This article’s purpose is to help you learn my top 4 RV camping tips that will help you save money.
And, of all the expenses that an RV owner encounters, often the biggest by far is camping costs. This is especially true if a lot of time is spent in campgrounds.
That’s because the cost of staying at a campground in an RV at the time of this writing is an average of $30 – $35 a night.
So, a full-time RVer that spends all of their time in RV campgrounds would spend almost $11,000 a year at $30/night. That’s a big hit to an RVer’s budget!
But I am only going to cover ways to lower RV campground costs in this article. Boondocking is another subject entirely, and I’ll discuss it in another article.
And these tips are mainly for RV full-timers and part-timers. In other words, those who spend a lot of time in their RV in campgrounds. So let’s get started!
RV Camping Tips #1 – Thousand Trails
I won’t go into all the details about Thousand Trails in this article. That will be for another time.
But I just want to explain how that having a Thousand Trails membership is a great way to save money on camping costs.
In fact, of all the RV camping tips that I can offer, I feel that this is the one with the most potential savings. This is especially true for full-time RVers.
To begin with, Thousand Trails (TT) has 81 camping parks in their system. But they also can offer 108 more Encore Resorts with their Trails Collection (TC) add-on package. This brings the total TT campgrounds to 189 altogether.
The TC does cost a little more, but it’s only a $299/year add-on at the time of this writing. So it’s well worth the extra spent.
I recommend starting with a Zone Pass from TT just to make sure that you become familiar with the TT system and like it.
A Zone Pass is a great way to try out TT first, and it costs about $600/year at the time of this writing. Then with the TC added on, it will only cost you about $900/year total for 0$/night camping. The more you use it, the more savings you get.
But if you are a part-time or full-time RVer, you will want to quickly move to an upgraded membership. And I recommend the Elite membership that allows you to move from park to park without leaving the TT system.
Thousand Trails – How Much Can You Save?
I have an upcoming trip across the US from Arizona to New England. So let’s use that trip to illustrate the savings that a TT membership can offer.
The whole trip will take us about 3 months as we plan on taking our time as we go. And during that time we will only have to be out of the TT system for about 7 days total.
That means that for 83 days we will stay in TT campgrounds for 0$/night. At an average cost of $30/night for staying in a public campground, we save around $2500 in those 83 days.
And our sewer, electric and water are all included whenever we stay at TT parks. So we only have camping costs for the 7 days not spent at TT parks on that trip.
So how much does an Elite TT membership like ours cost? You can get a resale Elite membership for $4500 at the time of this writing.
That membership provides all of the TT benefits mentioned above for life. As you can see, I will recover well over half of my Elite membership in just that one 90 day trip.
So if we made a similar trip 4 times during the year, I would have paid for my lifetime membership in the first year easily with plenty of savings left over.
Then every year that I use my membership, from then on, my only camping costs are about $900/year. This includes the yearly dues of about $600 and the Trail Collection of Encore parks at about $300.
We can then travel all year and stay in TT parks for $900/year or about $2.50/night with full hookups.
I just don’t know how you can stay in campgrounds as an RV fulltimer for less. It’s one of my best RV camping tips!
Tip #2 – Passport America
Another great membership program is Passport America (PA). It only costs $44/year at the time of this writing and they offer campground discounts that are often around 50% off.
It’s such a low initial cost that it’s easy to recover the membership fee in just a few nights worth of camping. And from then on, your savings are all yours.
And there are about 1600 campgrounds that accept Passport America across the country. So chances are that you will be able to find a PA park close by no matter where you are.
There are some restrictions with PA that is determined by each individual park. Most of the restrictions limit the use of the membership during high traffic seasons of the year.
But if you use the PA card wisely, you can still get lots of use out of it and way more savings than the membership fee costs.
Tip #3 – Get Weekly Or Monthly Rates
Another way to save on campground costs is to slow down a bit. Don’t be so rushed to get on to the next destination.
This is because the most you will ever pay at a campground will be the single nightly rate.
But almost all campgrounds offer a discount for staying longer. And in many cases, the discounted rate can be significant.
So slowing down in your travels and spending more than just a few days in an area can be a smart move. It can save you lots of money in the long run.
Just ask for the weekly and monthly rate in the campgrounds you like. You may be surprised to find how much less those rates can be.
And besides, RVing shouldn’t just be a pell-mell rush to get to the next destination. So taking time to enjoy the journey can have solid financial advantages too!
RV Camping Tip #4 – Mobile Home Parks
Many RVers, even fulltimers, only think of RV parks and campgrounds for nightly stays.
But there are other places to stay in your RV that can save money too. One of those places is in local mobile home parks.
If you are going to be in an area for a few weeks, it pays to broaden your search for camping to include mobile home parks in the area.
Many MH parks have older models that age out and have to be removed. So they often set aside some of those spots for RVs because of the popularity of RV travel these days.
These sites will often be full hookups that include sewer, water and even 50 amp electric. And in many cases, the sites are more level than you would find in an RV campground.
The best part is that because it is not considered an RV campground, the camping spots are usually less expensive.
We have found MH parks that have beautiful sites and full hookups for as little as $22/night even in high season.
So, if you want to spend time in a particular area but find that the RV parks are all full, why not try the local MH parks? It can be a smart move that saves money!
There are lots of ways to save money when you stay at a campground. But these are some of my best RV camping tips.
And the more money you save, the more it’s likely that you can continue to have fun RV adventures.
Have safe and happy travels my friends!