 2400 campgrounds
- Free shipping from select RV online retailers
- 10% savings at Camping World and Gander RV & Outdoors
- Fuel discounts
- Propane discounts
- Free dumping at Camping World and Gander RV & Outdoors
- $44 annually
- Up to 50% off over 1600 campgrounds in the US, Canada, and Mexico
- Member Referral program Save $10 off membership per referral
- App to help you locate qualifying campgrounds (Android & Apple)
- Up to 50% off over 1200 of campgrounds
- Free camping guide
- Free online trip planner
- $60.00 annually
- Largest national Canadian RV club
- 10% off the campgrounds in their directory (view online)
- Discounts on insurance
- Discounts on roadside assistance
- $44 annually
- Camping fees as low as $10 per night or 25% off qualifying campgrounds
- No listing for the number of qualifying campgrounds
- $99 annually
- Save up to 50% on qualifying campgrounds
- Website does not list the number of qualifying campgrounds
- $39.95 annually
- 15-50% off over 800 commercial parks
- Discounts on Escapees owned campgrounds and Co-Ops
Many people swear by this program. Thousand Trails has a lot of membership levels and tiers and costs. It might be right for you too. We have a few links in our Thousand Trails blog post that might help you decide if it is right for you. We decided it was not right for us. Find out why in the video below.
Try your hand at a camp host position. You can find a camp host position based on your needs and your capabilities. You can work short term or long term. We have everything you need to know about becoming a camp host, including finding a position in our camp host blog post.
Stay up to date on your RV Maintenance. Most RVs have monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and annual maintenance items. Your RV manuals will list the manufacturer’s recommendation for each item, including engine, A/Cs, generator, washer, dryer, seals, slides, oven, microwave, heat pump, etc.
Phil has created an excel spreadsheet for our RV maintenance. If you need a starting point for your RV maintenance, you can download it for free.
Become a DIYer
You will save a ton of money if you learn to do repairs on your RV yourself. You can easily teach yourself how to accomplish many tasks with the manuals and through YouTube videos. I recently fixed our air conditioner, which cost us only $30. I would have been much more expensive had we paid labor costs.
How to Cut Camping Costs
I hope this has provided you with some ideas on cutting your camping costs. We try to stay as inexpensive as possible in order to have more money for attractions! Please share any tips you have in the comments.
Thanks for Dropping by!
Virtual Hugs, Phil & Stacy
Author: Stacy Farley, You Me & the RV, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 2020