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RV Camping on a Dime: 8 Easy Ways To Make RVing Affordable

Affordable RV Camping

The open road, the great outdoors, and the freedom to explore. RV camping offers a way to travel and experience nature that’s comfortable for everyone!

However, the costs associated with RV camping can quickly add up and limit your ability to travel and camp.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to save a little for your next trip.

Related Product: Upgrade your RV quick and easy with a Camco RV Screen Door Cross Bar (click to view on Amazon).

For this article, we’ve put together a few ideas to help you reduce expenses so you can travel further or fill more weekends with camping trips.

Whether you’re living in an RV full time looking to cut costs or a seasonal camper trying to start your journey on a budget, these hacks will help make RV camping more affordable.

See Also: Find Cheapest Gas/Diesel Near You When Traveling

Key Takaways

  • Thorough planning and preparation, including route maintenance and smart packing, are fundamental to budget-friendly RV camping.
  • Minimize major expenses by boondocking/dry camping, practicing fuel-efficient driving, and planning affordable meals.
  • Learn basic DIY maintenance and repair skills to help avoid unexpected repairs and prevent expensive breakdowns.
  • Use water saving strategies to reduce costs and extend boondocking time.
  • Focus on free or low-cost experiences and affordable upgrades to enhance your RV adventures without overspending.

old used budget friendly rv that's fixed using affordable rv camping hacks
RV camping can range from expensive new RVs to affordable campers that still have a lot of camping left in them.

Ways To Make RV Camping More Affordable

1. Planning & Preparation

The key to budget-friendly RV camping is in thorough planning and preparation.

By taking the time to organize your trip in advance, you can avoid unnecessary expenses and make smarter decisions.

Here are some essential tips to get you started:

  • Research and Plan Your Route – Use free apps and websites like RoadTrippers or Google Maps to plan your route efficiently. Look for scenic byways and alternative routes that may offer free or low-cost camping options. Plan your stops to coincide with free dump stations and affordable fuel stations.
  • Create A Realistic Budget – Break down your expenses into categories: fuel, campground fees, food, activities, and emergencies. Use budgeting apps like Mint or YNAB to track your spending and stick to your plan. Set aside a contingency fund for unexpected expenses or repairs.
  • Join RV Clubs and Loyalty Programs – Sign up for memberships like Good Sam, Passport America, or Harvest Hosts for discounts on campgrounds and RV-related services. Look for loyalty programs at fuel stations and grocery stores along your route.
  • Pack Smart – Make a comprehensive packing list to avoid forgetting essentials and having to buy them on the road. Invest in multi-purpose items to save space and money (e.g., a pressure cooker that can also be used as a slow cooker). Bring reusable items like cloth napkins and refillable water bottles to reduce waste and save money on disposables.
  • Perform Preventive Maintenance – Before your trip, do a thorough inspection of your RV to identify and address potential issues. Learn basic maintenance tasks like changing filters and checking tire pressure to avoid costly service calls on the road. Create a maintenance schedule and stick to it to prevent major breakdowns. Related Post: Top 10 RV Maintenance Tasks Every RV Owner Needs to Know!
  • Use Technology to Your Advantage – Download free apps like GasBuddy to find the cheapest fuel prices along your route. Use campground review apps like Campendium or RV Life to find affordable or free camping spots.
campground with fees that's not as affordable as RV camping in free camping areas
Campgrounds are often more affordable than RV Parks, but not as budget friendly as boondocking in free camping areas.

2. Save on Campground Fees

Campground fees can be one of the biggest expenses in RV camping. Here are some ways to reduce these costs:

  • Embrace Boondocking – Explore free camping opportunities on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or National Forests. Use apps like Campendium or to find free camping locations.
    Invest in solar panels and a good battery system to extend your boondocking capabilities.
  • Take Advantage of Overnight Parking – Many Walmart stores, Cracker Barrel restaurants, and Cabela’s locations allow free overnight RV parking. Always ask for permission and follow any posted rules or time limits. Use these options for quick overnight stops rather than extended stays.
  • Consider Workamping – Look for opportunities to work at campgrounds for a free site and sometimes additional pay. Websites like Workamper News list various workamping opportunities across the country.
  • Opt for State and County Parks – State and county parks often offer more affordable rates compared to private RV resorts. Many of these parks have beautiful natural settings and well-maintained facilities.
  • Use Reciprocal Camping Programs – Programs like Thousand Trails or ROD (Resort Parks International) offer camping at multiple locations for a single annual fee. While there’s an upfront cost, these can save money for frequent campers.
  • Stay Longer for Better Rates – Many campgrounds and RV Parks offer discounted weekly or monthly rates. If you enjoy an area, consider staying longer to take advantage of these savings.
  • Camp in the Off-Season – Rates are often significantly lower during shoulder seasons or off-peak times. You’ll also enjoy fewer crowds and might score a fantastic campsite.

3. Fuel Efficiency Tips

The main downside to RV camping is the extra fuel costs. It takes a lot more fuel to move a large trailer or motorhome.

Fuel costs can quickly eat into your RV camping budget. Here are some strategies to improve your fuel efficiency and reduce overall fuel expenses:

  • Drive Slower – Maintain a steady speed around 55-60 mph when possible. Use cruise control on highways to maintain a consistent speed.
  • Take the Fuel Efficient Route – Most navigation websites and services suggest more fuel efficient route options you can choose when you plan your route. It might take a little longer to get there, but these routes are often more scenic and less crowded. Just make sure the roads are big enough for your RV.
  • Perform Regular Maintenance – Keep tires properly inflated to reduce rolling resistance. Change air filters regularly and use the recommended grade of motor oil.
  • Reduce Weight – Remove unnecessary items from your RV to lighten the load. Only fill your water tanks when necessary, as water adds significant weight. We travel with empty water and holding tanks whenever possible. Most towns have a place to fill your RV with potable water for a small fee or free. You save a lot if you fill the water tanks at your destination. Related Post: How To Find Nearby RV Dump Stations & Fresh Water Fill-Up
  • Plan Your Fuel Stops – Use apps like GasBuddy to find the cheapest fuel prices along your route. Fill up in states with lower fuel taxes when possible.
  • Consider Fuel Rewards Programs – Sign up for fuel rewards programs at major gas station chains. Use credit cards that offer cash back on fuel purchases.

4. Meal Planning

Food expenses can add up quickly on the road. Here are some tips for eating well without breaking the bank:

  • Cook Your Own Meals – Prepare meals in your RV instead of eating out. Use a slow cooker or Instant Pot for easy, one-pot meals. Most RVs have enough fridge space for leftovers, which means you can have dinner for lunch the next day!
  • Embrace Simple Meals – Focus on easy-to-prepare, versatile ingredients. Learn one-pan or foil packet recipes for easy cleanup. If it’s easy to make you’re less likely to eat out, which helps you stay on budget. Related Post: Best Electric Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot For RV Camping
rv repair done in an diy affordable budget friendly way
Certain RV repairs are affordable with a little creativity. (We used zip ties to patch the underbelly panel on this 5th-wheel RV)

5. DIY RV Maintenance & Repairs

Learning to handle some maintenance and repairs yourself can save a significant amount of money and stress. Here are some easy ways to get started:

  • Learn Basic RV Maintenance – Familiarize yourself with your RV’s systems and regular maintenance needs. Invest in a good RV maintenance manual specific to your model.
  • Create a Tool Kit – Assemble a basic tool kit for common repairs and maintenance tasks. Include items like a multimeter, screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, and my most recommended RV tool Eternabond Sealant Tape (click to view on Amazon).
  • Practice Preventive Maintenance – Regularly inspect seals, caulking, and weatherstripping to prevent water damage. Keep moving parts lubricated to prevent wear and tear. Related Post: Pro Tips: How To Keep RV Holding Tanks Clog & Odor-Free
  • Learn to Troubleshoot – Understand how to diagnose common issues with electrical, plumbing, and propane systems. Keep a troubleshooting guide handy for quick reference.
  • Know Your Limits – While DIY can save money, know when to call a professional for complex or safety-related issues.

6. Energy-Saving Hacks

Reducing energy consumption can lead to significant savings, especially when boondocking or dry camping. If you can dry camp most of the time, it extends your budget.

Here are some energy-saving tips:

  • Switch to LED Lights – Replace all incandescent bulbs with LED alternatives for lower energy consumption. Use battery-operated LED lights for task lighting to reduce drain on your RV’s battery.
  • Harness Solar Power – Invest in portable solar panels or a roof-mounted solar system. Use solar-powered chargers for small devices. Related Post: How To Install Solar Panel On RV Roof & Connect To Battery
  • Use Natural Light & Ventilation – When camping in cold weather, try to park your RV so the morning sun hits the side with the most windows. The sunlight warms up the camper a lot faster, so you’ll use less fuel and electricity to run the furnace. Also, use roof vents, fans, and windows to cool your camper instead of the AC.
  • Insulate Your RV – Add insulation to roof vents, windows, doors, and walls to reduce heating and cooling needs. Use thermal curtains to help regulate interior temperature.

7. Conserve Water

Conserving water not only helps the environment but also extends your boondocking capabilities, which saves on campground and RV park costs.

Here are a few tips for saving water when RV camping:

  • Install Low-Flow Fixtures – Replace standard faucets and shower heads with low-flow alternatives. Consider a composting toilet to dramatically reduce water usage and save on RV dump station costs. Related Post: Instant RV Upgrade: Best High Pressure RV Shower Head Review
  • Take Navy Showers – Turn off the water while lathering to reduce water usage during showers. Use a shower timer to keep track of water usage. This also helps save hot water, which takes fuel to heat.
  • One Dish Meals – Cooking your own meals when RV camping and traveling is super budget friendly, but it leaves a lot of dishes. Finding simple meals you can cook using just one pan reduces dishes and saves water.

8. Affordable Upgrades and Modifications

The most budget friendly way to get an RV is to get a used one. The older the model, the smaller the price tag. If you are interested in DIY renovations, you can get an affordable RV and fix it up.

Here’s a few DIY ideas:

affordable rv camping in free camping areas
Free camping areas are sometimes the most beautiful places to RV camp affordably.

Final Thoughts

Embracing a budget-friendly approach to RV camping doesn’t mean sacrificing the quality of your adventures.

By implementing a few of these hacks and tips, you can reduce your expenses to open your travel and camping options.

From smart planning and energy conservation to DIY solutions and affordable upgrades, there are countless ways to make RV camping more budget friendly.

Start by incorporating the tips that resonate most with your style of travel and gradually implement more as you become comfortable.

Have questions? Leave a comment below.

by Jenni
Jenni grew up in a small town in Idaho. With a family that loves camping, she has been towing trailers since a very young age.

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