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Living with two young children during a time of record inflation, you can bet I’m Googling everything from how to save on electricity to how to save on groceries these days. And with plane costs increasing and gas prices not slowing down, my family of four has embraced RV vacations. It’s a trend that’s happening across the board. According to Go RVing, 65.5 million Americans plan to take an RV trip in the next year, with the greatest interest coming from millennials. With many families doing remote school and work from home jobs on the rise, it’s no surprise that RV-ing has exploded since 2020.
Compared to family vacations we’ve priced out (we see you, Disney), RV-ing at a RV campground has always come out as the cheapest vacation. If you’ve thought about RV-ing before and aren’t sure where to start, we have seven ways to make an RV vacation even cheaper than you may expect. These are my RV savings hacks.
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How to Make an RV Trip Even Cheaper
The obvious: Rent an RV instead of buying one.
Sites like Go RVing and RVshare are a great way for you to rent an RV for a few nights and not have to pay for the gas to get there. In our experience, the RVs we’ve rented have always been clean, organized, and offered the basics at no extra cost (plates, cups, silverware, paper towels, and toilet paper), so we didn’t need to worry about purchasing any of that.
If you’re interested in buying an RV one day, renting one helps you get a feel of which floor pan fits your family’s needs before purchasing. For example, I know that my girls need to have extra floor space because being stuck in an RV on a rainy day is no fun when you have no space for any activities or crafts.
Renting an RV is anywhere from $110/night to upwards of $250/night, but the cost of buying a used RV is a lot higher: upwards of $10,000. But you can find deals on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. Buying a new RV will cost you at least $10,000, with prices going as far up as $300K. Of course, with buying one, you’ll have storage costs, upkeep costs, and insurance costs — something you save on if you rent.
Related: Camping Hacks
RV Savings Hack: Go to a campground within an hour or two of home — no long drive necessary.
We drove about two hours to Williamsport, Maryland, to stay at Jellystone Campground where our RV rental was parked. Instead of flying to Florida and needing to factor in one travel day or spending an entire day in the car, it was a short drive that didn’t cost us expensive plane tickets. The Jellystone Williamsport cost for an RV site starts at $59 per night. (Compare that to Disney World’s Camp Wilderness RV site at $136 per night).
Bring all your own groceries and favorite snacks — it saves money and feels familiar.
I find packing for an RV trip way easier than when we’re flying somewhere for a family trip. We bring our own pillows, blankets, toys, and anything else our family needs without having to worry about “additional baggage fees.” Before an RV trip, I go to Costco and buy our favorite snacks in bulk as well as our favorite frozen Costco dinners beforehand. We keep them in the cooler when we drive down, and then once we’re in the RV, into the freezer they go. Being on-site and having an RV right there with a full kitchen (and yes, even a dishwasher, oven, and microwave) means there’s no reason to spend extra money on a vacation dinner. Eating hot dogs and s’mores by the fire was more our style.
Related: Camping Food Ideas
RV Savings Hack: Take part in all of the free campground activities.
There are a ton of campgrounds across the U.S. that are known for their free activities and pools. The campground we stayed at reminds me of a dream summer camp I wanted to go to as a kid. There was a lazy river, two slides, a big pool, plus hourly family activities that are loaded into the free app.
Activities ranged from free horseback riding to glow-in-the-dark volleyball for teens to foam kickball and a dance party. There was also a free mini golf course, a free jumping pillow and jumping bean for kids, and a free nightly movie under the stars at 9 p.m. If we had traveled somewhere and got a hotel room, we would’ve had to pay for any extra entertainment and everything we did. The nice thing about staying at an RV campsite that’s super family-friendly is that there’s plenty of free entertainment to keep your kids busy.
No need to board your pet — pets are welcome!
Our dog immediately gets sad when he sees a suitcase appear in our bedroom. I love doing an RV vacation because he can come with us! RV rental sites have pet-friendly RVs available (at no extra cost, in our case), and the campsite we went to even had a dog park for our pup to run around in. He stayed cool in the air-conditioned RV while we went to the pool or hit up an activity. Our dog walker is now $30 a day, so this was a big discount for us, saving us a total of $150 just by bringing our dog for our 5-day trip. See pet-friendly stores where you pup is welcome.
RV Savings Hack: Travel midweek instead of the weekends.
If your schedule can swing it, save more money on your RV vacation by traveling midweek because that’s when you’ll find generally lower rates and more availability.
Plan on staying longer for weekly and monthly discounts.
Have a flexible WFH job and can get away for a bit? You’ll find better discounts on an RV rental if so. For example, an RV owner may offer 9.9% off a weekly stay and 19.9% off a monthly stay. Those numbers vary based on the RV owner, but it’s worth considering a longer trip for a bigger discount. You can take an online quiz here to see which RV rental might be best for you.