When planning for an RV adventure or full time RV life the big questions are (1) how much will this cost, (2) how can I save money and (3) what do I need. Our RV Gear Shop gives you a pretty good idea of what you’ll need, check it out to get a sense of what the basics will cost. In this blog we’ll cover ways to save money as well as a few trip planning tips.
RV’ing can get pretty expensive if you’re not careful and don’t plan and budget. Before we started full time RV life we were “DINKS” (dual income, no kids). Let me tell you, that life doesn’t set you up for full time RV life. We didn’t need to plan meals, ate out a lot, bought spendy food (lots of pre-made meals) and never really paid too much attention to what things cost. We learned quick that that mindset is not conducive to being able to travel the country in an RV. I mean, we’re not millionaires after-all.
Make a budget, be sure it’s realistic and stick with it. The main things you’ll need to account for are:
- Lodging costs (CG fees)
- Groceries (food, TP, cleaning supplies, etc)
- Connectivity (phones, internet, TV etc)
- Maintenance (account for both vehicles)
- Insurance (medical and vehicles)
- Savings (very important to build a buffer for the unexpected)
Camp by discount. We saved a lot of money by staying in one place for at least a week or month at a time to take advantage of long term stay discounts. This takes planning and can be a bit of a puzzle but is totally doable. RV Trip Wizard is a great resource for planning this way and we highly recommend you join. With this tool you can plan your general route then adjust stays /timelines to create as many 7 day or month long stays as possible. A second great resource is HipCamp. We love HipCamp and utilize it as much as possible, in 2022 we have 90 days on the books at various HipCamp locations. HipCamp consists of places to camp on peoples private land. You’ll find everything from primitive sites to full hookups. Land owners typically do this for money on the side so you don’t run into expensive RV Park costs and an added bonus, you get way more room to camp. Check out this video of our February (current) HipCamp stay in Old Town, FL.
Take advantage of discount programs. In addition to those listed above, there are many more discount opportunities. Here’s what we use:
- Fuel Card- we use the EFS Fuel card and save $ almost every time we need fuel. The only time it’s not applicable is when we’re not near an interstate/truck stops.
- Harvest Host- A unique camping experience that allows you to spend a single night for free at select wineries, farms and other businesses. We plan pretty far in advance. Having a Harvest Host membership allows us to stray off our route a bit to spend a night somewhere else without costing us any additional money. It’s $99 year (keep an eye out for sign up discounts as they have them often). If you’re full time mobile or traveling for at least a month, this could be a good resource for you.
- Good Sam- Kind of a no-brainer, you can join for a year for about $30 and you’ll receive a camping discount at numerous campgrounds and RV parks. We made our membership fee back in a week. You can also use this for fuel discounts at select gas stations.
- Discount grocery stores. I really wish we would have sought out discount grocery stores before we started this full time RV life. We’ve found great organic produce and all the fancy stuff we like for a fraction of what we used to spend on groceries, I’m talking a savings of around $300 month. You can set grocery stores as a point of interest on RV Trip Wizard. This allows you to research the discount stores on the way to your destination.
Tip # 4
Stay healthy. This is big. Nothing can derail your plans and cost you more money than getting sick. Sometimes we just can’t avoid it but there’s certainly lots of things we can do to help fend off sickness. Over the counter medicine is expensive, having to leave your campsite to find a Dr can also be expensive as is being forced to stay somewhere not planned. The best way to stay healthy is to not treat this RV life like a vacation. Use your entertainment budget for excursions (there are many free excursions too!) rather than restaurants where food is usually over salted, over oiled and oversized. Create an exercise routine and stick with it. In our FREE App we have an RV fitness program (along with RV check lists, fun quiz’s, gear shop, directory, discount links etc). Our app is currently only available on android devices, IOS (apple) should be up and running by March 1st. Here’s a video showing how we use our campsite to workout, this along with 30 minutes of walking a day is a good start to staying healthy on the road.