Jumping in your RV and hitting the road is one of the best ways to travel. It gives you the relative comfort and relaxation of a home, while freeing you from the constrictive space of a car. It can also be quite an economical way to travel. If you take your time, do your homework and follow a few simple steps, then you too can travel in an RV on a budget.
1. Choose The Right RV
Your first consideration should be to choose an RV that is as small as possible, yet one which still serves your needs. Too small of an RV is overly constrictive, but too large of one will use more gas than necessary. Choose the one that is a happy medium between the two.
You can also lower the initial investment of an RV by choosing the one without all the bells and whistles. Do you really need RV Internet, satellite or a surround sound system? These are things you can probably live without. Another thing to consider is buying an RV without a slide-out. Because of the popularity of slide-outs, these are usually significantly cheaper, especially when bought used.
2. Do Your Own RV and Car Maintenance
Keeping your RV and the car towing the trailer in good working condition is also very important. This not only makes the vehicles safer on the road, but it also reduces the risk of a breakdown—which could result in very expensive towing and repair charges. A well-maintained trailer also holds its value much better than the one that has been neglected. Things like changing the oil, spark plugs and wires on a regular basis, and making sure the filters are clean, can improve the miles per gallon your RV gets on your trip. Another thing to consider is keeping your tires full. Properly inflated tires provide better gas mileage than the ones that are under or over filled.
Just remember, not all maintenance requires the services of a mechanic. You can do a lot of basic maintenance on your own. This includes changing the oil, keeping brake fluid at its proper levels and making sure the battery is in good condition.
3. Save Money On Gas
Gas doesn’t have to be a huge RV expense, not if the trip is properly planned. For instance, try considering travel destinations that are closer to your home and require less travel, or destinations in which you can park for extended periods of time—such as a national park. Driving fewer miles will mean using less gas and in the end, saving more money.
Weight is also a deciding factor in how many miles per gallon your RV attains. When traveling in an RV, you should travel as lightly as possible. Consider leaving heavy and/or unnecessary items at home. Even doing little things like using paper plates and cups instead of china can result in significant gas savings. Also, you don’t always have to have a full tank of water when you hit the road. You can take what you need and fill up as you go along. Carrying less water will equal better gas savings.
4. Find Cheap Camping Spots
Countless free and discounted spots to park your RV are just waiting for you to use them. For instance, you can usually park for free at State, National or County parks. And casinos, truck stops and even many retail stores will also allow you to park for free. Just be sure to ask permission first.
You can also take advantage of shoulder seasons. A shoulder season is the time between the less than ideal travel conditions of the low travel season, and the high prices of peak travel season. During this seasonal lull, a lot of campgrounds and RV parks offer discounted rates and special deals.
Joining an RV club can be another good way to save money. Not only can you get discounted or free access to certain campgrounds or RV parks, but some of them even offer additional benefits such as emergency towing services and theft insurance. Some of the popular RV clubs available include: Passport America, Happy Camper Club, FMCA and Harvest Hosts.
5. Cook Your Own Food and Buy in Bulk
Eating out for every meal on the road will get expensive pretty quickly. A better way is to buy your own food and cook it yourself. Before the trip, you and your friends can pool your money together and buy food in bulk and/or take advantage of any sales or coupons that might be available. During the trip, you can often find fresh food items at various farmers’ markets and co-ops that are very inexpensive. Just be sure your RV has a kitchen. If it doesn’t, then at least make sure it has an electric stove and a refrigerator for cooking purposes.
6. Choose Low Cost or Free Activities
Entertainment costs on the road can also add up, which is why you should take every opportunity to minimize this expense. Fortunately, there are a ton of different entertainment options available on the road, and all of them are free or inexpensive.
Camping, hiking, swimming and bicycling are all free or low-cost activities that you can do while traveling. Museums and local landmarks are also good ideas for low-cost entertainment as they often have days available in which they discount or completely eliminate their entrance fees. A quick Internet search will reveal many of the cheap entertainment options that may be available on your trip.
7. Go Green and Save Energy
The last thing you can do to save money while RV traveling is to join the green revolution and make your RV eco-friendly. This can be done by choosing RV appliances that are Energy Star compliant, using LED lights instead of traditional incandescent bulbs, and making sure that your RV is well tuned.
Another thing you can do is to install rooftop solar panels. Apart from saving you money, this will also allow you to avoid RV camps and hit the more remote, and often more scenic, locations.
While traveling in an RV can sometimes seem expensive, that doesn’t have to be the case. With a little bit of foresight and planning, you can hit the road in your RV without worrying about busting your wallet, and you can do it while enjoying the beauty and serenity of the open road.