Budget Tips

Unlocking the Secret to Planning a Budget RV Vacation: 10 Free and Low-Cost Activities

When planning a budget-friendly RV vacation, don’t forget to plan as many free or low-cost activities to maximize fun and keep your expenses in check.

RV vacations are more affordable than any other type of travel, and a big part of keeping your costs in check is watching your campground fees, fuel costs, and food expenses. But activities can also break the bank, especially when it comes to guided tours, entrance fees, or ticketed events. The good news is that RVing can place you in beautiful natural settings where it is amazingly easy to fill your days with free or low-cost activities. Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy RV vacations on a budget.

Google “Free things to Do in ____”

This travel hack never lets seasoned budget RVers down. It’s an easy way to discover unique, interesting, and FREE activities wherever you visit. One of the benefits of using this trick is that the results often highlight more local gems than the typical tourist attractions. You may be pointed to the best place to see the sunset, a local art installation, or a free walking tour.

Research Local Hikes

Even if you are visiting a location that isn’t thought of as a hiking destination, use the AllTrails app to research local hikes. The reviews are usually very up to date, and many are written by locals, so you may discover a hike around a pond or to a waterfall that wasn’t in any of the guidebooks you read.

Ask About Local Festivals When Checking into the Campground

The friendly folks at the front desk usually have the scoop on local activities that may not be well advertised to visiting tourists. Strawberry festivals, winery events, and artisan fairs are a great way to soak in the local culture and support the local economy in a budget-friendly fashion.

Check the Schedule for Regional Farm Markets

Farm markets are fun activities in their own right, but you also get the added bonus of spending your money on something you need anyway–food! Enjoy some treats as you wander around the booths and bring back fresh ingredients or baked goods to enjoy later at the campground.

Find the Local Swimming Holes

Many RV destinations will offer fun places to while away the afternoon at a lake, pond, river, or creek. Free swimming locations are often local secrets, so ask around to find out the really great spots. Another pro RVer secret? You don’t have to pay for tubing. If you are friendly, locals will usually tell you where to put in your tube and where to get out down river.

Embrace Exploring on Two Wheels

Most people already own bicycles, so bring them along on your RV trips and explore the area on bike. Investing in a sturdy bike rack will make it easier to bring your gear along on the adventure. Look for bike paths and rail trails wherever you travel. Also consider dipping your toes into mountain biking, a favorite activity for many RVers.

Always Visit National Parks, State Parks, and County Parks

Even though many of these parks have entrance fees, the cost is usually a bargain for a full day of activities. Some parks will charge by the vehicle, a bonus if you are traveling with a larger group. Some entrance fees will cover up to seven days entry or have reciprocal entry with other parks in the area. Take full advantage and plan out your days accordingly–perhaps visiting the nature center one day and going on a hike and enjoying a picnic on another afternoon.

Don’t forget about the Every Kid Outdoors program, which offers free entrance to national parks and historic locations around the country for all 4th graders and their traveling companions. The passes need to be printed out in advance.

Study the Stars

Many RVers live in places where the glory of the night sky is hidden by light pollution. RV trips are a wonderful opportunity to embrace stargazing and celestial discovery. Use apps like Star Walk to identify planets, stars, and constellations. Do some learning in advance and make a night sky bucket list for your trip and then try to check off as many of the items as possible during your trip.

Get Artsy with Photography and Videography

It’s easier than ever to capture great photography and videography with the smartphones that we all carry with us everywhere. But it can also be fun to go old school and learn how to use the manual settings on that old DSLR you have in a drawer gathering dust. Or geek out with all the editing bells and whistles of a GoPro camera or drone (just make sure to follow all the local rules and regulations when sending that drone up into the sky!). Using free apps like Adobe Photoshop Express to craft photo books or video montages of your RV adventures is a great way to capture memories–and maybe even connect with the younger generation if you are traveling with kids and teens.

Enjoy the Freebies at the Campground!

Don’t forget that one of things that makes RVing so affordable is that your campground fees often include a variety of amenities and activities at the campground or RV park. Ask for a recreation schedule upon check in and block out your calendar for any GaGa ball tournaments, cannonball contents, or ice cream socials. Even some low-cost activities like laser tag at the campground will be cheaper than ticketed activities in the surrounding area. Crunch the numbers–often it is worth it to pay a little extra for a campground with a busy recreational calendar and a lot of free activities…especially if you are RVing with kids.


One of the reasons so many people fall in love with RV travel is that you really don’t have to sacrifice fun to enjoy a trip that is easy on the wallet. After a while, you may find that the budget activities are really your favorite activities. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy time well spent.

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