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Trip Planning

Strategies for Affordable Camping

Use these money-saving strategies the next time you visit the campground!

There are campgrounds across the U.S. to fit every taste, from rustic campgrounds that offer little more than restrooms, water and a place to park to luxurious RV resorts with heated swimming pools, fiber optic WiFi and pavered campsites with outdoor kitchens.

Of course, such luxurious amenities are priced accordingly. But for RV enthusiasts who want to keep their camping costs to a minimum, the most affordable options are government run campgrounds, particularly those in U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management areas. is the best search engines to find and book reservations at government-run campgrounds across the country. Prices for campsites can be as low as $15 to $30 per night. But keep in mind that some of the lowest priced campsites are also in high demand.

The Bureau of Land Management offers both developed campgrounds as well as opportunities for “disbursed camping,” which means you can camp along or near secondary roads, usually for a period not exceeding 14 days within a 28-day period. However, camping varies by location and BLM officials strongly encourage RVers to check with the local BLM office closest to the BLM area of interest to them for the latest information on road conditions and camping restrictions.

It’s worth taking the time to research BLM camping options and locations because the cost savings can be significant. For example, RVers can camp at Wiley's Well Campground in the eastern California desert near Blythe for $40 for a two-week period or $180 for the whole winter season.

BLM has five offices serving the California desert areas, including offices in Barstow, Palm Springs, El Centro, Needles and Ridgecrest. Dispersed camping is available throughout the California desert areas along with developed campgrounds, some of which have cement pads and toilets. Detailed maps of BLM management areas are available online.

Affordable camping is also offered by many city and county parks as well as by local water districts, which often operate campgrounds near lakes or reservoirs. Of course, many independently owned and operated campgrounds also offer discounted rates during their off or shoulder seasons. It’s often helpful to contact the campgrounds of interest to you to inquire about any discounts or special promotions they may have as these can reduce your potential camping costs.

Additionally, many campgrounds use electronic demand management systems, which adjust their rates based on demand. As a practical matter, this often means that the further in advance you book your reservation, the lower the price you will pay for your campground reservation.

Franchise networks, such as Jellystone Parks and Kampgrounds of America (KOA), also offer loyalty programs, which frequent campers can use to obtain discounts on camping and other items. There are also several camping clubs that offer discounts on their affiliated campgrounds, including Escapees RV Club, Family Motor Coach Association, Good Sam, Harvest Hosts, Passport America and Thousand Trails. Many campgrounds and RV parks also provide discounts for AAA and AARP members.

Most campground networks and many independently owned and operated RV parks also offer discounts for veterans as well as active duty military personnel and first responders.

Jeff Crider


Jeff Crider, President and CEO of Crider Public Relations, has been involved in covering the campground industry for over 25 years. Jeff has worked as a freelance writer for publications such as RV Business, Motor Home Magazine, Trailer Life, Highways and other Affinity Group Inc. publications since 1995. He has also successfully pitched many of the nation's top tier media outlets, including CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Financial Times, Reuters, The Associated Press and National Public Radio. In addition to writing, Jeff is also a talented photographer and humanitarian.