Can you remember your very first paycheck?
Even though it was probably pretty measly, you stood there clutching your first-ever earned money tightly in your first, imagining all the possible things it could become. Would you spend it on candy and soda? A present for the cute girl in your class? That new pair of shoes that had been calling your name for a month now?
Or maybe you were a much more responsible teenager than me and decided to stick it into savings. In which case, congratulations! Got any of that self-discipline to spare?
Vacation on a Budget
Now that we’re older, we still face a decision every time we get a paycheck. Obviously, some of the money has to go towards housing, food, and bills — actually, let’s be honest; most of it does. Why were we ever eager to enter adulthood?
When it comes to the extra cash you save each pay period, however, your imagination is still free to play. You might be saving to purchase a house, perform renovations on the one you already have, or buy a new car.
But for many of us, creating a healthy travel fund is high on the list of stuff worth scrimping for.
Sure, the money you spend on travel doesn’t usually give you something tangible you can hold onto or put on a shelf. But it does enable you to see new places, meet new people, and learn more about this beautiful world of ours. (And besides, those knick-knacks inevitably do nothing but gather dust, anyway.)
And if you’re looking to travel across America in a comfortable, convenient manner with an itinerary that’s totally under your control, it’s hard to do better than road tripping in an RV.
Plus, good news: Even if that piggy bank marked “travel” isn’t quite as chubby as you’d like him to be yet, it’s easy to make an RV camping trip affordable.
RV Travel on a Budget
Obviously, any type of travel comes with some expenses in tow. RVing is no different — you can expect to spend a decent chunk of change on fuel, not to mention on the actual RV rental itself.
But the good news is, almost every other financial aspect of your vacation is totally under your control. You can easily adjust your total vacation cost simply by doing a little bit of planning.
Here are some of our best travel tips to keep your RV road trip across America as low-cost as possible — whether it’s a one-week vacation or extended travel.
1. Shop around.
It’s basically a guarantee that the largest expense you’ll have to worry about is the cost of the RV rental itself — especially if you’re traveling with a large family that requires a lot of room. Some big Class A rigs can cost more than $300 per night to rent!
So make sure you find the best deal possible on your rental by comparing prices across all the various rental dealerships and agencies in your area. Don’t forget about the peer-to-peer market, either; private owners often list their rigs on websites like RVshare for a fraction of the nightly price you’d find at a commercial agency.
Finally, make sure when you’re price shopping you ask for a fully inclusive quote before you make a final decision. There may be other fees that aren’t included in the advertised per-day price. You’ll also want to take third party reviews of the company into consideration, as even a very cheap RV is a bad deal if it means the vehicle isn’t well maintained or the customer service is bunk!
2. Get a little bit Type A.
Spontaneity is one of the things that draws travelers to an RV road trip in the first place. You already know where you’re sleeping and where you’ll put all your stuff each night, so it’s no big deal to take that interesting-looking detour or add a new destination to the route.
But last-minute accommodations and extra miles can add up when it comes to expenses. Plus, if you already have a pretty solid trip itinerary, it’s much easier to figure out exactly how much you should expect to have spent by the time you get home.
So go ahead and let yourself become a little bit of a planner. Map out your basic trip route and figure out some specific campsites, restaurants, and attractions you want to visit ahead of time. Then, you can set aside the exact amount of money you know you’ll need, rather than winging it and finding your wallet running dry halfway through your travels.
3. You’re bringing along the kitchen sink… so use it!
Newsflash: Your RV has a kitchen.
That means you can save money by cooking healthy, affordable lunches and dinners at home. (Psst: Here are a few of our favorite RV-friendly recipes.)
4. Choose your campsites wisely.
Not all campgrounds are created equal.
At some private, resort-style campgrounds in popular areas, you might pay as much as $100 per night for a site with full electrical, water, and sewer hookups. Granted, you may also get perks like free WiFi or access to a pool or clubhouse… but that’s still as much as many midgrade hotels, and it’s not counting the per-day RV rental price or the gas you used to get there.
So look for public campgrounds or state parks, which frequently have campsites with hookups available for well under $30 nightly. Plus, who needs a rec room and an ice cream social when you have hiking trails and a grill?
5. Focus on free and cheap activities.
When it comes to family travel on a budget, one of the easiest line items on which to spend way more than you anticipated is entertainment. I mean, if you’re passing the world’s largest ball of twine or a meteor crater, it’s hard to tell yourself it’s not worth the entry fee — even if it’s $17.95 per person.
But if you’re trying to travel on a budget, there’s tons to see and do that’s almost cost free. Pay admission to a National Park once, then camp there and explore for days — on foot or by bicycle or kayak. Find public lands to boondock on and enjoy the simple pleasure of spending time around the campfire with the people you love.
Heck, just lay back, pour yourself a glass of wine, and maybe even sneak in a nap while taking in the gorgeous view of a new place through your dashboard window. As far as affordable vacations go, RVing really does make it pretty simple.
Fun Places to Travel on a Budget
Budget travel is less about where you go, and more about how you get there. Inexpensive trips can involve almost any destination, especially when you’re road tripping it.
Of course, if you take your RV to a market that’s well-known for its expense, such as New York City or San Diego, you’ll have a harder time saving money on entertainment costs and eating out. But some of the most amazing, best places to travel on a budget are both inexpensive and full of stuff to explore, particularly when you’re RVing. Our country’s vast array of national and state parks give you and your family tons of options for wholesome outdoor adventures.
RVing is one of the best ways to travel America on a budget. So while you’re driving around the USA with your family, enjoy all the little things.
After all, s’mores only cost a few bucks — and smiles are 100% free of charge.