Boy in a canoe on a cloudy day

Expert Advice

10 Tips for Saving Money On RV Trips

Check out these money-saving tips and tricks from Jeremy Puglisi!

My family bought our first RV 12 years ago because we wanted to spend time together and go on epic road trips. Having traveled all over America and Canada in our RV it is safe to say that we achieved those two key goals with flying colors. In fact, we have traveled much more than we ever imagined we could. This is largely because RVing is more affordable than other types of vacations.

When we bought that first RV my wife and I were both living on teacher’s salaries, and we thought that we could take one week-long vacation in our RV every summer (along with a bunch of weekend trips) but we soon discovered that we could take two or three weeklong vacations instead.

Our RV trips cost us about 50% less than our previous vacations that involved hotel rooms and plane tickets. In almost every instance, campgrounds were much cheaper than hotels, and driving was much cheaper than flying. But these two major factors are not the only ways that we have saved money while RVing--we’ve discovered some other money saving strategies along the way as well.

Here are ten tips for saving money when you travel in an RV. Each of these tips is easy to implement and collectively they can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars each year.

Table of Contents

1. Use Your RV Kitchen and Control Food Costs:

One of the primary ways you can save money while RVing is by using your RV’s indoor or outdoor kitchen and avoiding eating out while on vacation. Many RVers buy their RVs for this very reason. We all know that the cost of eating out can add up very quickly--especially for families. Cooking inside or outside of your RV is a big part of the fun for many of us--and it could be for you too--and you can save a small fortune by doing so.

Lighting a campfire at night at RV site

2. Eating Out? Try Lunch, Not Dinner

If you do want to eat out during an RV vacation, then consider eating out for lunch, not dinner. We do most of our cooking in our RV while we travel--but we do like to try out local restaurants as well. Over the years we have become big fans of eating out for lunch because many restaurants are less crowded, and lunch often costs about half as much as dinner.

3. Sign Up for Campground Newsletters for Discounts

Have you ever visited a campground that you really loved that you want to return to? Do you have a bucket list of great campgrounds that you want to visit? In both cases you should sign up for their newsletters if they have them. Privately owned campgrounds often do have newsletters (check their websites to sign up) and they often offer discounts and last second deals in email blasts. Many private campgrounds also offer Black Friday camping deals so look out for them in their newsletters as well!

Child playing at a KOA campground

4. Sign Up for Campground Rewards Programs

Many campground organizations like KOA offer discount programs (sometimes for a small annual fee) that can offer money saving perks and regular discounts on reservations. We have saved plenty of money over the years by joining these programs and so could you. The major tip here is to think through whether you will use these memberships enough to justify the cost before you purchase. We visit enough KOA’s each year to justify paying the membership fee

5. Camp Close to Home

One of the things that I love the most about RVing is that it is possible to have a great adventure close to home. There are great campgrounds in all 50 states and most Americans have great campgrounds that are very close to home. You don’t have to take a cross-country road trip to have an amazing time in your RV--sometimes a local county or state park can be just as fun and much less expensive to get to.

Children sitting in front of KOA logo

6. Take Advantage of Everything the Campground Offers

Another great way to save money on an RV trip is to take advantage of everything the campground has to offer. Many campgrounds offer free activities and amenities that are fun for the entire family. Instead of leaving the campground on a Saturday afternoon and heading into town to pay for an activity--why not stay put at the campground and do something fun for free? Having fun at the campground should be at the heart of every RV trip.

7. Find Free Outdoor Activities

If you do want to venture out from the campground, then look for free activities in the great outdoors. Many campgrounds are in beautiful, natural locations with lots of hiking, biking, fishing, and kayaking nearby. We often spend an entire day having great adventures near our campground and we often don’t spend a single dime. Because our RV is nearby, we can also pack a picnic lunch very easily and save on food costs as well.

Boy in a canoe on a cloudy day

8. Camp During the Week and During Shoulder Seasons if You Can

Everyone’s work schedules are different, and I understand that many RV owners (especially those with families) can’t camp too often during the week or during the shoulder seasons. But if you can camp during those times, you will almost certainly save money. Privately owned campgrounds often lower their prices during the week and during shoulder seasons--and sometimes the savings can be substantial.

9. Join Harvest Hosts for Stops to and from Your Destination

We have really fallen in love with our Harvest Hosts membership over the past few years. Harvest Hosts is an annual membership program that allows owners of self-contained RVs to overnight at cool locations across the country like farms, wineries, breweries, museums and more. RV owners pay a reasonable annual fee for the membership but there are no overnight camping fees once you join. It is recommended that you make a purchase before you leave at most locations. We love using Harvest Hosts for one-night stops on our way to and from our camping destinations--and doing so certainly saves us money

Child riding a bike on a cloudy day

10. Learn to Perform Basic Maintenance Tasks Yourself

When we first started RVing, I would pay our dealer to winterize our RV. Over time I decided that I could and should do the winterizing myself. By doing it myself I could avoid a trip to my dealer and save money at the same time. Over the years I have learned to take care of other basic maintenance tasks like this as well. In every case it saves me time and money--and who doesn’t need more of both of those precious resources?

Jeremy Puglisi is the host of the RV Atlas podcast and the co-author of the bestselling books Where Should We Camp Next?, Where Should We Camp Next? National Parks and Where Should We Camp Next? Camping 101. His next book, Where Should We Camp Next? Budget Camping will be published by Sourcebooks in April of 2024. All of the Where Should We Camp Next? books are available online and in bookstores across the country.

Jeremy Puglisi

Author and co-host of the RV Atlas podcast

Jeremy Puglisi is the co-host of the RV Atlas podcast and the co-author of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, and Where Should We Camp Next: A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and other Unique Outdoor Accommodations. He loves nothing more than hitching up and heading out to the next campground with his family.