Ways To Save Money While RV-ing

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Due to the price of fuel, many people may find that going on an extended trip in their RV is expensive. However, there are several things one can do to ensure that money is saved when possible. Plan ahead for the best savings results.


Obviously the first concern is the price of fuel. While there is not much one can do at the pump to lower the price per gallon, there are a few things.

First, make sure your motor home or pull vehicle is in the best possible mechanical condition. This includes clean air filter, properly inflated tires and good spark plugs among other things. Don't overload your rig, or hang items on the front or side that can increase the amount of wind resistance.

Plan your trip ahead of time, and use the Internet. There are several sites online that post current fuel prices. While on your trip, you can usually access the Internet for free in most public libraries for updated prices.

Avoid gassing up on the interstate, as you usually pay for the convenience of staying close to the highway. Often, if you drive just a block into town, fuel is several cents a gallon cheaper. Some states have higher fuel taxes. Be aware of who they are and fuel up before you cross over the state line. Be open to getting your fuel at truck stops which often offer a discount if you pay in cash. Some gas stations offer a discount if you use their gas credit card at the pump. Check out all these options BEFORE you leave home.

Also, check into joining a camping club before you leave home. Clubs such as the Good Sam club give you discounts when you park and stay in their campgrounds. You also receive a large book from them that lists and rates campgrounds all throughout the USA. Many also offer senior citizen discounts. Some also lower their camping rates during the "off season" or on weekdays.

If you belong to an auto club, use their trip route before hand. Many also offer an RV trip route, which lists things that could cause you trouble and to avoid; such as tunnels that are too low to drive through, or towns that have only 1 gas station with an awing you can't drive under. They will also list which mountain roads to take and which ones to avoid, as well as listing travel stops that have free dump stations.


Plan out your route several months in advance, then look up your destinations and write to them. Most states will send you a free state map (cheaper than an atlas). Call the chamber at towns you will be driving through and many will suggest or send you an area guide and coupons. Look for festivals and free activities. When staying in the same place for several nights get a local paper to see what else may be going on that you can attend.

While planning your route, take note of any toll roads. Most toll roads charge by the axle. This includes axles on your motor home or if in a trailer on both the pull vehicle and the trailer. Be sure to either route your trip to avoid toll roads or take along several rolls of quarters and change. Do not speed while on toll roads. Your incoming ticket is stamped with your entry time. When you exit, you may be ticketed if you went too fast.

National Parks have a free ranger club for kids. Kids take a free class while at the park and learn from it. Parents also get to attend free. A newspaper comes with the class, geared for kids.

Many state and national parks offer a program where you can camp for free in exchange for volunteer hours at the park. This is something you would want to check into probably a year in advance. Just call the park for more information and to see if they participate.

Take your food items with you, including your snack items. This helps you to avoid pulling into fast food stops along the road. Instead, pull into a park, rest stop or even a Wal-Mart parking lot or truck stop and eat. I like to take several empty plastic jugs, and just one with water. I take the powered drink mix and make our drinks, as we are ready to drink them. Having one jug of water ensures me that if we stop where there is no water, I have some. Providing there is water, we get it there; most parks have a hydrant. Using dehydrated foods and powered drink mixes helps keep the weight down and save fuel.

I also take along a crock-pot. This allows me to slow cook a meal while we are out sightseeing during the day or to cook on a rainy day when we can't cook outside, and reduces the high cost of eating out. If you are a coffee drinker, take your coffee maker to avoid buying coffee every morning.

Don't over pack your clothes. Usually it is just as easy to do a load of laundry while on the road. Remember to take a small container of laundry soap with you.

Remember to take your basics, so you don't have to buy them while on the road. This includes cell phone charger, flashlights and extra batteries, film, camera batteries and memory cards (or take your laptop with you so you can download your photos onto a CD as you go along). I happened to note the prices of batteries, film and memory cards while at Yellowstone National Park, and they were 3 times higher than at Wal-Mart.

Also don't forget rain poncho, umbrellas, extra shoe or boot laces, swimsuits, first aid kit, patch kit for bike tires if you take your bikes, and rainy day activities-such as deck of cards, board games or books. Take along water bottles you can refill that have a carry strap.

Suggested packing list for family with children:

  • Clothes for each person
  • Lightweight jacket for each person
  • Rain poncho for each person (less than a dollar at Wal-Mart)
  • Umbrella
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Powered drink mixes
  • Crock-pot
  • Coffee maker
  • 1 set of plastic dishes, bowls, silverware and cups per person, plus a few extra
  • Dish soap
  • Ad
  • Ice cube trays
  • Dishtowels and rags
  • Toaster if your oven doesn't have a broiler
  • Charcoal and lighter fluid
  • Bleach
  • Vinyl tablecloth and tablecloth weights or clips for picnic tables
  • Matches
  • First aid kit
  • Medications and medical history for each person
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen
  • Trash bags
  • Ziploc bags
  • Bikes and tire patch kit
  • Water bottles
  • Camera, film and batteries
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Toiletry items
  • Bath towels
  • Clothesline (for drying hand washed items, swimsuits, towels)
  • Laundry soap
  • Maps
  • Alarm clock with battery backup
  • Child sized broom, dustpan and mop for cleanups (fit great in small closets)
  • Couple of throw rugs for the doorway for sandy areas or rainy days
  • Sewing kit
  • Extra blanket or sleeping bag, especially if camping in mountains or desert
  • Books, board games, cards, coloring book and crayons
  • A few movies if you take a VCR
  • CB radio if you have one. Many RVers run on channel 15 in my area
  • Weather radio if you have one
  • Bottle of windshield cleaner
  • Paper towels
  • 2 extra quarts of oil and funnel
  • Flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Food and menu
  • Chargers for any electronic gadgets
  • RV manuals
  • If you have a pull/tow vehicle, take an ice chest or food for picnics without the RV
  • CD players with headphones are great for kids to listen to while driving
  • Extra light bulbs for RV

If space allows in your vehicle, take along another family or friend to camp with and split the cost. A few parks even allow a tent to be pitched on the same lot at no additional cost if it is for the same family. Several times my family has camped in our RV with my parents in their RV the next spot over. My brother and his family pitch a tent in the middle and take turns riding with either my family or my parents. As the kids grow, it is a good way to create memories.

If you don't have an RV, check out the rentals. Sometimes you can even find private individuals who rent theirs out, just be sure you know who is responsible for what, and have proper insurance.

If you can't afford the fuel for a long distance trip, try out the state parks in your own state, or the next state over. Last of all, have fun!

By April from NW Missouri

June 9, 20080 found this helpful

Great information, thanks for taking the time to leave such a detailed list.

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June 10, 20080 found this helpful

This is a wonderful, comprehensive, informative "how to" list. Thanks. Is that your RV in the picture, if so what make is it? Looks like it has a "bump out" on the side, right?

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June 10, 20080 found this helpful

Thank you for putting the list together. We usually go to campgrounds and stay in the rental trailers. Having your list will be a big help. I am going to laminate it so I can reuse it again and again!

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June 10, 20080 found this helpful

there's similar sites to this one


just google : free camping

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June 23, 20080 found this helpful

We just bought our first Motor home. We have had lots of good advice from wonderful people who have been RVing for awhile. The best advice we received was from a car racer he told us to use 40 cc of acetone to 100 liters of gas when we fill it should give us better mileage. The previous owner told us we would have to use premium fuel. But with the additive we haven't had a ping in our engine and we are getting great mileage. NOTE ( acetone can be bought from any hardware store where they sell paint.) It keeps the engine parts clean and oil stays cleaner too. It makes regular gas premium at a cheaper cost. We use it for all our vehicles now ( gas ones only)

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June 1, 20120 found this helpful

You can tell you have camped a lot! Great list. My camper complies with your list. One thought on crockpot cooking - either do it inside the camper, or secure the lid well. One year we had an entire crockpot of chicken to disappear on us - racoons filched it all!

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June 1, 20120 found this helpful

Another idea...get the lifetime senior pass for National Parks. The camping fee is much cheaper with that pass. When we do long distance traveling in our motorhome, we stay in WalMart parking lots until we reach our distination. I downloaded an app which tells me the WalMarts that most likely will allow overnite stops.

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June 2, 20120 found this helpful

Great list! As a long-time RV-er (in the past, sadly), I can verify it covers the ground. The previous comments are spot-on, too. It was mentioned, but I wish to emphasize that one should always ascertain any gas station overhang/tunnel ceiling is high enough to pass/stop under. This list and its comments should be included in all newly purchased RVs! Cay from FL

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