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Budget Tips

See More, Save More: The Costs of RVing

The sounds of crashing waves outside my bedroom window lulls me to sleep as my head sinks into my favorite pillow. Earlier in the evening, our family ate dinner and watched the sunset while dolphins played in the surf. Further down the beach in each direction are a few homes where people have spent millions of dollars to enjoy this view. It’s paradise for less than $50 a night.

There are many reasons people choose to travel by RV. Not only do we love the comforts of home, the convenience of traveling on our own schedule, and the joy of the open road, but we are convinced RVing is the most fun and affordable way to travel. As a family of five, we had to find a way to satisfy our wanderlust comfortably without emptying our pockets. The answer for us was found in our first RV, a small folding camping trailer that we could pull with our minivan. We had so many wonderful adventures in that little trailer like camping on the beach of the Pacific Ocean and under the majestic Sequoias in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. RVing became the way for us to see more and save more!


Lodging

The most obvious cost savings when traveling by RV are lodging costs. With the average cost of hotel rooms being well over $100 dollars per night, it doesn’t take long for vacation costs to add up – and that’s sleeping in a bed that may or may not be lumpy! On the other hand, we’ve stayed in campsites for as little as nothing (read our post on boondocking) to as much as $80 a night in a city where a hotel room would easily be four times that rate. To save even more, consider joining camping clubs like Passport America, Thousand Trails, or Good Sam. State, county, and national parks tend to have very reasonable rates with some of the best views in the country. Whether you want to stay in the mountains, at the lake, or hit the big city, RVing will save you a small fortune in lodging.


Food

We love eating out and experiencing regional cuisines as much as anyone, but the reality is that eating out is expensive. Add a couple of teenagers to the mix and I might as well start thinking about selling an arm and a leg! Traveling by RV allows us to make the majority of our meals at home, saving us a lot of our hard-earned money. One of our favorite things to do while traveling is find farmers markets to pick up locally grown or sourced food. It’s not only healthy, but affordable and practical entertainment. From picking berries in Washington to buying local beef in a small town in West Virginia, we’ve hit farmers markets all over the country and have never left empty handed. When we do decide to eat out (mostly when visiting cities), we usually splurge on one meal. Typically in the morning we will still eat breakfast in the RV and then we will either pack a lunch and eat out for dinner or eat out for lunch and put dinner in the crock pot so we have a hot meal ready when we come home. Either way, it makes traveling more affordable and healthy!


Transportation Costs

Planes, trains, and automobiles! Unless you are doing a staycation, getting to your destination is going to cost you. Cost ranges from a tank of gas to airline tickets, to taxis and rental cars. Anyone who has ever taken a family vacation that involves air travel knows how quickly those costs add up. We’ve flown a few times over the years and it cost a small fortune to fly our family of four (at the time) across the country. Add in other transportation costs like rental cars and cabs and there goes our vacation budget for the year spent all on one week. On the other hand, RVing gets our family from point A to point B for a fraction of the cost and unlike cruising high above the world, we get to see amazing sights along the way. And it may not save us money but it’s hard to put a price on taking potty breaks in your own bathroom!


Entertainment

RVing gives you endless options for travel entertainment. Love nature. Go RVing. Love history? Go RVing. Love cities? Believe it or not, Go RVing. No matter your preferred flavor of entertainment, RVing is the most affordable way to travel in comfort. The very act of RVing is entertainment enough for most people. Set up camp and let the kids find some sticks to build a fort or climb tress. Bring along the fishing poles, bikes, or a kayak and you have hours of free or nearly-free entertainment. Build a campfire and huddle around to make s’mores and watch a movie before falling asleep in your bed. Perhaps you’re not the outside type. Good news for you. RVing in cities is much more affordable than staying in hotels. What you save on lodging and food can be spent on more museum admissions, attractions, tours, and all the fun things cities have to offer. We’ve gone RVing in San Francisco and New York City with many stops in between.


(Some) Cost Recoupment

Sure the upfront cost of owning an RV is (usually) higher than paying for a weekend in a hotel. But what if you stayed 50 weekends over the course of five years? Then how do the costs compare? Next, consider when you sell your RV. You likely won’t get what you’ve paid for it (although I’ve know some people who have) but you’ll get a portion of your money back that will lower the overall cost. That can’t be said about renting cottages or hotel rooms. Our first RV was a pre-owned folding camping trailer. We loved the little trailer and took it out for many weekends when the boys were little. When it was time to upgrade, we sold it for about 25% less than when we bought it. When I subtract how much we sold it for from the purchase price and factor in the maintenance, it was about the price of two movie tickets per month to own and maintain it. (We do almost all maintenance ourselves.) Not bad for weekend after weekend of family fun. The same goes for our second fifth wheel camper. It was a newer and much larger RV, but once we sold it, it ended up costing less than $100 a month to own. Our current RV, we bought new and make payments, but the payment is still less than what it would cost to stay in a hotel for a weekend. Yes, we live in it full time but even if we didn’t, it’s not bad for someone who loves to get away on the weekends. RVs may cost much less than you think and there is something for every budget. Check the Go RVing Vacation Value Generator to get an idea on how much you could be saving!

If you love to travel and get away with the comforts of home, there really isn’t a more cost effective way than RVing. It allows us to see so much more for so much less.

Any other ways you’ve found RVing to be more affordable than other types of travel? What do you love about your RV?

family of five

Newschool Nomads

Jenn and Brent

In 2011, the Newschool Nomads sold almost all their stuff to hit the road for a full time RVing adventure. They intended to spend one year traveling but fell in love with the RV life so much that one year turned into four! Now settled in Colorado, they enjoy RVing every chance they get and look forward to returning to the full time RV life once “the Bigs” fly the nest. They are passionate about encouraging families to get out and explore, connect, and make memories that will last a lifetime.